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Donostia Book Club

My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl

Literary Adventures

It has been a long week, full of literary events. Unfortunately for us, we had to share the time between work and pleasure. That meant making difficult choices. After a long debate and making puzzles with our timetables we have finally set for 3 activities that we just couldn't miss: 

1. James Ellroy at Gutun Zuria

2. Public Reading with Donostia Kultura at International Book Day

3. Tzvetan Todorov at Gutun Zuria.


First was James Ellroy.




He was one of guests of 8th edition of Gutun Zuria - Literature Festival organized annually at Alhondiga Bilbao. This year's main subject was Eros. Let me quote here the official materials, there is no better way to explain the choice:


Under the heading ‘Evoking Eros’, Javier Marías, Álvaro Pombo, Wendy Guerra, James Ellroy, Fernando Arrabal, Itxaro Borda, Edorta Jimenez and Tzvetan Todorov will share with the public their reflections on eroticism in literature; how the culture of evocation and insinuation appears in their books dissecting the tensions corseted in couples, tackling sex as both a creative and destructive force, revealing the idiosyncrasies of erotica and the different attitudes in the face of Eros, until reaching the darkest depths of desire.

Erotica in literature is neither erotic nor pornographic literature. The difference lays both in aesthetics, for the culture of evocation and not description lies between the lines, and in the plots of the storylines dealing with each of the genres.

Throughout their careers these writers have dissected the tensions corseted in couples, tackled sex as both a creative and destructive force, and revealed the idiosyncrasies of erotica and the different attitudes in the face of Eros, until reaching the darkest depths of desire.

As in previous editions, the ‘Reader’s hour’ will be held after each session, so that attendees can chat with these writers over a glass of wine specially made for the occasion by Bodega Urbana, in a relaxed environment.


James Ellroy, without any doubt, is an interesting character. In his Hawaiian shirts and "detective's" trench he seems to be one of his own creations. And that is how I have seen the interview with him: as him creating his own persona, his own public character. He mostly ignored questions (some of them excellent!) asked by Justo Navarro and instead presented himself as the best living author. "No other authors, only Ellroy" he says regularly in the interviews. That time was no different "Let's be honest: who reads Marquez (...) or Herta Muller. But they all read me!". He also calls himself "a demon dog of American literature" and barks a lot.


Arrogant during the interview, he abandons all these bold statements in a conversation one-to-one. Asked what advice he would give to young authors he says: "Don't question yourself constantly. Write and write and then publish. Is it any good? A big chance is, that it's not. But you are not going to know an answer to that. You won't know if you're good. I don't know if I'm good. I write."


A chance is that you con't know Ellroy, because you've focused on reading Marquez, Cortazar or Muller. But ignoring author's huge ego, I would recommend his books to anyone who likes ambitious crime novels. Why don't you start with "The Black Dahlia"? It is inspired by a tragic history of author's mother and another women murdered some 20 years later. Doesn't that ignite your curiosity? Check out his biography and maybe you will be more understanding when it comes to his public persona character ;)



 Our second important event was Public Reading organized by Donostia Kultura on International Book Day. 7 members of Donostia Book Club were there with me and we've read a short story by Eric Maria Remarque, "The Enemy". My ambitious plan was to record an audio and post it here, but unfortunately there was no way of doing it: the background noise and my little phone made it totally impossible. So all I can do is to post one more time a link to the story:


Huge thanks and hugs to: Mariana, Amaia, Elisa, Simon, Ana and Elena! YOU ROCK!!!


And we've closed the week with another trip to Bilbao and Gutun Zuria. Beacuse of some happy coincidences we could appreciate the art created by Niki de Saint Phalle. You can go and see it for yourself till June, 7th in Guggenhein Bilbao. 



And finally the conversation with Tzvetan Todorov. A very short and compresed biography note from Gutun Zuria's website says:

Tzvetan Tódorov (Sofia, 1939) is a linguist, philosopher, historian, literary critic and theorist who has resided in Paris since 1963 where together with Roland Barthes has been one of the most prestigious representatives of the structuralist circle. Considered one of the greatest intellectuals of our time, he has given classes at École Pratique des Hautes Études and Yale University. His lectures have also been heard in the universities of New York, Columbia, Harvard and California. He was awarded the Prince of Asturias Social Sciences Prize in 2008.

He is the author of numerous books on literature and social sciences, being worthy of mention: Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1966),Fragile happiness (1985), Living alone together (1995) and The adventures of the absolute (2005).


But I think that doesn't show the spectrum of his works and interests. One is overwhelmed when trying to cover all his essays and conferences he participated in. During Gutun Zuria he focused on answering questions and explaining the very basic relation between Eros and literature. He admitted that it was not going to be a conference and the subject leaves a lot to talk about, so what he covered just the top of an iceberg. No matter how basic his speech was, it was easy to see that he has an amazing knowledge and his insight into theory of literature is invaluable!



Now we are counting days to Literaktum - a literature festival in Donostia. The program will be announced on April, 28th!