Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Exclusive reports from Crime Fiction's international big-bash by our roving reporter.
The closing ceremony of La Semana Negra, was held July 20 at 12pm in the biggest tent. It was rainy, and although Poniente’s beach was muddy, a lot of Gijoneses were present to make this as special as previous days.
Paco Taibo, II started the ceremony with a speech commenting on all the struggles that the organization of La Semana Negra has to go through every year to bring this event to the city. He thanked the city of Gijón for its unconditional support and acknowledged that although every year there are complaints about the noise, people, trash, and more, the number of people that attend proves to the city and to the few complainers that La Semana Negra is all about bringing literature and people together, about having a good time with family and friends.
This year around a million people attended, and 51,000 books were sold. This shows the popularity of the event, and how even though our societies are changing, books and literature are still an important part of our lives. After the mayor, Taibo II, and city officials finished their speeches, the traditional “Rufo” prizes (La Semana Negra’s mascot--a black, chubby, figurine) was given to the persons who play a big role in the organization, security, planning, etc. in making La Semana Negra a successful ten-day event.
Since this is my last post on La Semana Negra I would like to highlight what I believe were some of the most incredible moments in Gijón. This is not a ranking, only a biased list of what I believe made these ten days so unforgettable.
1. The beautiful Asturian city of Gijón and its great weather. Not too hot, not to cold. Although they were warm days, a swim in the ocean freshened people right up, and the rain only made the city more beautiful because it would only last a day and the next day the city was sunny with clean and shiny streets.
2. The Taibo family. They were always present at the events and offered you their help, smiles and good sense of humor. Paco Ignacio Taibo, II dedicates three months of the year to the planning of La Semana Negra, and anyone can definitely notice the love he puts into it. Twenty-one years don’t go unnoticed. His wife Paloma Saiz and daughter Marina also play a big role and deserve recognition: Thank you!
3. The invited writers. The list of writers is very long, but I would like to highlight Cuban writers, Amir Valle, Lorenzo Lunar and Rebeca. Not only excellent writers, but also wonderful people.
4. The Colombians, Mario Mendoza, and Nahum Montt, who called themselves “the grandkids of Gabriel García Márquez”, who “unlike his sons, don’t owe him anything.” Their thriller and detective fiction about Colombia, a clear and non-magical realistic picture of this South American country.
5. The interview and everyday conversations with Rolando Hinojosa, an intelligent man and as Daniel Olivas calls him, “one of the maestros.” His advice, not only journalistic but also academic, and most importantly all he had to say about the years he has attended La Semana Negra, made me work hard every day, take notes, record the literary sessions, and hope that one day I will become as smart as him. Truly an inspiration.
6. The every-day 5:00 tertulias at the main tent, where you could learn everything about the writers: from their writing techniques, their geeky side, to what they drink and eat when they write. And also deep conversations on evil vs. good, monsters in literature, etc. There are not a lot of places where this still happens, or if you know where it does, please let me know.
7. The book presentations, where you could hear a writer present their book, answer questions, sign books, and have conversations with readers afterward. A very intimate experience where people have the opportunity to take pictures with the writers and maybe even ask them out. I swear I didn’t try this.
8. “La velada poética”-Poetry night. An incredible night with world famous poetas José Emilio Pacheco, Joaquin Sabina and Luis García Montero. There is something about a room full of people eager and anxious to listen to their favorites poets. The hour or so that the poets recited was a surreal experience, definitely one of the main events of La Semana Negra. So if after reading so much about La Semana Negra on La Bloga you decide that it's surely worth making such a far away trip next year, believe me--the poetry night will be worth all your dollars spent. You can check out a really good video of this event on YouTube.
9. The night dedicated to Ángel González. The poetry night, held Friday the 18th will be marked in the history of La Semana Negra as the night Gijón remembered and paid loving tribute and respect to a great and dearly loved poet.
10. The Semana Negra book, food, and jewelry tents--the free spirit and relaxing attitude of the people and the event itself; the smell of churros accompanying you as you go around the tents trying to find that particular book you know you can only find in Spain; watching families spending time together; walking around the fair or sitting on the sand reading a book.
I would like to thank La Bloga, especially Daniel Olivas for all the support and RudyG for posting my reports (cropping pictures, editing, and much more), and to all the people that have been reading and commenting on them (Norma Landa Flores, always the first and sweetest). It has been a great experience being La Bloga’s “roving reporter” and attending La Semana Negra itself. Here is my email for questions, concerns, and whatever else comes to mind: thaniamunoz AT yahoo.com.
Saludos desde Los Angeles,
I love La Bloga!