Barcelona, España, 1965

Olga Merino (Barcelona, Spain, 1965) studied IT and completed a master’s in Latin American history and literature in the United Kingdom. During the 1990s, she worked for five years in Moscow as a correspondent for the newspaper El Periódico and witnessed the transition from the Soviet regime to the market economy. This experience inspired her first novel, Cenizas rojas, which was lauded by critics, and twenty-three years later, her memoir, Cinco inviernos. In 2006, she was awarded the Premio Vargas Llosa NH for “Las normas son las normas”, which focuses on the victims of the Crimean War. She still works for El Periódico today, and also teaches at the Barcelona Ateneu writing school.

  • “Personal writing, free of tear-jerking and demagogy, one of the requirements that must be met if you want to have a world of your own, like the author.” J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip, El País
  • “Do you know how exciting it is to find a novel you’ve never heard of, written by an author you don’t know, that keeps you sprawled on the couch with your mind lost in its sentimental geography?” Óscar López, Televisión Española
  • "Olga Merino's gaze is terrifyingly young and terrifyingly wise. Furthermore, she has exceptional powers of description." Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

Bibliography

An eyewitness account of the fall of the Soviet Union at the 90’s and an intimate personal journey.

In 1992 Olga Merino, a young journalist with a literary vocation, was given her first job as a correspondent. Her destination, Moscow, was not the one she had dreamed of.

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Novel

One of the 10 Spanish Best Books 2020, by Forbes / One of the 50 Spanish Best Books 2020, by Babelia, El País /
Longlisted for the IV Mario Vargas Llosa Biennial Novel Prize

A contemporary western set in the rugged, unforgiving territory of rural Spain. A thrilling story about human resilience.

For the locals, Angie is the village crazy lady. She lives isolated and alone in the country, surrounded by ghosts who torment her with childhood memories of a poor working-class neighbourhood in Barcelona and a passionate love affair in her youth with an artist from London.

One morning, Angie discovers the lifeless body of the local landowner hanging from the branch of a walnut tree. This news endangers her own land and the future of the entire village. In her struggle to keep what’s hers, Angie uncovers a series of secrets deeply buried in that land. This leads to a liberating realisation: once you lose everything, they can’t take anything away from you. And then you’re invincible.

“A harsh rural story… literarily exuberant.” Berna G. Harbour, El País

“A magnificent novel, a lively contemporary drama.” Santos Sanz Villanueva, Zenda Libros

“A novel as tough and essential as the rugged terrain where it sinks its roots.” Elena Hevia, El Periódico de Cataluña

“A mixture of western and rural thriller, the story of a woman stronger than the world she lives in.” Marta García Miranda, Cadena Ser

“Olga Merino's prose has a rough touch, without frills or excesses. Her language is forceful, like the main character, and through her words we sense the earth and the wine, see the colours of the sky, and also those of loneliness. Pain and death, memory and identity are interwoven in this novel, which also leads us to the abysses that some people stand on the edge of. A story with wounds that open up right before us, through the body and the words, to speak to us of the ability to resist and about the different ways in which we can face our demons in order to find our place in the world.” Inés Macpherson, La Vanguardia

“A dark western, without hope, without compassion. Olga Merino creates one of those unforgettable characters that every writer dreams of constructing. Mark my words, it`s magnificent.” Salvador Alemany, Moon Magazine

“Olga Merino immerses us in a tough, rough, claustrophobic world of direct and concealed violence, with a twilight aftertaste served in realistic style.” Carmen R. Santos, ABC

“A rural western in a timeless Andalusia.” Ignacio Martínez de Pisón

“... a work that is more closely related to the ruralism of Miguel Delibes or the brutal realism of Camilo José Cela than the duels at Oakley Hall or the deserts of Cormac McCarthy. […] A rural novel that combines the aesthetics of Intemperie, by Jesús Carrasco, with the political vindication of Tierra de Mujeres, by María Sánchez. Merino shows us the difficulties faced by women in order to survive in a rough rural world controlled by men. Merino shows us the reality of a town where women and immigrants share the same social condition: pariahs of the soil.” Álvaro Colomer, Ara Llegim

La forastera meets several challenges. The most important of all is that it shuns ruralism, even when the novel transits that landscape. […] Olga Merino leaves the mark of her narrative art, and does so with a turbid story where the most transparent thing is its luminous maladaptation. […] The beginning of the novel, eleven lines for inclusion in an anthology of the best beginnings to a novel.” J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip, Babelia – El País

“Olga Merino has transcended the neo-rural narrative trend and engendered a magnificent novel. As in the case of its central character, redeemed from a bitter past, more springs will come.” Domingo Ródenas de Moya, El Periódico

“ Entertaining and absorbing ... with an absolutely precise use of the Spanish language." Marta Sanz, Babelia, El País

“I read it in one sitting and then regretted having finished it. [...] I can guarantee it’s written with no holds barred, with a very real anger and rebelliousness and a direct knowledge of the setting in which the story takes place [...]. Read this book.” Carme Riera (National Literature Prize), La Vanguardia

“Leer La forastera, de Olga Merino, es adentrarte en territorio hostil y descubrir que la belleza del lenguaje es capaz de arrancar un personaje duro, noble y solitario de las fauces de una tierra harta de muerte y sedienta de comprensión.” Eva Baltasar, autora de Permafrost y Boulder

“Olga Merino comes to show us that predatory human devastation is no longer only external. Rather, if it does anything it shakes the very foundations of the inner self, of our essence as living beings.” El Mundo

“A prodigious novel which appeals to the reader’s five senses. [...] A novel that provokes physical sensations and in which [...] Spain comes together with the most apocalyptic neo-western. Olga Merino has created her own world in the style of Cormac McCarthy, but it is completely personal.” Jesús Lens, Ideal de Granada

“A twilight story [...] as arid and raw as the landscape in which it takes place. And to a large extent the characters that populate it end up being the same. Thus, Olga Merino has inscribed herself – with her own personality, without a doubt – in a current of rural literature that has its origins in Miguel Delibes, Julio Llamazares and Jesús Moncada. [...].” Carlos Bravo Suárez, Diario del Alto Aragón

“240 pages of compulsive reading and an angular storyline where the veiled paths reveal a sole truth: that there are no dreams to be salvaged, only the courage of resistance.” Cristina, Abrir un libro

“An arid landscape that seems to reflect the moral devastation of some of the characters. Local strongmen, shotguns, flea-bitten dogs, outlaws, olive trees, absolutely forbidden love affairs, property wars and, above all, suicides.” Xavi Ayén, La Vanguardia

“A rural western in a timeless Andalusia by a writer who knows very well how to alternate journalism and literature.” Antón Castro, Heraldo de Aragón

“Part western, part thriller, in these times of confinement this is a story in praise of loneliness, of being by oneself despite being surrounded by people [...].” Marta García, La Hora Extra (Cadena Ser)

His aging father’s illness forces Anselmo to take care of him at a time in their lives when they have nothing left to talk about. Gone are the days in the shoe and orthopaedics workshop in Tetuán, where shadows hide the secrets that will tear the family apart. Anselmo flees to the capital, where he tries his hand at becoming a Flamenco singer and dancer. However, he soon discovers that his place, in the bleak, miserable Spain of the dictatorship, is in the underworld of marginalisation.

A fascinating novel that paints a masterful picture of the self-destruction of a family clan in a dark Spain.

Una narración llena de imágenes y emoción. En los años cincuenta, Juana, una joven andaluza, emigra con su familia a Barcelona huyendo del hambre y la pobreza. Como una Cenicienta de posguerra, entra a servir en casa de Salud Monterde y sus hijas, enriquecidas gracias a un asunto turbio. Cuando la vida desvanezca sus ilusiones, el amor de Liberto, el anarquista perseguido, será su único refugio.

A los sesenta y seis años, Ginés Toyos Amezaga decide abandonar Moscú para acabar sus días en España, consciente de que al partir lo pierde todo; si es que le queda algo. Desde que la policía vino a por él para que identificara a su amigo Lenin, Ginés vive atenazado por el miedo, esperando que en cualquier momento ocurra lo inevitable. Por eso ha comprado un billete, sólo de ida, para España. Un accidente cuando era niño le obligó a huir y lo embarcaron rumbo a la Unión Soviética para salvarlo del hambre y de la guerra. Nunca pidió salir de su país, así que nadie puede impedirle su regreso. Mientras Ginés deja que su angustia fluya por su libreta de hojas cuadriculadas, los vecinos del piso comunal en que vive buscan como él el modo de sobrevivir al caos de un país convulsionado por profundos cambios.

Short stories and novellas

Las normas son las normas es un cuento de nueve páginas ambientado en la guerra de Crimea, a mediados del siglo XIX, con dos protagonistas, un soldado herido y la enfermera que le atiende. Dos víctimas de los conflictos bélicos, de cualquier conflicto bélico. Con esta obra la autora obtuvo el Premio Mario Vargas Llosa de relatos.

Non-fiction

An eyewitness account of the fall of the Soviet Union at the 90’s and an intimate personal journey.

In 1992 Olga Merino, a young journalist with a literary vocation, was given her first job as a correspondent. Her destination, Moscow, was not the one she had dreamed of. These were the turbulent times that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, a difficult, chaotic country on the brink of civil war, in which Olga Merino witnessed, among many other events, the assault on the parliament with tanks, the war in Chechnya, and the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The accelerated transformation of the ruins of an empire into a revived world power offers an incomparable perspective on the origins of Putin's Russia today.

A mixture of literary journalism, chronicle and diary, the most personal pages of this special book abound in the charm of Russian culture and language, in the indomitable character of its people, and the author’s fleeting love affair with the handsome Serguéi. Contemplated in hindsight, the young aspiring writer’s five winters in Russia paved the way for – as put by Camus – an invincible summer.

“This is the best book of a year that is just beginning. And it will remain so for the rest of the year. Nothing else published will make as much of an impact on me as Olga Merino has managed to with Cinco inviernos.” Karina Sainz Borgo

“A woman alone in search of her path (and vocation) amidst the ruins of the last utopia.” El Mundo

"Merino ofrece mucho más que periodismo. Como ya lo hizo en su novela La forastera, se abre en canal y rasga con su prosa el pecho de quien la lee. Estas páginas componen un manuscrito político e histórico, y por supuesto periodístico, qué duda cabe, pero es también la trastienda de una vocación, una bitácora que se lee con desgarro y urgencia, un libro que rompe muy adentro y con el que para llorar hace falta el cuerpo entero." Zenda Libros

«Una estupenda crónica repleta de reflexiones y anécdotas sobre la cultura rusa.» Manuel Rodríguez Rivero, Babelia

Prizes

  • 2006 - Premio Mario Vargas Llosa NH de relatos for Las normas son las normas