Isabel del Rio is a British-Spanish writer and linguist. Born in Madrid in 1954, she has lived in London for most of her life. Bilingual, Isabel writes and publishes fiction and poetry in both English and Spanish. Known as Isabel del Río or Isabel del Río Salvador, Isabel’s surname originally includes an accented ‘í’, but she uses del Rio in her writing in English. She is also a literary translator, mainly of poetry, and some of her work involves self-translation and self-versioning. 

She first arrived in London at the age of seven and returned to Madrid to finish secondary school and university. In 1978 she came back to London to work full-time for the BBC World Service (Spanish Section) in Bush House, where she wrote and produced programmes on political and cultural issues, and she was the editor and presenter for the weekly Arts programme (Artes y Letras). A few years later, and for over two decades, she worked as a full-time translator and terminologist for a United Nations agency in London (International Maritime Organization). 

Isabel’s fiction includes La duda, published by Tusquets Editores in 1995 (‘Colección Andanzas’) and short-listed for the awards ‘Nuevos Narradores’ and ‘Ícaro’. The book is a metalinguistic exercise with 14 short stories about how to write a collection of short stories. She is fundamentally a short story writer and, as well as La duda, she has published the short-story collections Paradise & Hell and Una muerte incidental. Isabel has also published two dystopian novels, El tiempo que falta and Dissent

As a linguist, Isabel writes about language in many of her stories (as in El diccionario and La pesadilla del dinero) and in her poetry. Additionally, she has written several bilingual works. Her experimental book Zero Negative-Cero negative was published in 2011 by Araña Editorial and includes two different versions of each of the 18 stories, one in English and the other in Spanish, with diverse plotlines, characters and endings, and with both texts complementing and completing each other. She recently published Cuaderno de notas, a poetry collection with poems in either English, Spanish or both languages. 

Isabel’s autobiography, A Woman Alone: Fragments of a Memoir, is written in English with passages and quotes in Spanish. It tells the fragmented story of a life lived between two languages and two cultures. With the spectre of the Spanish Civil War hovering over many of the recollections in the book, the memoir describes the journey from a chequered past in a fascist dictatorship to a hopeful if challenging future where the protagonist affirms her identity both as a woman and as a writer. The text opens as follows: 

Isabel del Rio
Isabel de Rio (photo courtesy of the author)

In the beginning was a whole sentence. And the sentence was: 'And now we’ll try for a boy!'  Yes, that is what they said when I was born: '¡Y ahora iremos a por el niño!' Luckily for them, a boy followed eighteen months later.

With regard to her poetry, Isabel’s first book in Spanish was Ciudad del interior, with many of her poems written from 1975 to 1993. Another of her poetry collections is Punto de fuga, about her brief professional stint in New York. Her poetry books in English include Madrid Madrid Madrid (with stories, poems, songs, and recollections), Dolorem Ipsum (dedicated to the victims of the pandemic) and Ataraxy (a collection of sonnets). Isabel’s poems are mostly performance poetry, to be recited in front of an audience; she has a long experience in poetry readings and events and in the Spoken Word circuits.

Her most recent literary translation into English is an anthology of 16 Latin American poets living in the UK, Voces equidistantes. And her most recent book is La autora del fin del mundo, an anthology of her short stories from the past three decades, including stories originally written in Spanish and her translated versions of stories originally written in English. 

The plight of women is one of Isabel’s main subjects. Her short stories include: A very cold case, about the ritual killing of a woman in the Stone Age; Sepharad, about a woman sentenced to death by the Inquisition; Golden Gate Bridge, about a woman’s self-immolation; Cómo cometer un asesinato sin tener que mover un dedo, Two Counts of Rape and Cómplices about sexual and physical abuse against women; Android on female sexuality; and Una muerte incidental, El tapiz and Damnation on the oppression and exploitation of women.

At present Isabel is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of West London (UWL). Her thesis is on 'Translation and Adaptation', with a mystery novel as her literary artefact. 

Compiled by Isabel del Rio (London)




La duda [short story collection] (Barcelona: Tusquets, 1996)

Los cuentos que cuentan [includes some of Del Rio's short stories in Spanish] (Barcelona: Anagrama,1998)

El tiempo que falta [novel] (London: Friends of Alice Publishing (FoA), 2018)

Una muerte incidental [short story collection] (London: FoA, London, 2018)

La autora del fin del mundo [short story collection] (London/Buenos Aires: Editorial Equidistancias, 2022)


Ciudad del interior (Madrid: CODA, 1993)

NomadAsNómadas (London: Nómadas,1998) 

Punto de fuga (London: FoA, 2019)


Pedir la luna  [a collective book on the subject of translation, including 66 essays by prominent writers and translators among them del Rio's essay ‘Algunas observaciones a propósito de la traducción’] (Madrid: Enclave, 2019)



Dissent [novel] (London: FoA, 2018)

Paradise & Hell [short story collection] (London: FoA, 2019)


The Moon at the End of my Street (London: FoA, 2016)

Madrid, Madrid, Madrid (London: FoA, 2019)

Ataraxy (London, FoA, 2019)

Dolorem Ipsum (London: FoA, 2020)

Bilingual books (English/Spanish)


Zero Negative-Cero negativo [short story collection] (Valencia: Araña Editorial, 2011)


Cuaderno de notas (Madrid: Árdora Ediciones, 2021)


 A Woman Alone: Fragments of a Memoir [autobiography] (London: FoA, 2021)

Language Books (including recorded material)

Spanish courses

BBC Spanish Master (London: BBC Books, 1993) 

Get by in Spanish (London: BBC Books, 1993)

English courses

BBC Muzzy Series (London: BBC Books, 1990)

That's English (London: BBC Books, 1996)

Translations by del Rio into English and/or Spanish (recent)

Unintended Tales by Natalia Casali (lONDON: EWI Press, 2019)

El jardín secreto by F. Hodgson Burnett (Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 2020)

Vo(i)ces [Selected English and Spanish poems from ‘Victorina Press Poetry Awards’, translated into either Spanish or English] (Uttoxeter: Victorina Press, 2021)

Equidistant Voices [Latin American poets living in the UK] (London/Buenos Aires: Equidistancias, 2023)

Translations into Foreign Languages


'Countdown' [translated by Margaret Jull-Costa] in The Dedalus Book of Spanish Fantasy ed. by Margaret Jull-Costa and Annella McDermott (Sawtry: Dedalus, 1999, pp. 103-06)

'No one' [translated by Margaret Jull-Costa] in The Dedalus Book of Spanish Fantasy ed. by Margaret Jull-Costa and Annella McDermott (Sawtry: Dedalus, 1999, pp. 91-98)

'The Key' [translated by Margaret Jull-Costa] in The Dedalus Book of Spanish Fantasy ed. by Margaret Jull-Costa and Annella McDermott (Sawtry: Dedalus, 1999, pp. 99-102)


Jones, Ellen: ‘“Spanglishes” on the Move: Reading and Translating Bilingualism in the Work of Four Contemporary Prose Writers: Susana Chávez-Silverman, Junot Díaz, Giannina Braschi and Isabel del Rio’ (Unpublished PhD Thesis: Queen Mary University, London, 2017)

Interviews/in the Media

Recent Interviews

Arate, Imogen: Poets & Muses (2020), available online at

Silberstein, Mark: ‘A Woman Alone’ [interview during the London Spanish Book and Zine Fair (2021)], available online at

Recent Reviews

Tinsley, Sarah: A Woman Alone (2022) available online at

Toledo, Juan: Dolorem Ipsum by Isabel del Rio (2021) available online at