Spain’s only bookshop specialising in science fiction written by women opens

Investing money in a bookstore may seem like a poor idea from a financial point of view, but the numbers show that it is a growing trend, at least in the big cities. By mid-2021, five new ones had already appeared in Madrid and four in Catalonia, which has now added one more to the list. Located in Barcelona’s Poblenou neighbourhood, La Insòlita opened its doors on 8 September with a catalogue that gives prominence to horror and science fiction literature written by women. It may sound extravagant, but women authors who work with narrative fiction to expose everyday issues are gaining more and more visibility – both new and classic – and in Spain there is no other bookshop like this one. Probably not in the world either.

The ‘boom’ of bookshops in pandemic

Read more

Carlota Gelonch, 33, is the owner of this business and the person who attends to the customers. Her focus on horror and science fiction authors is due to her personal interest. She studied Art History and spent most of her life working in gender violence prevention. A few years ago she did a master’s degree in comparative literature where she began to discover these authors who impressed her with how they use science fiction to deal with social issues or horror to describe the real fear that women live in their daily lives just because they are women.

“I think now is a good time for the genre because many female authors have a very powerful political discourse and they are becoming more and more visible”, she explains, while she adds that “anthologies are being made and all these writers are also making visible the work of many others who perhaps didn’t enter the genre or the canon at the time because they are women”. In fact, the name of her bookstore is a nod to one of these anthologies entitled Insólitas. Narradoras de lo fantástico en Latinoamérica y España ( Páginas de Espuma, 2019), edited by Teresa López-Pellisa and Ricard Ruiz Garzón. “It’s very strong on a political level and it interests me because that intersection between literary genre and authorial genre seems super-powerful to me.” Among the signatures collected are those of Mariana Enríquez, Laura Fernández, Cristina Peri Rossi, Luisa Valenzuela and Elia Barceló, among others.

This would be her recommendation as a bookseller for someone who wants to get started in the subject. The other would be Extraordinàries (Males Herbes, 2020), made up of texts by Roser Cabré-Verdiell, Gemma Martí O’Toole, Muntsa Mimó and Inés MacPherson. The latter took part in a talk at the bookshop on unusual narratives moderated by Meri Torras, lecturer at the UAB, together with other authors such as Lucía Leandro, Macarena Cortés and the publisher Ricard Ruiz Garzón. It was one of the inaugural events of La Insòlita, which was held on the weekend of 18 September to coincide with the neighbourhood festivities. There was also a children’s workshop led by Karon Klinge and the exhibition of the illustrator Carmen Segovia entitled Sobrenatural. She is also the author of the bookstore’s logo.

“I met her through the podcast Marea nocturna, by Desirée De Fez, where she talked about Dark Disney. I started following her and I saw that she works a lot in the world of narrative illustration. In the end you make connections with people who are interested in the same thing,” says Gelonch. His idea is for La Insòlita to be a meeting place as well as a shop and he is already planning the course programme, which will be available on the website he is building and through which it will also be possible to buy. He is aware that “we will not be able to cope with Amazon”, but customers will be able to access his collection, which starts from about 1,400 copies.

Who crosses the threshold

The conversation with Carlota Gelonch takes place on a Thursday afternoon before a public holiday. The rhythm of the streets further away from the centre is more relaxed than usual, the citizens who can free themselves from the pressure of the next day’s work. La Insòlita is not exactly in the suburbs, but neither is it in the commercial heart of the neighbourhood. “When I was looking for cool places near the Rambla de Poblenou, but they were much more expensive, there are people there at any time. Also as a result of the pandemic, the City Council has opened calls for vacant premises to be occupied,” he says. The situation of 22@ and the plan to create more green space in the district convinced her to choose the area.

At the moment she is still settling in, but she is still looking for a place to live.She is happy with the flow of customers in the bookshop. During the chat, a middle-aged woman enters the shop to take a look at the books quietly and later a young man shows up to ask if a parcel has arrived. “No, not yet, I guess on Monday”, Gelonch replies with a smile and comments that “it’s from the publisher Trampa, which is next door”. They brought him a welcome gift and they were not the only ones: “The winery La Parra also came yesterday and gave us a cava. There are neighbours who are showing their heads and thanking us for a new bookshop. The welcome from the neighbourhood has been very cool”.

La Insòlita’s offer is a bit of a hybrid. In addition to non-realistic fiction written by women, it has a children’s section, a more general section and “a corner of magic, esotericism and a bit of folklore. Many of these authors that interest me are recovering this: folklore, legends, tales or anonymous stories of the territory. It is something that is not of now and this is a gesture to find out what is there,” says Gelonch.

Because of this diversity of genres, so is the clientele: “At the opening, very different people came, which is something I like. There are people who come looking for specific things about witchcraft, for example, and then neighbors from the neighborhood who ask me for Aramburu’s Los vencejos (The Swifts). Children also come here, and there are a lot of them. The place takes on a personality of its own as it goes along. The owner had some reference bookshops in the city: “Taifa for the generalist part, which I loved. And then Pròleg or La Raposa for the feminist part and then Gigamesh for the sci-fi part. That’s like the totem but I don’t think I’m anything like it. We’ll have some books in common but nothing more”, she says.

From ideal to financial plan

I’ve had the idea of opening a bookstore for a long time, but as a romantic plan rather than a realistic one. A project that was always put on the back burner by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, which, with the break brought about by the pandemic, he was suddenly able to develop. But a bookshop is still a business, although often idealized, and to start it up it is necessary to have a financial plan, to learn how the sector works and to convince the bank to grant a loan that allows all this to be carried out.

“I’ve had the time to study as much as I could at Barcelona Activa [Barcelona’s local economic development agency]. I’ve been amazed by the ease of training and flexibility with training microcapsules of two or three hours and an amazing technical follow-up,” says Gelonch, leaning on the counter of her newly opened shop. During this period, she also researched the trade she was about to enter. She was also surprised: “I was able to talk to other booksellers and booksellers who sat down with me, gave me contacts to distributors, and explained how the software works. There is a support network among booksellers, I was very well received outside the neighborhood and also here, where there are the bookstores La Petita, l’Etcètera, or Nollegiu. At no time have I felt any tension or competition”.

His idea now is “to see what’s coming out with the publishers. And, through the activities we do, to promote what is of interest. For example, we are talking to a publishing house here that works mainly with Catalan authors to make presentations or reading clubs to give them visibility”.

Previous A sector of the Book Fair organization asks for the resignation of its director
This is the most recent story.

Suggested Posts

Triller starting MSG boxing series on Aug

Morgan returns to lead England in Pakistan T20s after squad

Nonito Donaire threatens to withdraw from John Riel Casimero unification

White House to concede US likely to miss July 4

Triller reaches deal with Madison Square Garden for monthly boxing

BCCI set to finalise UAE as backup venue for T20

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.