Carmen Balcells was born in Santa Fe de Segarra, Lérida, in 1930. In the 1950s, she was hired by Vintila Horia as Barcelona correspondent for the Acer Literary Agency. When Horia decided to sell the agency in 1960, Carmen Balcells set up shop in the same rented flat where she was living. In just a few years, she revolutionised the publishing industry, banishing lifelong contracts and establishing clauses for the limited-time transfer of rights to literary works. Thanks to her struggle, undertaken alone, writers could start living off the profits generated by their works. Her efforts were a driving force behind the golden age of Spanish American literature known as the Latin American Boom.
Balcells represented young writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Julio Cortázar, Pablo Neruda, Carlos Fuentes, Álvaro Mutis, Camilo José Cela, and Miguel Ángel Asturias. These were later followed by Isabel Allende, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Eduardo Mendoza, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Juan Marsé, Miguel Delibes, Carme Riera, Rosa Montero, Nélida Piñon, Rubem Fonseca, António Lobo Antunes, and a long list of literary figures from a variety of origins: Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In 60 years, the Carmen Balcells Literary Agency has represented the works of six Nobel Laureates in Literature: Miguel Ángel Asturias, Pablo Neruda, Vicente Aleixandre, Gabriel García Márquez, Camilo José Cela, and Mario Vargas Llosa.
In 2015, Carmen Balcells died at the age of 85. Her son, Lluís Miquel Palomares, took over the Agency, committed to carrying on his mother’s legacy.
For her efforts as a literary agent, and in recognition of her career in the publishing world, Carmen Balcells received the Creu de Sant Jordi Award and the Barcelona Medal of Honour, among other distinctions, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Dubbed Mamá Grande by Gabriel García Márquez and Literary Superagent by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Balcells will always be remembered for dignifying the writing profession.