At the end of the year, in an attempt to order chaos, proliferate lists of the best of the year by literary critics, which very rarely coincide with the ratings of the most sold, what the general public reads. The literary lists aim to offer a guide, become the light that illuminates the title that we should not miss and that we still have time to extract from the increasingly huge library of what has been produced in the last 365 days, but does the reader trust of those lists? Does the critic feel represented in the group from which the list that has been created based on his opinion and many others has arisen?
In a world full of personal opinions, in which one click is enough to know what has been the favorite book of our favorite writer because it is more likely that he has shared it on social networks, do the lists that elaborate the supplements still make sense? cultural
For the philosopher José Luis Pardo, who already left in its clear moment why it did not like the lists, in the world we come from, in which literature "had a pretension of constitutive universality", and the book pretended to be "valuable for any possible reader" with which it crossed, the lists of critics "were made with the intention to improve the tastes of the general public ". On the contrary, the world to which we are going, he thinks, since the books are directed to a very specific community knowing that they will like it, it is not intended with the lists "to expand, improve or change the tastes of the public, but sanction them, restrict them and satisfy them. " According to Pardo, collaborator of EL PAÍS, "there is not so much a list for the general public, but a list for each one of the communities in which this large public has fragmented" and, he adds, "are the tastes of these mini -public those that legitimize them and the critics who elaborate them ".
In practice, at the bookstore and according to Paco Goyanes, in front of Cálamo, in Zaragoza, the reader relies less and less on them. "About ten years ago, the client believed that he was nobody if he did not have the book that this or that cultural supplement had considered the best of the year, today they are very aware that each medium has its favorites, and that there are business interests behind it. of those favorites, "he says. Yes, yes, as has happened this year, or the previous one, there has been unanimity, and it has been a unanimity that coincided with your tastes – in 2017, Homeland, by Fernando Aramburu, came out on all the lists, and the same thing has happened in 2018 with Ordesa, by Manuel Vilas-, "then it shows," says the bookseller. In any case, the feeling is that the power of the media has decreased dramatically. "Sometimes titles come out that people do not even know, and the fact that they consider them the best seems relative," he says. Above all, he talks about the written press, because even radio and television still have considerable power.
And what about the critics? Nadal Suau, critic of The Cultural, abhors the mere idea of a possible commercial intentionality of these lists, although he admits that he enjoys doing them and reading them. Consider, however, that "most lists are predictable and tend to the same type of homogeneity as the market". As to whether he feels represented by those in which he participates as a voter, he assures that it usually coincides "by 40% – 50%" of the result. "It is not a low number of coincidence," he says, although, he adds, "the most interesting thing about individual lists is usually precisely in the percentage of titles that do not achieve representation in the collective. This is where the richest generational, ideological, gender, aesthetic, sociological or cultural differences are recorded. Also for that reason, it seems to me very necessary that every collective list comes accompanied by the complete votes of each participant ".
Betting with a trap
For his part, Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas, veteran critic of The vanguard, believes that there are differentiating between various types of lists and all can have a trap. Those of the critics, he thinks, no matter how well reasoned they may be, can sometimes also be conditioned by "the poisoned friendship between critic and writer". Those that "the newspaper elaborates without signature," he says, "may be manipulated by the pressure of the editors or by the interests of the booksellers, or may favor the authors of the house." The only infallible, the critic points out, is "word of mouth", which "bets on indisputable titles, such as Ordesa or Homeland" And, in any case, they already respect the taste of readers or critics, "rather than inform, misinform" because, in any case, "are uniform." "If you need the lists is because the reader, despite the existence of literary supplements, is poorly informed. That is why they are so 'necessary' in countries with poor cultural training, as is the case in Spain. An attentive reader does not need lists ", says the critic before concluding with a maxim:" What we read: this is our list ".