FEW people in the English-speaking world have heard of her but the quiet, unassuming Corin Tellado was the biggest selling novelist of the 20th century.

In her 63-year writing career she completed more than 4,000 novels, making her a colossus of Spanish fiction, yet, despite being a huge hit in Spain and Latin America, her novels have never been translated into English.

That’s about to change this month when the first professional English translation of one of her novels is published.

Tellado has been described as Spain’s answer to romantic novelist Barbara Cartland but she was much more prolific. Cartland’s 723 books are dwarfed by the number Tellado produced which have sold more than 400 million copies.

In common with Cartland, Tellado’s reputation has suffered from intellectual snobbery. Her defenders claim her books are far from worthless, however.

These tales of romance prompted Unesco in 1962 to name her, along with Cervantes, as the most-read Spanish author, while respected author Mario Vargas Llosa says she is “in all likelihood, the most significant sociocultural phenomenon in the Spanish language since the Golden Age”.


LLOSA has written the prologue to the first book to be translated into English, Thursdays with Leila.

He met Tellado, who died in 2009, in the 1980s and said she was “completely unaware of the tremendous popularity she enjoyed in the media and popular imagination of over 20 Spanish-speaking countries”.

In the prologue, he states: “What might ostensibly appear to be heresy – and from a qualitative perspective it is – ceases to be so if we begin to view things in quantitative terms. Borges, García Márquez, Ortega y Gasset, any of the most original thinkers and writers in my language that you might care to mention, none of them have reached as many readers or had so great an influence on the way in which people feel, speak, love, hate, understand life and human relations, than María del Socorro Tellado López, Socorrín to her friends.”

The book’s translator Duncan Wheeler, an associate professor in Spanish Studies at the University of Leeds, agrees the books are page-turners but says they give a valuable insight into Spain’s modern history.


AN EXPERT on Spain’s cultural politics during the transition to democracy from the dictatorship of General Franco, Wheeler says the novels show the changing status of women in the country which resulted from all the jobs created by the boom in tourism. They also show the development of celebrity culture in Spain and the country’s fascination with life in America where Thursdays with Leila is set.

“This was the period of the explosion of Hola!, of celebrity culture and lots of people like John Wayne were coming to Spain,” said Wheeler. “There was a fascination with American culture and I think it’s about selling a lifestyle, with detailed descriptions of living rooms or of cars.”

The daughter of an engineer in the Spanish merchant navy, Tellado was born in 1927 and spent her childhood in a fishing village on the northern coast of the country. A voracious reader, she loved the 19th-century novels of Honoré de Balzac and Alexandre Dumas.

She wrote her first book, Daring Bet, when she was 18 years old and on the advice of her local bookseller, sent it to Barcelona publishers Bruguera. They not only published it but tied her into a draconian contract which required the completion of a 76-page novel every week.

A legal attempt in the 1970s to escape from the contract failed and she was kept to its harsh terms until 1985 when Bruguera went out of business.


THE novels were sold from newspaper street stalls with the encouragement of Franco who considered them to be “literature of evasion”. In other words he thought they would be a distraction for people from his repression and the grinding poverty of the country.

Tellado saw herself as a realist, however, and wrote novels about ordinary women and their difficulties in love rather than the affairs of princes and princesses.

Her publishers insisted on a happy ending and eve forced her to change the outcome of one novel where she left the main character blind. “Give her an operation,” she was told. The novelwas not published until she agreed.

She was also bound by Franco’s censorship. She wanted to include kissing and women working and driving vehicles but this didn’t fit with the dictator’s prurience and his belief that women should be subordinate to men.

“Some months,” she said, “the censors rejected four novels. I told things clearly. Censorship taught me to imply things.”

When her short-lived marriage failed she was able, because of the income from her novels, to separate from her husband in 1962 and bring up their children alone, starting work each day at 5am with a pack of cigarettes and a coffee.

Once censorship was ended in the late 1970s she felt free to tackle grittier subjects like rape and abortion, expressing bold feminist views. She also went on to publish 26 erotic novels under the pseudonym of Ada Miller.

Tellado died in 2009 as a result of a stroke.