Catalan literature's international reach grows with boom in English translations

Institut Ramon Llull director Iolanda Batallé Prats on literary diversity, the London Book Fair and the joy of picture books

Customers leaf through books at the La Fatal bookstore in Lleida on its opening day, March 27, 2021 (by Anna Berga)
Customers leaf through books at the La Fatal bookstore in Lleida on its opening day, March 27, 2021 (by Anna Berga) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

April 21, 2021 01:07 PM

Books, along with romance and roses, are at the heart of Catalonia's Sant Jordi (Saint George's Day) festivities every April 23.

Ahead of the most important day in the calendar for publishers, booksellers, readers and writers alike, Iolanda Batallé Prats, director of the Institut Ramon Llull, speaks to Catalan News about the growing – and increasingly diverse – community of writers in Catalonia, the boom in English translations, the 2022 London Book Fair and the surprising joy of picture books for adults.

Press play to listen to the full interview in our Filling the Sink podcast below.

1. How large is the Catalan literary community?

The community is growing and growing and it's my passion, and nowadays we have mixture of generations. Fifty years ago writers were mostly white, male and somehow rich. More and more different voices are reaching the writing space and this is very rich. The important thing is that we cover fiction, nonfiction, poetry, YA (young adult literature), children's literature. All of this creates an amazing number of writers that are being more and more translated all over the world.

2. Is Catalan literature often translated into English?

Translation-wise, we are growing and getting Catalan literature translated into English has always been a challenge. But in 2020, 12% has already been translated into English, which is important. The first language into which Catalan literature is translated is Spanish, but then we have English in 2020, French, Italian, German and then so many other languages like Greek.

English has always been the big challenge because English publishers for many years were not that open to consider other languages and translations. Thank God in these last 10 years this has been changing.

3. What events are being planned to promote Catalan literature?

In 2022, we are going to be in the spotlight as literature guests at the London Book Fair. In the past year, despite the pandemic, we have been working hard, between the Institut Ramon Llull team and the London Book Fair team to do the warming up and gatherings with English-speaking publishers, not only in England but in the US, in Australia, in New Zealand... with Catalan publishers and writers. We are doing all this warming up so that in 2022 our literature and writers are guests there.

4. What books would you recommend for Catalan language learners?

If the level is beginner, a good way to start is with picture books including text. They are the first museums, not only for children, but for adults. In France, in Italy, also in England, the culture of adults buying picture books is increasing, and it is also happening in Catalonia. We are fostering it, because if someone is a beginner, a picture book is a good way to start.