Brief stay in New York, the financial and cultural metropolis of the empire, this year more changed than ever, however incredible this statement is applied to a city that is never the same as the last time we saw it. And I am not referring to the physiognomy of its skyline, with the center of gravity of its office skyscrapers and luxury homes in the Hudson Yards area, in what used to be the cutrous (and dangerous) Hell’s Kitchen, the “kitchen of the hell”. The changes I am referring to are more profound and affect people more: a multitude of neighborhood businesses with their blinds drawn forever, especially in Manhattan-South; large chains, or branches, gone (Gap, Uniqlo, JC Penney, Century 21, to name just a few). The orgy of consumption that begins on Black Friday and culminates in the “seasonal” parties (thus many manage to avoid mentioning Christmas in a city where all the religions of the Earth are practiced) comes at a time when, as a result of the pandemic and its health consequences (less than 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated) and economic (supply crisis, fuel surge, general increase in prices), the outlook is more uncertain than ever. Not to mention the deep political crisis that exists in that divided country in which daily reality denies the universalistic, optimistic and Whitmanian wishes expressed in the ceremony of the inauguration presidential the bard (the DRAE does not pick up “bardesa”) officer Amanda Gorman (The hill that we ascend, bilingual edition in Lumen). Paradoxically, one of the things that seems to continue to do reasonably well is the book trade. It is already known: it is cheap and manageable, its consumption time is greater than any other, it can be used in almost any circumstance and there is a wide range of titles and themes. And yet, also in bookstores there have been significant transformations: in large chains there are fewer books and more designed to make cash, more mainstream, so to speak, accompanied by more merchandising associated with reading. One example: In the formerly generalist Barnes & Noble in Union Square, the old excellent literary studies and criticism section has been almost entirely laminated and replaced by sleeves of all kinds and conditions. That’s not to say there aren’t many great bookstores, but nearly all of them are independent, from the small but exquisitely gifted McNally Jackson on Prince Street to the very comprehensive (in essay and academic book) Book Culture at its two Columbia locations, not to mention. to the ever-growing plethora of small and medium-sized bookstores specialized in all genres and subjects, both in Manhattan and in Queens or Brooklyn.
2. Regalazos (I)
The pandemic and the forced saving of families that have been able to do so are responsible for the optimistic atmosphere for these holidays among book professionals, both in the United States and here. On my return I have found that the number of books published in the last month has increased exponentially thinking about Christmas gifts. There are so many and so varied that I am forced to create a subsection in the Ears Armchair to point out, always from my guiltily subjective and debatable point of view, those that I consider most likely to interest a rather cultured reader to to give away or to give away. Here are the first ones I select, a trio with a fairly classic flavor. One: after many years, which cannot be found (or can be found by paying exorbitant amounts in antiquarian bookstores), Alfaguara reissues (now in paperback and in caskets, indivisible and at 89.90 euros) the four volumes of The Bear Bible in the translation of the great Casiodoro de Reina (Basilea, 1569), and according to the same edition, directed by José María González Ruiz, which the same publisher (then part of the Santillana group and today of Random House) published in 1987, when the historic Editorial was directed by José María Guelbenzu and Felisa Ramos was the editor. The new edition, which has been addressed by Pilar Álvarez, includes a new presentation by Andreu Jaume in which the excellence of a translation is emphasized, whose Spanish, together with that of Cervantes and Bernal Díaz del Castillo, constitute as many summits of the language common to Hispanic peoples. Two: just half a century after the Nobel Committee awarded him the most precious award “for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force gives life to the destiny and dreams of a continent”, Seix Barral publishes the second volume (years 1948-1954) of the Complete Poetry by Pablo Neruda; This volume, by, like the previous one, by Darío Osés and Mario Verdugo – although the publisher has inexplicably (or perhaps not so much) endeavored to hide their names – includes such important milestones in Nerudian poetry as the ‘Canto general’ or ‘The Captain’s Verses’ and many other compositions during his exile, the Cold War, the author’s still Stalinist militancy and his clandestine passion for Matilde Urrutia (24 euros). Three: lineage and authentic Chilean sense undoubtedly possesses La Araucana, by Alonso de Ercilla (Luis Íñigo-Madrigal edition; Castro Library, 50 euros), the foundational epic poem in royal octaves on the Arauco wars, caused by the Mapuche uprising against the greed and cruelty of the Valdivia soldiers – tortured and died on Christmas Day 1553—, in which the military actions are intermingled, without sparing the fervor of the conquerors, nor hiding the nobility of the Araucanians, with the almost ethnographic story of customs, myths and anecdotes of the indigenous people of the southernmost of the conquered lands. Three very different classics and three great gifts.
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