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With English-language translations of Catalan writing hard to come by, you’d be forgiven for having only heard of Quim Monzó and Mercè Rodoreda. Here, discover eight more voices writing in Catalan, from the late 19th century to the new wave of Catalan literature today.
Published under the pseudonym Victor Català, Caterina Albert was a Catalan writer first formally recognised for her talent in 1898, when she was awarded the Jocs Florals d’Olot for her poem Lo llibre nou (The New Book). Her most celebrated work, however, is Solitud (1905), a novel highly regarded not only for its contribution to and encapsulation of the Catalan modernist movement, but for its subject matter. It was a revolutionary act, in early 20th century Spain, to tell the story of a young woman’s struggle to assert her independence; in doing so, Caterina Albert’s debut was a formative contribution to the burgeoning tradition of the feminist novel in Europe.
A collaborator on the first Catalan TV series La Granja (The Farm), Jaume Cabré is an accomplished Catalan writer who has published novels, short stories and scripts, yet only his 2011 novel Jo confesso (Confessions) has been translated into English. The novel is an intriguing read with historical flashbacks masterfully intertwined with modern day Barcelona. Other notable Cabré texts for those who have some knowledge of Catalan are El mirall i l’ombra (The Mirror and the Shadow) (1980) and L’ombra de l’eunuc (The Shadow of the Eunuch) (1996), both of which reflect the author’s preoccupation with music and the impact of history.
As if to evince the influence of the aforementioned Victor Català, we have Montserrat Roig, a writer active in the late 20th century who penned several overtly feminist works. The apogee of her feminist writing was her 1972 novel Romano adéu (Roman Goodbye), which follows three generations of women as they live through significant points in Catalan history. The same women were the focus of her Premi Sant Jordi de novel·la–winning novel El temps de les cireres (The Time of the Cherries) (1977). Alongside writing novels, Roig was a prominent political activist and author of several feminist articles and non-fiction books.
Mercè Rodoreda is not only one of the most accomplished post-war Catalan authors; she is also widely considered – most notably by Gabriel García Márquez – to be the greatest Spanish writer of the 20th century. Her 1962 novel La Plaça del diamant (The Time of the Doves), which details the devastating effects of the Spanish Civil War through the stream-of-consciousness narration of a young housewife, has been translated into over 20 languages. Also a former winner of the Victor Català prize, she too has an award named after her, the Premi Mercè Rodoreda de contes i narracions.
The elusive Marta Rojals is an up-and-coming author on Catalan’s literary scene who shuns in-person interviews, instead preferring to speak with the press via Facebook, as it gives her time to mull over her words properly. This intriguing writer has so far released two novels, the second of which, L’altra (The Other One) (2014), became the highest-selling Catalan novel in three weeks after it went on sale. Her debut, Primavera, estiu, etc. (Spring, Summer, etc.) (2011), is largely written in the distinct dialect of the Ribera d’Ebre region. In 2015, she published a work of non-fiction that reflects on the dearth of career prospects for a disenfranchised generation in her native Catalonia.
Quim Monzó is a well-liked figure in contemporary Catalan literature, known for his novels and short stories as much as for his journalism. Very successful both commercially and critically, he has previously been the recipient of The National Award for Fiction, and his 1989 novel, La magnitud de la tragèdia (The Magnitude of the Tragedy), was awarded the El Temps Award for Best Novel. Also known for collaborating on the screenplay for Jamón, jamón (Ham, Ham) (1992), his work is sophisticated yet sardonic, and explores the darker side of the human condition.
A prolific contributor to contemporary Catalan literature, Barcelona-born Pere Calders published his first collection of short stories in 1936, and wrote steadily until his death in 1994. He wrote some of his most successful novels while exiled in Mexico, such as Cròniques de la veritat oculta (Chronicles of the Hidden Truth) (1955) and Gent de l’alta vall (People of the High Valley) (1957). After his eventual return to Catalonia in 1962, he wrote L’ombra de l’atzavara (The Shadow of the Agave) (1964), a novel exploring the cultural displacement, longing for home, and overall struggles of exile faced by many Catalans.
Multi-award-winning writer Jordi Puntí is the author of short story collections Pell d’Armadillo (Armadillo Skin) (1988) and Animals tristos (Sad Animals) (2002), as well as the critically lauded Maletes perdudes (Lost Luggage) (2010), his debut novel. Maletes perdudes won him the Lletra d’Or award and was celebrated for its often evocative style as well as its interesting plot. It follows the stories of four similarly named half-brothers who, while sharing an absent and recently officially declared missing father, have mothers from four different European countries. Aside from his own personal literary achievements, Puntí is also a translator and columnist. His fourth text will be a collection of his articles called Els castellans (The Castilians).
A major voice in the new wave of Catalan fiction, Bagunyà is the author of three short story collections. His story You’ve Likely Never Been to a Party This Big, his only work to be translated into English, demonstrates the author’s impressive ability to hook his readers in from the outset, as we navigate a large social gathering through rapid-fire second-person narrative.
Winner of the 2008 Crims de Tinta prize for his stunning and intensely unsettling novel Barcelona Shadows (2005), the CSI by day and novelist by night Marc Pastor rounds off our list of must-read Catalan authors. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction, and this is more than evident in Pastor’s critically acclaimed Barcelona Shadows, the first of his novels to receive an English translation. It is based on the sickening true story of Enriqueta Martí, a.k.a ‘the vampire of Barcelona’. Pastor’s fictional reimagining of this stomach-turning source material is atmospheric and genuinely frightening.
Grace Beard contributed additional reporting to this article.