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Spanish literature

Carmen Balcells, literary agent who drove Latin American Boom, dies at 85

Born in 1930, she represented Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez and many others

Carmen Balcells
Literary agent Carmen Balcells photographed in her home in 2009.

Carmen Balcells, the literary agent who represented Nobel Prize-winning authors Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel García Márquez, and one of the leading figures of the so-called Latin American Boom, has died in Barcelona at the age of 85.

Born in Santa Fe de Segarra, Lleida province, in 1930, Balcells had enjoyed international prestige for decades thanks to the work of the literary agency carrying her own name, which she founded in Barcelona in 1956.

It would be hard to understand Spanish 20th-century literature without her work

To her clients, she was much more than the person who simply negotiated their contracts with publishing houses and translators. She was also their confidante and advisor, someone who was always there for them. In some cases she even lent them money so they could carry on writing in peace.

Balcells will go down in history as one of the driving forces behind the Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s, represented by the likes of Vargas Llosa, García Márquez, Julio Cortázar and Carlos Fuentes. Generations of Spanish-language writers have passed through her agency and it would be hard to understand Spanish 20th-century literature without her work.

Along with Vargas Llosa and García Márquez, she also represented fellow Nobel laureates Pablo Neruda, Vicente Aleixandre and Camilo José Cela, as well as Fuentes, Cortázar, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Isabel Allende, Rafael Alberti, Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, Miguel Delibes, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Juan Goytisolo, Juan Marsé, Jaime Gil de Biedma, Eduardo Mendoza and Javier Cercas.

English version by Nick Funnell.