Award-winning Spanish poet and novelist Elena Medel is a force to be reckoned with, seamlessly blending poetic lyricism with exhilarating storytelling. Her new novel, The Wonders, is an intergenerational masterpiece, telling the interwoven stories of Maria and Alicia, two women searching for stability and meaning in Madrid. Set against the backdrop of protest and social unrest, their individual lives converge, bringing half a century of the feminist movement to life.
Medel joined translator Lizzie Davis and Pushcart Prize Winner Anna Solomon for an illuminating conversation on class, sex, desire, and the irrevocable interconnectedness of our lives.
By Elena Medel
Published by Algonquin
Already an international sensation, The Wonders follows Maria and Alicia through the streets of Madrid, from job to job and apartment to apartment, as they search for meaning and stability in a precarious world and unknowingly trace each other’s footfalls across time.
Maria moved to the city in 1969, leaving her daughter with her family but hoping to save enough to take care of her one day. She worked as a housekeeper, then a caregiver, and later a cleaner, and somehow she was always taking care of someone else. Two generations later, in 2018, Alicia was working at the snack shop in Madrid’s Atocha train station when it overflowed with protestors and strikers. All women—and so many of them—protesting what? Alicia wasn’t entirely sure. She couldn’t have known that Maria was among them. Alicia didn’t have time for marches; she was just trying to hang on until the end of her shift, when she might meet someone to take her away for a few hours, to make her forget.
Readers will fall in love with Maria and Alicia, whose stories finally converge in the chaos of the protests, the weight of the years of silence hanging thickly in the air between them. The Wonders brings half a century of the feminist movement to life, and launches an inimitable new voice in fiction. Medel’s lyrical sensibility reveals her roots as a poet, but her fast-paced and expansive storytelling show she’s a novelist ahead of her time.
Elena Medel is a Spanish poet and the founder and publisher of La Bella Varsovia, an independent poetry publishing house. Medel was the first woman ever to win the prestigious Francisco Umbral Prize, for her debut novel The Wonders, which was also longlisted for the Finestres Award and has been translated into twelve languages. She published her prizewinning first collection of poetry, My First Bikini, when she was sixteen years old.
Lizzie Davis is a translator from Spanish to English and editor at Coffee House Press. Her recent projects include works by Pilar Fraile Amador, Daniela Tarazona, and Elena Medel, and her co-translation of Medel’s Las maravillas with Thomas Bunstead is forthcoming from Pushkin Press. She has received fellowships from the Omi International Arts Center and the Breadloaf Translators’ Conference in support of her translations.
Photo Credit: Emma Ruddock
Anna Solomon is the author of three novels, The Book of V., Leaving Lucy Pear, and The Little Bride, and a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize. Co-editor with Eleanor Henderson of Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers, Anna teaches at Barnard College, Warren Wilson’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, and the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center. Born and raised in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Anna now lives in Brooklyn, New York.