If you’re interested in world literature and Spanish culture specifically, this reading list is for you. As every reader knows, reading is to travel far and wide where we cannot physically go. I hope this list guides you on a wonderful journey through the Spanish speaking world.
Since the Spanish speaking world includes so many countries, I’ve decided not to organise this list by country but by publication date. This list includes some of the best of Spanish literature in English translation with entries from the majority of Spanish speaking countries.
Miguel de Cervantes > Don Quixote < 1605
“Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances, that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote’s fancy often leads him astray – he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants – Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers’ imaginations for nearly four hundred years.
With its experimental form and literary playfulness, Don Quixote generally has been recognized as the first modern novel. The book has had enormous influence on a host of writers, from Fielding and Sterne to Flaubert, Dickens, Melville, and Faulkner, who reread it once a year, “just as some people read the Bible.”” (GoodReads)
Jorge Luis Borges > Ficciones < 1944
“The seventeen pieces in Ficciones demonstrate the whirlwind of Borges’s genius and mirror the precision and potency of his intellect and inventiveness, his piercing irony, his scepticism, and his obsession with fantasy. Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal’s abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. To enter the worlds in Ficciones is to enter the mind of Jorge Luis Borges, wherein lies Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” (GoodReads)
Carmen Laforte > Nada < 1944
“Carmen Laforet’s Nada ranks among the most important literary works of post-Civil War Spain. Loosely based on the author’s own life, it is the story of an orphaned young woman who leaves her small town to attend university in war-ravaged Barcelona.
Residing amid genteel poverty in a mysterious house on Calle de Aribau, young Andrea falls in with a wealthy band of schoolmates who provide a rich counterpoint to the squalor of her home life. As experience overtakes innocence, Andrea gradually learns the disquieting truth about the people she shares her life with: her overbearing and superstitious aunt Angustias; her nihilistic yet artistically gifted uncle Román and his violent brother Juan; and Juan’s disturbingly beautiful wife, Gloria, who secretly supports the clan with her gambling. From existential crisis to a growing maturity and resolve, Andrea’s passionate inner journey leaves her wiser, stronger, and filled with hope for the future.” (GoodReads)