Celebrating the Catalan language
Taking place each year for ten days in September, Catalan Book Week is the premier festival dedicated to Catalan literature. One of the five official languages of Spain, Catalan is spoken in six different dialects across Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Andorra and even parts of Italy and France.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that the first edition of the Catalan Book Week was held in 1983, just eight years after the end of the Franco dictatorship. During that time, the use of Catalan had been restricted in both the public and private spheres, and many Catalans who grew up during the dictatorship learned to speak Catalan in relative secrecy. In fact, books written in Catalan were often circulated clandestinely and to some extent, became symbols of a quiet resistance.
An industry on the rise
Last year marked the 35th anniversary of the festival, which saw a record number of stall holders and visitors attend. This corroborates the view that the Catalan publishing industry is in good health. A recent study showed that 14% of all books published in Spain are published in Catalan, and some 11,348 titles were released in Catalan in 2015.
Despite these figures, writing in Catalan is still something of a challenge for authors, as only one in ten Catalan-writing authors could make a living from their work in 2015. The market remains much smaller than the Spanish-language publishing market, and the cost of translating Catalan works to Spanish can deter publishing houses. And yet the Catalan literature scene is undergoing something of a revival and new authors such as Albert Forns, Alba Dedeu or Gemma Ruiz are emerging every year.
From literary festival to local book fair
The Catalan Book Week is both a lively literature festival with talks and events, and a book fair attended by all the major Catalan publishing houses. In 2018, there are set to be over 300 stalls held by publishing houses and bookshops, and covering fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and more. The festival, which takes place in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, is also attended by some foreign publishing houses, and in 2017 there were stalls representing work from 14 different countries.
The Catalan Book Week is also a chance to meet some of the most celebrated authors who write in Catalan today, as well as Spanish-writing authors whose works have been translated into Catalan. The list of events is long and includes book signings, talks, poetry readings, workshops, book presentations and other activities, all of which are entirely free of charge.
The dates of the 2018 Catalan Book week are yet to be announced, but the information will be announced on the Catalan Book Week website.