Book launch: A Guide to Madrid’s Literary District

I’m delighted to announce that A Guide to Madrid’s Literary District will be officially launched in Secret Kindoms bookshop on April 20, 2024! Illustrated by Nathan Brenville and published by Secret Kingdoms, the book is a glossy bilingual guide to Barrio de las Letras. In honour of Cervantes, the launch of A Guide to Madrid’s Literary District comes just before día del libro, the day that commemorates the deaths of Cervantes and Shakespeare. Cervantes’ bones still rest in the barrio in Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas. The author was forever grateful to this religious order for paying his ransom, freeing him from five years of captivity by pirates (if you’ve got an appetite for this kind of trivia, then this is the book for you!). More importantly, Cervantes lived and worked in the neighbourhood beginning a literary tradition that has continued through the ages.    

A Guide to Madrid’s Literary District

This guide takes you on a rollicking ride through Madrid’s literary past, starting in the 16th century when a rural area became the new capital’s literary hub attracting great writers like Cervantes and Lope de Vega. Full of gossip and intrigue, A Guide to Madrid’s Literary District details the rivalries, spats and political upheavals that shaped the history of Barrio de las Letras. From Siglo de Oro authors to modern writers like Dumas, Lorca, and Hemingway, this is an entertaining history of the area told through the lens of Madrid’s literary scene. 

  • Who was Cervantes’ worst frenemy?
  • Why did Galdos’ Electra cause a riot?
  • What was librera (bookseller) code for during the dictatorship?

The answers to these questions and more can be found within the pages of A Guide to Spain’s Literary Quarter. An introduction to the literary history of the neighbourhood, from Cervantes to Laurie Lee, this is a must-read for any visitors to the area.

Inception to reality

On a wet and rainy evening just after the end of the pandemic, The Making of Madrid (aka me, Felicity Hughes) met up with David Price, a local entrepreneur about to open The Secret Kingdoms bookshop in Barrio de las Letras. From this fateful meeting, the idea of publishing a literary history of the area was born. The book would be the first to focus exclusively on events unfolding in the barrio’s charming streets. Excited by the concept, more meetings followed and we decided that the book would come with an illustrated map that would act as both a guide and a unique souvenir. After seeing his brilliant illustrations of the historical figures associated with Madrid’s metro, Nathan Brenville aka Madrid Guiri seemed like the natural choice.

Plaque to Cervantes. Photo courtesy of John Dapolito

A cake-fuelled meeting with the artist at The Brown Bear bakery followed. To our delight, Nathan caught our enthusiasm and agreed to join forces with us. Work got underway and even though it’s been a busy time for all three of us, with David, in particular, rushed off his feet with the opening of his bookshop, we somehow managed to produce a book. Once the decision to make the book bilingual was taken, it was a natural choice to team up with La Librería.

The team behind the bilingual book

The parallel Spanish and English texts in this bilingual guide to Madrid’s literary district will be of interest to anyone wanting to improve their language skills. The Spanish text was translated by Eva Gallud. In addition to A Guide to Madrid’s Literary District, Gallud has translated work by Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton and D.H. Lawrence for Spanish audiences.

This book is written by me, Felicity Hughes, the author of this blog and Madrid contributor to Lonely Planet’s new series of Spain guidebooks. My articles about the city have appeared in The Guardian and The Local. When I’m not writing, I’m giving tours of the city. The art in the book is by Nathan Brenville. An illustrator and 2D animator from the north of England, Brenville came to Madrid in 2016 and fell in love with the city. He publishes his work as @madridguiri on Instagram. The photographs are by John Dapolito. The book was designed by Joseph Candora and edited by Joseph LyttletonThe powerhouse behind it all is David Price of Secret Kingdoms bookshop. The book is a collaborative production between Secret Kingdoms bookshop and Ediciones La Librería, a Spanish publishing house specialising in books about Madrid. 

Secret Kingdoms

Secret Kingdom’s bookshop. Photo courtesy of John Dapolito

The Secret Kingdoms press is an imprint from The Secret Kingdoms bookshop. The only English-language bookshop in Barrio de las Letras, it’s a family business run by husband and wife team David and Beatriz. Opened in the summer of 2022, it hosts a wide variety of literary events with help from Giedre Pavalkyte, the co-founder of the literary non-profit The Write Salon who lent a hand with the launch of the book.

The launch party: Come to Secret Kingdoms bookshop for the launch event at 8pm on April 20, 2024. Besides a discussion of the book, there will be wine and nibbles!

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