Check out the Literary Tourist listing map for Valencia here.
When I was in Valencia last Fall I had the pleasure of meeting Fede Romero a Librarian at the University of Valencia. Not only did he chauffeur me around town to all sorts of literary hot spots, he also took the time to develop this list:
The main library of Comunidad Valenciana and headquarters of the library system. It holds one the region’s most important collections of old books, including a selection of early editions of works by and about Miguel de Cervantes; in addition there are important collections of grafics materials and personal archives. The library in situated in a beautiful, storied – at one point the place was a prison – old building. Unfortunately access to the collections is limited; you’ll need to call ahead.
Biblioteca de la Universitat de Valencia
This is the principal library of old books in Comunidad Valenciana. It contains codexes and incunabula, and special collections of books and grafics materials dealing with the Spanish Civil War; it is also situated in a very interesting old building; again access to the collection is limited.
Established in 1988 this store specializes in old, rare, curious and used books; located in the center of the city Auca buys private collections, and is owned by a friendly, experienced book expert.
Located on La Nau street near the old University of Valencia (which was established in the fifteen century) this store has a large, important collection of used books; it will buy and exchange used books.
Bookstore Asilo del Libro
A beautiful bookstore of old books and prints, engravings and photographs, that also sells antique quills, toys, etc.; the store caters primarily to the tourist trade.
Close to the Centre Cultural Bancaixa – a beautiful building for art exhibitions – Valdeska is a great place to find new books – notably art and literary fine press volumes.
The Primado has been a cultural mecca in Valencia since the 1980s. In recent years its current owner has been busy organizing many activities, exhibitions, poetry readings, book launches and poetry writing courses; the store is particularly strong in books published by small independent literary publishers.
Close to Plaza de España is a cafe where art, books and poetry coexist; exhibitions, poetry readings and lectures and book launches all take place here; this is a venue where calm and peace is easy to find and local poets too; you can also purchase beautifully produced editions of some of the poems that have been read here during the past year.
Blasco Ibanez House-Museum
The house is located near an upscale resort on the Malvarrosa beach. The author is best known for his novel Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Ibanez used to live in this three floor house, with its huge terrace and breathtaking view of the sea; it now displays papers and personal items that belonged to him. Portraits and sculptures of the writer and his family take up most of the exhibition space along with the huge stone table on which Ibanez used to work.
A guided tour of the Blasco Ibanez House/Museum, is conducted in Spanish on Saturdays at 6 pm and 7 pm and on Sundays at 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm.
Jason Webster is an Anglo-American crime novelist, travel writer and critic. Born in California he now lives in Valencia, Spain. Webster was educated in England, Egypt and Italy. In 1993 he graduated from Oxford University (St John’s College) with a degree in Arabic and Islamic History. His books all involve Spain, and include Duende: A journey in search of Flamenco (2003), which recounts his move here, and his quest to learn flamenco guitar, (itwas long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award); Andalus: Unlocking the secrets of Moorish Spain (2004) and Sacred Sierra: A year on a Spanish mountain (2009) which describes a year that Webster and his Spanish wife spent living on their mountain farm in eastern Spain working on the land and planting trees with the help of a 12th century Moorish gardening manual.
Or the Bull Kills You (2011) is a crime novel set in Valencia, and the world of bullfighting. It is the first in a series of detective stories featuring Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Spanish National Police. It was long-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. Death in Valencia (2012), is the second book in the series.
I caught up with Jason recently in Valencia. We met at a sidewalk cafe in the Cabanyal -
a real neighbourhood in which his fictional action takes place - to talk about how those who read and love his novels can get more out of them by visiting this great, colourful Spanish city.
Cafe Malvarrosa at Historiador Diago, 20 is the coolest literary hangout in Valencia, Spain (yes, those are glassed-in bookshelves). Here you can enjoy not only the company of this city’s most interesting artists, poets and writers, but also a busy schedule of readings and exhibits. Earlier this month for example, there was a presentation on the visual poet JOSÉ LUIS JOVER’s book Hasta más ver (Collages). Here’s
Turns out that the beach we stayed at in Valencia
has quite a pedigree. We were near the harbour,
almost atop La Pepica,
the venerable restaurant where for years Spanish royalty dined, and Hemingway, hung out and bent elbows with famous bullfighters. A short stroll westward along this clean
stretch of sand and you’ll find…
The Biblioteca Valenciana lives
Compare this to Library and Archives Canada, and you find the reverse. Its main public building, though architecturally significant is in disrepair, and poorly suited to the storage and display of source documents. Its public exhibition program is non-existent. On the other hand, access to the collections is excellent.
The staff at both libraries is great, stuck as they are beneath managerial and political concerns that need to better understand and balance their priorities.
Jason Webster was born near San Francisco in 1970, educated in England, Germany, Italy and Egypt, and after graduating from Oxford University in Arabic and Islamic History, moved to Spain, where he has spent most of his adult life.
His first book, Duende – A Journey in Search of Flamenco has been translated into a dozen languages. He is the author of three other acclaimed travel books on Spain: Andalus – Unlocking the Secrets of Moorish Spain; Guerra – Living in the Shadows of the Spanish Civil War; and Sacred Sierra – A Year on a Spanish Mountain.
More recently Webster has started writing crime fiction set in the Spanish city of Valencia – his adopted home, with the main character Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Spanish National Police.
The first novel in the series, Or the Bull Kills You, involves a murder in the complex and tightly-knit bullfighting community.
Webster lives near Valencia with his wife, the flamenco dancer Salud, and their 2 sons. I met with him recently in the old fishermen’s quarter of Valencia, ‘El Cabanyal’, to talk literary tourism. Stay tuned for our conversation.
In the meantime,
tell me he isn’t somehow related to
Rupert Brooke (whom Virginia Woolf once described as “ . . .all that could be kind and interesting, substantial and good-hearted . . . he had such a gift with people, and such sanity and force . . .”)
Visiting the Biblioteca Valenciana yesterday it was easy to see the battle lines, drawn here, as they are in libraries all over the world, between the forces of evil:
‘preservation and conversation are paramount concerns; no way you unwashed masses are getting your dirty little hands anywhere near our precious treasures – maybe we’ll let a few privileged scholars in to have a look, but only under our strict supervision -
and the forces of good:
‘ yes these are important historical documents which must be protected, but they’re too important to be locked away where no-one but elitists and experts can enjoy, benefit from and interpret them.’
Here in Spain, a majority of the horses seem tethered in the evil, elitist camp.
Without the revered status of literarytourist.com behind me it’s hard to say whether or not I’d have been able to see any of the books I’d expressed interest in. As it was, I saw, at short notice, much of what I’d requested – early editions of Don Quixote in Spanish and English – illustrated and otherwise – plus a selection of striking civil war and movie posters by the book designers I’d heard about in Madrid.
Our host, though not overly knowledgeable about the pulled materials, was friendly and obliging, and also much more interested in showing me the great digitization work that was being undertaken by the library than in answering questions about what was on hand for the visiting bibliophile – unaware perhaps that it is precisely this in-person, on-site physical experience with real books and documents that I’m championing here, not some encounter that anyone can have, anywhere, with two-bit online replicas.
Bottom line: The beautiful
that houses this library was once a monastery. Then it was converted into a prison.
The books here should not be kept prisoner. The library recently hosted an exhibition on Cervantes. Perhaps it, or at least something representative of the treasures held within, should be made permanent. As for a literary tourist wanting to experience the collection: write ahead, make as persuasive a case as you can for your right to access what’s here, and I’m quite sure you’ll be able to see at least something.
Due to a change in our personal circumstances it is with deep sadness and regret that we must inform you all that we will no longer be running the KandABooks bookshop from the middle of September 2012.
If you have any credit with us then please do ensure that you come and see us to use it up before then. If you are interested in taking over the running of the shop then please get in touch with us on 633 822 614.
It is a great opportunity for someone who loves books, loves talking about books and also loves meeting and talking to people from all over the world. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the shop in one way or another and to our customers who have provided us with some great laughs over the years.
Love and hugs, Kelly and Andy. KandABooks.
KandABooks is unique in Valencia in that it is the only international second-hand book shop in town. We have books in all major European languages and some others too.