The Barcelona Review. International Review of Contemporary Fiction. with literary quizzes, book reviews and interviews
The Barcelona Review. International Review of Contemporary Fiction

HEY, TODAY WE ARE 25!  Yep, we kicked off on April 23rd, Sant Jordi Day, in 1997, one of the first lit mags to go online and the first to publish in Spanish and Catalan as well as English. My job, as I defined it to myself, was clear from the beginning: to find the best short fiction out there, along with a quiz and book review/s and whatever else we may have, and send the files to co-founder Michael Garry Smout. His job, on the other hand, was never so straight forward; in fact, it was a bit of a nightmare at first.  I remember though the excitement of those early days when it all felt like magic. I asked him to write about our tech beginnings—before Google, FB, et al—and I urge you to read what he has to say, click here. Here’s a quote:  “The Internet was then a revolution, the dawn of something magical; now it is a cesspit of trolls, conspiracy and misinformation where your freedom of choice is controlled by the whims of the powers-that-be or hijacked by cute kittens or dozy, face-filtered influencers and TicTok twattery. It has actually become boring.” (With exceptions, of course!)  It’s rather like Barcelona, which was magical back then and has now become a city overrun by tourists who pile in on cruise ships, with large tour groups, Segways and scooters clogging the streets of my neighborhood in the Gothic Quarter, something the late Manuel Vázquez Montalbán wrote about so very well (see our review of his book An Olympic Death). But despite all, we plow on, carving out our own space.  I’m proud of our archives: 25 years’ worth of great stories, many of which do not shy from dark, edgy, even transgressive material.  Many thanks to all the fine readers over the years who have helped find the gems, and to all those who have given their time—too numerous to name, but some are mentioned here—to help keep us rolling along.

This issue we are pleased to present Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko. It is sad that it took a war for me to focus on contemporary Ukrainian literature, but so it did. I began looking for all I could in translation and Zabuzhko’s name, recognized internationally, loomed large. I was impressed by her output and political activism, but honestly had no idea what to expect of the writing, so it came as a surprise to find that she is not only good, she is brilliant.  Oh Sister, My Sister, typical of her stories, evokes the way national issues impact even the most personal aspects of life. Her style, with lengthy sentences and some initial ambiguity, requires a little effort from the reader, but it all falls into place and the rewards are great.

From England, a bit of much needed levity with The Old Bakery by Nicholas Royle. Here we are privy to a sub-editor’s train of thought while editing a piece on a smug couple’s renovation of an old bakery in Hackney; you’ll love the nice, dark turn at the end.
Also from England: Julia Armfield gives us Wendigo in which we follow a couple of outsiders roaming the country, having sprung apparently spontaneously into being. I think of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.  It’s haunting and lusciously written.

And from Ireland there is Nicole Flattery’s Sweet Talk in which a 14-year-girl sets out to seduce a worker—hired to gut her parents’ kitchen—who lives in a caravan by their home. The darkly funny prose pops off the page.

From the U.S. we have Adam McDonald’s The Muckle Spoon, where a young woman is focused on moving to LA to be head chef for a new restaurant, a trajectory that takes a back seat to obstacles in leaving and shows her feisty determination in overcoming them.

Last up is Fest by U.S. author NW Whitley. What happens when a young guy decides to throw a music festival at his parents’ home?  You know it’s not going to go smoothly and that’s the fun of it!

Next is a piece by Michael Garry Smout on just what the title says: The Power of Predictability. The thesis being that there is hardly a new plot under the sun—and that that’s a good thing. It includes an interview with romance writer Veronica Henry.

In our picks from back issues – where to begin?! I have picked 25 stories from our archives which you shouldn’t miss and that are worth rereading if you caught them the first time. Tomorrow I could recommend a different 25, and on and on. Our archives don’t disappoint.

The quiz this issue is Contemporary Irish Literature. Test your knowledge and you’re in the running to win a 30-Euro gift certificate from Amazon. For answers to last issue’s quiz, Covid in Fiction, click here.

Our book review this issue is on Strange Flowers by Irish writer Dolan Ryan, with commentary on new Irish writing.

Our next issue is due out the end of August 2022. To be notified when new issues are available, just ‘LIKE’ The Barcelona Review on Facebook (for the Spanish, LIKE Barcelona Review without the THE); or email us to subscribe (gratis, of course), though often our bulk email is blocked from servers so we cannot guarantee a notification.

Jill Adams, editor
Michael Garry Smout, tech and design

Readers:  Rachel Ballenger, Hanna Bartels, Bergita Bugarija, Michael Ferlazzo, Jamie Kahn, Milena Nigam and Sam Simon

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