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10 Madrid bookshops that are more than just bookshops

The bookworms of Madrid have emerged from the woodwork as La Feria del Libro, the city’s annual book fair, occupies the Retiro park until Sunday June 10th.

10 Madrid bookshops that are more than just bookshops
Photo: Desperate Literature

Featuring over 200 stalls and involving around 800 publishers, this year is set to be the largest edition in the fair’s history.

For book lovers in the Spanish capital looking to explore literary delights outside the fair itself, there are several bookshops around town to which it’s worth paying a visit while out and about.

In fact, these are more than just bookshops – some are also art galleries, cafes, wine bars, or community spaces.

So whether it’s to browse and purchase copies of your favourite literature, see exhibitions, attend special events and workshops, or even just enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine in like-minded bookish company, these are ten of our top picks.

Librería Pérez Galdós


Photo: Tatse77/Flickr

 

This gentle jewel of a bookshop has been nestled between Madrid’s Chueca and Malasana neighbourhoods for 76 years and its design has remained the same ever since. It was originally set up by the grandson of the prolific 19th century Spanish novelist Benito Pérez Galdós – and thus carries the revered author’s name.

The shop’s collection covers art, history, philosophy, cinema, poetry, the great classics of fiction as well as more modern writings. Spanish literary masters like Cervantes and Góngora sit alongside philosophers lie Kafka and Homer. The books range from thrillers by Steven King and Carlos Ruiz Zafón to historical texts about Franco’s reign over Spain.

The highlight item is probably the early edition six-part complete works of the shop’s namesake Benito Pérez Galdós – sold for a whopping €575.

Swinton & Grant


Photo: Grant Swinton

This elegant cross between bookshop, cafe and art gallery is located in one of the recently up-and-come parts of town, between Embajadores and Lavapiés. The shop specialises in illustrated books, including comics, graphic novels, fanzines, art and photography books, and more. There are special sections dedicated to things like science fiction, dystopia and Japanese manga.

Step downstairs and you’ll find an art gallery. An exhibition by retro-futuristic Los Angeles artist Augustine Kofie recently closed here; the next exhibition on the programme, from June 22nd until July 22nd, celebrates Swinton & Grant's fourth anniversary, featuring work by street artists such as Alice Pasquini (Italy), Saner (Mexico) and Mario Mankey (Spain).

Panta Rhei

A must for graphic design and illustration enthusiasts is Panta Rhei, set up by Ingrid Acebal y Lilo Acebal, and whose current incarnation has been on Calle Hernan Cortés since 2000. Meaning ‘everything flows’, the name of the shop is an allusion to ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who is said to have coined the term nearly 3,000 years ago.

The gallery space runs a range of illustration and graphic design exhibition. The current show, open until June 17th, features contemporary illustrations by Austrian artist Bianca Tschaikner inspired by the kamasutra. From June 21st onwards, the gallery presents an exhibition by Madrid-based illustrator Esther Gili.

Desperate Literature

Located near Santo Domingo, Desperate Literature was founded by Yorkshire-French duo, Terry Craven and Charlotte Delattre, with the aim of creating a faithful community around literature. Hailing from theatre backgrounds, they both see the value in bringing writing and poetry to life through the people that live and breathe it.

READ MORE: 'We keep a typewriter at the back for customers to punch out poems'

Terry and Charlotte recently expanded from just running the space to starting a literary magazine called La Errante. They have even launched a literary prize for short fiction; the inaugural edition of the prize, which was awarded this year, had over 450 entries.

Tipos Infames

Book enthusiasts looking to enjoy an early evening glass of wine need look no further than Tipos Infames, whose team believes that literature and wine make fine bedfellows. The idea for the shop was born back in 2010 over a game of billiards between three friends Gonzalo, Alfonso and Francisco. The shop tries to focus on independent publishers and authors, and hosts book clubs, workshops, courses and even wine tasting events.

Visitors can choose from the robust and varied wine list and also browse the exhibition in the gallery space. The current exhibition is called ‘Foodies’ by illustration artist Ana Jarén and is open for the month of June.

Librería Mujeres


Photo: www.libreriamujeres.com

This is the only bookshop on Madrid dedicated exclusively to women. It was founded 40 years ago with the objective of bettering gender equality and fighting sexism through the power of reading. The team behind the project believe in the importance of representing and promoting women’s issues, women’s writing, women readers, feminist ideology, the various fights for women’s rights and lesbian and trans communities. Back in the 70s it was rather remarkable in its efforts to confront taboo subjects such as abortion, divorce, sexuality, female empowerment and women in the workplace.

The collection ranges from scientific writing by women to children’s books that encourage gender-equal thinking. The space hosts reading groups, poetry readings, storytelling sessions and conferences and debates on political issues, inviting well known authors, thinkers and activists to take part, including Madrid’s current mayor, Manuela Carmena.

J and J's Books and Coffee


Photo: J and J's / Facebook

This English language second-hand bookshop on Calle del Espiritu Santo in Malasaña is a great find for
English speakers looking for an affordable read, and for those looking to get rid of old books and pass them on to be enjoyed by someone else. It features thousands of books, including classics, children's books, travel guides, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy and biographies. They serve coffees, teas, cocktails, beer, wine and bagels, and host quiz nights and language exchanges.

J and J’s is always looking to further expand their collection – they accept good condition, soft covered books in English, ideally published in the last four years, and offer credit in exchange. They’re especially on the look out for prize winners, new releases, and classics. So if you’re planning a clearout of your bookshelf, you know where to go.

Librería Miguel Miranda


Libreria miguel miranda / Facebook

Located in the Barrio de las Letras, this rather majestic bookshop, with a striking spiral staircase as a centrepiece, has been run by the same family since 1949. Originally founded by Miguel Miranda, it was then taken over by his son, by the same name, in 1972. By this time, Franco’s rule over Spain was gradually weakening and bookshops like these became spaces to talk not just about books but about political issues and social change.

Miguel remembers those days in which secret meetings would take place in the shop, where people would hear about things that weren’t published in the press. He remains a firm believer in the spiritual enrichment that spaces like these provide. “We are the sellers of printed thought”, he has been quoted to say. Today, the shop is dedicated to antique, rare and out-of-print books.

La Central

La Central de Callao has been referred to as the closest thing to the Sistine Chapel among Spanish bookshops, occupying a palatial 1,200 sq m, across three floors, holding around 70,000 books on philosophy, history, social sciences and literature. This is the Madrid branch of of the Catalan chain La Central, whose headquarters lie in Barcelona.

The building in Callao, featuring an interior patio with a grand cypress tree, was a private house at the end of the 19th century. Downstairs was the family’s own chapel, which is now used as a delicatessen. Before being a family home it was in fact the Cuban embassy in Spain – the first country’s first external delegation, just during the time when Cuba won independence from Spanish rule. In that time, what the Spanish family used as a chapel was a cabin used for drying tobacco; some say that rich Cuban aromas still remain.

Ocho y medio

This is movie lovers’ heaven. Just opposite the Cine Renoir, near Plaza de España, is Ocho y Medio, a bookshop dedicated to cinema, holding the largest collection of film-related books in the city. Its location is no coincidence – Calle Martin de los Heros (which features a Spain’s answer to LA’s Walk of Fame on the pavement) and its surroundings are known to be a favourite hang-out for Madrid’s cinephiles.

Decorated with memorabilia related to the ‘seventh art’, the shop (whose name refers to Federico Fellini’s movie 8½) sells novels, essays, poems, posters, DVDs, screenplays and all sorts of other items related to cinema, both Spanish and international. Ocho y medio also sells drinks and refreshment, and has tables outside, which is perfect for a coffee after or before seeing a movie.

This article has been written by Agnish Ray, a freelance writer based in Madrid. To see more of his work visit his website and follow on Twitter and Instagram

MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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