The bookstore from inside: Olavide | Bar de Libros
Raquel Garzón, bookseller at Olavide | Bar de Libros: «Book clubs are having a special appeal for people. Generally reading is a solitary pleasure and what we are noticing is that people want to share what books awaken in them.»
After a pandemic and at a time when local commerce is agonizing, the illusion of opening a neighborhood bookstore and creating community around reading still continues. This was one of the motivations of Raquel Garzón and Daniel Ulanovsky when they decided, in the summer of 2022, to give life to an old bar and open a house of books. This is how Olavide | Bar de libros was born and in Publishnews we wanted to know a little more about this Madrid bookstore.
Olavide | Bar de Libros was born very recently. In a time of crisis, how do you get the impulse to find a neighborhood bookstore?
We opened in the middle of summer, on June 18. It already seemed crazy because people could be fleeing Madrid and the internal question was: «Will anyone come? But the impulse you are talking about came from the dream itself: the idea of doing something that would allow us to continue living among books (Daniel Ulanovsky, my husband, and I come from cultural and opinion journalism and we are, above all, readers). We took the plunge and got lucky. The Plaza de Olavide area has a life of its own, a microcosm that we fell in love with as soon as we found the corner, an old bar, where we located the bookstore. I believe that if you are enthusiastic about the project, it pulls you along and helps you overcome any obstacles that may arise. We are not reckless; the numbers have to be done and we have to be prudent, of course; but the neighborhood has been with us and we are very happy.
Credits: Facundo Penchervsky
You say you believe in the hunger to read, the thirst to write, and the art of conversation. Taking into account the new consumer habits and the daily coexistence with technology, how do you explain this?
We always wanted Olavide to be a meeting point and not a place to pass through; to become a bookstore of proximity for a community of readers, with all that implies. We strive to offer a place where you can choose the next book you are going to read with the advice of booksellers who share the same passion but also have a drink, meet friends, attend a presentation or a round table, talk about a movie or that series you watched in one sitting.
None of this is at odds with the daily use and work we all do use technology: at a certain time, if you can, you stop. You get off the production line and choose another rhythm and other activities. And we feel that Olavide is a good place for that. The fact that we have a small cafeteria is an additional attraction for those who visit us because it invites you to spend a pleasant time without rushing, talking, reading, or writing. Some neighbors have even come to play chess or draw while enjoying a coffee with a homemade sponge cake. All these ideas come together in the phrases you quote, as part of a secular creed, which we stamp on our website: We believe in the hunger to read, the thirst to write, and the art of conversation. Literature is our passion and our joy. Welcome reader, feel at home.
In your bookstore, you give space to workshops and activities that go beyond the sale of a book. Is there a lot of participation?
People want to participate and appreciate quality initiatives. Participation varies according to the activity. The storytelling for children that we do on Saturdays (at least once a month), led by actress María Carrera, has been very well received by young families in the neighborhood. We regularly offer rotating photography or drawing exhibitions that are visited, especially on weekends, when there is more free time. Facundo Pechervsky, Álvaro Guijarro, and La Galería Incomplete have already hung their work on our walls. We have had round tables (Patricio Pron, Juan Cruz, Antonio José Ponte), book signings (Andrea Abreu), presentations of new publications (Berta Ares Yáñez, Eduardo Berti, Federico Vicco), poetry readings (Ada Salas), talks (Margaryta Yakovenko), courses and workshops.
Credits: Facundo Penchervsky
Are we in a book club boom time?
Book clubs are having a special appeal to people. Generally reading is a solitary pleasure and what we are noticing is that people want to share what books awaken in them. Reading with others or exchanging impressions after reading brings a very enjoyable plus. Since September we have had a book club coordinated by Eva Cruz, which culminates its first stage – dedicated to reading novels about a friendship between women – before Christmas and will return in February. But due to the demand we perceive, in January, we will open another one, led by Mariana Sández, for reading short stories. Sergio Waisman has just given an intensive workshop on Borges, based on the reading and analysis of short stories from two books by the Argentine author: Ficciones and El Aleph.
Which are the best-selling titles at Olavide | Bar de Libros
They change: it is not the same as a book for vacations (the crime novel is a hit at the beach) as for a time of crisis (the story of his own that Emmanuel Carrère does in Yoga, for example, is highly recommended). Olavide | Bar de Libros is a generalist bookstore with an emphasis on fiction, essays, and poetry. But we also have well-chosen titles in children’s literature, sports, graphic novels, biographies, philosophy, photography, and a selection of paperback classics in Spanish and English. And if we don’t have the book you are looking for (space is limited), we always offer to order it if we can get it. In the five months we have been open we have sold very well the novels Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell; Una casa llena de gente, by Mariana Sández and Las inseparables, by Simone de Beauvoir, to mention just three. Agua y jabón, un ensayo sobre la elegancia involuntaria, by Marta D. Riezu was also a hit this year.
«There are books for different types of readers and every one of us can find a book that is dedicated to us and enriches our lives.»
What type of literature do your customers gravitate towards the most?
They are very restless and even sophisticated readers, but with very varied interests. There are consistent readers of poetry (Peri Rossi, Vallejo, García Montero, Lorca, William Carlos Williams, Pizarnik, Leonard Cohen, and Luna Miguel, among others). Others are looking for classics (we have sold from Plato’s Dialogues and Montaigne’s Essays to The Count of Monte Cristo and In Search of Lost Time). The graphic novel has many readers and there are, of course, current events that arouse interest: the attack on Salman Rushdie putting his books back in the shop windows; the Nobel Prize to Annie Ernaux made people start asking for his titles; the death of Javier Marías multiplied the interest in his novels, short stories and essays.
Any anecdote that is already part of the history of this bookstore?
We had been shooting for a short time and one summer afternoon a young man in his 20s came into Olavide who wanted to know the price of the biography of Maradona that we had in the window (Maradona, el pie, el rebelde, el dios, by Guillem Balagué). It is a hardcover book, with photos, expensive. He asked timidly and left. After a while, he came back gathering bills and coins. We were touched because it was obvious that he did not usually go to bookstores: he was looking for a gift for his brother. We gave him a 5% discount, which is the maximum discount that can be given on books, and he still didn’t get enough, so we made up the missing euro and change it. «Today you made a boy happy,» he thanked. It is a touching memory that summarizes for us the idea that there are books for different types of readers and that each one of us can find a book that is dedicated to us and enriches our lives.