BookFilter: English fiction with lots of Spanish language elements
December 30, 2013 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations of English-language fiction that heavily features Spanish-language elements. I'm working on learning Spanish again (I had 3 years in high school, about 10 years ago) and thought it would be fun and useful to read novels that incorporate Spanish heavily, kind of an immersion strategy.

I'm definitely NOT at the point where I could comfortably read entirely-Spanish works (unless they're Dr. Seuss level). I'm thinking of something that's set in a Spanish-speaking arena, like a south-of-the-border crime novel, mystery, etc. Lots of usage of Spanish peppered throughout the narrative, descriptions and dialogue. Bonus points for sci-fi that meets this criteria.

I just picked up Michael Gruber's "The Return" at the library, which seems to fit the bill nicely. And it's been years since I've read it, but Allan Weisbecker's "Cosmic Banditos" was in the same vein as well.

Think Chabon's "Yiddish Policemen's Union", except Spanish instead of, well, Yiddish.
posted by sprocket87 to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
If I remember correctly, The House on Mango Street might fit the bill.

Besides that, don't discount Dr. Seuss level stuff! You could also maybe try watching some Spanish Sesame Street; they talk slowly and go over basics like numbers, colors, and prepositions, plus are delightful.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:11 AM on December 30, 2013


There is a right answer to this, and it is the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Not only is there lots and lots of Spanish, but you actually get much more from the novel if you do read Spanish - it's not like most books, where the words in the second language are immediately translated or just sprinkled in for color. It's a truly bilingual book. (At the same time, you certainly don't have to understand all the Spanish to understand the book.) There's a lot of fascinating history about the Dominican Republic woven into it. Plus, it's one of the best books I've ever read. Enjoy!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:26 AM on December 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has Spanish sprinkled throughout, and there are little things in it for an SF/F reader to appreciate.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:27 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure "The Milagro Beanfield War" has Spanish used quite liberally in it. It's been years since I read it, though.
posted by xingcat at 7:36 AM on December 30, 2013


The Quantrill novels by Dean Ing, starting with Systemic Shock use a significant amount of Spanish between the characters, especially in the later two books in the trilogy. As a bonus, they're a bit sci-fi.

Refugee, which is the first novel in the "Bio of a Space Tyrant" series (also sci-fi) uses Spanish/English-speaking characters, as I recall correctly.

It's been well over 15 years since I've read either series, but those jumped to mind. I suspect they may not have enough Spanish to meet your needs.

Let me offer an alternate suggestion? My wife - who was quite fluent once - is sharpening her Spanish skills by watching a tele novella (La Reina Del Sur, I believe) and by watching and listening to the characters, she's definitely learning a lot more. Dunno what your level is, but that approach might be fun for you.
posted by Thistledown at 7:47 AM on December 30, 2013


Thanks all! These look great. Keep 'em coming :)

Note that this isn't just for learning -- I'm also simply on the lookout for good reads. I'm taking a class and utilizing other Spanish learning resources daily, but I figured my entertainment reading could be another avenue as well.
posted by sprocket87 at 8:39 AM on December 30, 2013


Louis de Bernieres has a south american trilogy that I think fits many of your requirements fairly well. IIRC it starts with The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts.
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2013


elizardbits:
IIRC it starts with The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts.
I'm going to read this based on the title alone. Brilliant.
posted by sprocket87 at 9:27 AM on December 30, 2013


They're mostly amusing in a mix of outright hilarity combined with dark humour, but some parts are really depressing from a "this is based on a variety of actual historical facts and the actual historical facts are even worse than this fictional portrayal" standpoint, as it takes place during the right-wing south american dictatorships of the 70s and 80s.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 AM on December 30, 2013


Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and his Border Trilogy have tons of untranslated Spanish dialogue. There's even a joke in the Noah Baumbach movie Kicking and Screaming about it.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 10:47 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also loved Oscar Wao, but I think the book you're asking for is ¡Caramba!
I tried to remember the title on Monday and could not find it. Today I was walking past the library book sale and it was just sitting there. (although with this cover)
posted by MtDewd at 9:16 AM on January 3, 2014


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