Discovering (Catalan) America (IT In Transit #14)


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Discovering (Catalan) America (IT In Transit #14)

  1. 1. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 EDITORIAL Discovering (Catalan) America Mary Ann Newman As I think about this article, the voice on WQXR announces “songs by the Catalan composer, Frederic Mompou, as played by his finest interpreter, Gonzalo Soriano, who often accompanied the great Catalan singer, Victoria de los Angeles.” To my surprise, the announcer pronounces Mompou correctly. For years I had cringed on hearing broadcasters, assuming the composer was French, pronounce the name Mom-poo. This may seem trivial, but it is not. Its significance lies in the lifting of the obscurity that used to surround the origin of the Catalan composer. In this case, the shroud was French; in most others, it is Spanish. Familiarity with Catalan culture is growing day by day. But there are still many aspects of Catalan history in America that are hidden in plain view, and must be uncovered, like pronunciation of the name Mompou. Take, for example, David Farragut. There are Circles named after him in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento, California, a Farragut neighborhood in Brooklyn, Farragut naval academies in Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina… David Farragut is the son of Jordi Ferragut i Mesquida, who immigrated to New Orleans from Minorca, via Barcelona, in March 1776, and fought in the American War of Independence. His son, David, after whom all the real estate is named, was the first Admiral of the U.S. Navy. But how many in the U.S. know that this man buried in Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx is the descendent of a nobleman who fought alongside Jaume I the Conqueror? And so it goes. The Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia, aka the Miquelets, roved up and down the western coast of North America, from Vancouver to Mexico. Some know the name of Gaspar de Portolà, Governor of California, but what about Pere d’Alberní i Teixidor, who, while building barracks and gun batteries, compiled a glossary of 630 words from the native language of the people of Nootka, in British Columbia, earning their respect and esteem. And what of the 1,400 Minorcans who went from Minorca, under British rule, to Florida, under British rule, in 1777, and left traces of the Catalan language in St. Augustine? As their generation died out, a new infusion of Catalan ingenuity and energy was arriving. Artur Cuyàs founded and edited the Catalan review, La Llumanera de Nova York, from 1874 to 1881. One of the most significant legacies of Catalan culture took root in the U.S. with Rafael Guastavino, who moved from Valencia to Barcelona at 17, studied engineering, worked for some 20 years, leaving a substantial architectural legacy--the Batlló Factory, the Teatre La Massa in Vilassar--, and moved on to the United States in 1881. In New York, he took the Catalan vault, a traditional Mediterranean building technique, perfected it with 19th century innovations, such as Bessemer steel, and patented it. Guastavino was essential to the institutionalization of North America. Struck by the soaring beauty and practicality of his structures--inflammable in a country where wood construction led to continual fires--no university, municipality or concert hall worth its salt could go without a Guastavino. He and his son built 1000 buildings in the United States, over 230 of them in New York. Àngel Guimerà’s Maria Rosa was directed by Cecil B. DeMille at the Metropolitan Opera House; the audience would not let Geraldine Farrar leave the stage. Josep Maria Sert left his mark on Rockefeller Center, replacing Diego Rivera’s scandalous homage to Marxism with an allegory of labor more acceptable to David Rockefeller. His nephew, Josep Lluís Sert, exiled after the Spanish Civil War, brought the principles of the GATCPAC to the Harvard School of Design. Salvador Dalí dreamed the “Dream of Venus” at the 1939 World’s Fair, and established an ongoing tertulia at the St. Regis Hotel. Miró spent periods in New York as well. Less well-known artists, such as Josep Bartolí, illustrated the covers of Holiday magazine, and Xavier Cugat brought the rhythms of Cuba to an American audience that never suspected he was from Girona. Enric Granados died in transit after a triumphal concert at Woodrow Wilson’s White House. Victoria de los Angeles, Montserrat Caballé, Joan Pons and Josep Carreras all have devoted, even fanatical, audiences. And, eventually, all this art and music give way to gastronomy and Ferran Adrià, whose appearance on the cover of the Sunday Times magazine was a true game-changer. I will get to the point. Catalans did not immigrate en masse to the United States; there is no “Little Catalonia” as there is a Little Italy or a Chinatown. Catalan-speaking people came, from the Principate, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia, as individuals, or in groups small enough to be integrated. But they came with a creative passion and enterprising spirit to match the energy of the country that received them. Catalan culture in the U.S. must not be interpreted only as the work of big names; the urban breakthroughs of Barcelona and the role of the city as the capital of the Mediterranean are rising values in the States. The thousands of post-docs and La Caixa scholars who establish lifelong ties with the American science community, play a role alongside scientific leaders such as Joan Massagué and Valentí Fuster.
  2. 2. Many trends contribute to the proper pronunciation of Mompou. Finally Americans are catching on to soccer,and if Messi and Guardiola are not quite household names, Rafael Nadal and Pau Gasol are. The economiccrisis has taken Catalan awareness beyond art and food to dollars and cents. The peaceful and joyful September11 independence demonstration offered a new perspective and Americans are, in general, sympathetic to theCatalan dilemma.Americans have begun to “see” Catalan culture. But we see it like the blind men see the elephant: each describesonly the part he touches. Californians know the missions; soccer fans know Barça; opera fans know Caballé;political junkies know independence. But the big picture escapes us. Perhaps the next step is to write it alldown in one place.Mary Ann Newman is a translator, editor, and occasional writer on Catalan culture. In addition to QuimMonzó, she has translated Xavier Rubert de Ventós, Joan Maragall, Josep Carner and Narcis Comadira,among others. She was also the former Director of the Catalan Center at New York University up until theCenter closed in the Spring of 2011. Today she is Executive Director of the Farragut Fund for Catalan Culturein the United States. She is also a member of the InTransit Advisory Council.Photo by Margaret Luppino
  3. 3. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 FURTHER READING Beloved Damn Yankees! Liz Castro Twice this week, writers who I really admire and respect used the word “Yankees” to refer to people from the United States. And while it’s true that in Catalan there really isn’t an easy way to talk about us (“Americans” leaves out the rest of the continent, “North Americans” a few other countries, etc.), its negative connotations still got under my skin. After more thought, though, I think the word ‘Yankees’ really reflects the ambiguous feelings Catalans have for us. For them, we are the hard-working, no-nonsense Yankees of the Northeast, the anti-slavery Yankees hated by the South, even the brash, winningest team from New York (or the world), as well as the same Yankees that so many times have been told to go home. On September 12, after 1.5 million Catalans marched on Barcelona demanding independence from Spain, I think many Catalans were very pleased that we Americans were watching. And we were watching. Because of my interest in Catalonia, I keep an eye out for stories in the local press. And all of a sudden those stories were all over. During the next few months, through the snap elections, and the Declaration of Sovereignty, there were hundreds of stories, mostly syndicated, but still making it to large and small town papers all over the United States and other countries too. For the first time in a long time, the world was talking about Catalonia—and not just food, football, and fun—but politics, culture, and language. But while I think Catalans were pleased we Americans were paying attention, there was considerable ambiguity about what role the US might play. Not only are Catalans pretty sanguine about US economic and political interests in particular, they’ve also had bad experiences depending on foreign alliances, perhaps most notably when the withdrawal of English support proved instrumental in the Catalan defeat to the Spanish and French in 1714. So in November when someone started up a petition on the website in support of “the People of Catalonia and to ask the United States Government to stand with the Catalan people’s right to decide a future that is best for them through a fair and democratic referendum”, 33,007 signed up pretty quickly—most of whom mysteriously appeared as though they were coming from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, whose zip codes happen to match those of Barcelona and Girona. Another group openly scoffed at asking Barack Obama to save Catalonia. This jibes pretty closely with the folks I know, some of whom studied the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King with some reverence while later protesting the war in Iraq and the US position in Kyoto. However, as much as Catalans know they shouldn’t rely on outside support, they also know that it’s important for the outside world to hear what’s going on. When the time comes to hold a referendum, it shouldn’t be a surprise to the outside world. For years, news from the Spanish state has come exclusively through Madrid- based correspondents, and that simply doesn’t cut the mustard for Catalan politics. It’s something like covering London from New York City. To their credit, many news organizations have sent reporters directly to Barcelona to get a first-hand view, but Catalans are relying more on more on direct communication. Several groups have stepped up to play a role. The Emma Network (Col·lectiu Emma) has been instrumental in contacting news organizations in order to correct inaccuracies in reporting on Catalan issues, in multiple languages. Lately, they have also begun to run their own editorials and to share pertinent articles by others. The Wilson Initiative is a group of six prestigious US- and UK-based academics who have published economics and political science articles on their website in multiple languages and who are currently on a conference tour in Catalonia. I, too, wanted to play a part in telling Catalonia’s story. I’m just a layperson, as it were. Not a journalist or political analyst, but rather a technology writer by trade, albeit with book making experience. Undaunted, in November, I was able to gather 35 of the most important experts on Catalan history, politics, education, language policy, and culture to write essays for “What’s up with Catalonia?” a new book in English whose objective is to explain the current political situation in Catalonia to outsiders. I was even able to convince the President of Catalonia to write a prologue for the book.
  4. 4. Then I ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help promote the book. My theory was that it’s relativelyeasy to create a book about Catalonia but relatively hard to get non-Catalans to read it. So if we can get it intolibraries, into the hands of political leaders, and reviewed by important newspapers and magazines, we’ll goa long way to getting Catalonia’s story heard. And 600 people—mostly Catalans—stepped up to the plate andcontributed almost $15,000 to help make that possible.How did I get all those top-notch experts to write for me and all those citizens to support me financially? Partly,it’s because they want their story told in English in America and beyond and partly, I am convinced, it’s becauseI am a Yankee. Somehow I represent that part of America that Catalans—and perhaps Americans too—love tobelieve in. The American Dream part: where you take on crazy goals and make them into reality through hardwork and determination. Which makes sense, because that’s what Catalans have before them: this crazy goalof independence, that they are more than willing to work for and absolutely determined to make real.Liz CastroImage courtesy of Liz Castro.
  5. 5. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 FURTHER READING “Catalonia needs another Prat de la Riba” CHARLES E. EHRLICH Public law consultant and author of “Lliga Regionalista. Lliga catalana (1901-1936)” Francesc Canosa Farran He reminds me of Professor John Keating (Robin Williams), and the landscape, that of the Dead Poet’s Society. One imagines Charles E. Ehrlich (Philadelphia, USA, 1969) on Harvard’s campus where he received his BA in Latin and History. Amongst autumn leaves prêt-à-porter reading pre-Fabra texts: this was how he learned Catalan, a language with a poetically poor health combined with iron resilience. When he came to Catalonia the first time, “I tried to speak Catalan and the grammar I used was an ancient variety and people would say to me: “What’s that?” A pre-Fabra Catalan and with a strong accent from the town of Banyoles, which was where he ended up during the Olympic Games of 1992. All his friends would ask him: “The Catalans? Who are they?” This was why he came: he wanted to understand “identity, minorities,” the Catalan miracle. The answer: a doctoral thesis at Oxford on the Lliga Regionalista. The Lliga? Yes, “the party, created in 1901,” whose legacy still affects the way Catalan and Spanish politics are run today. Enric Prat de la Riba in Catalonia and Francesc Cambó in Spain. Catalan Imperialism! And Eugeni d’Ors drawing up truly ambitious plans for Spain. “How is it that hardly anyone in Catalonia knows about the Lliga?” he repeats, looking directly at me. Who today knows that it was the “first modern political party in Spain!” he adds with equal force. How is that possible? “The Lliga was the first political party to present ideas for reforming the Spanish state, it was a project for the modernization of Spain, because Spain was a country from Africa.” It is the Catalan “good governance!” Ehrlich recalls being a student from the 90s fascinated by the advanced technology of Catalan simplicity: the Catalan Mancomunitat. There was no special formula: “It was really nothing, only the mancomunar, or the union, of four provincial governments in one.” He laughs at the genius of such a simple thing: “This was the period in which Catalonia did the most a bare minimum.” And he starts to read out a long and impressive list: “Telephone, railroad and highway services, the normalization of the Catalan language, the Library of Catalonia, the Escola Industrial [Industrial School]...” The Catalonia of the 21st century is still living off of the Catalonia of the 20th. What’s the secret? “That was the genius of Prat de la Riba, his attitude is very impressive, but it depends on people: if we have good people, we can get good results with very little.” A magician and a Noucentista illusion: “A good government! They wanted to show that if the Mancomunitat worked, then the Spanish state could also follow their example.” A paradoxical failure: a common Catalan genre. He explains history as no Catalan can (Lliga regionalista. Lliga catalana (1901-1936), Editorial Alpha): without our excessive passion and with the cool headedness that we sorely need. To sum up: The Catalans contribute to making this “great Spain,” but alas, “they were incapable of being a strong force within it.” Was it a necessary failure? “Without the Lliga we would never have had the modern structures of the republican parties, nor Acció Catalana, nor...” The list is long. Perhaps the Lliga is the metaphor of a suicide or an assassination. The proof: after it died this allowed others to live. Is death really a greater birth? Is Catalonia different? “It is a question of freedom.” Freedom? Yes, the man who had an influence on all those effervescent young people (Francesc Cambó, Enric Prat de la Riba, Lluís Duran i Ventosa...) is Manuel Duran i Bas. A lawyer. Professor at the University of Barcelona: “A conservative of the kind found in England, not a representative of traditional Spanish conservativism.” What does that mean? In the 18th century there are two concepts of freedom: that of the French Revolution and that of the American Revolution, “Europe, until today, has always been conceived along the lines of the French Revolution, which means the freedom of groups and not that of individuals; Catalonia is more about freedom of individuals and this thinking is more American than European.” And does he see another Prat de la Riba in Catalonia today? “No, we’re missing another Prat de la Riba.” Poet of Law Ehrlich has learned from Catalan imperialism. He is briefly back in town, visiting from one of the remaining pieces of another old empire: Austria. It had been seven years since his last trip to Barcelona, “still as beautiful as ever, but I find it has become much more Spanish.” No sooner said than done. The waiter at our table doesn’t understand him. But he has come to Barcelona (at the invitation of Sobirania i Justícia) to explain how to build a state. Today he is an independent consultant of public law. He is a poet of the laws: he helps states that wish to be born and be reborn with free verse. He has worked in Kosovo, Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Georgia, Russia and the Ukraine. An independent Catalonia? “It is difficult to create a state: it is not as easy as being independent.” Catalonia? “Everything is difficult” and “everything is possible.” Words can create countries, laws, meaning. Law is poetry. And the words of Ehrlich are reminiscent of a Catalan verse: the one that says that in Catalonia we don’t know if everything is yet to be done, or if everything has already been done.
  6. 6. Francesc Canosa Farran is a journalist. Phd. in Journalism Media and Degree in Journalism by Facultatde Comunicació Blanquerna (Universitat Ramon Llull), where he teaches. He is editor of the editorialTrípodos; screenwriter and director of media projects; columnist at El Singular Digital and literary critic atEl País. For eighteen years he has worked as a reporter and screenwriter (TV3, Canal Satelite Digital, Canal9, Tele 5, Antena 3) and the press (La Mañana; AVUI; El Periódico). He wrote I love Barcelona; Sort per atots; La Barcelona pecadora de Domènec de Bellmunt; República TV, in addition to various collective booksand articles on the history of journalism, audiovisual communication and memory and identity in Catalonia.He is on the InTransit Editorial Board.
  7. 7. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 FURTHER READING A less glamorous reality Manel Manonelles - Catalan International View The Hollywood myth shows us that the Wild West was ‘won’ by wagons pulled by elegant, photogenic horses. As usual, the reality was somewhat less glamorous. In fact, not only the ‘conquest’ of the Wild West, but a large part of the ‘colonisation’ and economic development of the US in the second half of the nineteenth century was carried out on the backs of donkeys and mules. Nevertheless, these animals were not natives of the Americas. The first donkey breeder of note in the early years of the US was president George Washington himself who, once retired from political life to his Mount Vernon estate, used the animals in his first breeding experiments. He did so thanks to two donkeys (named Royal Gift and King of Malta) that had been given to him by his former allies, King Charles III and General Lafayette, who knew Washington’s hobbies and economic activities. The first Catalan breeding donkey arrived some decades later, in 1819 to be precise. It had been purchased in Vic and shipped to the US by J. R. Brockett of Mount Sterling (Kentucky) who ended up selling it in Charleston (South Carolina). They named the beast Imported Mammoth, in reference to its exceptional size (typical of the Catalan donkey) in comparison to other animals already in the country. Some years later, in 1827, Henry Clay (also from Kentucky), imported new Catalan donkeys, including a stud animal Warrior. They were to be key to the various crosses that led to the breed known as the Kentucky donkey or the Catalan-American donkey. The Catalan donkey’s reputation for being highly adaptable and very strong as a beast of burden, continued to grow. As a result they were imported in large numbers in the second half of the nineteenth century. As the American magazine The Farmer observed in March 1916, ‘Catalonia is home to the best donkeys in the world, they established the American donkey, which is so famed in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri’. Animals were not only sold to the US, they were also exported to Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, Canada, Brazil, India, South Africa and Australia, meaning prices shot up. In 1884, for example, Lucas M. Emerson of Missouri left Catalonia on an expedition with 280 animals, having paid between 1,500 and 3,000 pesetas for each of them, a veritable fortune at the time. It was not unheard-of for consignments of donkeys to be sold before they were even born. Trade reached such proportions that the first cases of fraud began to appear, with unscrupulous traders passing off donkeys bought in Mexico for authentic Catalan animals. This led to an initiative between the city of Vic and the US Consulate in Barcelona in collaboration with the US Ministry of Agriculture, leading to the creation of a Stud-Book of the Catalan donkey, in order to ensure the animal’s quality and pedigree. The systematic exportation of the best exemplars ended up seriously affecting the local herds, leading to the breed’s virtual extinction. While at the end of the nineteenth century it is believed that around 50,000 native donkeys were to be found in Catalonia, by 1988 this number had plummeted to a hundred. Nevertheless, for some years various organisations and breeders have been working to ensure the survival of this species which, in a curious way, has become a symbol of Catalanism in contrast to the Osborne bull.
  8. 8. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 FURTHER READING Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California Holy Cross Cemetery/Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany, O.P.; Colma, San Mateo County The National Park Service The sepulcher of Archibishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany is located in the central apse of the mausoleum that is reserved for burial of Archbishops of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The mausoleum is located in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, San Mateo County. Catalans played a significant role in exploration and settlement of California during the Spanish period, and in the development of cultural, social, religious, and educational institutions during the post-1850 period. But while the secular and religious contributions of early Catalan explorers and missionaries, including Gaspar de Portola and Father Junipero Serra, have generally been acknowledged, the assumption all too often has been that Catalan influence in California terminated with the advent of statehood, at least, if not with the cessation of Spanish control. Documentary evidence, however, effectively refutes this belief. American California’s first three bishops, Joseph Sadoc Alemany, Thaddeus Amat, and Francis Mora, were all Catalans. They exhibited a progressive, far-reaching attitude toward the establishment of educational institutions at every level: orphanages and day-care centers to meet the needs of the state’s abandoned or neglected children, and auxiliary religious organizations to serve as a focus for social and cultural endeavors. As Francis Weber succinctly points out: California Catholicism owes a great debt of gratitude to its Spanish forebears from the ecclesiastical Province of Tarragona in the Principality of Catalonia for no other area in all the world has given so freely of its leaders than this 12,464 square mile gem of the Iberian Peninsula. ( Francis Weber, Readings in California Catholic History, p. 90) The work of Joseph Sadoc Alemany, a native of Vich and the first Archbishop of San Francisco, exemplifies the impact Catalan bishops had on the state’s religious and secular life. An indefatigable worker, Alemany traveled to outlying reaches of his diocese to assess the needs of his flock, to provide encouragement and reassurance, and to exhort those who had strayed to return to the Church. The year after his arrival in California in 1850, for example, Alemany traveled to New Almaden to bless the cemetery that had been established for the “many Catholics who work there in the mines.” (McGloin, p. 122, quoting Alemany’s Liber Visitationis Episcopalis) He made a number of trips through the Sacramento Valley to the Mother Lode, where he baptized, confirmed, and buried parishioners, and dedicated a number of churches, including St. Rose of Lima in Sacramento, the Immaculate Conception Church at Goodyear’s Bar, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in Downieville. A simple, unpretentious man, Alemany was highly regarded by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, although when the Catholic Church in Drytown, Amador County, was burned in 1855, someone in the crowd, noticing the curate’s presence, suggested hanging him. Fortunately, the man’s suggestion was not taken, and Alemany continued to work in California for another 30 years. Alemany was responsible for bringing the first religious order of women, the Dominican Sisters, to work in California. Establishment of the Dominican Convent Santa Catalina in Monterey in March 1851 was followed by founding of a convent by the Sisters of Notre Dame in San Jose in July of that same year. Under Alemany’s auspices, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul also came to California to establish a convent in San Francisco. The arrival of these dedicated pioneers permitted th founding of schools throughout the diocese, such as St. Catherine’s Female Academy at Monterey, staffed by Dominican Sisters, and the Female Academy at Pueblo (San Jose), supervised by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Additional schools were opened after the arrival of two more teaching congregations in 1854, the Sisters of the Presentation and the Sisters of Mercy. Alemany’s great concern with education was manifested not only in the concrete measures he undertook to assist and promote parochial education, but in his life-long ambition to establish a missionary college in Spain to train people to work in areas then or formerly under the control of Spain. He particularly believed that such an institution could help to meet California’s need for priests, the number of which was never sufficient to minister to California’s rapidly growing Catholic population. According to church records, that population more than doubled in the 15 years between 1859 and 1875. Although Alemany never had the time or the opportunity to establish such a college, his ambition testifies to his interest in California’s educational and religious development. The Archbishop’s concern for the children of California led to formation of the Sisterhood of the Holy Family in 1872, when Alemany persuaded Elizabeth Armer, a resident of San Francisco, to abandon her intention of joining one of the existing orders and to establish instead a religious community devoted to caring for children of working parents.
  9. 9. Despite the large percentage of working-class parishioners in Alemany’s diocese, San Francisco s Archbishopdid not hesitate to denounce the excesses of Denis Kearney’s Workingmen’s Party during the late 1870s.“While freely admitting that the flood of Asiatic immigrants let loose upon California had grievously afflictedthe workingmen of his flock, Alemany insisted that lawful redress must come from the government. . . .”(McCloin, p. 294) In 1878, Kearney’s continued rabble-rousing finally prompted Alemany to prohibit Catholicparticipation at all rallies the Archbishop termed “seditious, anti-social, and anti-Christian meetings.” (Ibid.,p. 295) Alemany’s opposition to Kearney’s movement did much to undermine the Irishman’s support anddissipate the movement’s cohesiveness.Alemany’s long and faithful service in California ended when his resignation as Archbishop was accepted bythe Holy See in December 1884. The necessity of arranging for a smooth transfer of duties prevented hisdeparture from San Francisco until May 1885. After 34 years in California, Alemany retired to Spain andsettled in Valencia, where he died in 1888. His final request, to be buried in the Church of Santa Domingo inVich, his birthplace, was granted.Alemany’s labors in California, however, prompted a number of petitions to permit transferral of his remainsto San Francisco “so that the church there might properly honor in death the Catalan prelate who had givenit such laborious years of service.” (Ibid., p. 393) But it was not until 1965, after prolonged negotiations withthe Spanish government, the authorities in Vich, and the Alemany family that the remains of Joseph SadocAlemany were finally transferred to the sepulcher in Holy Cross Cemetery.A staunch proponent of education, a humanitarian, and a man who profoundly shaped the consciousnessof California Catholics, Alemany, a naturalized American citizen, was first and last a Catalan who broughtthe best of his province’s heritage to his adopted country. His guidance tempered and elevated the lives ofCalifornia’s inhabitants at a time when men of vision were desperately needed to help mold a raw frontiersociety to meet the demands of the future. While his influence permeated Northern California’s educationaland social institutions, the obvious choice for a memorial plaque is in Holy Cross Cemetery, Alemany’s finalresting place.
  10. 10. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 OPINION Catalan mobile companies fill the market with innovative and specialized products Rosa Soto - Catalan News Agency L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (CNA).– The Catalan technology industry took advantage of the 8th consecutive edition of the GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) at Barcelona, the Catalan capital that is premiering as Mobile World Capital, a title that it will hold until 2018. This year, the Business and Employment Ministry of the Catalan Government supported 56 local companies, which means a 40% increase in the Catalan presence in comparison to 2012 according to the General Director of Industry, Antoni Maria Grau i Costa. 48 of these companies were located at the Catalonia Stand showing their innovative products in different fields. Most of them are formed by small teams of young entrepreneurs who were looking for venture capital and were making contacts with international businesses to launch their latest technological projects. The Catalan companies presented at the Catalonia Stand, located in Congress Square CS50 between Hall 4 and 5, were selected from more than 100 applicants. According to Grau i Costa, these companies were chosen following different criteria such as the possible repercussion they may have despite being in some cases start- up initiatives, their level of innovation or technological base. The 48 selected companies shared the Catalonia Stand with the public economic development agency Massachussets Technology Collaborative and the Brokerage Event, where about 1,700 interviews between 509 companies have been arranged since last Monday until Thursday. The other 8 Catalan companies of the 56 are technological centres based in the App Planet, in Hall 8, where they were presenting 9 collaboration innovative projects. “This new edition of the MWC is beating all expectations. It is full of people from all around the world, and this cell phone-related industries event has an impact at a global level as well as promoting Catalonia’s international image”, the Catalan Government’s General Director of Industry concluded. Technology made in Catalonia In the business field, Catalan company eyeOS presented a software that allows people to access their company applications and synchronise their information from every device and browser. The Commercial Director of eyeOS, Gustavo Gorricho, commented that they are looking for international support and thought that “this edition of the Mobile World Congress is more comfortable due to the bigger Gran Via venue with its greater capacity for new stands and the chance it gives to new technological companies”. Technology is also an ally of urban mobility and a platform to create smart cities and make people’s lives easier. The main objectives of Giropark SAU are to control parking areas and blue zones to reduce people’s difficulty when parking and to improve this activity for people with disabilities. Giropark SAU presented two mobile apps: PayPark, which make its possible to look for parking availability information, and GesBlue, which allows carpark operators to control parking areas. “Giropark SAU and its apps are projects of the Mifas Group, a non-profit foundation created in 1978 by a group of disabled people, with the aim of improving everyone’s mobility”, said Toni Bachiller. He also added that “at the MWC we aim to commercialise our apps, in fact, the demand for them has exponentially grown and we are looking for new capital. All the benefits will be destined to the Mifas Group, to maintain and to create new occupational centres for disabled people”. Another innovative and interesting Catalan company is InQBarna, which has developed Deej Party, recently recalled Splice, the app that can play music as a DJ would do. Brais Gabín, a member of InQBarna, has announced that “during the first week of March our company is going to present a new trial app called TitiPas”. This app unites all transportation apps in one map where people will find all the trains, buses, parking spaces and metro information. The first version presents a map of Nice. Gabín also said that the “Mobile World Congress is a good experience for us, there are a lot of people interested in our project”. Fashion victims had their own space at MWC and now, choosing the best dress daily ware or for a job interview and shopping online by smartphone is easier thanks to DressApp, a software initially developed by SlashMobility but which has become independent as a new company due to its success. The Social Media Director of DressApp, Nuria Revilla, defines this app “as the best help to remind you that you have to dress in some special way to go to work, for a job interview, to a party or simply to avoid repeating the same clothes in a short period of time”. She added that DressApp is working with the main clothes labels and improving their marketing strategy.
  11. 11. International visitors opinionThe Polish exhibition visitor from the Software Mind company, Grzegorz Mlynarczyk, commented thatBarcelona is a beautiful and powerful city to hold this kind of international events. Also, Mlynarczyk thoughtthat the Catalonia Stand “offers really good solutions and they are such a interesting business”. “I hope I couldfind the perfect company for my telecommunication business”, he added. The only regret he did have was aboutthe Gran Via venue, “it is bigger but it is a little bit further from the hotels and other metro lines connections”.Kishan Gupto, a student from University College London, recognizes it is his first time at the Mobile WorldCongress. “I am here to look for information for my research project about the mobile industry”, he said.Besides, Gupto added he is learning a lot thanks to the different types of exhibitors.Rosa Soto is a journalist.Photo by Rosa Soto.
  12. 12. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 OPINION Pau Garcia-Milà (eyeOS): “Anyone can become an entrepreneur” EFE:Empresas Pau Garcia-Milà has been an entrepreneur since he was 17 years old. Today he directs eyeOS, a company with more than 40 employees that competes with the big multinationals in the technology sector. He is also the co-creator and adviser of Banality, a social network that promotes what fascinates people based on what they love and hate. Despite his young age (currently 26 years old) he has received awards such as the Prince of Asturias Prize and the Girona IMPULSA Business 2010 award or the MIT Innovator of the Year award, as well as the 2009 National Communications Award. He has also recently published his latest book, Tienes una idea (pero aún no lo sabes) [“You have an idea (you just don’t know it yet)], which is already a bestseller. - What tricks are there for recognizing good ideas? You can get ideas at any time of day and in any situation. The trick is to keep an open mind, stay alert and not miss any detail, however small. Insignificant things, as silly as they may seem to us, can often end up becoming great inventions that transform the way we live. One recommendation: always carry a little notebook with you and write down everything you see and think. It will be very useful. - What is more complicated, having a good idea or implementing it? Anyone can have a good idea, but the problem is putting it into practice. The lack of time, resources... All of these can be excuses that limit us when we consider applying our idea. We must learn to use the time we have, however little, and this will help us get started. - You started your first company when you were 17 years old. How did you obtain funding? The truth is that when we started out we didn’t go looking for funding, and since 2005 (when we first created eyeOS) and up until 2011 (when we received funding), eyeOS grew organically. This means that the profits we made we reinvested in the company in order to make it grow. Working this way allowed us to take our time developing the idea without the pressure of investors hanging over us. We had the freedom to work at our own pace. - How important do you think communication is when starting an entreprenurial project? It’s essential. No matter how good your product is, if you don’t know how to explain it you will not get anywhere. There are many excellent projects that went nowhere because of poor communication. - Starting an entreprenurial project is usually associated with youth. Is one’s age really that important? There is no particular age for starting an entrepreneurial project. In fact I like the saying that goes “you will never be as young as you are today.” It is absolutely true. There is absolutely no point in complaining, waiting, saying “I can’t.” Every second that passes is wasted time, and time is money. The way I see it, good entrepreneurs must be passionate about what they are doing, they have to like it and they have to find it useful. If you do something that you’re not convinced about and that you would never use in your daily life, then you are not off to a good start. - It is often said there are more opportunities during an economic crisis. Is that true in your case? The economic crisis, despite all the problems that go along with it, is still an opportunity, I agree completely. In my case what I do is observe and look at what is happening around me and I try to help improve things. I said this before, the notebook helps me see things –and life— from a different angle: opportunities can be found where you least expect them. - How much of a role does a person’s attitude play in the smooth running of a business? We are what we transmit, and attitude is key to understanding what is going on around us. Being optimistic is one of the variables that determines whether the entreprenurial project is a success or a failure. - What piece of advice would you give those who hesitate to put their money at risk by starting a business? They should go for it. I always say: the worst that can happen is that you will have to start over again with three years of failures behind you. But you will have gained something that money can’t buy: when you fail is when you learn the most.
  13. 13. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 OPINION Apps4bcn A new website offers a selection of the most useful mobile apps Daniel Romaní - Diari ARA Doctoralia is a mobile app that allows users to search for healthcare professionals and centers in their area and consult reviews from other patients. ASM App is another mobile application that informs users of exhibitions and activities at the Arts Santa Monica, and see pictures, videos, etc. of these events. This same application also allows users to recommend exhibitions and events, share them on Facebook, and access the YouTube and Flickr channels of this arts center located on the Ramblas in Barcelona. TMB Maps is a highly interactive and visual application developed by Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona for the iPad. The app uses real-time information to make it easier to navigate public transportation in the city and metropolitan area of Barcelona. All three of these exciting and innovative mobile applications can be found within the new website Apps4bcn (, which showcases a wide array of apps related to a variety of areas such as culture, sport, health and business. These apps are aimed at both locals and visitors to Barcelona. Public-private collaboration The website, the result of collaboration between the Barcelona City Council and the Catalan start-up Dotopen —a good example of public-private partnership— is open to new contributions. Anyone can suggest mobile applications that they consider to be useful either for the general population of for specific groups. Moreover, what also makes this website stand out is that the mobile applications are evaluated by experts. With this initiative, the Barcelona City Council seeks to make the Catalan capital a city of reference in the sector of mobile applications, both when it comes to how its citizens use these apps and the development of services and products associated with them. It also aims to promote R+D+i (research, development and innovation) activities in this sector, highlight the potential of mobile applications in all areas of public life and business and encourage their use, and at the same time contribute to improving quality of life, sustainability and efficiency. And lastly, Barcelona’s City Council aims to create a favorable environment for businesses and entrepreneurs in the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) sector that will encourage the growth of the industrial fabric, technological development and the creation of highly qualified new jobs. The project is related Barcelona’s role as Mobile World Capital up until 2018, and it [was] presented during the MWC (Mobile World Congress), which [was recently] held in Barcelona.
  14. 14. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 IN DEPTH Black Bread: from a film to a phenomenon Isona Passola - Catalan International View On the 18th of January we learnt the names of the nine films which had been chosen by the Academy to compete for the Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category. Pa Negre (Black Bread), a TV3 co-production, failed to gain a place among the semi-finalists. With this decision, Agustí Villaronga’s film missed the chance of being chosen by the jury on the 24th of January to be among the 5 finalists, thereby allowing its protagonists to walk the red carpet and for a Catalan film to be nominated for the golden statue for the first time. Far from a disappointment, Black Bread is a wonderful example of how to do a magnificent job in the field of cinematography. The following article was written by the film’s producer, Isona Passola. When I asked Emili Teixidor for the rights to Black Bread I told him to trust me and that the director I had in mind for the project would turn his book into a good film. Villaronga was able to share Teixidor’s world because he is a specialist in capturing the most extreme human emotions, such as humiliation, and even more so when they appear in childhood which later goes on to inform a person’s adult life. Agustí understands Andreu, the main character in Black Bread, as if he were his own son. The wickedness of the good and the goodness of the bad... he is a master in such matters. Cinema has always used literary adaptations, whether of a novel, a play or a short story, as one of its major sources of material. The stylistic mechanisms that turn writing into literature by way of the written word, manifest themselves in films through images and action. Metaphor and poetry are always resolved visually. This is the great difficulty of literary adaptations. It is important that the film retains the spirit of the novel but above all, it must work as a film. While the novel contains Andreu’s inner thoughts, these were impossible to portray on screen. Likewise, the superb dialogues between the children which in the novel take place while they are sitting in a plum tree needed to be converted into action, hence in the film they occur while the children are running through the woods. Like any great writer Teixidor often revisits the same theme and from the short stories ‘Sic Transit Gloria Swanson’ and Retrat d’un assassí d’ocells (Portrait of a Bird Killer), both of which are on a par with Black Bread, we took the first scene of the film with the spectacular shot of the cart plunging off a cliff. This places the film at the level of a great film and along comes the second, more complex scene in the script which called for a series of events to occur in order to keep the viewer’s attention. The treatment of language has also been key in Black Bread. In films the dialogue which the actors speak obviously needs to be credible. Our difficulty was to make the dialogues between the children of peasant farmers in the 1940s appear credible. This became another of our obsessions which we resolved by going directly to villages in the Osona area to cast the children in the film in order that their speech was as authentic as possible. I think this is one of the things that our audience has appreciated most and that the richness of the dialogue is also one of the attractions of Teixidor’s novel. Perhaps this aspect will be lost once the film is subtitled, but undoubtedly what will be detected is the freshness and authenticity of the performances, which serve to enhance the film’s artistic coherence. From the outset we did not want Black Bread to become a conventional post civil war film. All of the numerous locations were real places. We left them essentially unaltered, with any changes being made solely to add to their air of authenticity and realism. The costumes were handmade, artificially aged and drawn from a palette of colours, with cooler or warmer colours used according to the emotion of the sequence. The special effects were highly complex in order to provide the spectacular aspect that a great production deserves. The cast of young actors came from the Catalan interior and were chosen from over a hundred hopefuls in order that they would be entirely credible. The boy who plays the main character spent many hours in rehearsal with Agustí. Time is often the key to the success of a good film. Days and hours are worth much more than the technical aspect or the presence of superstars. As Hitchcock said, an ounce of preparation is worth ten tons of improvisation. Black Bread was baked slowly and with a great deal of love. All these complicated aspects were only possible because behind everything there was a solid script and a great director backed by an excellent team. Such high production values were made possible thanks to our co-producers: TV3 (Catalonia Television) with the participation of TVE (Spain’s national TV company), the Generalitat (the Catalan government) and the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Their commitment ensured that Black Bread is a truly European film in terms of its commercial potential. Black Bread was released in October 2010 after its presentation at the San Sebastian Film Festival, where Nora Navas won the Concha de Plata (Silver Shell) for Best Actress. Three quarters of the film’s audience were initially from the Catalan-speaking countries, though it has since gone on to break box office records across
  15. 15. Spain. 130,000 DVDs of the film were sold in one month alone when it went on sale with newspapers atnewsstands. This is a record in the Spanish state. Black Bread is the third most highly decorated film in thehistory of the Spanish Academy’s Goya Awards, having won 9 awards in total, and it is the first film in Catalanto be awarded the prize for Best Picture. The film also won 13 Gaudí awards, Fotogramas magazine’s SilverAward, the Túria Award and a Sant Jordi Rose Award. In addition Agustí was awarded a National Film Awardand finally members of the Spanish Academy chose the film to represent Spain at the 2012 Oscars in the BestForeign Language Film category. A subtitled version of the film has successfully been released in France in40 towns and cities. Black Bread has been sold to China and Japan and its march continues with an intensepromotional tour in the US, thanks to the support of the Ramon Llull Institute, Catalan Television and theGeneralitat.Black Bread has become a phenomenon and marks a before and an after for Catalan films, for reasons beyondthe historical circumstances of the past when Catalan films received massive audiences as a novelty followingthe repression of the Franco era.Black Bread has seen the normalization of a form of Catalan cinema which seeks to explain ourselves as acollective. Normality begins with local stories which contain human emotions which are always universal innature.Good movies and the media impact they generate are the best means for a country to present itself to the world.The Catalan public understands this and has responded by opening a path of hope to the last branch of Catalanculture that needed to be normalized: the film industry.Audiences all over the world have understood this in another way too. At a time when globalization standardizeseverything, the people are calling for their language and culture to be rooted in concrete reality. If we aremoreaware of these realities we will be more inclined to resort to dialogue, to become more respectful, moregenerous with each other and above all to contribute to the enrichment of our planet with our burgeoningdiversity.
  16. 16. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterDiscovering (Catalan) America issue #14 - march 2013 OUR CULTURE OUR HISTORY Josep Maria Espinàs “Mankind progresses: when it retreats it is in order to gain momentum” Eva Piquer - Catalan International View Josep Maria Espinàs (Barcelona, 1927) has written a newspaper column for the last 35 years, published 85 books, received numerous literary awards and has been awarded the Premi d’Honor de les Lletres Catalanes (the Catalan Letters Prize of Honour). His books have been translated into German, English, Spanish, Euskera, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese and Czech. At the height of the Franco era he was a founder of Els Setze Jutges (The Sixteen Judges), the group behind the Nova Cançó (New Song), a attempt by musicians to reclaim the Catalan language and denounce the injustices carried out by the regime. He is also the co-founder of La Campana publishing house. ‘I’m neither tired of living nor of writing’, he told me. As to the future, he dares to make but one prediction: that he won’t be there to see it. You are a writer that, thanks to the historical context, has found yourself doing other things. For example, you founded The Sixteen Judges and recorded records in spite of not being a professional musician... [...]directly. I appreciate it, since it’s the truth: I found myself doing the things I’ve done. People always attribute intentions to our actions. I published ten novels, one of which won the Sant Jordi Prize, and I suddenly stopped writing novels, although they sold well and worked. Why? I don’t know. I found myself doing other kinds of books. I’ve never planned things. One day I found myself writing some songs, an activity that I had never done before, but circumstances led me to do it. Another day I found myself doing a play: it was put on, was successful, received good reviews, and I stopped doing theatre. Another day I found myself making journeys on foot and writing books in the form of chronicles, and I’ve written a lot. Commentators and encyclopaedias have a tendency to attribute deliberate intention to one’s actions, but I haven’t decided anything. People find it hard to believe that a writer doesn’t plan things. I take my hat off to people who can say why their life has taken the path it’s taken. Writing was not a conscious decision either? When I was eight I wrote a poem about a swallow I’d seen flying around, at fifteen I wrote a really bad novella, in Spanish. I used to get up at six in the morning while my parents were still asleep, wrote a chapter and then went to the Escolapis school [run by a Catholic educational order], like any child. I don’t know why I did it, I found myself writing without having planned it. The first novel you wrote as a teenager was in Spanish, but your literary language is Catalan. Did you also just happen to write in Catalan or in this instance did you make a conscious decision? When I wrote my second novel I wanted the characters in my neighbourhood to speak, and I realized that they didn’t feel real in Spanish, it didn’t sound right. Franco was very much alive, but I found myself changing the language. It wasn’t a political decision, then? No, no. I agree that later on it had political consequences. But the decision to change the language, like the decision to write songs, appeared just like that. I have no particular merit, it was fate. I haven’t done anything that hasn’t emerged naturally. You firmly believe in fate. I’m going to make a sweeping statement, although I ought to write a book about sweeping statements (since they deceive, they don’t follow any logical reasoning): I believe that, in general, people are doomed to be whatever they are. There’s room for some modification, naturally enough, but not much. A singer is suited to singing a particular type of music thanks to their voice. The same thing happens to a writer: they have a way of writing, and it’s their own. We should acknowledge this limitation on everyone’s possibilities: you have a framework in which you can move with a certain degree of efficiency and a certain tpye of behaviour, and if you step outside of this framework you’re bound to fail. If a serious novelist tried to write one of the bestsellers they criticise, they’d fail. Is being a newspaper columnist a way of life, a way of seeing the world? I write an article every day because a journalist, Josep Faulí, told me they were about to start a newspaper in Catalan and asked if I would write for it from time to time. I told him I couldn’t imagine writing an article every three weeks. ‘But if you want me to do an article every day, then I’ll have a go’. And I did. I can’t spend a week thinking about what to write in a weekly article, I live in the present. Right now, for me, there is nothing but you and me. There’s only what I do, what I see, what I read. I don’t prefabricate, I don’t consider, I don’t program, and I don’t regret. I am very keen to observe and to make associations. There ought to be a subject at school that teaches you how to make associations. I really enjoy letting myself get carried away by observations, and from them I construct an article or a story. That’s what my journeys on foot are all about: stepping out of one’s
  17. 17. skin and into a place I don’t know, which I know nothing about, without the intention of visiting a cathedral,but simply to live every day, come what may. Reality gives me the information I need to live and write.Maybe you stopped writing novels because you realized that reality was more interesting thanfiction...That’s partly true. It’s also true that I never saw myself as a great novelist. I wrote novels that were successful,but unconsciously perhaps I never thought I would be a great novelist. After winning the Sant Jordi, I stoppedwriting narrative fiction and began to take an interest in reality, the non-fiction which surrounds me. And Istarted to write observational books.As a person with a public image, are you aware of your social responsibility?It’s a bit of an exaggeration to talk about social responsibility. While we were developing the Nova Cançó, itbecame clear that we could influence the mood of society and the country as a whole with music. Many peoplefelt that they could protest against the dictatorship through music. But I have no social influence in the strictestsense of the term. It is also true that during the immediate post-war period, writing in Catalan was a rarity, andthe fact that I was doing it might’ve encouraged someone else to do it.Do writers have to publicly align themselves with certain causes?I don’t think they have an obligation to do so. They’re free to take sides or not to do so. I’m agnostic on thispoint. Neither a writer nor a carpenter need take sides if they don’t want to. We have a spirit inside of us thatmakes us do certain things.You lived through the Civil War and the post-war period. When did your anti-Franco consciencebecome awakened?When I was eighteen or twenty years old. When I was younger I was unaware of the Franco regime. I camefrom a middle class family in Barcelona that lived well. The post-war period was a blow. Suddenly there wasno money coming in, but I wasn’t really aware that we were going through a difficult period. One day, a policepatrol came round looking for my father and they took him away. My father had never been involved in politics,but he had administered the estate of a woman they were after. They left him in a field and told him that if theydidn’t come back in fifteen minutes he could go. After half an hour he walked back home. He was lucky; mostof the people they took away never came back. When I was in my first year at university, studying law, I wasapproached by a man who punched me in the face, knocking me to the ground. He was from the SEU, a pro-Franco union that pursued and attacked catalanistes at the university. I had no political affiliation, but when Iwas there my political and linguistic consciousness was awakened. I understood that it was necessary to fightthis injustice and this lack of freedom.Is writing in Catalan a hindrance to reaching an international audience?It’s easy to say ‘yes’ if you ignore the fact there are a hundred thousand French and English writers who haveno international presence. I think we need a general, relativistic view of the world, before making certainstatements. During the Franco era, Manuel Pedrolo told me: ‘If we were English writers...’. I disagreed withhim and said, ‘Maybe you’re one of the three hundred thousand English writers that don’t get published’. Ihappen to live in a country and in circumstances in which if I publish a book it arouses public interest. And in1961 I even published a novel in the United States.How did it do?Thanks to an agent, Carmen Balcells, Pantheon Books (which at the time was a prestigious independentpublisher) published my novel Tots som iguals (By Nature Equal). I had more reviews of that book than all theothers I’ve ever published. All the major newspapers in the US reviewed it, I was shocked.Do you think you’ve received sufficient recognition, as much as you deserved?For me, I’ve had enough. I don’t know if it’s what I deserved. If someone knows how much recognition theydeserve, then good for them. It’s typical of artists to want to feel important and significant. I have had thesuccess necessary to continue to be a writer, writing one book after another. I was lucky enough to receive socialacceptance, and this is a privilege. The writer Thomas Merton said that the conditions needed for success are tohave a strong desire (what pedants call ‘a vocation’), have a certain degree of aptitude (if you don’t, you won’tbe successful, and if you have too much, there’s a risk that you’ll end up falling in love with yourself) and thatthe circumstances are not too unfavorable. In a somewhat pretentious interview I was asked to define myselfin three words. I said: ‘guy with glasses’, because in the army that’s how they referred to me ‘the guy with theglasses’. That’s how I am. It’s not false modesty. I’m fine, I’m very happy, I don’t feel in the least frustrated andneither am I vain: I’m someone who does a job they enjoy doing in the life they happen to live. I’ve been lucky,I’m not a victim, I don’t feel triumphant... This all means that I don’t have any special interest. I don’t fit intoa literary society in which everyone believes themselves to be special. ‘I’m working on a book...’, they say, andafter eleven years they still haven’t done anything. I’m the opposite; I write books without wanting to. I haven’tproduced a ‘body of work’, I’ve written books.What do you think of literary critics? Have they allowed you to see aspects of literature youwere unaware of?It amuses me when serious critics tell me of the influences that I have received from books that I’ve never read.For a long time literary criticism has consisted of praise or criticism without analysis. The majority of reviewssimply reflect the subjective opinions of the person who has written them. I’ve never seen objective literarycriticism. They’re either very kind to me and attribute many qualities to me or say ‘Espinàs is a fool’, insteadof saying that my book is a mess for this, that, and the other. If they told me, maybe I’d learn. Reviews are toopersonal and insufficiently analytical. There are reviews where, after reading seventy lines, you still don’t knowwhat the book is about. Critics should be modest rather than using the review as a showcase to display theirbrilliance. Analyse, by all means, but don’t qualify.
  18. 18. Your most translated book is also one of your most personal, El teu nom és Olga (Your Nameis Olga).I wrote this book because my daughter has Down’s syndrome, but I don’t know why I wrote it when I did, in themid eighties. I could have written it ten years earlier and I didn’t, but one day I found myself writing an essayabout my daughter, and another the next day, and without realizing it I had written a book about her. I couldhave gone without speaking about Olga forever.Having a daughter with Down’s syndrome has made you a better person?This ‘better person’ makes me feel uncomfortable as it means admitting that you can be a good person and abad person. We all have a good side and an evil side. Having Olga has taught me a lot and it has enriched me.I’ve come to appreciate the relative importance of certain things, it has increased my respect for everyone.It has helped me to see things that with my intelligence would have been more difficult to see. My daughterknows how to live in society. She’s discreet, quiet, she knows how to make good observations. Until now wedidn’t have sufficient experience of adult life for people with Down’s syndrome because they used to die young.Knowing that the intellectual limitations can’t be overcome, with Olga I have found that social learning isperfectly possible.Is Olga happy?Extremely.What’s the link between intelligence and happiness?Intelligence can make us happy and it can make us very unhappy. You don’t need to be intelligent to be happy.Olga is probably happier than she would be if she were to have a series of problems which come from beingnormal. Olga is happy and, above all she brings happiness. Harmony, respect and happiness surround her. Shespends half the week in a centre and half the week at home. I think it’s good for her, because at home she’llnever be superior, while at the centre she’s quite a bit superior, and this may balance her attitude towards life.All the things that can be done to improve the performance of people with Down’s syndrome are great, but anexcessive obsession to make them progress intellectually can lead to frustration.You wrote the Barça anthem, which is sung and is known worldwide...It’s the most popular contemporary Catalan folk song, and a vital part of its success is how it’s written. I’vewritten verses since childhood, since I was young I’ve had the ability to write songs. With the Barça anthem,each verse is the realization of an idea. People sing it because it’s easy, every line holds a self contained idea.After sweating so much writing book after book after book, my most international text is the Barça anthem. It’shilarious.When you’ve promoted your books abroad, or in your role as a Catalan publisher at internationalfairs, have you often had to explain what Catalonia is?When we started going to Frankfurt with La Campana, Catalan was a surprise for other publishers. But aftera few years, when we asked if a book was out of copyright, they asked us if we wanted the rights in Catalan orSpanish. Something had changed.How do you see the future of the Catalan language?I don’t see it. I don’t see my future either! I’ll die in an ideal state: Catalan functions quietly, I write in mylanguage and I’m not upset by anything. You can’t predict what might happen in fifty or a hundred years. Alanguage can fall into decline, but I don’t know to what extent this can be foreseen. When it comes to predictingthe future, I’m useless. What’s more I’m lazy, maybe because I see so many people trying to predict the future.Oil was supposed to have run out in 1971, I’ve got the newspaper cutting that says so. That was forty years ago.Experts have made four or five prophecies about the end of oil, none of them have been proven right. The onlysure thing about the future is that I won’t live to see it.You can’t predict the future of Catalonia either then...No, no. I’m no clairvoyant, and no one has ever seen the future. Did the first settlers in America see the futureof the USA? A year earlier nobody was able to predict that Hitler would do what he did. It’s hard enough tyingto spot a taxi on the street. If you want to entertain yourself publishing books on futuristic philosophy helpyourself. But I’m incapable of doing so.Would Catalan independence make sense?Yes, it would make sense. In the same way as family independence or the independence of various forms ofassociation which exist around the world make sense. Like the European Union makes sense, whether it workswell or not.Do you believe that humanity progresses, nevertheless?Of course, human progresses and will continue to progress: if it retreats it’s in order to gain momentum. Tosome generations it may look like we don’t, that we’re going backwards. If someone says ‘we’re going the wrongway’ it always depends on the scale one wants to look at. We’re better off now than we were a hundred yearsago and much better off than a thousand years ago. Life expectancy is much longer than it used to be, we’vefound cures for many diseases that were once incurable. There are many people who starve, but we don’t knowhow people used to live in the twelfth century...Technology is a breakthrough that can cause uncomfortableand unpleasant consequences, but it is a form of progress. It’s like the child that starts to run. Maybe they’ll fallover, but at least they’ve started to run.
  19. 19. Social mobility has broken down: it’s possible my children will progress less than I have.It is possible that we have lived through a few privileged years, and maybe now we’re entering one of thoseperiods when we need to step back a little to gather momentum and move forward again. Olympic runnershave to bend a leg back if they wish to go forward. I am a historical optimist. I’ve seen people my age whojudged reality according to their own dissatisfaction. They were envious of others, saying that the youth are amess, because they were over eighty years old, were about to die and refused to believe that the world they weresoon to leave was in a good state. It’s an instinctive reaction: if I’m coming to an end, so is the world. I find thatthe youth of today are fantastic, they’re worth more than those of forty years ago.Why have you resisted using a computer?I have absolute respect and admiration for technology. But I have my reasons: I don’t use a computer because Idon’t need to. I’m told that with a computer I can correct my work, but I hardly make corrections. They tell methat I can change the order of paragraphs: but I’ve never changed a paragraph in my life. The Olivetti company,based in Turin, has put the cover of my book in one of its publications, as they were pleased that there’s aCatalan writer who still types on one of its machines. I don’t have internet. Do you know how much time I saveby not having email? I must be the only writer in the world who can carry on working when there’s a power cut.Wisdom means not having what you don’t need.Nowadays, with the recession, we must learn to give up these false desires.Why do we want a camera that tells what time we took a picture, when for the last twenty years we didn’t carewhen the picture was taken? It would be good to return to a degree of austerity. It is not sacrifice, though:I enjoy eating a lot, I love life. But we shouldn’t face problems that we don’t need to face, we have enoughproblems already. Life should be lived, we shouldn’t worry about what time a photo was taken.Do you think that with time justice prevails and everything falls into place?I’m very sceptical about that. Who can guarantee that a hundred years from now the people who highlightcertain works that have been forgotten will be right? I don’t write for posterity, I write to develop a particularidea at the time, it’s my job. In fact, I write to think.What are the positive aspects of aging?Aging doesn’t have anything positive. Some people may wish to feel self important by saying that you gainexperience. But I’ve seen old people do so many crazy things... There are people who are thirty years old andhave as much experience as a man of eighty. For those who love life, becoming old has nothing but drawbacks.The time you have to do things, to hug, to sleep, to do what you want, is running out. You see that it’s comingto an end. Yes, you can become wiser, but it can also make you more stupid, you can become more tender, butyou can also become more unbearable...Is the feeling of having more of a past than a future distressing?I live in the present, with all its consequences. I never think about my past or my future. It’s now noon and theevening doesn’t exist yet.The older we get, the more we are forced to live in the present, precisely because the future isrunning out.Many old people don’t see it this way: they’re very nostalgic. I’m not at all. I don’t have nostalgia for myself,because I’m not that ten year old child: I’ve evolved and I’ve became another person. That’s why I don’t writeabout my childhood, because it wasn’t at all dramatic.During what you call ‘extra time’, is life lived more intensely?No. I rarely think I’m going to die. I’m more than aware of the fact, but I don’t constantly think about it. I’vemade the most of life. I’m about to go to London for a week, walking around there is an injection of life. I amone of the few men who like looking in shops, I enjoy it more than looking at scenery. I much prefer a highstreet to the Himalayas.