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Blog Archive July 2007

The Road from Barcelona to Bangkok Part 4

This is the final posting about Semana Negra 2007. A few more photographs give an idea of the journey, the city of Gijon and some of the highpoints along the way.

On the “Black” train from Madrid to Gijon with publicist Marta Oliva 6 July 2007

Each day the organizers of Semana Negra 2007 produced a newspaper with stories, photos, and event calendar. Marta is holding up the first edition. Along the way the train passed through the heart of Spain.

Scene from train window on the way to Gijon.

On arrival in Gijon we were met with a band at the train station.

Documentary film maker and New York resident Fred Barney Taylor was on the train and covered the festival for a documentary film.

Fred Barney Taylor in action 6 July 2007 Gijon, Spain

Susan Straub (Peter Straub’s wife) and Samuel “Chip” Delaney provided the crowd with their own version of the famous New York “hello”.

Susan Straub and Samuel “Chip” Delaney Gijon, Spain 6 July 2007

The festival grounds were located at end of the beach from the Don Manuel Hotel. It was a two-kilometer walk. There was a festival train but most people chose to walk along the San Lorenzo beach. Few foreign tourists have discovered this part of Spain. It is off the beaten track. The overwhelming number of people on the beach or the boardwalk were locals. The clouds in the distance delivered rain on some days. According to those in the know, the locals carry their bathing costumes in their handbag and when the clouds clear head directly to the beach. This time of year the sunset was around 9.50 p.m. At 6.30 p.m. the beach on a sunny day was packed. The shot below was taken with the tide out.

San Lorenzo Beach, Giyon, Spain 8 July 2007

At the end of the beach was the sign in front of the festival grounds.

At the end of San Lorenzo Beach Giyon, Spain 8 July 2007 was the sign for Semana Negra

Last is a photograph of Columbia novelist Antonio Garcia Angel who presented his novel Recursos Humanos, with Paco Taibo making the introduction. Antonio’s story was an interesting one, with a lot of inside information into what it was like growing up and going to school in Columbia. He was chosen as a novelist for the Rolex mentor programme. His mentor was the famous Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. Antonio’s novel Recursos Humanos emerged out of that relationship. He had weekly phone conferences with Mario Vargas Llosa and frequently traveled to meet the author.

Europa Star has this to say about the Rolex programme:

“Rolex launched its international program of artistic patronage in 2002, and each cycle runs one year. It covers six artistic disciplines: dramatic art, visual art, literature, dance, music, and film. In each of these fields, Rolex invites a recognized master to serve as the Mentor, who will give advice and instruction to the Protégé, a person with promising talent who has not yet reached their full potential. The program of this one-on-one personal relationship is established by each Mentor who decides, along with the Protégé, how their collaboration will work. A minimum of six weeks of work together is expected during each cycle of the year, but it is clear that each discipline will have different specifications.”

Not enough is known about this programme in Thailand. There were be a number of people in the Kingdom who should be encouraged to apply.

Posted: 7/25/2007 3:44:12 AM 


The Road from Barcelona To Bangkok Part 3

On 14th July 2007 I was scheduled for a presentation of the Spanish edition of Zero Hour in Phnom Penh. It was to be held in the main venue at 9.05 p.m. About twenty minutes before I was to go on, I notice that Marta, the publicist who had worked the entire festival arranging interviews, was smoking more than usual and pacing. About 10 minutes before show time, I slipped away to the restroom. I was back five minutes later and Marta was a nervous wreck. I was surprised to see about 250 people inside. No sooner had I stepped into the room a member of staff pulled Marta and I to chairs toward the front. A couple of minutes later Paco Taibo announced the Premier Book Award for Samana Negra 2007.

It was Zero Hour in Phnom Penh. As he spoke, Marta translated the reasons why the book had been selected over hundred other novels. I tried to recover from this shock, listening to the translation of Paco’s words. A couple of minutes I was on stage with Paco, and gave a 30-minute presentation about how I came to write Zero Hour in Phnom Penh during the UNTAC period. After the presentation, the book sold out. Three books sold out during the festival, two written by Spanish authors and Zero Hour in Phnom Penh.

A special note of thanks to my editor Claudia Casanova and publicist Marta Oliva for their many thoughtful gestures, for making all of the arrangements, including air tickets, hotels, interviews. A huge amount of work went into this trip. An author is lucky to have a publisher; he is beyond luck to have a publisher that shows such dedication. Their kindness was beyond any reasonable expectation.

Both Claudia and Marta worked extremely hard to see that Zero Hour in Phnom Penh has become a commercial success in Spain. A new printing is in the works with a banner about the Semana Negra award. Next to be translated into Spanish with be Spirit House, which will be issued under the title Kick-Boxing in Nirvana.

On 20th July I flew from Barcelona to Madrid, then onto Doha, and finally landed in Bangkok on the evening of 21st July. It is good be home. But this was a trip was one I won’t ever forget.

Posted: 7/23/2007 5:46:03 AM 


The Road from Barcelona To Bangkok Part 2

There were many other authors from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and Columbia. It was a good chance to meet authors and artists from around the world. Here are some names to watch for in the future as I expect that their books will find their way into English. I discovered Argentina author Ernesto Mallo (La Aguja En El Parjar), Columbian author Antonio Garcia Angel (Recursos Humanos), and Mexican author Miguel Cane (Todas Las Fiestas de manana).

Paco Ignacio Taibo II leading the guitar players in song.

The head of the festival is internationally acclaimed author Paco Ignacio Taibo II. I am currently reading The Shadow of the Shadow by Paco Taibo and can highly recommend it. This novel is set in the time shortly after the revolution in Mexico and Paco covers a group including a journalist, poet, lawyer and ethnic Chinese labour organizer (who can’t speak Chinese but nonetheless substitutes ‘l” for “r” in his speech. The book is not only funny but a hugely entertaining murder mystery.

Miguel (right) sharing a moment with principal festival translator Diego (left) at the Don Manuel Hotel, Gijon, Spain.

Also at the Semana Negra were graphic artists, cartoonists, and illustrators. This was a seriously talented group of people. At lunch and dinner I would watch them talking and making sketches on the paper tablecloth. Some of the artists I talked with included the legendary Mexican artist, Eduardo del Rio Garcia (Rius). Rius is a highly political artist and his creations hit home hard. Sergi Alvarez y Sagar Fornies and Lorenzo Gomez share a dark vision of politics and the oppression of the small guy. Hunt Emerson from the UK is a multi-talented artists, with graphic books, comics, and illustrations to his credit. Hunt was kind enough to draw a wonderful cartoon on the empty space on the back of my name card, the one that hung around my neck throughout Semana Negra. Dean Ormstom’s Vampire may be the most chilling images ever about the long-toothed demon. Carles Santamaria y Pepe Farrugo captures the evil of corporate board rooms along with the corporate power games. Los Otros y Nosotros homes in on the comedic tragedy of life with a series of urban images ranging from hitch-hiking beauties to a Goya like giant hovering over a city and dragging the countryside into his grasp.

Arthur Suydam, one of America’s foremost cartoonist and illustrators was at the festival from the beginning. He has a book titled Fantastic Art of Arthur Suydam and I highly recommend it. His cutting edge alien images are haunting. Arthur has also done the art for the Tarzan, The Lost Adventure, Brer Rabbit, The Wind in the Willows, and Batman. His art is in high demand in the States. Each day Arthur holed up in his room drawing for work owed back in New York.

Posted: 7/23/2007 5:33:16 AM 


The Road from Barcelona To Bangkok Part 1

Entrance to Semana Negra 2007 Gijon, Spain

From 3rd to 21st July I was in Spain. I started off in Madrid for two days. Then boarded the “black train” along with other writers, artists, musicians, journalists, and TV broadcasters for Gijon. The train arrived on the afternoon of 6th July. We were greeted by a band, photographers, onlookers and local protestors who were seeking the release from prison of two men (who apparently had already been released), but never mind. The Semana Negra or Black week is held for 10 days every year and draws a crowd of over all million visitors. Writers give presentations about their books at venues set up at the Festival.

Authors Peter Straub and Ernesto Mallo at one of the many dinners held during the festival.

Authors from North America in attendance included Peter Straub (Julia, Ghost Story, ShadowLand), Samuel R. Delaney “Chip” (novels The Einstein Intersection, Nova, Hogg, Dhalgren, and the Return to Nevèrÿon series), Lucius Shepard (The Handbook of American Prayer, Viator, Life During War Time).

“Chip” Delaney in residence at Gijon, Spain

Posted: 7/23/2007 1:36:28 AM 



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