26 MAY 2022

Great names in Spanish literature approach the Camino de Santiago in the new Zenda book, Historias del Camino

  • Rosa Belmonte, Luis Mateo Díez, Ander Izagirre, Manuel Jabois, José María Merino, Olga Merino, Isabel Vázquez, Cristina Sánchez-Andrade, Ana Iris Simón and Andrés Trapiello are some of the authors participating in the volume of short stories, with a prologue by Sergio del Molino.
  • Sponsored by Iberdrola, the book brings together some of the most outstanding Spanish storytellers of the moment and celebrates the sixth anniversary of the literary website.

The writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte and the Secretary of the Board of Directors of Iberdrola, Julián Martínez-Simancas, accompanied by Sergio del Molino, editor of the volume, presented yesterday at the NuBel restaurant of the Reina Sofía Museum the book Historias del Camino, published by Zenda with the sponsorship of Iberdrola. Historias del Camino, subtitled Ficciones y verdades en torno al Camino de Santiago, is a collection of stories signed by fifteen outstanding Spanish writers: Rosa Belmonte, Ramón del Castillo, Luis Mateo Díez, Pedro Feijoo, Ander Izagirre, Manuel Jabois, José María Merino, Olga Merino, Susana Pedreira, Noemí Sabugal, Karina Sainz Borgo, Cristina Sánchez-Andrade, Ana Iris Simón, Andrés Trapiello and Isabel Vázquez.

The book, which will not be on sale in bookshops, is edited and prefaced by Sergio del Molino, coordinated by Leandro Pérez and Miguel Munárriz, and the cover illustration is by Ana Bustelo. The electronic version of Historias del Camino can be downloaded free of charge from Zenda. Over the next few days, Zenda will be publishing the different stories that make up the book.

"The Camino and the great novels are not only similar in their length or in their division into chapters, but in that each writer or each walker faces the most terrible of scenarios: freedom", says Del Molino in the introductory text of the book, Modos de escribir, modos de caminar (Ways of writing, ways of walking). "By combining Camino and literature (let's leave novels behind), the ways of writing and walking become infinite. Without intending to exhaust them, I have tried to summarise in this anthology a broad sample of them, thanks to the collaboration of some of the best Spanish writers of today, alternating veteran voices with young ones, and orthodox with heretics. I invited them to make the Camino and the fact of walking it their own, without fear that they might get lost on other roads and never reach Santiago".

Autobiographies and secret stories

That is what these fifteen authors have done: travel, live and imagine stories that address the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) from sometimes unexpected and surprising perspectives: as Del Molino explains, "some wrote impeccable Jacobean tales, fictions set on the Camino. Others drew on autobiographies or secret stories unearthed on the side of the road, and some came out as chroniclers and travel writers. There has been no shortage of scholars who have preferred to recount the paths taken by other dead writers whom I can no longer invite to write, and even one philosopher has remembered a Japanese walker, who knows why".

The Way of Saint James is a set of routes that hundreds of pilgrims follow every year. Because of the pandemic, the Jacobean year of 2020 was extended to 2021, and in this 2022 it continues to be a special celebration, since there were thousands of pilgrims who could not live the experience of the Compostela year normally and continue to visit the Camino with the same enthusiasm.

A new phase

Arturo Pérez-Reverte thanked Iberdrola for its collaboration with Zenda and Sergio Del Molino for "his generosity, his company and his work". The academic and writer spoke about the website's projects, including a collaboration with the Edhasa publishing house and a new interview project with Movistar, "Toda una vida" (A whole life). He recalled that in these six years Zenda has published 17,000 articles. "Thank you for being witnesses to how well Zenda is doing, to this project which began as a kind of cooperative between friends and has become so important," he said.

For his part, Julián Martínez-Simancas highlighted the importance of this new collaboration between Zenda and Iberdrola as "a new stage in the journey" that they both share to promote the best literature and digital culture and make it accessible to a broad spectrum of society. "The Camino de Santiago, its history and its landscapes are intimately rooted in our company's past and present, as well as in our country and its history. Iberdrola is a century-old company whose origins are linked to the different routes to Santiago de Compostela, where several of its clean energy plants are located and where we are developing new renewable energy projects to continue promoting this link with its people and its towns for a better future for all".

Chronicles of commissions and personal beliefs

The volume begins with a text by Rosa Belmonte, who describes the scepticism that led her to never follow the route, despite being commissioned to write about it for a newspaper. Karina Sainz Borgo received a similar proposal, although in her own case she accepted it: In Santiago, Faith grows like wet bread. At eleven o'clock in the morning it rains even harder, but that does not deter those waiting in the Praza da Quintana de Vivos to enter the Cathedral", she recalls in her chronicle.

With humour, the philosopher Ramón del Castillo reviews his experience on the Jacobean Route, filled with statistics and religious reflections ("if they wanted to show so much faith, then they should walk in a circle in a room, taking the equivalent steps to Rome, and then pray", he jokes against the Protestants he came across).

Ana Iris Simón also writes about beliefs. The narrator, who has been in a crisis of faith since he was young, organises a trip to Santiago in an Opel Astra. "Our plan was to return the next day, which fell on a Tuesday, because on Wednesday my grandfather, who was so happy in the passenger seat and who, after many months, had combed his hair and splashed on Brummel, was due to undergo chemo.

All books of the Camino

Luis Mateo Díez approaches the journey from a bibliographical perspective, reviewing works such as the Codex Calixtinus and characters such as Maestro Panicha. "To tell these adventures, which would be an appeal of endless days in which survival was contradicted with any hint of exemplarity or redemptive plea, I used the wonderful narrative that in the Codex could be considered as a foretaste of the Guides of the Camino", says the author from Leon.

Ander Izagirre also approaches a Camino full of books. In this case, volumes abandoned along its kilometres and hostels, from tantric love manuals to prayer books, "a voluminous illustrated biography of the photographer Doisneau, three linear metres of Korean books, dozens of dictionaries, fifty, one hundred, two hundred shades of Grey, entire barricades of Paulo Coelho in a thousand languages", works that serve to link him with great stories of the valleys and mountains: the legend of Roland, the battle of Roncesvalles, Charlemagne's Chess...

Dwelling on the Camino

"I have never done the Camino de Santiago but I have been living on it since I was seven years old", recalls Susana Pedreira. "The Camino has those who inhabit it and those who do it. And sometimes it is better understood by those who are passing through than by those who walk it daily", acknowledges the journalist of the Galician radio. Noemí Sabrugal, chronicler of other ways of living and inhabiting the Camino also recovers personal experiences in Eremitas en los tiempos del Metaverso, a journey to Villafranca del Bierzo and its region through convents and marquisates full of stories.

Finally, in La Manceba, Isabel Vázquez explores the more carnal side of an experience that for many is religious or, at the very least, spiritual: blisters on the feet, bottles of whisky and compresses that guarantee reincarnations, and an encounter with an unforgettable pilgrim narrated by a rural pharmacist in a night of sex and confessions.

Five books and six years of Zenda

Historias del Camino is the fifth collaboration between the literary website and the energy company, after the excellent reception of the previous volumes: Under Two Flags (2018), Men (and some women) (2019), Heroines (2020) and 2030 (2021). A series of collaborations with which Iberdrola demonstrates its constant support for the promotion of culture and reading in particular. In these volumes, Zenda has brought together over the last few years some of the most interesting and outstanding voices in current Spanish-American narrative.

In previous volumes of this collection of short stories, more than fifty outstanding authors have appeared in previous years, including Juan Eslava Galán, Soledad Puértolas, Lorenzo Silva, Cristina López Barrio, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Rosa Montero, Marta Sanz, Espido Freire, Agustín Fernández Mallo, Susana Fortes, Luz Gabás, Juan Gómez-Jurado, Emilio Lara, Clara Sánchez, José Ángel Mañas, Nuria Barrios, Cristina Rivera Garza, Eva García Sáenz de Urturi, Luisgé Martín, María José Solano, Rubén Amón, Arturo González-Campos and Nuria Labari.

With this event, Zenda also celebrated its sixth anniversary, a trajectory dedicated with enthusiasm to letters and literature, to creation and dissemination of new voices and established authors. Over the years, Zenda has become a unique space for reflection and critical thinking.