The south seas

Manuel Vázquez Montalban quote

Manuel Vázquez Montalban quote

The Spain of the seventies is the scenario chosen by the author to show everything that may be behind a mysterious crime. Although it should be noted that the novel the south seas, by the Catalan writer Manuel Vásquez Montalbán, transcends the police genre. This is probably the most famous and most widely read of the author's detective series.

Likewise, this book published in 1979 was on the list of the hundred novels of the twentieth century of El Mundo. Not in vain, the reader finds a masterful narration framed in a police plot of impeccable achievement and built around a legendary character: detective Pepe Carvalho. That is, it is a text with all the elements of a bestselling publication.

Summary of The south seas


The appearance of a dead man in a building under construction in Barcelona triggers a private investigation to find the causes. The deceased was a businessman, Stuart Pedrell, who is supposed to have set out on a journey across the South Seas a year earlier. However, the body found in the courtyard of the work reveals something else, a note: "no one will take me south anymore."

For this reason, the widow by Pedrell decided to hire the services of private detective Pepe Carvalho. In this way, the unthinkable begins to be discovered along with the appearance of varied and enigmatic characters. Eventually, the investigator discovers that the murdered businessman had changed his name before settling in a peripheral area of ​​the Catalan metropolis.


Pepe Carvalho experiences incredible adventures while trying to solve the murder. Later, the detective discovers that Pedrell decided to abandon his lifestyle of successful businessman to go anonymous. Another important and binding revelation with the businessman's stabbing is the pregnancy of his mistress.

The backdrop is provided by the capital of Catalonia in Franco's time. At the key moment, Carvalho reveals that the deceased was actually a businessman associated with corrupt elites. of the dictatorship. In this way, a society corrupted by totalitarian power is portrayed; a context in which Pedrell and his associates enriched themselves ill-gotten.


The south seas —like all the work of the Catalan writer— reviews thorny historical events that occurred in Spain in the mid-XNUMXth century. Said review of the past is approached from a very critical and rigorous point of view with the word. Similarly, at the time the novel was published it was a delicate time in Spain, in full transition to democracy.

That situation finds the Iberian nation in the midst of a severe socioeconomic crisis. In complement, there was a lot of speculation (especially with the price of building materials) and corruption. All this is reflected in a Barcelona marked by a dangerous social stratification and because of the prevailing uncertainty.

Transcendence and legacy

The south seas It was the fourth published novel by Vázquez Montalbán whose protagonist was detective Pepe Carvalho. Shortly after launch, this title was praised by Spanish and European literary critics as a magnificent example of detective storytelling. For this reason, it is considered the most famous work of the writer born in Barcelona (in fact, he won the Planeta Prize).

This appreciation is a kind of imperishable sentence, since it remains in force until today. In the same way, the influence of the character of detective Pepe Carvalho has had an international repercussion (and durable). This is demonstrated by the following data:

  • In 1992, The south seas was adapted to the big screen under the direction of Manuel Esteban and featured a cast led by Juan Luis Galiardo, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Silvia Tortosa, among others
  • Since 2006, the Barcelona City Council has awarded the Pepe Carvalho Award to national and foreign authors with a notable trajectory in the genre of black or police novel
  • The writer Andrea Camilleri was inspired by the Detective Carvalho when he created his character of commissioner Salvo Montalbano (an Italianization of the surname of the Barcelona writer). Even within Camilleri's stories, Montalbano is described as a faithful fan of Vázquez Montalbán's police novels.

About the author: Manuel Vázquez Montalban

Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

Manuel Vázquez Montalban quote

The creator of The south seas was a writer, poet, essayist, critic and gastronome, born on June 14, 1939 in Barcelona, ​​Spain. He was an only child, he met his father —who was in prison— when he was five years old. Later, studied Philosophy and Letters at the University of Barcelona. There he met Anna Sallés, whom he married in 1961.

After his university period, Vázquez Montalbán devoted much of his life to being active in politics and the craft of journalism. He even militated in various political organizations with anti-Franco tendencies. This position contrary to the regime was also manifested in her journalistic works. Consequently, he was imprisoned and remained a prisoner for more than a year.

A very prolific and truly particular creator

Manuel Vázquez Montalbán was a man who knew how to maintain a balance between quite diverse trades. Although from very early on he was immersed in politics and journalism, later he exercised his literary vocation until his last days.. Additionally, he was a gastronome, a poet, a prologue writer, and widely recognized as a keen critic.

Towards the end of a life

The Barcelona author has earned a place in the recent history of Spanish literature as a great narrator of crime or detective novels. Most of this recognition is mainly due to the Carvalho series. However, it is quite concise to define the prolific literary production of the Catalan author solely around the aforementioned detective.

In total, under the signature of Vázquez Montalbán there are thirteen collections of poems, thirty-four novels, a dozen short stories and more than sixty essays. In addition, he was the co-author of several books and published numerous texts including anthologies, plays and radio plays. That impressive creative pace was only cut short by a sudden death (heart attack), which occurred in Bangkok on October 18, 2003.

The content of the article adheres to our principles of editorial ethics. To report an error click here.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *



  1. Responsible for the data: Miguel Ángel Gatón
  2. Purpose of the data: Control SPAM, comment management.
  3. Legitimation: Your consent
  4. Communication of the data: The data will not be communicated to third parties except by legal obligation.
  5. Data storage: Database hosted by Occentus Networks (EU)
  6. Rights: At any time you can limit, recover and delete your information.