Ángel Esteban (Zaragoza, 1963) has a Ph.D in Spanish Philology and he is a professor of Latin American literature at Granada University.
A visiting lecturer at more than thirty universities around the world, he is the author of twenty-five essays on literature, particularly Antología de la poesia hispanoamericana del siglo XX (2007), Literatura cubana entre el viejo y el mar (2006), Alejo Carpentier: Un siglo de luces (2005), Antología de la poesía cubana (2002), José Martí, el alma alerta (1995), Donde no habita el olvido. La influencia de Bécquer en Hispanoamérica (1994).
He is chief editor of the review Fronda and scientific adviser of journals such as Pensamiento y Cultura(Bogota), Revista de Literatura (Madrid), RILCE(Pamplona), etc.
He has written Gabo y Fidel. El paisaje de una amistad, co-authored with Stéphanie Panichelli(Espasa Calpe, 2004), Cuando llegan las musas. Cómo trabajan los grandes maestros de la literaturapenned in collaboration with Raúl Cremades (Espasa Calpe, 2002), Gabo y Mario. La estirpe del boom, co-authored with Ana Gallego, (Espasa Calpe, 2009).
His book, El escritor en su paraíso. 30 grandes autores que fueron bibliotecarios, foreworded by Mario Vargas Llosa, was published in 2014 by Editorial Periférica.
La estirpe de Babel, the first novel by Ángel Esteban, has been published by Editorial Verbum in November 2016.
La estirpe de Babel (Editorial Verbum, November 2016)
Palim VI, the son of one of the contractors building the Tower of Babel, realises that he is immortal when he survives both the fire in Library of Babylon and the chaos following the destruction of the tower and the multi-tongue confusion that ensued. From then on he leads a nomadic life, travelling from Homer’s Greece to Philip II’s and Philip III’s Spain and from there to czarist Russia on the verge of disappearance, avant-garde Paris in the nineteen twenties and Buenos Aires, infested with erudite fantasy novelists.
In this book the reader crosses paths with some of the grandees of Western literature (Homer, Virgil, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Molière, Goethe, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Kafka, Faulkner, Borges), discovering details of their lives and oeuvre through Palim VI, the novel’s lead character. He converses, works or argues with them, teasing out the keys to their literary creativity and genius. He shares a cell with Cervantes in the year the idea for Don Quixote was spawned, works as a stagehand for Shakespeare, secretary for Goethe, solicitor for Flaubert, Hebrew teacher for Kafka in the early years of Hitler’s career, ghost writer (and procurer) for Dostoyevsky, assistant to a drunken Faulkner, depressed after having finished The Sound and the Fury, and receptionist at the hotel where Borges attempted suicide.
Despite his lack of roots, material assets or any stable relationship, Palim VI feels increasingly enriched by these 13 encounters with literary geniuses.
El escritor en su paraíso. 30 grandes autores que fueron bibliotecarios
Editorial Periférica, May 2014
Foreword by Mario Vargas Llosa
Spanning the period from the 16th to the 20th centuries, this book takes a look at 30 writers from 14 countries in Europe and the Americas who directed or worked in libraries; it describes the literary training they received and how their work as librarians was important to their artistic development. It is also peppered with fascinating anecdotes establishing connections between their professional and literary life. In short, it is an appeal to use libraries to learn more and to become better people in the process.
It tells readers how Robert Burton, immersed in a deep depression, wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy around 1620 in Oxford University library or how in the late 18th and early 19th centuries Goethe held meetings with Schiller, Humboldt, Fichte, Schelling, Jean Paul, August Wilhelm and Friedrich von Schlegel, Ludwig Tieck, Novalis, Henrik Steffens and Hegel in the Weimar library, which he directed, bringing together in one place the members of the most important literary and philosophical generation of all time in the history of Germany.
It narrates the efforts of the Peruvian writer Ricardo Palma who directed the National Library. On finding the library destroyed and looted at the end of the War of the Pacific, the Spanish Guerra del Pacífico, he searched for books everywhere and scrounged copies from friends from foreign Academies and writers, eventually managing to assemble thousands of books in a very short space of time.
But not all the writers mentioned were quite so industrious. At the end of the 19th century Marcel Proust was kicked out of the one and only job he ever had – as a librarian at the Mazarine library – because he failed repeatedly to turn up for work. Subsequently, he was to shut himself away to write In Search of Lost Time.
Some writers were the directors of libraries, for instance Borges who was director for almost two decades from the time of Peron’s fall from power (1955) until his return. When he had to leave what had become his second home, he sometimes took the same route every day as if he were going to work at the library; he arrived, turned round and walked back home with a heavy heart… Although blind by then, he still knew the exact place of many books, touching them and imagining their covers as he wandered through the corridors. For others, the library was a lifeline.
When interned at the Lubyanka prison camp, Solzhenitsyn was an assiduous visitor to the library but sometimes the inmates were not given the books they asked for or their library loans were delayed because the warders had noticed marks on the pages, which meant the prisoners were communicating with each other in code. Later, he was transferred to a sharashka as a “prisoner on a special mission”; this was a scientific research centre where he worked not only as a mathematician but also in the library where he asked for many works of literature to be bought.
Some of the writers came into contact with libraries very early in their professional life when they were still students. This was the case of Stephen King who had to work at the library of the University of Maine, where he also met his wife-to-be, to pay his way through college where he was labelled a troublesome student the time he was there. But it was 1969, there were still ripples from May 68, Nixon was withdrawing the United States from Vietnam and people were listening to The Who, Creedence, Kenny Rogers, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Janis Joplin and Elvis Presley.
One writer in greater need of a job a decade earlier was Mario Vargas Llosa when, at the age of 19, he married his aunt who was 11 years older. His father having threatened to kill him, he vanished from the family scene and turned for help to one of his teachers who got him a job at the library of Lima’s most select club. The pay was a pittance but at least he was able to keep himself.
The stories about these 30 writers are intriguing; many are also funny and show how a literary vocation can be born or consolidated through regular contact with libraries.
Foreign rights sold to:
Alakarga (Turkey), 2015
Dereta (Serbia), 2016
De Gabo a Mario. La estirpe del boom, Ángel Esteban & Ana Gallego
Espasa Calpe, 2009 / Editorial Verbum 2015: new updated edition
This book tells the story of the friendship between the two best novelists of the Latin American boom and probably the two most important Spanish-language writers of the twentieth century: García Márquez and Vargas Llosa. But it goes beyond the friendship, tracing the roots of the boom and describing other parallel friendships (Cortázar, Fuentes, Carpentier, Borges, Sábato, Edwards. etc), the atmosphere of Paris and Barcelona in the 1960s and 1970s, the spread of communism and consumerism in the “happy days” of utopias, the relationship with the cultural world of the Cuban revolution and Allende’s Chile, in the times when dictators ruled in Argentina, Peru and Colombia. While an alluring subject in themselves, the story of these two literary figures has an added attraction: from being the best of friends, they became the worst of enemies. No one has found out why, although speculation has abounded. Ángel Esteban and Ana Gallego broach this question in their book, disclosing hitherto unknown information. It all goes back to the mid-1970s. Mario and Gabo have never breathed a word about what happened, even though they have had much to say about each other over the past 30 years. The closer García Márquez has moved towards Cuba and communism, the farther away Vargas Llosa has stepped from his revolutionary teenage days.
Foreign rights sold to:
Vintage (USA), 2011
Dereta (Serbia), 2016
Gabo y Fidel. El paisaje de una amistad, Ángel Esteban & Stéphanie Panichelli
Espasa Calpe, 2004
The two most charismatic characters of twentieth-century Latin America, Fidel Castro and Gabriel García Márquez, have publicly declared their friendship, embracing a personal, political and literary relationship. For years Castro did not allow the Colombian Nobel Prize winner to approach his island den, only later succumbing openly to his conspiratorial flattery. Obsessed by power, caudillos and high-flying diplomatic mediation, Gabo viewed the Cuban patriarch as the model on which Latin America would one day be able to build its own brand of socialism. Without an intellectual on the island to propagate his revolutionary achievements, Castro found in García Márquez the cleverest man the Caribbean had produced since the time of cholera. Gabo, who had always rejected propositions from political parties and Colombian leaders to become minister, ambassador or president, started campaigning in his own right, encircling power, controlling and directing it, ruling without a sceptre, carrying proposals to countries as the unique ambassador and Siamese twin of the ‘bearded commander’. This book tells the thrilling story of the relationship between those two men, sketching the landscape of their friendship and its secrets.
- Studio Emka Klara Molnar (Poland), 2006
- Ambar (Portugal), 2007
- Shinchosha (Japan), 2009
- Pegasus Books (USA), 2009
- Dogan Egmont (Turkey), 2011
- Yemun Publishing (Korea), 2011
Cuando llegan las musas (Cómo trabajan los grandes escritores)
Ángel Esteban & Raúl Cremades (Espasa Calpe, 2002)
How could Miguel Delibes or Buero Vallejo concentrate on their writing while their children played around them? Why did Carmen Martín Gaite die gripping her notebooks? How was it possible for Rafael Alberti to create one of his most beautiful love poems ‘La paloma’, in the loneliness of a sad night? Why does Vargas Llosa write surrounded by hippopotamus figures? How did Saramago first get the idea for Blindness? Why does García Márquez need a yellow flower on his table to be able to work? And why do all the novels of Isabel Allende start on the same date, 8th January?
Cuando llegan las musas not only answers these questions and many others, but also provides the keys to understand the relationship between the passion and craft of writing, between inspiration and hard work, between the most sublime and the most banal moments of literary creation.
Raúl Cremades and Ángel Esteban delve brilliantly and meticulously into the experience and thoughts of sixteen of the greatest figures of twentieth-century Spanish, Latin American and Portuguese literature.