THE ENORMITY OF THE TRAGEDY(24/05/2007)
Aquest article no estŕ traduďt al catalŕ; es mostra la seva versió en anglčs
On the belated but welcome UK publication of a novel by Catalonia's best writer.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE FIFTY-SEVEN
For years, I've enthused in vain to friends in London about the work of Barcelonan author Quim Monzó, one of the most original prose writers on the European continent (any Thomases doubting this seemingly extravagant claim will find it endorsed by experts far wiser than me on http://members.tripod.com/~monzo/critica.htm).
In vain, because my friends were unable to see for themselves if my praise was justified or not, given that Monzó – despite having sold nearly three quarters of a million books in Catalan alone, as well as having been translated into Czech, Russian, Romanian, Portuguese, Norwegian, Dutch, Japanese, Italian, Hungarian, Hebrew, Galician, French, Finnish, Spanish, Slovenian, Swedish, Danish, Basque and German – had not had a single one of his twenty-two titles published in the UK. Until now.
This June, Monzó's 1989 novel 'The Enormity of the Tragedy' will be brought out by Peter Owen Publishers, London, in a fine translation by Peter Bush. For me and other English admirers of Monzó, this is news worth celebrating with larger than usual quantities of alcohol. Still, the question is begged: how could it have taken the UK publishing industry three decades to discover a major writer working in the EU's seventh largest language?
The most likely answer is that just 3% of books published in Britain are translations, effectively cutting off readers in that country from most foreign literature. Time and again, I have found that many world-class writers (such as the Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz, among others) are far easier to obtain in Catalan than in English.
I am often assured – by Catalans desperately eager to learn it - that my mother tongue is the international language. Out of politeness, I desist from reminding them that it's also a one-way street.