THE WAY THEY WERE(07/07/2008)
Aquest article no està traduït al català; es mostra la seva versió en anglès
On how a new book shows just how far ahead of its time Barcelona was before the war.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN
David H. Rosenthal, the American poet, jazz critic and translator of several major Catalan writers into English, spent the last months of his life hard at work on a project which (sixteen years after his death from cancer in 1992) has finally made it into the bookshops. Entitled, in its Catalan version, 'Banderes al vent! La Barcelona de les utopies, 1914-1936' – the English original has yet to find a publisher – we can now understand why Rosenthal put so much effort into this final work: revelation after revelation spills out of its pages, the achievements of the period in question having for the most part disappeared up the collective amnesic flue. Forgotten today it is, that pre-war Barcelona had the most advanced public educational system in Spain, with child-centred teaching, student delegates, physical education, and summer trips to self-governing seaside camps. Forgotten too, that every working-class neighbourhood had its union-funded anarchist centre, with sex education, libraries, theatre groups, and courses on literature and culture generally. Forgotten as well is that Barcelona also had the naughtiest dance halls in Europe, one of the first and most active Esperantist associations in Europe, the first mass feminist movement in Europe and the first blueprints for a workers' holiday resort drawn up anywhere in the world. However, once Franco's troops had entered the city in 1939, billeted themselves in the Generalitat's schools, and set about burning non-Castilian printed matter and judicially murdering non-Fascist people, they ensured that, in Rosenthal's words: 'from one day to the next, an entire world disappeared'. Disappeared it is still, in part because there are so very many people – plenty of them not a million miles from Spain's corridors of power - who have different if not contradictory reasons for keeping it that way for ever and a day.