European Union Prize for Literature

Creative EuropeEuropean and International Booksellers FederationEuropean Writers' CouncilFederation of European Publishers

Winning Authors

Raquel Martínez-Gómez, Spain

About the author:

Raquel Martínez-Gómez (1973) was born in La Mancha. She has a PhD in International Relations from the Complutense University of Madrid and an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Culture and Thought from the University of Sussex, UK.

She has published four novels: Los huecos de la memoria (The Holes of Memories), Ceniza de ombú (Ashes of Ombu), Sombras de unicornio (Shadows of the Unicorn) and Del color de la lava (The Colour of Lava).

Sombras de unicornio has been awarded with the Prizes European Union Prize for Literature, the Young Ateneo de Sevilla (2007) and has been translated into seven languages. Del color de la lava won the City of Mostoles Prize.

Currently she is living in the mountains of Madrid, where she has finished a book of short stories (Las grietas del cuerpo) and started her sixth novel. She combines her writing with her work, specializing in the field of sustainable development. Prior to this, she lived in Uruguay, United Kingdon and Mexico, and participated in university programs in Argentina and Cuba.

Publishing house:

Algaida Editores
Agent: Stefano Bisacchi
Tempi Irregolari di Stefano Bisacchi
Via Cappuccini 3
34170 Gorizia – Italy
Phone +39 0481 550624 – Mobile +39 3662344043  -

Translation deals:

Author contact:

Book awarded:

Sombras de unicornio (Shadows of the unicorn)


Claudia is a journalist who was born in Oviedo but brought up in Argentina. She returns to Spain, hoping to make a new start in life, and the first job she lands is in a Madrid cocktail bar, The Unicorn. She meets Edgar there, who is also in flight from a traumatic past and, like her, he soon realises it is impossible to start from zero, however hard you try. Claudia and Edgar dwell in an ambiguous space where imagination and desires roam, and travel between what they would like to be and what they really are. An encounter with the unicorn gives them an opportunity to find themselves, an opportunity that is no less wonderful for being unexpected. Sombras de unicornio is an invitation to come closer to yourself and take flight without ever lifting your feet off the ground.


Translated by Peter Bush

A black dune and its hazy outlines remained motionless in the centre of the city, embraced by precarious housing on one side and a residential estate on the other. Edgar often forgot it existed and when he climbed the crag of the Noas to contemplate the horizon, he preferred to imagine there was an empty void. But despite all his efforts to dodge it, the black hump suddenly reappeared when he turned a corner or decided which street to go down. His inner tension would deepen and he’d think about making his escape. For years people had been collecting samples of earth from different places, near to and far from the black dune, to check the levels of lead. That was the consequence of a long struggle waged by a number of local organisations against the municipal council’s silence and the wholesale suborning of individual consciences. But most people didn’t know what was happening and very few thought of moving. Joggers could make out the red-lettered name of the company that owned the industrial site when they tried to keep fit on the oldest residential estates. Then they returned home, shut their windows tight and told the cleaner to scrub the floor again and, after taking a bubble bath, they’d sit in the garden and read the centre pages of El Siglo, proud to perform their social duty by bringing themselves up to speed on the latest betrothals between high falutin’ families. But a few streets further down, much closer to the black dune, the newspapers were never the ones delivered that day and read in any garden; and people couldn’t boast how smart they looked in the photos. In the western districts newspaper pages stood in for doors and windows and the earth, that same earth on which they slept, was crystallising the blood of their children as the paper turned darker and darker. Grey-suited gentlemen wearing plastic gloves, sent by the firm responsible for the black dune, had once knocked on their doors in order to collect lead samples. The area was filled with cleaning machines that sucked up the earth and yellow-suited men who substituted cardboard for newspaper. That, alongside the promise of milk for sick children, was enough to quieten the unrest. The same dust impregnated everything within a fortnight. The youngest children, unaware of the danger they ran, built toys in their imaginations they would never own on that poisoned land. The protests resumed and the consultants for the black dune, that was also the country’s largest metal processing plant, argued they had got there first, that the poor were squatting on municipal land. The name of the company’s owner, who lived a thousand kilometres away, appeared every year in the magazine that published the list of the richest men on the planet. The legend of the black dune kept expanding over the patina of silences.

More info on the author with excerpt in o.v. and EN or FR (PDF)

Rave Media Reviews:

The novel is like a kick in your stomach. Even the poetic language, that is occasionally chosen by Raquel Martínez, does not stop the story taking our breath away, page by page.

The book is a search for the meaning of life even at the cost of constantly reinventing oneself and starting from scratch. (…) A very rich prose, full of reminiscences of some Latin-Americans authors and with a well plotted, intelligent and attractive argument. Francesc Parcerisas,  Associació d'Escriptors en Llengua Catalana (AELC)

Other Works:


ISBN - 978-84-96000-02-5
editorial: A LA LUZ DEL CANDIL
año de edición: 2003
formato: RÚSTICA
páginas: 160
Translation deal: Macedonia: Ars Lamina d.o.o.

Los huecos de la memoria (The Hollow of Memory), Editorial Universidad Veracruzana

Is it possible to go back in time and communicate with someone from a different time period? Fabiola works for a publisher, discarding out-of-print books. She comes across the work of Manuela, who also lived in Madrid, but fifty years previously. Manuela´s words motivate her to go on a journey through a personal minefield to liberate herself and become more free. Fabiola is changed by the power of Manuela´s writing. She follows in Manuela´s footsteps, exploring the concept of creation and destruction. Emotionally damaged by broken relationships, Manuela is unable to leave a country that, since the Franco regime feels like a prison to her. Fabiola is determined to break down barriers, which have as many similarities as differences to those of Manuela.

More information

Ceniza de ombú (Ashes of Ombu)

The ombú is a fibrous tree that regenerates its branches when one falls down. It becomes in a metaphor of lightness and fragility for everything we believe firmly rooted and established: savage capitalism, religious-cultural fundamentalism, a patriarchal society and the exploitation of the earth´s natural resources. These four convictions (or curses) of our time appear as a backdrop to the novel. If the title refers to ashes it is because it points to a desire that is also a possibility.

From the point of view of the main characters, Helena, Ramón, Nabila and Cees, the world becomes a big ship that´s gone adrift and needs profund changes. They represent the resistance to a model of an inhuman development, which leaves many people excluded and left in the lurch. Their universes interweave while they work to denounce the limitations of speech and the survival of fundamentalism. Inevitably, in some way, they also take part of the stagnation in which the four courses are rooted.

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Awards Received: