Top 10 modern Nordic books | Books

With the cold wave of Nordic literature crashing on UK shores over recent years and Danish, Swedish, Greenlandic, Finnish, Norwegian and Icelandic authors coming to the Southbank Centre in London this month for talks and readings, I am glad to suggest 10 books for those who want to prepare themselves.

Some of the authors I choose here will be appearing at the Southbank Centre and some are featured in the anthology that I have edited with Ted Hodgkinson, The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat and Other Stories from the North. Others are to be found at all hours of day and night in their books.

Never in history have so many diverse books from the north been translated, and in the last five years in the UK and the USA the list has been growing. This can be seen in the success of contemporary authors such as Karl Ove Knausgaard and Sofi Oksanen, of crime novelists such as Arnaldur Indriðason and Henning Mankell. And then we have the old guard: Strindberg, Ibsen, Hamsun, Lagerlöf, Blixen/Dinesen and the Sagas, to provide us with an impeccable pedigree.

While working on the the anthology, I was more than ever convinced that the literatures of the region have more in common that not. The dry wit, the willingness to dwell in melancholia and look at the world through its blue-tinted glasses, the social criticism that comes with bringing to light the stories of the marginalised, the exploration of style and form as integral part of diving into any given theme, the deep-felt belief in literature’s role in keeping our societies humane.

The books I’ve chosen here have all been recently published in English or are about to be. There should be something here for every boreal-minded reader to cherish in the coming winter.

1. Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson (translated by Lytton Smith)
Bergsson is the grand old man of Icelandic literature and this is the novel every Icelandic author must love and resist. Written in 1966, when biographies of turn-of-the-century greats were dominating the bestseller lists in Iceland, the novel pretends to be the autobiographical musings of its ageing protagonist. Having nothing to his name but the fact that he is descended from Vikings, and the small flat where he lives in one room, renting the rest out to lodgers, Tómas does his best to prove worthy of a book of his own. Only recently translated into English, it is a fabulous feast of wilting light, with a whiff of Beckett’s Unnamable’s underpants.

2. Novel 11, Book 18 by Dag Solstad (translated by Sverre Lyngstad)
If there is a motto to the books I have read by Solstad, it is: “We are born to embarrass ourselves before our destruction.” Here we follow the slow but sure decline of one Bjørn Hansen who leaves his wife and infant son for life in a small town where he becomes involved in amateur theatre, with all its petty in-fighting and jealousy. When his son turns up 18 years later, things take a darker turn.

3. The Endless Summer by Madame Nielsen (translated by Gaye Kynoch)
At once the foremost stylist of contemporary Danish literature and the most provocative one, Nielsen shocked readers with the sudden beauty and tenderness of this novel. The reader is swept away by the flow of the narrative, the warmth and wit of a storyteller who presents modern tales of destiny with a fearless presentation of the bittersweet melancholy of existence.

4. Not Before Sundown by Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Herbert Lomas)
This is a beautifully constructed fable for our times, where Sinisalo addresses humanity’s changing relationship with nature. So, if you have been waiting to discover a novel about a young and lovesick photographer named Angel who finds and takes in a catlike, feral troll kid, this is your book. But it is far from whimsical, and a subplot about a Filipino mail-order bride kept locked up in one of the flats of Angel’s building poses questions about our human to human relationships as well.

Tomas Tranströmer.



Speaking to all times … Tomas Tranströmer. Photograph: Scanpix Sweden/Reuters

5. New Collected Poems by Tomas Tranströmer (translated by Robin Fulton)
A collective cheer could be heard from the north when this Swedish poet was awarded the Nobel prize in 2011. He was the first Nordic laureate in decades and the one we all hoped for. His poems are never sentimental but always full of emotion, never sweet but always beautiful — always rich in images while appearing minimal, always of their time while speaking to all times and the people at their mercy.

6. Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen (translated by Anna Halager)
Korneliussen’s novel tells the story of a group of friends living in modern-day Nuuk, Greenland’s capital city of 18,000 inhabitants. Like young people anywhere, they are grappling with coming of age in world they never made, discovering their sexual identities and futures. Told in emails, messages, journals, short stories, it transports us to a cold homeland where the blood runs hot.

7. Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors (translated by Misha Hoekstra)
Nors’s minimalist, experimental stories read as if they were thorough reports on the complexity behind the everyday situations men and especially women find themselves in. She is a master of the undercurrent, and the simplicity of her sentences makes them magnets for the reader’s own contribution to the reading experience. We can’t help mirroring ourselves in the characters, matching our own attempts at making sense of what has brought us to the moment of truth in similar situations.

8. The Tower at the Edge of the World by William Heinesen (translated by W Glyn Jones)
Heinesen is the last of the 20th-century masters of Nordic letters still to be discovered by a global readership. A match with Iceland’s Halldór Laxness, Denmark’s Karen Blixen and Norway’s Knut Hamsun, he was the one who wrote from the smallest of the northern worlds, the tiny community of Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands. I use every opportunity I get to bang the drum for his books. Now his poetic evocation of life on an island that to the vast ocean is “just about the same as a grain of sand to the floor of a dance hall” is being published in a new English translation. I hope some readers of these words will follow him there.

9. The Gravity of Love by Sara Stridsberg (translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner)
This novel’s protagonist is the daughter of a suicidal alcoholic living in a deteriorating mental hospital. If one believes, as I do, that investigating the harshest things in life through the literary use of language – where vulnerability and cruelty, confusion and determination, are described with equal precision – is one of our main tools to keep ourselves grounded and humane, then Stridsberg’s story is vital reading.

10. Inside Voices, Outside Light by Sigurður Pálsson (translated by Martin Regal)
Inspired by the dark surrealism of the Atom Poets – the group of modernists who broke Icelandic literature out of the confines of tradition in the years after the second world war – Pálsson’s poetic world is at once highly lyrical and playful. Everyday life inspires contemplations of the tragic optimism of the human being; for at the core of man’s many balancing acts – dancing, slapstick routines, staying in love, keeping the head high – there is always the threat of destruction, and the only antidote to our awareness of our fatality is poetry as it was practised by Pálsson.

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Robert Langdon in Catalonia: Dan Brown’s Origin picks bad day to launch | Books

A Dan Brown launch usually goes like this: critics sneer a bit, the media swarms to a rare author appearance (he is known for only occasionally deigning to meet press), readers buy the book in their millions, and the cities he’s chosen to set the Indiana Jones-style adventures of his protagonist, symbology professor Robert Langdon, subsequently see an influx of conspiracy-keen tourists. It will be interesting to see if this pattern is repeated with his latest book Origin, which is entirely set in Spain, its publication coinciding with the full-on crisis that has followed the Catalan referendum and the police violence that tried to repress it.

Origin, the fifth book following Langdon running around the world in his repeatedly described “collegiate cordovan loafers”, is set in Spain, starting in Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum, then moving to Barcelona’s Sagrada Família and Madrid’s Royal Palace.

Brown himself is set to visit Barcelona on 17 October – but with the Catalan president set to present his post-referendum plans to parliament on Tuesday, and potentially declare independence, local readers may have more pressing concerns.

“The book will probably climb straight to the top of the bestseller lists,” says Jordi Nopca, critic and literary editor for Catalan newspaper Ara. “But the uncertainty the city is living these days […] has made the news of this novel pretty much go unnoticed in Catalonia.”

Tourists famously flocked to the locations in France, the UK and Italy mentioned in previous books. In France, most notably, staff at the Louvre have grown fed up with tourists asking to be pointed towards the room where a curator was found dead, naked and with a star drawn on his chest, as depicted in the first scene of The Da Vinci Code. The Lost Symbol, centred on freemasons in Washington DC and a conspiracy that could be somehow traced in many of the city’s architectural structures. All of which annoyed the real freemasons, who were preemptively annoyed at the imagined flood of visits they would have to endure, with tourists hunting for the secret ancient portal supposedly hidden by the Founding Fathers in the Capitol (and like the Louvre’s dead curator, placed there by Brown).

In Catalonia, Brown’s sales will almost certainly be fine – but, despite Barcelona’s tourist machine remaining pretty indifferent to the political climate, it’s possible that the city will receive the book with a shrug at best, as politics fills the horizon.

For comparison, Nopca saw firsthand the excitement around Brown’s previous book Inferno, the launch of which he attended in Madrid. “Four years ago, the launch of Inferno gathered more than 150 journalists at Madrid’s National Library. The buzz was huge, and Planeta printed 1m copies of the novel’s first edition. The print run for Origin is – despite still being an impactful figure – much inferior: 600,000 copies.” At least Sagrada Família staff can probably be relaxed about Origin-related questions, for now.

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Women-only music festival in Sweden to go ahead after crowdfunding campaign | Music

Sweden will host a women-only music festival in the summer of 2018, after a successful crowdfunding campaign raised more than 500,000 Swedish krona (£47,000) for the venture, from 3,300 people.

Statement festival, which forbids cis men, comes in the wake of a series of sexual assaults at Swedish music festivals such as Bråvalla and Putte I Parken. There were four rapes and 23 sexual assaults at this year’s edition of Bråvalla, leading the event to be cancelled next year.

The organisers of Statement have railed against “year after year” of unsafe events for women. In their plea for crowdfunding, they wrote: “Help us to create a safe space for the people who want to attend a festival without feeling scared for their personal safety.”

Statement will allow cis women, trans women and those who identify as non-binary to attend. An update on the project’s Kickstarter page said the crowdfunding revenue would secure an as yet undisclosed venue for the festival.

The festival is being organised by Swedish comedian Emma Knyckare, who originally wrote on Twitter following the Bråvalla attacks: “What do you think about putting together a really cool festival where only non-men are welcome that we’ll run until ALL men have learned how to behave themselves?”

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Colm Tóibín: ‘Catalonia is a region in the process of reimagining itself’ | Books

In September 2015 as Catalonia faced elections in which the question of independence was at the top of the agenda, the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy held a press conference with Angela Merkel, at which the German chancellor made clear her opposition to Catalan independence and her support for Rajoy.

While in Berlin and Madrid this might have seemed like a good idea, in Catalonia, a region in the process of reimagining itself and thus deeply involved in the legacy of its own oppression, it was deemed ill judged and unfortunate. And even though the comparisons are unfair and unfounded, it escaped nobody in Catalonia that the last time a German chancellor had sided with a rightwing Spanish politician against the Catalans was when Franco was seeking to win the Spanish civil war.

As I write this, the Spanish attorney general, José Manuel Maza, has refused to rule out the possibility of arresting Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalan government, who is organising the 1 October referendum on Catalan independence. While, once more, this might seem a good way for the Madrid government to establish its credentials with the rest of Spain, it merely reminds Catalans of the arrest of the Catalan president Lluís Companys in 1934, when he had declared a Catalan state, and his second arrest by the Nazis in 1940 and his subsequent torture and execution at the hands of Franco.

In threating Puigdemont and arresting Catalan politicians and sending the Guardia Civil into the streets of Barcelona last week, the Madrid government is driving a further wedge between Spanish centralism and Catalan separatism and increasing the long-held sense of grievance in Catalonia.

In any normal situation, Puigdemont would be a gift to Europe. He is a pragmatist, a centre-right politician, close in ideology to Emmanuel Macron and Merkel. His party has traditionally been pro-Europe, pro-business. Across from Puigdemont’s seat of power in Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona, in the town hall Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, is a popular and committed leftwing politician, also part of the European political mainstream.

Since both are known to be calm, thoughtful, rational democrats, and since both are vehemently in favour of holding the referendum, as indeed are more than 70% of the Catalan electorate, it might seem difficult to fathom the strategy of the Madrid government as it seeks to demonise all those who support the referendum.

Ada Colau and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont.



Ada Colau and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont. Photograph: Quique Garcia/EPA

Madrid is not itself prepared to make a detailed case against the vote being held, but rather is insisting that it is illegal, as though the law were something that could not be changed.

It is curious also that Madrid politicians have not been travelling the length and breadth of Catalonia – as, say, Gordon Brown did in Scotland in the runup to the independence referendum there – to make the argument against the referendum and against Catalan independence.

Why have these politicians stayed in Madrid? Why did we not hear from them on the independence question in Catalonia this summer? Why have they offered coercion rather than argument?

One reason is the work of a woman named Aina Moll, who was born in Menorca in 1930. A philologist, she was director-general of linguistic policy for the Catalan government between 1980 and 1988. She worked with Miquel Strubell, who had studied linguistic psychology and bilingualism, and who from 1980 was head of what was known as linguistic normalisation in Catalonia. With their team, they became convinced that the only way Catalan as a language would survive was total normalisation and immersion. Unlike Irish, for example, Catalan was not associated with poverty. It was spoken by middle-class urban people as much as in the villages and in the foothills of the Pyrenees. In the years between 1939 and 1975, however, the use of Catalan in public was banned by Franco. In those years it became a private, family language.

This began to change in the 1980s, with Catalan radio and television, with the publication of a daily newspaper in the language. Many books were translated, and lessons in schools and lectures in universities were given in Catalan. Slowly, it became possible to live and work in Catalonia without having to bother too much about Spanish.

When I interviewed Moll in 1980 I noted her determination and almost scientific approach to restoring the full and extensive and, if possible, exclusive use of Catalan in the public realm. The project was to make it the first language of Catalonia. Spanish would be there too – all Catalans are bilingual – but it would essentially have a secondary role.


The Catalan fight for independence explained – video

One day in the mid-1980s, when I was having lunch in a Barcelona restaurant with one of her advisers, he asked for the menu in Catalan to be told that it was only in Spanish. He smiled, and said to me that the restaurant would get a warning within a week and would be threatened with closure within a month unless it printed a menu in Catalan.

In 1988, as I came out of mass in the monastery at Montserrat, to the north of Barcelona, I met a couple from Madrid who were fuming. The mass had been celebrated in Catalan. Since this was a popular place of worship, they said, why could mass not be in Spanish so that everyone could understand?

Such rage against Catalonia became common. The bar-room version is that Catalans are clannish, mean with money, and filled with nationalist bigotry and effrontery. The Catalans, in turn, have a horror of bullfighting and view people from Madrid as less than hard working. They also take the view that they are paying more money into the central coffers than they are getting back, and that there is a policy in Madrid to undermine Catalonia as an industrial and financial powerhouse.

But there is also the numinous question of identity and emotion around nationality. Many Catalans do not “feel” Spanish. They have spent the years since the death of Franco recreating their country, taking what power they can and using it to consolidate the idea of Catalonia as a place as worthy to be a state as any other European country.

The success of the policy on language is the main reason why Spanish politicians have not been visiting towns and villages in Catalonia, and not speaking on radio or TV to make the case against the referendum. Catalonia, for them, has become terra incognita. If Rajoy or his attorney general were to visit the heartland, they would find that no one had heard a political discussion in the Spanish language before, and they would notice also a strangeness, a sense that they themselves were in a foreign country.

The argument Catalans make is simple: why should the right to be a state not extend to them if the majority of them should wish to be no longer part of Spain?

Unlike Northern Ireland and the Basque country, Catalonians have sought to win the argument using constitutional methods. They have not resorted to violence. Thus the arrival of the Guardia Civil in Barcelona last week, the arrest of politicians and the threat of further coercion from the Spanish state seem disproportionate. Instead of frightening people, however, it has steeled their will. Instead of weakening Puigdemont, it has strengthened his position.

Although the polls say the independence side would not win a referendum, the Catalans, watching Brexit, have seen how easy it is for polls to be wrong, especially on voting intentions. One connection between the situation in Britain and Catalonia is that just as David Cameron felt impelled to call a referendum because of forces within his own party and to his right that were against Europe, Puigdemont is sharing power with parties who are even more fervent and militant than he is on the subject of Catalan independence.

Were he to stand down on this issue, Puigdemont knows how easily he and his party would be marginalised.

If he is prevented from holding the referendum, and if the scenes of coercion thus created are graphic, it will serve to reinforce the idea in Catalonia that the only future the region has is as a fully independent state. Indeed, the more Madrid gets to know Catalonia, courtesy of this stand-off, the more it will come to realise that, in many ways, Catalonia is already quite independent and separate from it, and more different as each year goes by.

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Anti-Trump campaigners launch Last Night in Sweden – in pictures | World news

Conceived as a rebuttal to Donald Trump’s false claims about terror attacks in Sweden in February this year, Last Night in Sweden features leading Swedish photographers depicting the country as it really is, warts and all. Published by Max Ström, the first copy will be presented to President Trump and it will then be sent to all members of the US Congress and European parliament

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Patterns of Barcelona: photographer captures symmetry of city facades – in pictures | Cities

Barcelona is known for its iconic landmarks, but Roc Isern turns his camera to buildings others may tend to look past.

Isern is a technical architect and photographer based in the Catalan capital. Since 2014, he has been capturing the facades of Barcelona’s buildings for tens of thousands of followers on Instagram at @barcelonafacades.

Cropped to exclude context, the minimalist imagery presents the different textures and patterns of the city’s architecture.

“I’m interested in geometrical shapes, patterns, colours and shadows, and obsessed with symmetries and perspective,” he says.

He believes Barcelona’s different districts offer a varied urban style and an “inexhaustible source of possibilities”, allowing him to discover new areas through photography.

Isern is a self-taught photographer and says there has been a learning curve in creating a visual style. “I’ve always loved the straight facade shots, but when I started on Instagram I wasn’t sufficiently dominating the technique to take and edit good photos.”

The trick lies in taking the photo as perpendicular as possible to the building’s facade, and making sure the frame is free of obstacles such as cables, trees and street lights.

“The most visible and accessible part of the architecture are the facades, and if they are shown through photography with sensitivity and good taste, they offer a great reward,” he says.

A selection of our favourite images are below.

Guardian Cities brings together the best in urban photography on Instagram at @guardiancities. Tag your best shots with #guardiancities and we’ll feature our favourites on the account.

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Salvador Dalí’s ‘daughter’ unrelated to him, DNA tests show | World news

DNA evidence taken from the recently exhumed body of Salvador Dalí has shown that he is not the father of a woman who had claimed to be the only child and heir of the eccentric surrealist.

Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old tarot card reader and fortune teller from Girona, has spent the past 10 years trying to prove that she is the fruit of a liaison between her mother and Dalí in 1955.

In June, a court in Madrid ordered the artist’s body to be exhumed after previous attempts to determine paternity had failed. A month later, experts entered the crypt beneath the museum Dalí designed for himself in his home town of Figueres, Catalonia, to take DNA samples from his hair, nails and bones.

However, on Wednesday, the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which controls the artist’s lucrative estate – and which had opposed the exhumation – said analysis of the remains had shown that he was not related to Abel.

The foundation said a report submitted to the court by the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences had established that Dalí was not her biological father.

“This conclusion comes as no surprise to the foundation, since at no time has there been any evidence of the veracity of an alleged paternity,” it said in a statement. “The foundation is pleased that this report puts an end to an absurd and artificial controversy, and that the figure of Salvador Dalí remains definitively excluded from totally groundless claims.”

It said the DNA samples would be returned shortly, adding: “The Dalí Foundation is also pleased to be able to focus again on the management of its extraordinary artistic legacy and in the promotion of the work and figure of Salvador Dalí.”

Abel told the Spanish newspaper El País that neither she nor her lawyers had yet received the results of the tests. “Until I’ve got official word, they can say what they like,” she said. “I’m not hiding away and no matter what the result is, positive, negative or invalid, I’ll give a press conference to all the media to explain the result.”

She added: “If it comes out negative, I’ll still be la Pilar.”

Abel had claimed that the resemblance between her and the artist was so marked that “the only thing I’m missing is a moustache”, adding that she had first learned of her supposed parentage from the woman she thought was her paternal grandmother.

Abel claims she told her: “I know you aren’t my son’s daughter and that you are the daughter of a great painter, but I love you all the same.” She also noted that her granddaughter was “odd, just like your father”.

Ten years ago, Abel was granted permission to try to extract DNA from skin, hair and hair traces found clinging to Dalí’s death mask. The results proved inconclusive.

A second attempt to retrieve samples followed later that year using material supplied by the artist’s friend and biographer Robert Descharnes.

Although Abel has claimed she never received the results of the second test, Descharnes’ son Nicholas told the Spanish news agency Efe in 2008 that he had learned from the doctor who conducted the tests that they were negative.

Had the DNA evidence supported her claim, Abel would have been heir to a quarter of Dalí’s fortune, which he bequeathed to the Spanish state and the foundation that bears his name and that of his wife and muse, Gala.

The latest twist in the extraordinary saga in the life and death of the surrealist had made headlines around the world – as had the fact that Dalí’s trademark moustache had survived the Grim Reaper’s scything.

Narcís Bardalet, the embalmer who prepared Dalí’s body after his death in 1989 and helped with the exhumation, said he had been thrilled and touched to see the surrealist’s best-known feature once again.

“His moustache is still intact, [like clock hands at] 10 past 10, just as he liked it. It’s a miracle,” he told the Catalan radio station RAC1.

“His face was covered with a silk handkerchief – a magnificent handkerchief … When it was removed, I was delighted to see his moustache was intact … I was quite moved. You could also see his hair.”

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Parasite architecture: inside the self-built studio hanging under a bridge in Valencia | Cities

Far from the madding crowds of Valencia in eastern Spain, Fernando Abellanas is enjoying the solitude of his unique new studio. But it’s not the airy, light-filled glass and white walls affair you might expect for an architect: it’s a purpose-built desk space that hangs in the underbelly of a major city overpass.

On one “wall” – the concrete pillar that supports the highway above – a detachable structure of plywood boards and metal tubes serve as a desk, chair and shelves. Using the bridge’s beams as rails, Abellanas’ structure can slide on rollers from one side to the other.

Fernando Abellanas and his self-built workplace, built directly in the underbelly of an overpass.



The studio hidden under the bridge

It’s an example of what is becoming known as parasite architecture – buildings that cling, perch or sprout from others. The studio took Abellanas, a furniture designer and plumber, just two weeks to build after he discovered the space. He was drawn to its strange mix of materials and location. “Despite being next to trains and with traffic above, it’s a place no one stops to look up at,” he says.

Parasite architecture is a growing trend and ranges from planned projects, such as residential wooden pots installed on Toronto’s CN tower, to makeshift structures – such as Tadashi Kawamata’s artistic tree houses, which he scatters everywhere from New York parks to the Paris Pompidou centre, or the entire illegal “villa” one man built on top of a Beijing condo over the course of six years.

Abellanas, a product and furniture designer, constructed the studio in two weeks.



Abellanas built the studio in two weeks

Abellanas says he wasn’t looking for “a feeling of total silence or peace, but rather that sensation you get as a kid of being able to sit and peek at what’s happening around you without being seen – be it in a cabin or a cardboard box in your own house”.

The new phenomenon is partly due to how difficult it has become for many architects to realise their designs for public buildings, explains Ellis Woodman, director of the Architecture Foundation. This has lead to a rise in low-cost, short-term projects, many of which seek to engage local communities in new ways. Woodman gives the example of the boat above the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank, and the Blue House Yard in north London’s Wood Green, a work and community space on the site of a car park and defunct council building.

The foundation has created its own parasite, the Antepavillion, a rooftop project above an east London building for which it plans to commission a young architect each year. For 2017, an air duct-shaped structure has been built by PUP Architects as a provocation for local councils to re-think urban planning in the area.

The studio hangs on two rods beneath the bridge.



The studio hangs on rods and rollers, and can slide from one end of the overpass to the other

In many cases, pop-ups – such as restaurants, temporary stores and artistic projects – and parasites are much the same thing, but while a pop-up might be a temporary standalone structure, a parasite is often a longer-term intervention in the urban landscape.

Meanwhile, Abellanas says he is self-taught and favours a DIY approach to urban intervention. One of his previous projects involved riding train tracks that were built but never used (the recession killed the state project) in a rudimentary self-built car. In another, he climbed a €24m disused tower block in the vein of skyscraper “roofers”.

Abellanas in his studio.



The studio is an example of parasite architecture

Abellanas sees his project as part of a series looking at Valencia’s disused spaces, and despite the obvious opportunity for social commentary, he says he’s not trying to make a statement about the lack of affordable space in the city.

Rents in Spain have grown by 20.9% in the last year, according to housing site Idealista, but thanks to Abellanas’ own ingenuity – and his willingness to work under a busy bridge – he has his own workspace and home.

City authorities are yet to react. “I think they haven’t discovered it yet,” Abellanas says. When they do, he assumes they’ll order him to dismantle it – or that someone will break it or steal its materials. “It’s surviving a lot longer than I thought,” he says. “It’s really well hidden.”

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Second arrest after Rotterdam gig cancelled over terrorism tip-off | World news

A second man has been arrested as Dutch police investigate a terrorism threat that led to the cancellation of a concert in Rotterdam on Wednesday.

The concert by the US rock band Allah-Las was called off after Spanish authorities warned of a possible plot targeting the venue.

Dutch police confirmed they had arrested a 22-year-old man in the early hours of Thursday. “He is in custody and will be questioned about the threat in Rotterdam,” police said, adding that a thorough search of his home had been conducted. The man was detained in Brabant, a province to the south of Rotterdam, but it was not known where he was being held.

But the driver of a Spanish-registered white van carrying gas canisters who was arrested on Wednesday night may not be a suspect.

The van driver, a repairman, had been driving close to the Maassilo concert venue where the band had been due to perform. Police said he was possibly drunk and would be questioned further on Thursday.

Explosives experts checked his van and found nothing suspicious beyond the gas canisters. A search of the man’s home “uncovered no link with the terror threat … at the Maassilo”, police said. “The man, a repair man, had an explanation for the gas canisters that will be investigated today.”

Spanish authorities had already said it was unlikely there was any connection between the van and the attacks that killed 15 people in Barcelona and Cambrils last week.

The terrorist cell in Spain had been plotting attacks on a much larger scale, one suspect told a court, as more details emerged of the bomb factory in Catalonia where the group had been making explosives and suicide vests, before an explosion caused them to change plans.

Spanish counter-terrorism police received “an alert indicating the possibility of an attack [on Wednesday] in a concert that was going to take place in Rotterdam”.

The venue, a former grain silo, was evacuated before the event began, with organisers citing an “unspecified threat”.

Dutch television showed officers in body armour outside Maassilo and what appeared to be members of the band leaving the venue in a white van with a police escort. By midnight, the area was calm and police had lifted the cordon, Dutch television station NOS reported.

Mexican Summer, the Allah-Las’ label, said: “The band is unharmed and are very grateful to the Rotterdam police and other responsible agencies for detecting the potential threat before anyone was hurt.”

In an interview with the Guardian last year, band members said they had chosen the word Allah, Arabic for God, because they were seeking a “holy sounding” name and had not realised it might cause offence.

“We get emails from Muslims, here in the US and around the world, saying they’re offended, but that absolutely wasn’t our intention,” said the lead singer, Miles Michaud. “We email back and explain why we chose the name and mainly they understand.”

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