2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet X is for Alfonso X of Castile

The Crime Fiction Alphabet arrives this week to letter “x”, and my X is for Alfonso X of Castile. Alfonso X (23 November 1221 – 4 April 1284), called the Wise (Spanish: el Sabio), was the King of Castile, León and Galicia from 30 May 1252 until his death.  (Information taken from Wikipedia).

You can read more about his relationship with literature HERE.

I would like to highlight the following points:

  1. His desire to bring Spain into the mainstream of high civilization led to a boom of cultural activity, including the production and translation of a great deal of literature.
  2. The literature produced during his reign was intended to aid him in achieving his goal by giving the common people of Spain access to great intellectual works. Therefore, all of the prose attributed to Alfonso X’s efforts was written in the language of the common people, Castilian (today known as Spanish), rather than Latin.
  3. The “Siete Partidas” was a legal code founded on Roman law and constructed by a group of legal experts chosen by Alfonso X. The “Siete Partidas” was so advanced that it still functions in modern society. It was used as a basis for creating the United States laws used today, for which reason the image of Alfonso X appears in the US House of Representatives.
  4. Many of the scientific works produced by Alfonso X were translated from earlier Arabic works. The works were translated into Castilian by a special panel of trilingual Jews. Four of the major scientific works produced under Alfonso’s direction were Tablas alfonsíes (Alfonsine Tables), Libros del saber de astronomía (Books of Wisdom of Astronomy), Libro de los juicios de las estrellas (Book of Judgments of Astrology), and Lapidario. The Tablas alfonsíes were translated and updated from work originally done by al-Zarqali. See also The Toledo School of Translators at Wikipedia.
  5. Alfonso X’s reign is known for its religious tolerance. His literature not only included translated works from Arabic cultures, but also included translations of non-Christian religious works. The Qur’an – the religious book of Islam – was translated into Castilian on orders from Alfonso. Also translated were the Talmud – the religious book of Judaism – and Cabala.
  6. In keeping with his desire to elevate the tastes of the Spanish common man, one of the literary works that Alfonso X had translated was La escalera de Muhammad (Muhammad’s Ladder). The fantastic descriptions of Heaven and Hell influenced Dante in writing his Inferno. On top of intellectual works, Alfonso X also oversaw the production of more everyday literature. Calila e Dimna is a collection of stories originally from Asia. This work had a huge popular impact in Spain and also influenced the entire development of European fiction. Alfonso also had Libro de ajedrez, dados, y tablas (The Book of Games) translated into Castilian from Arabic and added illustrations with the goal of perfecting the work.
  7. Last but not least, I’m convinced that a historical murder mystery book, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco set in the year 1327, would not have been possible without the contribution of Alfonso X of Castile. If you disagree, perhaps you have not read it; a must read, in my opinion.


The 2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet is a Community Meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. By Friday of each week participants try to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. Click HERE to visit other suggestions from fellow participants.

A Brief Encounter with Ernesto Mallo


Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Ernesto Mallo. It seemed to me that I knew him for a long time, thanks to his books. The occasion was the launching of his new book in Spain, Los hombres te han hecho mal (Siruela, 2012) originally published in Argentina (Planeta Editorial, 2012). I look forward to reading it soon.

In fact it was a very entertaining evening. Besides his new book, he talked about his childhood, his view of the world and about his native Argentina. Answering to my question Ernesto told us he intends to write a fourth instalment.

The evening was rounded off with the reading of his short story Marilyn Tango. You can find it HERE (in Spanish).

A brief autobiography is available HERE (in English) and HERE (in Spanish).

Los hombres te han hecho mal (tr.: Men Have Done You Wrong), by Ernesto Mallo

This evening Ernesto Mallo will present in Madrid his new book Los hombres te han hecho mal (tr.: Men Have Done You Wrong) This is the third instalment in his series featuring Superintendent Lascano, known as el “Perro”, the Dog. The presentation will take place at Traficantes de sueños bookshop. I simply can’t miss it.

There will be a further opportunity next Monday 29th October at Estudio en Escarlata bookshop.

My reviews of his previous books in the series:

Needle in a Haystack (La aguja en el pajar) by Ernesto Mallo (1)

La aguja en el pajar / Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo (2)

La aguja en el pajar /Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo (y/and 3)

Delincuente Argentino by Ernesto Mallo (English title Sweet Money)

Review: Arctic Chill, by Arnaldur Indridason

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb, 2008. First published as Vetrarborgin in 2005. First published in Great Britain in 2008 by Harvill Secker. Vintage Digital Kindle Edition, 2009. 457 KB. ASIN: B0031RSBW8. ISBN: 9781409078203.

Erlendur and his team, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli, have been called in to investigate the violent death of a child one cold evening in mid-January. He looks Asian and was about ten years old. He was found lying on the ground in a garden behind a block of flats. The puddle of blood underneath him had started to freeze. A stab to the stomach confirms that his death was not accidental.

The child’s name was Elías. His mother, Sunee, is from Thailand. She can hardly speak the language and needs an interpreter to communicate. Sunee has another son, Niran. Niran, Elías’s half-brother and five years his senior, is through and through Thai. Sunee lives alone with her two sons. An Icelander carpenter called Ódinn is Elías’s father. His parents were divorced a year ago.

It seems to be a racist murder. Otherwise, who may have wanted to kill a ten year old boy? A teacher in Elías’s school, becomes the prime suspect for expressing views against the immigrants. However, things are complicated further when Niran doesn’t return home from school and no one knows his whereabouts. Besides, a neighbour suspects that Sunee has a boyfriend, or at least she is seeing someone. As the story unfolds, other hypotheses begin to surface and the number of possible suspects increases.

Simultaneously, Erlendur has started to receive some anonymous calls from a woman. He does believe they are related with the case of a woman that went missing shortly after Christmas. This bring him back the memory of his brother who disappeared during a blizzard when they were children.

In my view Arctic Chill is a first-class police procedural, suggestive and well-constructed. I particularly liked the simplicity of its prose, the choice of its characters and the issues addressed. The strength of the story rests on its universality, even when taking place in a heavily local setting. Perhaps therein lies its greatness. Highly recommended.

My rating: 5/5.

Arctic Chill has been reviewed by Maxine at Euro Crime, Glenn at International Noir Fiction, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, kimbofo at Reading Matters, Michael Carlson at Irresistible Targets, NacyO at the crime segments, Norman at Crime Scraps,      

Invierno ártico de Arnaldur Indridason

Erlendur y su equipo, Elinborg y Sigurdur Oli, acuden a investigar la muerte violenta de un niño, una noche fría a mediados de enero. Parece asiático y tenía unos diez años de edad. Lo encontraron tendido en el suelo en un jardín detrás de un bloque de pisos. El charco de sangre debajo de él había empezado a congelarse. Una puñalada en el estómago confirma que su muerte no fue accidental.

El niño se llamaba Elías. Su madre, Sunee, es tailandesa. Casi no sabe hablar el idioma y necesita un intérprete para comunicarse. Sunee tiene otro hijo, Niran. Niran, medio hermano de Elías y cinco años mayor que él, es completamente tailandés. Sunee vive sola con sus dos hijos. Un carpintero islandés llamado Ódinn es el padre de Elias. Sus padres se divorciaron hace un año.

Parece que se trata de un asesinato racista. De lo contrario, ¿quién puede haber querido matar a un niño de diez años? Un profesor del colegio de Elías, se convierte en el principal sospechoso por expresar opiniones contra los inmigrantes. Sin embargo, las cosas se complican aún más cuando Niran no vuelve a casa del colegio y nadie conoce su paradero. Además, un vecino sospecha que Sunee tiene un novio, o por lo menos ella está saliendo con alguien. A medida que la historia avanza, otras hipótesis comienzan a aflorar y aumenta el número de posibles sospechosos.

Al mismo tiempo, Erlendur ha empezado a recibir algunas llamadas anónimas de una mujer. Él cree que están relacionadas con el caso de una mujer que desapareció poco después de Navidad. Esto le trae el recuerdo de su hermano, que desapareció durante una tormenta de nieve cuando eran niños.

A mi juicio Invierno ártico es un procedimiento policíal de primera clase, sugerente y bien construido. Me han gustado especialmente la sencillez de su prosa, la elección de los personajes y los temas que aborda. La fuerza de la historia descansa en su universalidad, incluso cuando tienen lugar en un ambiente muy local. Tal vez en esto radica su grandeza. Altamente recomendado.

Mi valoración: 5/5.

Ver tambíen otra reseña de Invierno ártico  en Mis queridos sabuesos: blog de novela negra.


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