Interesting reading below: from
Waiting for the Breakthrough
'Catalan writing, past and present, has never been in a better position to break out of the 'regional' cocoon imposed on it by politics and prejudice, so finally giving foreign readers a chance to discover a major national literature which has been one of Europe's best kept secrets for far too long.'
An article on Catalan literature, past and present by Matthew Tree.
In 1979, a British publisher scrawled 'There is simply no readership here
for regional literature', over the unread MS of a translated Catalan novel
(Manuel de Pedrolo's 'All the Beasts of Burden'). One more example, if one were needed, that to be classified as 'regional' is to be relegated to the ranks of the thoroughly undesirable, in publishing terms. Catalan literature, incredibly, has suffered for decades - if not centuries - from this dreaded 'regional' label.
Incredibly, because Catalan has more speakers (six and half million) than
several official European languages, covers a wide area (Valencia, Spanish
Catalonia, French Catalonia, southern Aragon, the Balearic Islands) and its
literary output is comparable to that of several larger languages.
Unfortunately, many factors have contributed over the years to distort the
true nature of Catalan language and literature: incorporated into the
Spanish State by force of arms in the early 18th century, the
Catalan-speaking areas were subjected for over two hundred and fifty years
to a series of laws designed to suppress the public use of Catalan - books
included - culminating in a vicious attempt to completely eliminate the
language in the early phases of the Franco dictatorship (a very small
literary leeway was allowed it after 1962). Under democracy, Catalan writing
still has to contend with considerable antipathy from the Spanish reading
public to Catalan language authors (testified to by many Barcelona
publishers) - a considerable disadvantage given that foreign publishers tend
to judge Catalan books exclusively on their sales in Spanish translation.
And the aggressive indifference shown to matters Catalan by many of the
Cervantes Institutes (or Spanish cultural embassies) around the world,
certainly doesn't help. No wonder the British publisher didn't bother to
read the book.
Had he done so, however, he would have found that 'All the Beasts of the
Burden' was a brilliant, highly disturbing political fantasy, whose author,
Manuel de Pedrolo, had over 140 titles to his credit, ranging from
best-selling science and detective fiction to poetry and existential drama.
His appetite duly whetted, the publisher might then have gone on to check
out other major works of Catalan literature, from Joanot Martorell's 'Tirant
lo Blanc', arguably the first great European novel, or Ausiŕs March's 15th
century love poetry, which foreshadows Romantic individualism by four
centuries; he could have chanced on the surrealist poetry of
Salvat-Papasseit and J.V. Foix, both major influences on the work of Dalí
and Miró, respectively; or stumbled across the extraordinary novels of Mercč
Rodoreda that appeared in the 1960s or Josep Pla's unbeatable descriptions
of Catalan and European life spanning fifty years (and collected in sixty
volumes) or Pere Calders's beautifully crafted short-stories of the 1970s.
Etc. etc. etc. But he didn't: 'No readership here!'
Neither has the situation changed since the exposure provided by the 1992
Olympic Games turned Barcelona into the fourth most visited city in Europe.
Take an important contemporary writer like Quim Monzó, whose fourteen works
of fiction and non-fiction, all of which are still in print, have had total
sales of over 600,000 books in Catalan alone, with many titles running into
as many as twenty-five editions. Already translated into eleven languages,
and described by an American critic as 'the best European short story writer
in the last decade', Mr Monzó - together with many other excellent
contemporary authors such as Carme Riera and Miquel Bauçŕ - remains
inexplicably unavailable to the British reading public.
Help, however, is on its way. Since Catalan was allowed to be taught
properly in the schools (1984), more and more people living in the areas
where the language is spoken are now able to read and write it with ease,
and as a result Catalan book production has inched up over the years until
it now accounts for no less than 12% of all book publishing in Spain (6,000
new titles a year). On top of this, the success of Catalan public television
(market leader for the last five years) has helped create a literary mass-market for the first time ever, with books like TV presenter Andreu Buenafuente's three collections of monologues, published at the turn of the century, selling over 100,000 copies each. This commercially healthy panorama is being enhanced on a more serious level by a new generation of European-class authors, such as poet Enric Cassases and gifted fiction writers like Albert Sánchez, Imma Monsó and Jordi Puntí. In a nutshell, Catalan writing, past and present, has never been in a better position to break out of the 'regional' cocoon imposed on it by politics and prejudice, so finally giving foreign readers a chance to discover a major national literature which has been one of Europe's best kept secrets for far too long.
On 3/2/09 8:41 PM, "jacquesdebierue" <email@example.com> wrote:
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:rara-avis-l%40yahoogroups.com> ,
> "Gonzalo Baeza" <gbaeza@...> wrote:
>> > I'd never heard of de Pedrolo before. I'll look him up. Any books in
>> > particular you recommend?
> I strongly recomend Joc brut (Dirty play) and Totes les bčsties de
> cŕrrega (All the beasts of burden), but Ihave yet to encounter a
> Pedrolo novel or short story that is not interesting. The guy was a
> real powerhouse, be it noir, science-fiction, fantasy or totally
> realistic fiction.
> There is also a movie being made of his end-of-the-world classic
> _Mecanoscrit del segon origen_ (Typescript of the second origin), the
> first Catalan book to sell a million copies. Directed by the great
> Bigas Luna (Jamón, jamón, Bambola, etc.).
> And this page of the Pedrolo Foundation has a photo of the author
> posing as, er, the thin man.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 02 Mar 2009 EST