‘Like a child at the adults’ table’: poet Enric Casasses receives Catalan literary prize

Organized by Òmnium Cultural, the Honor Award ceremony at the Palau de la Música became a night of poetic recitals

Enric Casasses performing at the 52nd Honor Award for Catalan literature October 20, 2020 (by Pau Cortina)
Enric Casasses performing at the 52nd Honor Award for Catalan literature October 20, 2020 (by Pau Cortina) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 21, 2020 02:16 PM

Enric Casasses, prized poet, narrator, playwright and translator from Barcelona, received the 52nd Premi d’Honor de les Lletres Catalanes (Honor Award for Catalan literature) on Tuesday evening at the city’s Palau de la Música concert hall. 

As he reflected on his win, and the literary figures that had come before him, Casasses stated that he felt “like a child at the adults’ table,” and despite being seen as a model to look up to, he explained that he “learns from young people” and not the other way around. 

The artist had been awarded the prize by Omnium Cultural, a pro-independence NGO dealing with culture and civil-rights, in February. However the ceremony, planned for June 8, had to be postponed due to the current health crisis.

Throughout the night Casasses took center stage, reciting his own works, accompanied by few other acts.

Despite 50% capacity rules, the evening saw many important faces come to honor Casasses’ achievements including interim Catalan president Pere Aragonès and ex-president Quim Torra.

For the third year in a row, Omnium’s president Jordi Cuixart was unable to present the award, having been imprisoned in 2017 for crimes of sedition and violent rebellion.

Casasses’ achievements

Marcel Mauri, the vice president of Omnium, praised Casasses at the prize-giving. In a speech he applauded the poet for contributing to making Catalan culture “a universal culture of and for the people, with a transformative will, a culture of freedom and resistance,” 

He further lauded the prize-winner by saying that “nowadays no one connects culture, poetry and language with the popular tradition like our brand new holder of the Prize of Honor. New generations of poets everywhere have a teacher in Casasses and the entire country is indebted to him.”

Casasses is one of the most influential Catalan poets of his generation. His first book of poems was published in 1972 and his latest book ‘Assagets’ (Little essays) came out in 2020.

During this time, he has written poems and plays, translated major works by authors such as Conan Doyle and has won prizes such as the National Literature Prize in 2012.

Writing in a transgressive style, his works have become reference for many poets. 

A night of poetic interludes

The night, artistically directed by Ramon Simó, centered on Casasses. He performed fragments of his poems following a free-flowing chronology through his works. 

He explained that in picking themes to dedicate to Catalan literature he decided to work through love, death, freedom, ‘her’ and invention.

Casasses also read a poem Cuixart had sent him from prison and reflected on his life in jail. His readings were accompanied by a range of musical acts such as a guitarist, the duet Don Simon & Telefunken and a group of reciters. 

Pondering his own previous link to Omnium, Casasses talked about his father, who had previously judged this very award.