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Book recommendations for Sant Jordi? We asked a hundred Catalan personalities

Javier Cercas, Irene Solà, Jaume Cabré, and Yuval Noah Harari top the list of most popular authors

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22 April 2021 03:36 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

If a person can be judged by the company they keep, the same undoubtedly goes for the books they recommend.

As Catalonia prepares to celebrate the Sant Jordi festival next Friday, we asked around a hundred personalities for their favourite literary works. 

With interviewees ranging from top politicians to artists, chefs, and businesspersons, the list of recommendations includes worldwide best-selling authors like Yuval Noah Harari, contemporary classics from Catalan authors like Javier Cercas and Jaume Cabré, or breakthrough novels such as ‘Canto jo i la muntanya balla’ by Irene Solà.

Politicians’ preferences when it comes to books broadly reflect the ideological divide over the Catalan independence conflict, with pro-independence politicians often mentioning autobiographical books by their jailed and exiled comrades, especially from members of their own party, and many unionist leaders recommending Javier Cercas, whose outspoken denunciation of the independence movement recently enraged some of its supporters.

Pere Aragonès, the interim vice president of Catalonia seeking to be officially appointed as head of the government by his pro-independence allies, recommended ‘People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent’ by Joseph E. Stiglitz, which he says defends progressive economic policies.

Aragonès also recommended ‘Escrivim el futur amb tinta lila’ (We write the future with purple ink), written from prison by Carme Forcadell, sentenced for her role as Catalan parliament speaker during the 2017 independence push, and one of the most prominent members of the Esquerra Republicana party alongside Aragonès.

One of the most comprehensive list of literary recommendations is the one provided by Laura Borràs, the current speaker of the chamber and former president of the Institute of Catalan Letters: ‘Em faig nit fràgil’ by Oleguer Llongueras, ‘Encontres i paranys’ by Milo de Angelis, ‘Personatges / paisatges’ by Jesús Massip, Pere Rovira’s translation of ‘Le fleur du mal’ by Charles Baudelaire, and the poems by Felícia Fuster.

Some Catalan government ministers mention books concerning their area of work. For instance, the education minister recommends a teachers’ handbook. The ministers of health and agriculture opt for books with prologues written by them, profiling women working as health professionals and farmers.

In contrast, the delegate of the Spanish government in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera, recommends Javer Cercas’ latest novel: ‘Independencia’, a political thriller which touches upon the independence movement’s impact on Catalan politics. The same book has been picked by Spain’s territorial policies minister, Miquel Iceta, who also recommended books by authors Eduardo Mendoza and Jordi Mercader, and the former editor-in-chief of La Vanguardia newspaper, Màrius Carol. The leader of unionist Ciutadans party, Carlos Carrizosa, also recommends a book by Cercas, in this case his classic historical novel ‘Soldados de Salamina’. 

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, recommends reading ‘Paraules d’Arcadi: què hem après del món i com podem actuar’ by the late economist and social activist Arcadi Oliveres. The book is also recommended by the head of Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce, Mònica Roca, as well as Francisca Alsina, president of the Taula del Tercer Sector Social, encompassing over 3,000 charities and non-for-profit organizations.

John Hoffman, the CEO of GSMA, the company organizing the Mobile World Congress, chose Julian Bishop’s ‘High, Wide & Handsome. An American Journey’, and the head of SEAT and Cupra, Wayne Griffiths, picked ‘Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life,’ by John O’Connell.

José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, the CEO of Caixabank, which recently became the largest financial institution in Spain, recommended George Orwell’s dystopian classic ‘1984’.

Written by Catalonia’s Business minister Ramon Tremosa, the book ‘Catalunya, potència logística natural. L’Estat contra el mercat’ is recommended both by the head of the Tarragona port, Josep Maria Cruset, and the president of the CECOT business association, Antoni Abad.

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  • A bookshop owner labelling a pile of books in Barcelona, on July 22, 2020 (by Mar Vila)

  • A bookshop owner labelling a pile of books in Barcelona, on July 22, 2020 (by Mar Vila)

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