Catalan literature on show at the 2013 Paris Book Fair since Barcelona is this year’s guest city

Classic and contemporary authors from Catalonia, writing in Catalan or in Spanish, are one of the main attractions of this year’s Salon du Livre in Paris, which is one of the main book fairs internationally. Running from Friday the 22nd to Monday the 25th of March in the French capital, this year the book fair has Barcelona as its guest city under the title ‘Barcelona, ville des prodiges’. The Institut Ramon Llull, the public body in charge of promoting Catalan culture abroad, is organising the presence of Catalan literature at the fair. During the first day, the visitors were mainly interested in Eduardo Mendoza, Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Josep Pla, who wrote ‘The Grey Notebook’ which has just been translated into French.

CNA / Violeta Gumà

March 22, 2013 11:03 PM

Paris (ACN).- Classic and contemporary authors from Catalonia, writing in Catalan or in Spanish, are one of the main attractions of this year’s Salon du Livre trade fair. The Parisian event is one of the main book fairs internationally and runs from Friday the 22nd to Monday the 25th of March. Catalan literature is gradually becoming more popular and is increasingly known in France, with some 15 books translated each year. Answering to the rising interest among French book lovers, the Salon du Livre has Barcelona as its guest city this year. The Catalan capital’s presence is framed by the title ‘Barcelona, ville des prodiges’, which is derived from Eduardo Mendoza’s book ‘The City of Marvels’. In fact, Mendoza, Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Josep Pla – whose book ‘The Grey Notebook’ has just been translated into French – were some of the most popular Catalan authors among visitors during the first day of the fair. However, literature fans in France are already familiar with some other Catalan authors, such as Mercè Rodoreda – whose work has almost entirely been translated into French –, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Maria-Mercè Marçal, Javier Cercas, Juan Goytisolo and Jaume Cabré. Mendoza defined the presence at the book fair of Catalan authors writing either in Catalan or in Spanish as “very positive”. He also stated that “historically Barcelona has looked towards Paris but now it is Paris that is looking towards Barcelona”. According to the writer Francesc Serés, the French market has discovered Catalan literature and sees it as “complete, with history, and with all sorts of genres”, which brings “a lot of quality” and “it is exportable and translatable”.

The Institut Ramon Llull organised Catalonia’s presence at the Salon du Livre

Most of the visitors and professionals who want to discover treasures and novelties of the Catalan literature gather at the ‘Café Barcelone’ stand. This showcase stall is run by the Institut Ramon Llull (IRL), the public body in charge of promoting the Catalan language and culture abroad, created by the Catalan and Balearic Islands governments in 2002. The IRL has been in charge of organising the presence of Catalan literature at the Paris Book Fair and has covered most of the costs. The rest has been paid by the Barcelona City Council, the Institut Français and the Catalonia and Barcelona Tourism Boards. The IRL’s Director, Vicenç Villatoro, explained that by inviting Barcelona to be the guest city, the Catalan capital has become “the entry gate to the fair for an entire area of literature”.

Bringing authors in Catalan and in Spanish

The IRL wanted to bring authors writing in Catalan, but also Catalan authors writing in Spanish, to the festival. “It is the occasion to present literature written in Barcelona in Spanish and in Catalan, literature that speaks about Barcelona or that has Barcelona as a theme”, explained Villatoro.

Two days before the fair kicked off, the IRL’s Deputy Director, Àlex Susanna, told ACN that he lamented the fact that the Spanish Authorities had not shared this spirit in the recent Foire du livre de Bruxelles. In the Belgian event, Spain was the guest country and no author writing in Catalan had been invited to participate, despite some of them having had considerable international success. In addition, Susanna announced that in 2014 Catalonia will be the guest country at the most important literature event in the Nordic countries, the Gothenburg Book Fair, continuing the international projection of Catalan culture.

Previous presence in major book fairs

However, this Paris festival is not the first time Catalan literature has played a protagonist role in a literary fair. The first time it happened was in 2004 at the Feria del Libro de Guadalajara, in Mexico, where the Catalan culture was the guest of honour at the most important book fair in Latin America. The Catalan culture was also portrayed at other events in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Naples and New York. However, the most important time was in 2007, when Catalan literature was the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s most important meeting of the editorial industry.

Contemporary and classic authors

This time, in March 2013, it was Paris’s turn. The French book fair is hosting a programme of conferences, book presentations and round table meetings regarding Catalan literature and Barcelona as both a place for creation and a centre for book plots. The Salon du Livre will showcase a selection of 24 contemporary authors from Catalonia: 13 of them writing in Catalan, 7 in Spanish and 4 of them writing comic books. In addition, special attention will be devoted to classic Catalan literature authors such as Josep Pla, Joanot Martorell, Maria-Mercè Marçal, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and Mercè Rodoreda. The 24 contemporary authors invited to the Paris Book Fair are (in alphabetical order): Sebastià Alzamora, Arnal Ballester, Jordi Bernet, Jaume Cabré, Javier Calvo, Maite Carranza, Javier Cercas, Miguel Gallardo, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Juan Goytisolo, Mercè Ibarz, Salvador Macip, Gabriel Janer Manila, Berta Marsé, Eduardo Mendoza, Imma Monsó, Miquel de Palol, Sergi Pàmies, Marc Pastor, Rubén Pellejero, Jordi Puntí, Carme Riera, Albert Sánchez Piñol and Francesc Serés.

Popular authors abroad

Some of them, such as Cercas, Goytisolo and Mendoza, are already quite popular in France. Furthermore, France and the rest of Europe are gradually discovering the work of Jaume Cabré, who has written books such as ‘Winter Journey’, ‘Les veus del Pamano’ (‘Les voix du Pamano’ in French), ‘Senyoria’ (‘Sa Seigneurie’ in French)  and ‘Jo confesso’ (‘I confess’ in English). Recently, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz, who is a book lover, wanted to meet Cabré in a visit to Barcelona. Schultz described Cabré as one of the greatest European authors alive. However, he is still quite unknown internationally with only one of his books having been translated into English as yet.

More translations expected

In fact, the Catalan Minister for Culture, Ferran Mascarell, emphasised the fact that Barcelona being the guest city of the Parisian event this year may bring in many new opportunities for Catalan literature and Catalonia’s book industry. “Many new editions and translations for many countries will come out of this, which strengthens our editorial sector”, stated Mascarell.