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On the gradual uncovering of Catalan literature's dark side.


Even after I'd got fairly familiar with it, I found it hard to shake off the feeling that Catalan literature - despite novelist Santiago Rusi˝ol's morphine addiction and graphomaniacal genius Josep Pla's functioning alcoholism - was lacking its rightful quota of the dipsomaniacs, drug addicts and self-murderers who abound in other literary traditions. Not until last week, when I read the Argentinan journalist PatrÝcia Gabancho's 'El fil secret de la hist˛ria' ('History's Secret Thread') ľ a blissfully painless introduction to Catalan history and culture ľ did I learn that Cat Lit had far more outcasts and unfortunates than I'd suspected, including an entire school of Catalan writers, mostly from Reus, who committed suicide over a fifty year period starting around 1890: novelist Raimon Casellas threw himself under a train; poet Antoni Isern, translator Josep Soler, and essayist Hortensi GŘell also found ways of putting an end to their young lives (the latter by simply walking into the sea at Salou). Etcetera. Gabancho goes on to suggest that the entire dark side of Catalan writing has been played down for decades by a local literary establishment frightened of casting aspersions on what it perceives to be a vulnerable, persecuted culture. Catalan writing today, however, rather than being persecuted, tends to be simply sidelined. So, far from damaging its reputation, the public display of the skeletons hidden in its countless closets might catch the attention of those people who wouldn't normally give it a second glance. Such as an inmate of Barcelona's Modelo prison I once met, who learnt Catalan just to read the complete works of Gabriel Ferrater, beguiled by how skilfully this tippling poet had managed to see himself off ľ in 1972, aged 50 - with a combination of booze, barbiturates and a plastic bag.

- Textos i contingut: Matthew Tree - Disseny i programaciˇ: Nac -