Most of the bookstores in Madrid have had a corner dedicated to Almudena Grandes since last Saturday. Some stand out in the shop window, others among its numerous shelves. They remember her through a photograph or by highlighting one of her famous phrases, but they cannot accompany these makeshift altars with her works. They don’t because they can’t. Many of these establishments have exhausted their reserves of books by the Madrid writer. They do not have a single copy or they have very few left. A week after his farewell, the inhabitants of the city that Grandes carried as their flag, pay their particular tribute with “a boom” in sales.
La Casa del Libro, one of the largest bookstores in the heart of Madrid, showed off its last two copies this week. “We have been left with nothing,” confirmed one of the workers. This establishment, as they say, always has a prominent space for the writer. Now, however, the only representatives of Grandes on the premises are two books of the same title, Dr. García’s patients. A few weeks ago there was more repertoire, above all, of Frankenstein’s mother, his most recent work, published in February 2020, and which closes the five titles in the series Episodes of an Endless War.
From big to small
Large establishments have seen an increase in sales and small ones as well. This is the case of the Gaztambide bookstores. It is run by Cristóbal González, a veteran bookseller who confesses “the deep sadness” that the loss of the writer has caused him. González, who has two stores in Madrid, close to each other, in the Argüelles neighborhood, assures that he “always” has copies of Almudena Grandes, because she is a “much loved” author. “She has always come here, even with her daughter. She is like family,” says González. However, now its publication pool has shrunk considerably. The bookseller has noted that “as a result of his death, people are becoming more interested. Today, for example, I have sold one of Agnes and joy and another of Malena is a tango name“. Both works, for example, have been on sale for years, the first is from 2010 and the second from 1994.
A few meters from Gaztambide, just a five-minute walk away, is the Alberti bookstore. One of his employees, Iñaki Lucía, confirms the growing interest of the public who visit his premises. “There has been a rebound. We have made a showcase in his honor and we only have those books,” he says. In total, there are six. Both González and Lucía agree that the public that has acquired copies this last week has a varied profile. Some are loyal readers who want to get a text that they do not yet have. Others are encouraged to meet her for the first time. “There are people who followed her in newspaper articles, who had not read the novels and now feel that they have a debt with her literary work.” Some customers, regular readers, now take copies to give away, to discover the writing of the Madrilenian to others, they add.
The Madrid booksellers’ union confirms this lack of stock in stores. Pablo Bonet, the group’s secretary, affirms that normally when an author dies, this usually happens, although he emphasizes that, in Almudena’s case, “we still have no idea of the magnitude of her loss.” Still, as he asserts, they cannot calculate the economic impact in data, but they predict that it will be remarkable. Bonet also remembers that it is running out Completely friday, the collection of poems that Luis García Montero dedicated to Almudena and to the love between them. He precisely read one of those verses at his funeral, a fact that has aroused the curiosity of readers.
Now the hope of all booksellers is that new copies arrive as soon as possible. Bonet assures that they have contacted Tusquets, the publisher of Grandes, to order more publications. Sources of this group confirm that they have already ordered the reprint of those titles to replace them “as soon as possible” and confess that “they are overwhelmed” because “never” had this happened to them. And, despite the fact that there are paper shortage problems worldwide, from Tusquets they send a message of tranquility and insist that in their case they do not believe that there is a problem to guarantee the necessary replacements. There are about 200 bookstores in the region and that figure rises to 800 in the case of stationery that also sell literary products.
Not only in physical stores
This growing interest in Almudena’s legacy has not only exploded in physical stores, it has also exploded in other systems of literary consumption. In Amazon, for example, you can buy most of his works and some of them, such as The Jules Verne Reader, published in 2014, has crept into the middle of the table of the fifty best-selling books on the platform, while The frozen heart it is among the most desired. In fact, Tusquets claims that more than half a million copies of that title have been sold since its launch in 2007.
Readers who prefer not to buy will not have it easy either. At least those who look for them in electronic format. The public libraries of Madrid have announced that the e-books of some of the twenty Almudena Grandes publications can no longer be reserved until January or February. Frankenstein’s mother, The Jules Verne Reader, The ages of Lulu O The frozen heart are examples of it. “There are reservations available”, is the message that reads if you look for these titles on the public service website.