Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bon dia Barcelona!

"Well," said my husband when I called him from Barcelona, "How are they treating you?"
"Truthfully?" I said. "It's how I'd always hoped to be treated!" I couldn't tell him anything else for a minute though, because he was too busy laughing at me...
Delusions of grandeur aside(!), I think any author who has slaved away for a year or more on a manuscript, not knowing whether anyone else will ever read it, would be thrilled with the promotional programme Planeta (my Spanish publisher) had organised. Fourteen interviews at last count (well, that's what someone told me, since I actually had lost count), lots of exciting dashes about Madrid and Barcelona in taxis, and some very tasty tapas (thanks, Maria!). I've been on the radio (second time ever) and TV (first time ever) as well as chatting to lots of journalists. The Planeta team asked me if I was getting tired of talking to people; I said (quite truthfully) that coming from a large and vociferous family I am very grateful if anyone listens to me at all!
I came away with a very positive impression of the Spanish media - it was wonderful to be asked so many interesting and intelligent questions - as well as some very original ones. "Do you believe in reincarnation?" and "Do you have a great soul?" asked one TV interviewer. (One of my friends asked me how on earth you reply to a question like that; I replied that you say, "That is a very interesting question indeed," and whilst you are saying that, you think frantically!)
One of the things which interested many interviewers was the book's title, El Imperturbable Hans ("Unshockable Hans"), which is of course very different to the British title, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. Why was this? they wanted to know. If you are interested, this is the reason: Unshockable Hans was my original working title of the book. I called it that because in many ways I see the legendary figure of Hans as the hero of the story. For various reasons the eventual English-language title was changed - it was much less obvious from the working title what the book was about, for example, whereas The Vanishing... is a pretty good signpost! However, the Spanish team liked the working title and decided to go with it. I'm thrilled that they did, because it fits very well with the spooky, quirky cover art of the Spanish edition.
Finally, I managed a very, very quick visit to La Pedrera and La Sagrada Familia, two of Barcelona's most famous landmarks, both designed by the artistic genius Antoni Gaudi. We lived in Barcelona for a few months in 1999 when my daughter was a baby, and whilst my husband was out working, I made it a project of mine to visit every single Gaudi building, park, gate, etc in Barcelona and photograph the baby in front of them. So it was wonderful to relive those memories, even if briefly.
Now I'm back in Brussels, looking out of the window at grey skies and what appears to be (eek!) snow falling...


  1. Helen - have you thought about writing an English translation of the German tales you researched for The Vanishing of Katharina Linden? I would love to read more about Unshockable Hans and the Fiery Man of the Hirnberg (not sure about that spelling)!

  2. Hi Emma, I have thought about this, but I'm not sure where I would stand on the copyright of the original version of those tales. Usually with folk tales, you can't copyright the plot but you can copyright your own version of it. The original German tales were collected by a RC priest called Father Krause in the early 1900s and his version won't be out of copyright for a while yet, as he hasn't been dead long enough (poor chap!). So sadly I don't think I could publish a direct translation of them. Having said that, the "retold by me" versions in my book cover most of the main stories, and although I have embellished the nasty bits a little, they are fairly true to the originals - so you aren't missing much!