Juan Casamayor and the B-side of great literature

When I was a child, in addition to marbles, I played bookstores. He would display his own children’s books in a makeshift stall and recommend them, according to their tastes, to the prospective buyer. Then he began to make index cards of the books he read. And when He obtained a doctorate in Hispanic Philology in Zaragoza, and was about to undertake a career as a university professor, he met his better half and thought that, by his side, perhaps it would be possible to live off the story. This is how Juan Casamayor and Encarnación Molina founded the publishing house
Foam Pages
. A stamp that turns 22 years old with one foot in Spain, another in Mexico and a third in Argentina …

that the story is a literary genre tailored to the exact size of a short dribble reader, with no time to lose. But in 1999 … In 1999, says Juan Casamayor, there was a tremendous paradox. With
, Cortázar, Silvina Ocampo, Amparo Dávila or Medardo Fraile had long been shown that succinct narrative had overwhelming force throughout the twentieth century. But the publishing industry maintained an axiom at all costs: the story is not for sale. Much better the novel and, if it could be, the novel. And in any case, go to be sure with side A of the novel and then, if anything, leave a space for side B of the stories. Small publishers such as Foam Pages, first, and some large labels, later, were dismantling the prejudice. The storytellers of the Ibero-American ‘boom’, like their children and their literary grandchildren, even the Juan Bonilla or the Mercedes Abad, not to mention the Alice Munro or the Lucia Berlin of today, connect with a reader who recognizes the story a territory of its own. And fascinating.

Classics of the genre

Like the loggerhead turtles, Juan Casamayor (Madrid, 1968) went out onto the beach with the first batch of the new Spanish publishing houses of the nineties (Acantilado, Minúscula…). He dodged the eager beaks of the gulls as best he could, and did not stop until he reached the editorial sea. Waters Inside, his label soon became the great international reference for short stories in Spanish, with a catalog in which the main contemporary short story writers alternate alongside the great classics of the genre. Those universal classics (Chekhov, Maupassant, James …) that, with their volumes of complete stories, revised, updated and delivered to new versions in Spanish, constitute a true “food line” for the foam of this editorial.

But the story does not end here. Once installed on the B-side of the literature LP, Casamayor’s next step was to continue looking for what the writers wrote, thinking that they would never fully share it with the general public. Memoirs, reviews, readings, correspondence … For example, says the editor of Foam Pages, as fascinating as reading ‘Treasure Island’ is knowing what books Stevenson read to write this classic, or how he told his friends the task in the one that was pawned. Or to know, he also says, the true relationship that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had with Sherlock Holmes, or what of his character he shared with Bram Stoker, the author of ‘Dracula’ … Also travel books.

Because in traveling, as in reading, is a good part of the essence of great writers. Like little mortals. Whoever travels says it, crossing seas and pandemics, at least four times a year to Latin America. With “that curiosity, that sensitivity and that fragility to the surface of the skin” with which the traveler always moves.

For Casamayor, the book continues to be a passport for the human being to continue considering himself to be human.

How do books and stories on the other side of the Atlantic resist the crisis? Well, in a different way. Although we are tempted to generalize, the truth is that Hispanic America (Latin America, he says) is a true geographical, literary, sociological, political and sentimental melting pot. In Spain, where there is a mature publishing sector, the 21st will close with significant growth compared to 20, a year that was not so bad compared to 19. But in America, where the decline was greater, the recovery is slower. In Mexico, where the big bookstore chains hit each other, it is going to cost things to recover.

In Argentina, however, where the fabric is more similar to Spanish, with the strength of independent publishers and bookstores, it resists better… New models. But the same obsession with print. Because for this inveterate reader, who never dared to be a writer and who nevertheless teaches creative writing classes, the book continues to be a passport for the human being to continue considering himself to be human.


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