5th Convention on Crime Novels and Films
Translated by Marcu Rau.
The University of Salamanca hosted the Congreso de Novela y Cine Negro (convention on crime novels and films) for the fifth time from 5th to 8th May 2009. This convention is organised by Àlex Martín Escribà and Javier Sánchez Zapatero. Over the past five years, it has developed into a fixed date in the academic year where academics doing research on this genre and writers writing crime come together. The speedy publication of the convention proceedings (four volumes have been published up to this date) speaks for the efficiency of the organisers in terms of contributing to university-based research on the fascinating subject of crime novels and its diverse narrative and cinematographic forms. Thus, Àlex Martín Escribà and Javier Sánchez Zapatero have managed to create a valuable space for discussions between representatives of theory and of practical application.
Àlex Martín Escribà is originally from Barcelona, is currently teaching Catalan and is doing his PhD in the Department of Spanish at the University of Salamanca. Javier Sánchez Zapatero was born in Salamanca and is research assistant for literary theory at the same institution. In the following interview (conducted by Europolar via email) they tell us how the project came about.
Europolar: How did the idea come about to hold this convention?
Javier Sánchez Zapatero: We were fellow students at university and while we attended seminars we noticed that crime novels did not feature on the curriculum. We decided, as readers and fans of this genre, to fill this gap by organising a convention. This has always been a joint project. We always worked on the ideas together until both of us were satisfied with the results. It was Àlex`s idea to organise a convention on this topic. After much preparation during which the project was thought over and we also had to deal with some disappointments, we finally arrived at the convention in its current form and shape.
Europolar: How is the convention funded?
JSZ: To a large extent, the convention is a self-financing event. 80% of the costs are covered by means of the fees of participants on which we depend. It is therefore necessary to plan very carefully as we cannot really be sure about the total amount of money available to us, right up to just a few weeks prior to the event. Every year, the Departments of Spanish Language and of Spanish and Hispanic American Literature of the University of Salamanca contribute a moderate sum towards the costs. Moderate it may be but we still depend on it. The same goes for the ministry of education of Castilia y León.
Europolar: Has the interest on the event increased over time? Are there many people wanting to contribute a paper and suggesting topics?
JSZ: Yes, the interest has definitely increased. The media pays more attention and the number of participants is rising with every convention. But we do not accept proposals for papers. We select the topics we want to be covered ourselves and also the people we think are appropriate for the papers. Thus, we have been able to welcome a considerable number of prominent academics, writers and film producers at the convention. It could be that in future we will be offering sections where international academics get the chance to present their work.
Europolar: The crime-novel genre is so immensely big that it seems almost impossible to know all movements that are part of it. Which movements within the contemporary Ibero-American literature do you think are of particular relevance?
Àlex Martín Escribà: The most important movement is the one that recounts things that happen to people, if you want to go with Raymond Chandler’s famous dictum. One of the most important characteristics of the crime novel is the criticism of society that is voiced in it. This needs to be stressed.
Europolar: Why have the proceedings of the convention been published by a different publisher every year?
ÀME: Our aim was to have the proceedings published as a book that appeals to readers, one that goes beyond the ‘conventional’ way of proceedings. We thought that the best way to achieve this would be in using a different title for every publication and to completely alter the layout so that the readers and we ourselves would be able to associate every volume with a certain theme.
Europolar: Which one of the past conventions did you like best and why?
JSZ: This question is like forcing a child to decide between its mum and its dad... All conventions have had something special. Every year we learned something new, got to know interesting people and enjoyed the event tremendously. Maybe we have enjoyed the first few conventions most as they proved the success of this project. What they proved was the fact that our approach of simply giving it a try, of not expecting too much und of not being able to confirm continuity worked out well. More than hundred people attended, among them people like Román Gubern, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Francisco González Ledesma or Vicente Aranda.
Europolar: In your eyes, what has been the highlight of this year's convention?
ÀME: There are quite a few things we could mention. One of them that holds true for every convention is the analysis of the link between the genre and reality. Every year we try to invite someone who can give a lecture on this conceptual duality. We have had a coroner, a private detective, journalists and former offenders coming to talk to us in Salamanca about their experience.
Europolar: What are your plans regarding the future of the convention? How long are you going to go on with it?
ÀME: We don’t know yet, although it would be nice to carry on. It depends on our motivation, the availability of participants and, last but not least, on the financial side of things.
Europolar: Are you yourselves doing research on crime writing? Would you like to tell us something about it?
JSZ: My main interest in terms of research is the analysis of literature written in exile and in concentration camps. This is also what I covered in my PhD thesis. You see, my research does not really deal with crime novels as such. I have published papers on people like James M Cain, Juan Madrid or Leonardo Padura. Together with Àlex, I have worked on many issues related to crime novels. Little by little I have come to the conclusion that both topics have more in common than one might think at first sight. Both deal with the description of violence, although in different ways. It is indeed amazing that many researchers such as Georges Tyras, José F Colmeiro or Albert Buschmann have worked on both topics.
Thank you and good luck for the conventions to come!
Official website of the convention:
Proceedings of the convention, edited by Javier Sánchez Zapatero and Àlex Martín Escribà:
1. Manuscrito Criminal: Reflexiones sobre novela y cine negro. (I Congreso de Novela y Cine Negro 2005) Salamanca: Librería Cervantes 2006. 285 pages, € 21.50
2. Informe confidencial: La figura del detective en el género negro. (II Congreso de Novela y Cine Negro 2006). Valladolid: Editorial Difácil 2007. 358 pages, € 17
3. Palabras que matan: Asesinos y violencia en la ficción criminal (III Congreso de Novela y Cine Negro 2007). Córdoba: Editorial Almuzara 2008. 336 pages, € 16
4. Geografías en negro: Escenarios del género criminal. (IV Congreso de Novela y Cine Negro 2008). Barcelona: Montesinos 2009. 300 pages, € 18.50
Collection of Spanish crime stories, edited by Javier Sánchez Zapatero y Àlex Martín Escribà:
5. La lista negra: nuevos culpables del policial español. Madrid: Salto de Página 2009. 320 pages, € 21.95