"The Salon of Exiled Artists in California" is a biography of Salka Viertel, a Jewish actress who emigrated to Hollywood and was popularly known as the screenwriter of the Swedish actress Greta Garbo. Besides, she had a salon in Santa Monica, California, which was attended by a large part of the European intelligentsia in exile. Salka was a very modern and interesting woman for her time who should be recognized as such. The book deals with topics such as Salka Viertel's alleged bisexuality and the number of friends she had, to name but a few: Albert Einstein, Charles Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, F. W. Murnau, Max Reinhardt, Arnold Schönberg, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Greta Garbo, Montgomery Clift... Also, like Gertrude Stein and other notorious women, she had her literary salon through which writers like Truman Capote, Christopher Isherwood, Gore Vidal and many other writers passed. Other themes she covers are the Berlin of the 1920s; the transition from silent to spoken film, as seen from the Mecca of Hollywood. Then, the rise of Hitler and what it meant for the Jewish condition; the exile of those intellectuals who could not return to their respective countries because of the Second World War. Later, the Cold War and the witch-hunt against communism. The truth is that the background to the life of Salka Viertel and her circle of friends encompasses the great events of the 20th century.
With this project, the author was awarded the Shanghai Writing Program (China, 2016) and the Baltic Centre (Sweden, 2017) residency grants. Originally written in Spanish “El salón de los artistas exiliados en California” ("The Salon of Exiled Artistas in California", 2020) is the result of three years of research and her most recent work.
★ "A very interesting story and I think even in these very current times since in my eyes we have not made much progress on the issue of acceptance of 'interpersonal feelings' in general. A great and extremely interesting book about Hollywood in the thirties and forties about the influence of artists from European countries such as Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, England, Ukraine and others. An extensive and high-quality research project resulting in an in-depth account of many well-known and famous personalities and their interpersonal relationships." —Joannes W. M. Groenewege, Translator
★ "Even though Salka Viertel was such a pivotal figure in the exile community very little has been written about her, so Núria Añó's book is a corrective, and she fills in many of the gaps of ‘The Kindness of Strangers’" —Dialog International
INTERVIEW with author Núria Añó on Salka Viertel (Oct 2016)
Q: You are currently working on a biography of Salka Viertel. Tell us what it is about this actress and screenwriter that drew you to write her biography?
A: As I learned about Salka Viertel, I saw just how fascinating a woman she was. In the 1930s, she was well known as a specialist on scripts for Greta Garbo, but she is much more than that. In exile in California she created a salon that welcomed many prominent European artists, composers, film and theater directors, actors, physicians and writers who emigrated to the US, fleeing Nazism. Her house was a shelter for intellectuals, and this is what attracted me. And I love cinema and classic films, and appreciate other women's lives.
Q: Do you consider Salka Viertel an antihero?
A: Yes, as a Jewish woman in exile in the 1930s, she is an antihero. In Europe, she was an actress who had to leave her work and dreams. When her husband's contract expired, she had to learn English and support him and the family for many years. Her work as a screenwriter was closely associated with Swedish actress Greta Garbo, so much so that when Garbo retired from the silver screen, it meant the end for Salka Viertel as well.
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About the Author
Núria Añó (Lleida, 1973) is a Catalan/Spanish writer, a translator and a regular speaker at conferences and symposia, where she gives papers on literary creation, films, cities or authors like Elfriede Jelinek, Patricia Highsmith, Salka Viertel, Karen Blixen, Alexandre Dumas or Franz Werfel at University of Lleida (UdL), Tunis University, University of Jaén (UJA), International University of Andalucía (UNIA), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC-Madrid), Sysmän Kirjasto Library in Finland, Shanghai Writers' Association (SWA), Fudan University in China, East China Normal University, Sinan Mansion, Instituto Cervantes in Shanghai, Conrad Festival in Poland, Massolit Books, Baza or Instituto Cervantes in Krakow, also in libraries, secondary schools or in higher education. She also acts as a juror for international competitions.
Her first story was published in 1990. Other short stories and essays were published in anthologies such as Dones i literatura a Lleida (1997); VIII Concurs de Narrativa Literària Mercè Rodoreda (1997); Estrenes (2005); Escata de drac (2012); Des lettres et des femmes... La femme face aux défis de l'histoire (2013); Fábula (2013); Grief (2014); Resonancias (2014); Les romancières sentimentales: nouvelles approches, nouvelles perspectives (2014); Letralia, Year XXI (2016); Cien años del Genocidio Armenio: Un siglo de silencio (2016); Revista Narrativas, no. 43 (2016); L'art de l'adaptation: féminité et roman populaire (University of Lleida, 2016); April Issue, Nebula (2017); Cine y Literatura. 21 años de Letralia (2017); The Mother Tongue in a Foreign Land (Shanghai Writers' Association, 2017); Domuzime, no. 4 (2017); Revista Literaria Visor, no. 12 (2018); Exilios y otros desarraigos (Editorial Letralia, 2018); China Life magazine, no. 151 (2018); Shanghai Get-Together (2018); Mémoires et écrits de femmes: La création féminine revisitée (2019) and in Agapè. De l'amour dans le patrimoine littéraire (2019) and in Diccionari literari (2019).
Her novel" Els nens de l'Elisa" was third among the finalists for the 24th Ramon Llull Prize for Catalan Literature and was published in 2006. "L'escriptora morta" [The Dead Writer, 2020], in 2008; "Núvols baixos" [Lowering Clouds, 2020], in 2009, and "La mirada del fill", in 2012. Her most recent work "El salón de los artistas exiliados en California" [The Salon of Exiled Artists in California, 2020] is a biography of screenwriter Salka Viertel, a Jewish salonnière and well-known in Hollywood in the thirties as a specialist on Greta Garbo scripts.
Some of her novels, short stories and articles are translated into Spanish, French, English, Italian, German, Polish, Chinese, Latvian, Portuguese, Dutch and Greek.
Her writing focus on the characters' psychology, generally antiheroes. The characters are the most important in her books, much more than the topic, due to "an introspection, a reflection, not sentimental, but feminine". Her novels cover a multitude of topics, treat actual and socially relevant problems such as injustices or poor communication between people and frequently, the core of her stories remains unexplained. Añó asks the reader to discover the "deeper meaning" and to become involved in the events presented.
Literary Prizes/ Awards:
2020. Awarded at International Writing Program in China.
2019. Awarded at International Writer's and Translators' House in Latvia.
2018. Fourth prize of the 5th Shanghai Get-together Writing Contest.
2018. Selected for a literary residence in Krakow UNESCO City of Literature, Poland.
2017. Awarded at the International Writers' and Translators' Center of Rhodes in Greece.
2017. Awarded at the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators in Sweden.
2016. Awarded at the Shanghai Writing Program, hosted by the Shanghai Writer's Association.
2016. Awarded by the Culture Association Nuoren Voiman Liitto to be a resident at Villa Sarkia in Finland.
2004. Third among the finalists for the 24th Ramon Llull Prize for Catalan Literature.
1997. Finalist for the 8th Mercè Rodoreda Prize for Catalan Short Stories.
1996. Awarded the 18th City of Almenara Joan Fuster Prize for Fiction.