Carmen Balcells and the Latin American literary boom
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Carmen Balcells and the Latin American literary boom

Known as “Mamá Grande” – by Peruvian Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa after Gabriel García Márquez’s 1962 novel: “Big Mamá’s funeral”, literary agent Carmen Balcells passed away at her Barcelona home on Sunday.

The 85-year-old was known to be one of the most important literary agents for hispanic literature during the 2oth and 21st century.

Balcells worked with a total of six Nobel Prize winning authors during her career, she represented Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Pablo Neruda, Julio Cortázar and Carlos Fuentes amongst other well-known and well-loved authors.

With a nose for her market, it was Balcells who started working on translations of Márquez’s 1985 novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” . Indeed her relation with the late Gabo was, in her own words, indescribable. Márquez even asked her on occasion “Carmen do you love me?”

The pragmatic businesswoman was unable to respond: Márquez made up 36 percent of her agency earnings.

Humble beginnings

Born to a rural land owning family in Lleida, Cataluña, Balcells moved to Barcelona aged 24.

Starting off working as a secretary in the offices of Romanian literary agent Vintila Horia, it was finally at the end of the 1950s when Balcells opened her own agency under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Known for the close relationships which she maintained with all of the authors on her agency books, it was the editors who suffered under Balcells strict business sense.

Thanks to this big Mama, Latin American literature remains firmly on the map.

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