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Un Poco Favor

April 1, 2012


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One of these years I’ll get around to doing an April Fool’s Day joke. But not this year. Actually, I’m going to be cheeky and come back from a week long blogging break (sorry! I had a liver biopsy done last Monday) with a request. I think I’ve mentioned this already, but I’ve begun studying Spanish for my upcoming trip to Mexico. It’s actually great fun, and I’ve already decided I want to keep up the learning past my trip and the tourist basics I’ll (hopefully) master in the next couple of months. So that’s where you come in! If you read Spanish, do you have an authors or book titles to recommend? I’m a beginner, so I’m looking for writers who use fairly straightforward structures (i.e.: not Borges) and everyday/simple vocabulary. I’m lucky to have access to a public library with masses of Spanish books, and while I could just get simple English books that have been translated into Spanish, I don’t think that’d be as much fun. Short stories & plays would probably be easiest for me to start on, but I’m definitely not opposed to novels! I find poetry difficult enough in English, so I think I’ll save the Spanish poets for awhile down the road. Mystery authors would be a bonus. :) Muchas gracias!

P.S.: For anyone studying Russian and looking for a similar author, I recommend Chekhov. In French, to be honest in my lit class we jumped straight to writers like Camus and Rimbaud, but I suspect Colette would be a very fun place to begin.

P.P.S.: Regular programming should resume tomorrow! :)

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2012 5:57 am

    The first full book I ever read in Spanish was “Del amor y otros demonios” by Gabriel García Márquez, and although my Spanish was quite poor at that point I remember “getting” the storyline quite well.
    To be honest though, I think “Como agua para chocolate” by Laura Esquivel might work even better for you. Plus, it’s set in Mexico so it’s preparation for your upcoming trip at the same time! I’m so happy for you that you get to go there! :-)

    Another thing I did back then was reading the National Geographic in Spanish. With articles being much shorter than books, I found this was much less tiring than reading a whole novel.

    Also, I hope you’re doing alright after that liver biopsy!

  2. April 1, 2012 6:25 am

    If you want to start slow, maybe try some plays first before going straight to novels. They’ll seem less overwhelming. Federico Garcia Lorca is a great place to start.

    I read The Alchemist in Spanish in high school and remember it being an easy read, too.

    Buena suerte!

  3. April 1, 2012 6:54 am

    maybe villiloboos down the rabbit hole he is mexican and book only short and told by a child so be perfect I d imagine note sure of spanish title ,all the best stu

  4. Juli permalink
    April 1, 2012 7:09 am

    Try http://www.veintemundos.com/en/. They publish interesting short articles on various topics each month. They don’t have articles for beginners, but those for intermediate learners are okay. Plus, the texts are also read aloud which helps a lot to improve your pronounciation. I use seem to study Spanish, print the texts, listen to them and can mark and translate the words that are new to me.

  5. April 1, 2012 12:54 pm

    This is something I’m going to be trying to do too, only in my case I’m trying to recover my lost high-school Spanish. I don’t really have any specific suggestions, but you might consider looking for online Spanish-language newspapers or for young adult novels. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Isabel Allende’s YA books. I’ve only read the first one, La ciudad de las bestias, but it was fun. Good luck!

    I hope everything is well with the biopsy and that you are fully recovered!

  6. Nat permalink
    April 1, 2012 3:46 pm

    I agree with Rayna. García Lorca is great. I remember reading two of his plays in high-school (La casa de Bernarda Alba and Bodas de sangre), and they were both fantastic. I also remember being absolutely in love with Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer’s Leyendas. His poems are a bit on the mushy side, but the tales are gripping!

    For modern literature, I would recommend either Isabel Allende or Roberto Ampuero. Isabel Allende’s novels are always fun to read and Roberto Ampuero writes mostly detective fiction. My mom says “El caso Neruda” is great.

    I’m an awful local reader. The only book in Spanish I’ve read in the last couple of YEARS was “La contadora de películas” by Hernán Rivera Letelier, which is a lovely novella about a little girl that becomes famous in her small town thanks to her talent as “movie narrator.”

    That’s everything I can think of, in terms of easy-reading fiction in Spanish. I’m sorry it’s so little :(

  7. April 2, 2012 5:26 am

    I’d recommend Chilean writer Luis Sepùlveda, especially “Un viejo que leía novelas de amor”, but all his books are short and accessible. From Spain, “Crónica del rey pasmado” by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester – also short, it’s a fun historical novel. You can watch the movie afterwards.

    Another that came to mind: “Tierra del Fuego” by Sylvia Iparraguirre (Argentina), an account of the arrival of the British ship, the Beagle, in Patagonia, from the perspective of a boy on the crew

    There’s also the more famous ones like “Como agua para chocolate” by Laura Esquivel and Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo (Mexico).

    Good luck! I’m doing the same, but with French,

  8. April 2, 2012 9:57 am

    I’m fluent in Spanish but I’m trying to enhance my Spanish reading skills. I started acquiring some Spanish-language novels and am currently reading my way through Como Agua Para Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate) which is available from Vintage Espanol (Random House). It’s a short enough book that it’s not too overwhelming. And I believe you mentioned before that you’ve read the book (apologies if I’m mistaken), so prior knowledge of the book may be to your benefit.

    And you can always practice with me! I’ve been looking for an online buddy to practice my Spanish with.

    Also, I highly recommend the Transparent Language Spanish blog. http://www.transparent.com/spanish/ They have really great short Spanish vocabulary/grammar lessons on there. I get their posts via email.

  9. April 2, 2012 10:31 am

    I can’t recommend anything specific as I don’t speak Spanish, but I’ve found comics / graphic novels to be great for language learning.

    I hope you are ok after the biopsy.

  10. April 2, 2012 2:30 pm

    I am glad the liver biopsy is behind you and I am very impressed with your choice of Spanish, Russian, and French books.

  11. Michelle permalink
    April 2, 2012 7:00 pm

    In my intermediate class in college, we read La Dama del Alba by Alejandro Casona. The version we read, edited by Juan Rodriguez Castellano, had a vocabulary section in the back, plus another section given some background to the novel written in English. We also read a play Rosaura a las Diez, edited by Donald Yates, which has some footnotes translating difficult phrases into English.

    I hope that you are going to post more about the books you are reading for your trip to Mexico! I recently traveled to Mexico City and have been reading some of the books from your list.

  12. April 3, 2012 10:21 am

    I read La Damab Del Alba for my spanish class too! I also enjoyed la casa en mango street, but that’s just translated from English: Cisneros wrote in English first. I’ll be watching this thread for ideas myself :)

  13. Mary Grover permalink
    April 3, 2012 3:59 pm

    When I was studying Spanish years ago we had an anthology of short stories called “Imaginacion y Fantasia” and I really enjoyed those stories. It was for use in intermediate Spanish classes so there is a glossary and there are, I think, questions after each story.
    I seem to recall that the very first story (very short) was by Borges, but it was not hard to read.

  14. April 3, 2012 7:35 pm

    I agree that Like Water for Chocolate will be easy to read, or her other book Malinche. Of the two I liked Malinche better, but not much. They’re not my favorite novels.

  15. boardinginmyforties permalink
    April 5, 2012 3:28 pm

    I took years of Spanish in high school and college but never immersed myself and therefore never really got a good grasp of the language. I applaud you in your efforts and look forward to hearing more about your books you read in Spanish.

  16. buriedinprint permalink
    April 10, 2012 9:40 am

    I have a copy of some of Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna stories in the Lire en espagnol collection (edited by Henri Yvinec). It’s part of Le Livre de poche’s series of Spanish literature for students of the language, so that the original unedited text appears on the left-hand page and the vocabulary notes appear on the facing page (the notes offer help in Spanish as well). There’s also the Penguin Parallel Text Short Stories series, which has a similar set-up but the right-hand page is the English translation in full; the Spanish volume that I have is 0-140-26541-4 but I’ve had it for years, so there could well be a newer collection. The short story collection might give you some other ideas of authors whose style works well for you, too. Good luck, and I’m glad you’re on the mend!

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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