My Book Notes: Maigret in Vichy, 1968 (Inspector Maigret #68) by Georges Simenon (tr. Ros Schwartz)

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

Penguin Classics, 2019. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 5041 KB. Print Length: 174 pages. ASIN: B07NCZRG8J. ISBN: 978-0-241-30422-8. A pre-original version was published in the daily Le Figaro between 2 December 1967 and 3 January 1968 (26 episodes).  First published in French as Maigret à Vichy by Presses de la Cité in 1968. The story was written between 5 and 11 September 1967 in Épalinges (Canton of Vaud), Switzerland. The first English translation came out as Maigret in Vichy in 1969. Eleven subsequent editions followed through 1996, some being entitled Maigret Takes the Waters. The translator for all was Eileen Ellenbogen.  This translation by Ros Schwartz was first published in 2019.

imageOpening paragraph: ‘Do you know them?’ Madame Maigret asked in an undertone as her husband turned around to loos at a couple they had just passed.

Book description: Maigret and his wife take a much needed holiday to Vichy, where they quickly become used to the slower pace of life. When a woman, who they regularly pass by on their daily strolls, is murdered Maigret can’t help but offer his assistance to the local Inspector,  a former colleague of Maigret’s.

My take: Our Commissaire finds himself in Vichy taking the waters by suggestion of Dr Pardon in the company of his wife. Days pass at a leisurely pace, under a strict diet with nothing of alcohol, and frequent walks to the different thermal springs to drink water.

They had already created a schedule for themselves which they followed meticulously as if it were of the utmost importance, and their days measured out by various ritual which they adhered to religiously.

Sometimes they sit to listen the concert on the bandstand. Occasionally, Maigret stops to watch playing a game of boules. And quite often they amuse themselves making comments on those with whom they cross paths. A woman in particular call their attention. They could have nicknamed her the lady in mauve, or rather the lady in lilac, because she always wore something lilac-coloured.

She looked as if she had come straight out of a picture book. She wore a white hat, whereas most of the women here were bareheaded. The stole around her shoulders was white too, and her dress the lilac colour of which she seemed fond.
  The lady in lilac was among those who could have been called Maigret’s inner circle, the people he’d noticed from the start and who intrigued him.
  One could guess she was used to living in silence, as with nuns, accustomed to solitude. Perhaps she even preferred that solitude. Whether walking or sitting, as she was at present, she paid no attention to promenaders or to her neighbours, and she would probably have been most surprised to learn that outside of any professional obligation Detective Chief Inspector Maigret was trying to gauge her personality.

But one day the murder of Hélène Lange shakes the tranquillity of the thermal resort. Inspector Lecoeur, the Clermont-Ferrand police chief  takes over the investigation. Lecoeur had been a former Maigret colleague who had worked under his command at the Police Judiciaire in Paris. And Maigret cannot avoid to become interested in the investigation, even though, being outside his jurisdiction, all he can do is to offer his assistance to his former subordinate. Maigret himself becomes even more intrigued at finding out that the victim, Hélène Lange, is no other but the woman in lilac, who so powerfully had called his attention the previous days.

Maigret in Vichy turns out to be the story of a detection in which Maigret is forced to play a secondary role. It is probably not advisable to read this story, if one is still not familiar with our character. And it is quite likely that its slow and paused pace is not to the liking of all readers. It should be noted that this is one of the latest novels in the series and Maigret is approaching his retirement age. In a sense, I found it attractive to observe Maigret’s reaction to the way his former subordinate carries out an interrogation in a quite a different way to how he would have done it himself, though not less effective in any case. In a nutshell, Maigret in Vichy tells the fascinating story of a deception that manages to grab our attention until the last page.

My rating: B (I liked it)

Maigret in Vichy at Georges Simenon & Maigret International Dailyblog

About the Author: Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. Altogether, about 550 million copies of his works have been printed. He is best known, however, for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Maigret. The first novel in the series, Pietr-le-Letton, appeared in 1931; the last one, Maigret et M. Charles, was published in 1972. The Maigret novels were translated into all major languages and several of them were turned into films and radio plays. Two television series (1960-63 and 1992-93) have been made in Great Britain. During his “American” period, Simenon reached the height of his creative powers, and several novels of those years were inspired by the context in which they were written. Simenon also wrote a large number of “psychological novels”, as well as several autobiographical works. (Source: Goodreads).

About the Translator: Ros Schwartz is an English literary translator, who translates Francophone literature into English. In 2009 she was awarded the Chevalier d’Honneur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her services to French literature. Alongside literary translation, Schwartz has served on the boards and committees of various literary and translation organisations: Vice-Chair of the Translators Association; Chair of the European Council of Literary Translators Associations (CEATL) from 2000 to 2009; Chair of the Advisory Panel to the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) from 2005 to 2009; and Chair of English PEN’s Writers in Translation Programme from 2010 to 2014. She has worked to develop literary translation as a profession by supporting young translators, initiating mentoring schemes, summer schools (e.g. Translate in the City, first at Birkbeck College, then at City University London), workshops and masterclasses (e.g. at Goldsmiths College, the University of Middlesex, Universities of Westminster, East Anglia, Bath, Warwick, Leicester, Glasgow and Manchester). Schwartz has also written about literary translation: see, for example, “A Dialogue: On a Translator’s Interventions”, by Ros Schwartz and Nicholas de Lange, in Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush (eds), The Translator as Writer (Continuum, London and New York, 2006), and articles published in The Linguist, the ATA Bulletin, The ITI Bulletin, Context (nos 20, 21, 21 – Dalkey Archive Press), and the British Council literary translation website. She is a regular contributor to In Other Words, the journal of the Translators Association and the British Centre for Literary Translation. She was also a consultant on the revised Robert and Collins French-English/English-French Dictionary; a judge for the Larousse “Grand Prix de la Traduction”, Paris, 1995; and a judge for the Aurora Borealis Prize of the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs 1999. Schwartz has translated numerous French and Francophone authors including Catherine Clément, Georges Simenon, Régine Deforges, Dominique Eddé [fr], Dominique Manotti, Claudine Vegh, Emmanuel Raynaud, Aziz Chouaki, Fatou Diome, Yasmina Khadra, Julien Neel, Jacqueline Harpmann, Olivier Roy, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. She recently produced new translations of classic favourites, such as Le Petit Prince and has been part of the international team re-translating the novels of Georges Simenon into English. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Maigret à Vichy 

Maigret of the Month: August, 2009

Maigret’s Journeys in France

Tout Maigret

Maigret en Vichy, de Georges Simenon

Párrafo inicial: “¿Los conoces?”, Preguntó madame Maigret en voz baja cuando su esposo se dio la vuelta para ver a una pareja que acababan de pasar.

Descripción del libro: Maigret y su mujer se toman unas muy necesarias vacaciones en Vichy, donde rápidamente se acostumbran a un ritmo de vida más pausado. Cuando una mujer, con quien regularmente se cruzan durante sus paseos diarios, es asesinada, Maigret no puede evitar ofrecerle su ayuda al inspector local, un antiguo compañero de Maigret.

Mi opinión: Nuestro comisario se encuentra en Vichy tomando las aguas por sugerencia del Dr. Pardon en compañía de su mujer. Los días pasan a un ritmo pausado, bajo una dieta estricta sin nada de alcohol, y frecuentes caminatas a las diferentes fuentes termales para beber agua.

Se habían creado un programa para ellos mismos que seguían con meticulosidad como si fuera de la mayor importancia, y sus días se median mediante diversos rituales a los que se habian adherido religiosamente.

En ocasiones se sientan a escuchar el concierto en el quiosco de música. De vez en cuando, Maigret se detiene a mirar una partida de petanca. Y muy a menudo se divierten haciendo comentarios sobre aquellos con quienes se cruzan. Una mujer en particular llama su atención. Podrían haberla bautizado como la dama de malva o, mejor dicho, la dama de color lila, porque siempre llevaba algo de color lila.

Parecía haber salido directamente de un libro de dibujos. Llevaba un sombrero blanco, mientras que la mayoría de las mujeres aquí llevaban la cabeza descubierta. la estola que rodeaba sus hombros también era blanca, y vestía un color lila del que parecía sentirse orgullosa.
La dama de lila se encontraba entre aquellos que podrían llamarse el círculo íntimo de Maigret, personas que había observado desde el principio y que le intrigaban.
Se podría adivinar que estaba acostumbrada a vivir en silencio, como con las monjas, acostumbradas a la soledad. Tal vez incluso prefería esa soledad. Ya sea caminando o sentada, como estaba actualmente, no prestaba atención a los paseantes ni a sus vecinos, y probablemente se habría sorprendido mucho al saber que, sin ninguna obligación profesional, el inspector jefe Maigret intentaba evaluar su personalidad.

Pero un día el asesinato de Hélène Lange sacude la tranquilidad del balneario. El inspector Lecoeur, el jefe de policía de Clermont-Ferrand, se hace cargo de la investigación. Lecoeur había sido un antiguo colega de Maigret que había trabajado bajo su mando en la Policía Judicial de París. Y Maigret no puede evitar interesarse en la investigación, aunque, al estar fuera de su jurisdicción, todo lo que puede hacer es ofrecer su ayuda a su antiguo subordinado. El propio Maigret se siente aún más intrigado al descubrir que la víctima, Hélène Lange, no es otra que la mujer de lila, que tan poderosamente había llamado su atención los días anteriores.

Maigret en Vichy resulta ser la historia de una investigación en la que Maigret se ve obligado a desempeñar un papel secundario. Probablemente no sea recomendable leer esta historia, si uno todavía no está familiarizado con nuestro personaje. Y es muy probable que su ritmo lento y pausado no sea del agrado de todos los lectores. Cabe señalar que esta es una de las últimas novelas de la serie y Maigret se acerca a su edad de jubilación. En cierto sentido, me pareció atractivo observar la reacción de Maigret ante la forma en que su anterior subordinado lleva a cabo un interrogatorio de una manera bastante diferente a cómo lo habría hecho él mismo, aunque no menos eficaz en cualquier caso. En pocas palabras, Maigret en Vichy cuenta la fascinante historia de un engaño que logra captar nuestra atención hasta la última página.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: Georges Simenon (1903-1989) fue uno de los escritores más prolíficos del siglo XX, capaz de escribir de 60 a 80 páginas diarias. Su obra incluye casi 200 novelas, más de 150 relatos, varias obras autobiográficas, numerosos artículos y decenas de novelas baratas escritas con más de dos docenas de seudónimos. En total, se han realizado unos 550 millones de copias de sus obras. Sin embargo, es más conocido por sus 75 novelas y 28 relatos cortos protagonizados por el comisario Maigret. La primera novela de la serie, Pietr-le-Letton, apareció en 1931; La última, Maigret et M. Charles, se publicó en el 1972. Las novelas de Maigret se tradujeron a todos los idiomas principales y varias de ellas se convirtieron en películas y obras radiofónicas. En Gran Bretaña se hicieron dos series para la televisión (1960-63 y 1992-93). Durante su período “americano”, Simenon alcanzó la cima de su capacidad creativa, y varias novelas de esos años se inspiraron en el contexto en el que fueron escritas. Simenon también escribió una gran cantidad de “novelas psicológicas”, así como varios relatos autobiográficos.

Mis Comentarios de Libros: El complot mongol, 1969 de Rafael Bernal

This post is bilingual, scroll down to access the English language version

Libros del Asteroide, 2013. Formato: Tapa blanda. Páginas: 232. ISBN: 978-8415625605. El complot mongol se publicó por primera vez en 1969 por la editorial Joaquín Mortiz, (Novelistas Contemporáneos), México, D. F.

arton1063-377f8Sinopsis: “México” D. F., años sesenta: Los servicios secretos estadounidenses y soviéticos están convencidos de que China planea asesinar al presidente de EE. UU. durante su próximo viaje oficial a la capital del país. Para impedir el atentado se ponen en contacto con Filiberto García, un detective privado poco escrupuloso que se autodefine como fabricante de muertos y que trabaja ocasionalmente para la policía mexicana. García hará cuanto esté en su mano para desbaratar el complot. Ayudado por los agentes del FBI y el KGB, Graves y Laski, García dispondrá solo de setenta y dos horas para evitar el asesinato. Su investigación le llevará por diferentes barrios de la Ciudad de México, y lo pondrá en contacto con hampones, políticos y funcionarios corruptos. Un complicado desafío que no podrá resolver solo con su gatillo fácil y en él deberá poner todo su ingenio. Publicada por primera vez en 1969, y considerada unánimemente como la novela que inauguró el género negro en México, El complot mongol es un apasionante thriller policíaco con toques de humor y cargado de violencia que retrata diferentes estratos de la capital mexicana. Su descripción del sistema social, económico y político del país no ha perdido ni un ápice de vitalidad.

Más sobre este libro: Publicada en el año de 1969 por la editorial Joaquín Mortiz, El complot mongol es la última novela de su autor y, en cierto modo, el motivo de su verdadera aparición en el panorama de la literatura mexicana. Sin embargo, el halo casi mítico que pende sobre la misma, ha contribuido a ensombrecer el resto del trabajo literario de Rafael Bernal, ligándolo, por desconocimiento, al reducido universo de un libro. Fecunda y vasta, la producción literaria del escritor nacido en 1915 en la Ciudad de México, pasa por la poesía, se interna en los sinuosos vericuetos de la novela de la tierra, explora las posibilidades del relato de aventura y alcanza, para muchos, su punto culminante en la consolidación de un género hasta entonces muy poco practicado en México: la novela policiaca.

El complot mongol es, pues, un retrato oscuro de la vida en los barrios bajos de la Ciudad de México que abreva de esa veta iniciada por los novelistas norteamericanos (particularmente Dashiell Hammett y Raymond Chandler) y pone en escenario un desfile de personajes vulnerados por la maraña de sus propias pasiones e insertos, las más de las veces, en un ambiente viciado por la corrupción y la violencia. Filiberto García, protagonista de la novela y prototipo del asesino con arranques de detective, desciende al corazón del aglutinado barrio chino de la capital del país para desmantelar, con ayuda del FBI y la KGB, una supuesta intriga que amenaza con perturbar la paz mundial. En su trayecto, además de un amor frustrado y un número considerable de muertos, García habrá de lidiar con la insidia de las instituciones y los reveses oscuros de la política nacional.

Considerada por críticos y escritores como la iniciadora del género negro en nuestro país, El complot mongol ha sido objeto de algunas adaptaciones entre las que se cuentan la película homónima de 1978 (dirigida por Antonio Eceiza y protagonizada por Pedro Armendáriz), una radionovela de 1989 producida por Edmundo Cepeda y, en el año 2000, una versión para cómic a cargo de Luis Humberto Crosthwaite y Ricardo Peláez Goicoetxea. Ha sido reeditada en varias ocasiones por la editorial Joaquín Mortiz y, en 2014, apareció en España bajo el sello editorial Libros del Asteroide con prólogo de Yuri Herrera y postfacio de Élmer Mendoza. (Fuente: Enciclopedia de la literatura en Mexico).

Mi opinión: El protagonista, Filiberto García, es convocado un día al depacho del Coronel. En México solo tres hombres conocen este asunto. Dos han leído el expediente de García y creen que no se le debe confiar la investigación. Consideran que más que un investigador profesional, un policía, García es un pistolero profesional. El tercero es el mismo Coronel. El Coronel lo ha propuesto porque García conoce bien a los chinos, participa en sus partidas de póker y encubre sus fumaderos de opio. Con eso piensa que le tendrán confianza. Además García ya ha cooperado con el FBI. Uno de los hombres que se oponen a su nombramiento va a venir a conocerlo, aunque García no tiene por qué saber cómo se llama. Éste hombre no solo duda de su capacidad, sino de su lealtad al gobierno y a México. Además, según le informa el Coronel, García va a tener que colaborar con un agente ruso.

Cuando llega el desconocido, finalmente considera que se puede confiar en García y le pone al corriente de los hechos. Dentro de tres días llega a México el presidente de Estados Unidos para una visita oficial de tres días. Según han sido informados por un alto funcionario de la embajada rusa, el Servicio Secreto de la Unión Soviética se enteró, hace una tres semanas, que en la República Popular China, se planeaba un atentado contra él. El rumor se captó por primera vez en la Mongolia Exterior. Posteriormente, hará unos diez días, según fuentes fidedignas, se supó que habían pasado por Hong Kong, rumbo a América, tres terroristas al servicio de China. Uno de ellos puede que sea un norteamericano renegado y los otros dos de la Europa Central. No se sabe qué pasaportes tendrán. Tambén han sido informados de que los terroristas tiene órdenes de entrar en contacto en México con algún chino que es agente del gobierno del presidente Mao Tse Tung.

En definitiva el trabajo de García consistirá en averiguar si existe o no ese chino en México y si ese rumor del complot es cierto. Y tiene tres día para averiguarlo. Para ello deberá mezclarse con los chinos y captar cualquier rumor sobre los recién llegados o los movimientos entre ellos. Todo ello con absoluta discreción y en cooperación con un agente del FBI llamado Richard P. Graves y un agente ruso que se llama Iván M. Laski. Así comienza esta historia.

Aunque leí algunos comentarios muy favorables sobre este libro, debo admitir que probablemente no lo habría leído si no hubiera sido un regalo de cumpleaños de una de mis cuñadas, por lo que le estoy muy agradecido. La verdad es que disfruté mucho leyendo El complot mongol y Rafael Bernal ha sido todo un descubrimiento para mí. Lamentablemente, el resto de sus novelas son muy difíciles de encontrar, al menos en España. La historia está profundamente arraigada en el ‘noir’ americano con rasgos mexicanos muy específicos. La acción se desarrolla en un ámbito local, pero termina teniendo un significado universal. La trama está muy bien elaborada y está salpicada de excelentes diálogos. La historia tiene un ritmo frenético, pero es fácil de leer y el resultado es extremadamente convincente.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Rafael Bernal (Ciudad de México, 1915-Berna, Suiza, 1972) fue diplomático, escritor y dramaturgo. Es autor de una veintena de libros de diversos géneros. Su obra más famosa, El complot mongol (1969), está considerada como la piedra fundacional de la novela negra mexicana.

Otras opiniones:

Interrobang: Rafael Bernal ha escrito una novela que presenta una estructura narrativa novedosa y meritoria para la época y que consiste en ser contada a dos voces, la principal en tercera persona y en primera persona la subjetiva a través de los pensamientos de García no expresados en voz alta, monólogos interiores de un Pepito Grillo dual que recrea una amplia gama de tonalidades metafísicas en los que se cuestiona lo que hace y lo que no hace, comparando con lo que le gustaría hacer. Y no es una disgresión: es una disquisición.

Fondo de Lectura: Bernal escribe una obra trepidante, llena de diálogos chispeantes donde los giros lingüísticos mexicanos brillan con luz propia. Puede uno entender que la novela fascine a Yuri Herrera, otro orfebre de la lengua. El lector va a disfrutar de una novela trepidante, el ritmo es endiablado, los giros de la trama son sorpresivos sin ser inverosímiles y sobre todo, es que Filiberto García es un personaje inolvidable. Violento, carismático e inteligente, se revela como un héroe sin ninguna vocación por serlo, un antihéroe salvaje que no duda en disparar antes que preguntar. Bernal se acerca a los postulados del género negro clásico, con crítica social incluida, que configuraron Chandler y Hammet pero los renueva con un escenario único y una trama que mezcla la novela negra con la intriga de espías. Además, el lector se va a reír y divertir porque García digamos que tiene preocupaciones más mundanas en medio del monumental embrollo en que se ve inmerso. Además, tal y como se vé en las últimas páginas  del libro, García es libre y no responde ante nadie, solo ante sí mismo y sus impulsos. García aprieta el gatillo al final por justica, por venganza, porque poco le importa lo que Laski o Graves le tengan que decir. El complot mongol es una novela que considero imprescindible. Un clásico único que según los expertos fue la primera de género negro en México. Sea por conocer a su autor, por su gran historia, por su protagonista o por cualquier otro motivo, hay que leerla. ¿A qué esperan pinches lectores?

Ricardo Bosque: Publicada por primera vez en 1969, y considerada unánimemente como la novela que inauguró el género negro en México, El complot mongol es un apasionante thriller policíaco con toques de humor y cargado de violencia que retrata diferentes estratos de la capital mexicana. Su descripción del sistema social, económico y político del país no ha perdido ni un ápice de vitalidad.

Libros del Asteroide página de publicidad

Planeta de libros México página de publicidad

Planeta de libros España página de publicidad 

Rafael Bernal 

Rafael Bernal, gran maestro mexicano de la novela negra 

The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal (tr. Katherine Silver)

Synopsis: Only a couple of days before the state visit of the President of the United States, Filiberto García — an impeccably groomed “gun for hire,” ex–Mexican revolutionary, and classic antihero — is recruited by the Mexican police to discover how much truth there might be to KGB and CIA reports of a Chinese-Mongolian plot to assassinate the Mexican and American presidents during the unveiling of a statue in Mexico City. García kills various criminals as he searches for clues in the opium dens, curio shops, and Cantonese restaurants of Mexico City’s Chinatown — clues that appear to point not to Mongolia, but to Cuba. Yet as the bodies pile up, he begins to find traces of slimy political dealings: are local gears grinding away in these machinations of an “international incident”? Pulsating behind the smokescreen of this classic noir are fierce curses, a shockingly innocent affair, smouldering dialog, and unforgettable riffs about the meaning of life, the Mexican Revolution, women, and the best gun to use for close-range killing.

More about this book: Published in 1969 by Joaquín Mortiz publisher, The Mongolian Conspiracy is the last novel by Rafael Bernal and, in a certain sense, the reason for his true appearance in the panorama of Mexican literature. However, the almost mythical halo that hangs on it, has  overshadowed the rest of Rafael Bernal’s literary work, linking it, by ignorance, to the reduced universe of a book. Fecund and vast, the literary production of this writer born in 1915 in Mexico City, passes through poetry, explores the possibilities of adventure stories, and reaches its peak in the consolidation of a genre, crime fiction, little practiced in Mexico until then.

The Mongolian Conspiracy is, thus, a dark portrait of life in the slums of Mexico City that emerges from the trend initiated by the American novelists (particularly Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler) that  brings into focus a parade of damaged characters by their own passions. Characters who are inserted, most of the time, in an environment marred by corruption and violence. Filiberto García, the main character and prototype of the murderer with detective outbursts, descends to the heart of a firmly bonded Chinatown of the country’s capital to dismantle, with the help of the FBI and the KGB, an allegedly intrigue that threatens to disturb world peace. In his journey, in addition to a frustrated love and a considerable number of deaths, Garcia will have to deal with the gimmicks of the institutions and the dark setbacks of national politics.

Considered by critics and writers as the initiator of the crime fiction genre in our country [Mexico], The Mongolian Conspiracy has been the subject of some adaptations, including the 1978 homonymous film (directed by Antonio Eceiza and starring Pedro Armendáriz), a 1989 soap opera produced by Edmundo Cepeda and, in the year 2000, a comic version by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite and Ricardo Peláez Goicoetxea. It has been reissued several times by Joaquín Mortiz publisher and, in 2014, it appeared in Spain under the imprint Libros del Asteroide with a prologue by Yuri Herrera and a postface by Élmer Mendoza. (Source: Encyclopedia of literature in Mexico).

My take: The main character, Filiberto García, is summoned one day to the Colonel’s office. In Mexico only three men know about this matter. Two have read Garcia’s file and believe he is not the man to be trusted with that investigation. They consider that more than a professional investigator, a policeman, Garcia is a professional gunman. The third one is the Colonel himself. The Colonel has propose him because García knows the Chinese well, he takes part in their poker games and conceals their opium dens. Therefore, he believes they will trust him. In addition, Garcia has already worked with the FBI. One of the men who is oppose to his appointment will come to meet him, although Garcia does not have to know his name. This man not only has doubts about his ability, but also of his loyalty to the government and to Mexico. In addition, according to the Colonel’s information, García will have to collaborate with a Russian agent.

When the unknown man arrives, he finally considers that Garcia can be trusted and informs him of the facts. Within three days, the president of the United States arrives in Mexico for an official visit. As reported by a senior official of the Russian embassy, ​​the Secret Service of the Soviet Union learned, three weeks ago, that in the People’s Republic of China, an attack against him was planned. The rumour was first heard in Outer Mongolia. Subsequently, about ten days ago, according to reliable sources, it was known that three terrorists serving China had gone through Hong Kong to America. One of them may be an American renegade and the other two from Central Europe. It is not known what passports they will have. They have also been informed that the terrorists have orders to come into contact in Mexico with a Chinese who is an agent of President Mao Tse Tung’s government.

In short, Garcia’s job will be to find out whether or not that Chinese exists in Mexico and if that rumour of the plot is true. And he has three days to find out. Thus, he must mix with the Chinese and catch any rumours about newcomers or any movement among them. All this with absolute discretion and in cooperation with an FBI agent named Richard P. Graves and a Russian agent named Ivan M. Laski. And that’s how the story begins.

Even though I read some very favourable comments about this book, I have to admit I probably would not have read it had it not been a birthday present from one of my sisters-in-law, for which I am most  grateful to her. The truth is that I very much enjoyed reading The Mongolian Conspiracy and Rafael Bernal has been quite a finding for me. Regretfully, the rest of his novels are very hard to find, at least in Spain. The story is deeply rooted in the American ‘noir’ with very specific Mexican features. The action unfolds in a local scope, but it ends up holding a universal meaning. The plot is very well crafted and is peppered with excellent dialogues. The story has a frantic pace, but is easy-to-read and the outcome is extremely convincing.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the Author: Rafael Bernal (Mexico City, 1915-Bern, Switzerland, 1972) was a diplomat, writer and playwright. He is the author of about twenty books of different genres. The Mongolian Conspiracy (1969), his masterpiece, is regarded as the cornerstone of Mexican crime fiction.

Other views:

The Complete Review: The Mongolian Conspiracy is a solid, stylish noir in every respect: a good basic plot and some nice twists, a lot of duplicity and distrust, a fine tragic hero, a nice little love-affair, a lot of snappy dialogue, and the requisite body count. The international intrigue is a bit over the top — but maybe man-of-action, and the man in the middle of everything, García is right; after all: ‘They’ve got people to investigate everything. I think that’s all they do, investigate, and that’s why they couldn’t prevent what happened in Dallas. They were so busy investigating, they didn’t see that guy with his rifle.’ The writing, too, constantly shifting between first and third person, is effective, making for a quick, taut, and pretty exciting read — just what you want in a thriller. Recommended.

Criminal Element: The Mongolian Conspiracy may have been written in 1968, but take out the Cold War intrigue and focus on the novel’s view of Mexican politics – the corruption and the cynicism, the violence, the disregard for the citizenry – and not all that much has changed. Bernal wrote a book that is of its time yet relevant today.

Kirkus Review: In the tradition of the classic detective novel, a fun and action-filled read.

NPR: The Mongolian Conspiracy, … , is a masterful work of hilarity and noir. Compelling and full of wit, this is a detective story with a cast of memorable characters, delicious Mexican profanities and sharp, well-placed dialogue. The protagonist, Filiberto García, is an ex–Mexican revolutionary hired by authorities to gather intelligence on a rumored assassination plot on the Mexican and American presidents. García, a “private contractor” with a set of indispensable skills, investigates an underworld that reveals spellbinding truths about corruption close to home. When he begins a relationship with Marta, a young half-Chinese woman he meets along the way, his sense of purpose is only heightened. Not especially common in the world of Mexican noir, the love affair serves as an alluring, and inevitably heartbreaking, backdrop for a classic tale wrought with blood and intrigue.

Shotsmag: It is a story in a kind of hard Chandler form. The writing is quite spare, and it is definitely a story driven by strong characters and convoluted plot. But having said that, it is enthralling. I found it entirely compelling, and now I will have to see if I can find translations of Bernal’s other books. If they are anything like this, they’re worth reading. Highly recommended.

New Directions publicity page

Pushkin Press publicity page

The LA Times on The Mongolian Conspiracy

1969 thriller finally gets English translation” The Boston Globe on The Mongolian Conspiracy

Publisher’s Weekly on The Mongolian Conspiracy

Lit Reactor on The Mongolian Conspiracy

NPR on The Mongolian Conspiracy

Kirkus Review on The Mongolian Conspiracy

Down and Out Mag on The Mongolian Conspiracy

The New York Times on The Mongolian Conspiracy

Additional Crime Fiction Recommendations for 2019 Madrid Book Fair

9788417860103_L38_04_lThe Blindness of the Crab (Original title La ceguera del cangrejo Editorial Siruela 2019) by Alexis Ravelo

Alexis Ravelo, of humble origin and autodidactic formation (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, 1971), he has stood out because of his detective novels, short stories and children’s books, but he is also the author of six musical-dramatic shows, the script of a television program, some articles and dozens of lyrics for different singers. He stands up for an artisanal conception of the literary act, in which reflection, uneasiness and pleasantness are combined. His books include: Tres funerales para Eladio Monroy,2006.; La noche de piedra, 2007; Sólo los muertos, 2008; Los tipos duros no leen poesía, 2009; Los días de mercurio, 2010; Morir despacio, La estrategia del pequinés, 2013; La última tumba, 2013; Las flores no sangran, 2015; La otra vida de Ned Blackbird, 2016; Los milagros prohibidos, 2017; El peor de los tiempos, 2017; and La ceguera del cangrejo, 2019.

Siruela publicity page (in Spanish)

portada_antes-de-los-anos-terribles_victor-del-arbol_201902261418Before the Terrible Years (Original title Antes de los años terribles Ediciones Destino, 2019 ) by Víctor del Árbol

Víctor Del Árbol (Spain, 1968) holds a degree in History from the University of Barcelona. He worked as an officer of the Catalan police force from 1992 to 2012. In 2003, he was the runner-up for the VIII Fernando Lara Award with El abismo de los sueños (The Abyss of Dreams) and in 2006, he won the Tiflos de Novela Award with the El peso de los muertos (Weight of the Dead). His novel La tristeza del samurai (The Samurai’s Grief, 2011) received the Le Prix du Polar Européen 2012 and was runner-up of the Prix polar SNCF 2013 in France. Afterwards he published Respirar por la herida (The Breathe through the Wound, 2013), and Un millón de gotas (A Million Drops, 2014) winner of the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière 2015, best foreign noir novel (Magazine Lire) and Le Prix du Polar SNCF 2018. His novel, La víspera de casi todo (The Eve of Almost Everything), was awarded the Nadal Prize in 2016.  His latest publications are Por encima de la lluvia (Above the Rain, 2017) and Antes de los años terribles (Before the Terrible Years, 2019) He was appointed Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des lettres. (Source: Antonia Kerrigan Literary Agency)

Planeta de Libros publicity page (in Spanish)

A Recommendation For Madrid 2019 Book Fair

The Last Ferry (Original title: El último barco) by Domingo Villar

Ed. Siruela, 2019. Softcover with flaps. 712 pages. ISBN: 978-84-17624-27-9

Cubierta_GR_ElUltimoBarco.inddSynopsis: Doctor Andrade’s daughter lives in a blue house where gentle waves lap up against the shore in marked contrast to the uproar on the other side. There, fishing boats are dragged across the sand, sailors splash busily in the water and commuters to the city wait at the dock for the ferry that crosses the Vigo river every half hour.

One autumn morning, while the Galician coast is recovering from a storm, Inspector Caldas is visited by a worried man: his daughter has disappeared. She didn’t come to a family meal on the weekend or give her class in ceramics at the School of Art and Crafts the following Monday.

Although nothing in the home or routine of Mónica Andrade appears to have changed, Leo Caldas will soon find that in life, as on the sea, devastating currents can lurk under the calmest waters.

About the Author: Domingo Villar (Vigo, 1971) works as a film and TV script writer, while he also contributes in written publications. Having been related to the world of wine since he was a child, he is a gastronomic critic for the Cadena Ser. Water-Blue Eyes is the first novel of the Leo Caldas detective series. It has sold extremely well in Spain and Latin America and has been translated into English, Italian and German, among other languages. It was followed by Death on a Galician Shore. The Last Ferry is his third instalment in Leo Caldas detective series.

(Source: Schavelzon · Graham Literary Agency Barcelona)

Read more at Literary Rambles

Ediciones Siruela publicity page

Press kit

Domingo Villar entry in Wikipedia

OT: Pedraza

Declared to be a Historic-Artistic Site in 1951, the village of Pedraza has one of the most beautiful main squares in Castilla y León.Its cobbled streets and emblazoned houses form a medieval urban setting where every corner must be seen, from the Puerta de la Villa (town gate) to the far end of the village, crowned by a castle, in whose tower, currently a museum, the painter Zuloaga had a studio. Also of interest are the medieval prison and the church of San Juan. (Source: Spain Is Culture)

I use to visit Pedraza almost every year. I took these pics today at a family gathering.




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