The best day of the year for writers, readers and booksellers alike: Sant Jordi

Victus, the historical novel by Albert Sánchez Piñol, has triumphed on the Catalan National Day of roses and books both in the Spanish and Catalan language. In the category of media-friendly writers, the biggest-selling book has been Brúixoles que busquen somriures perduts by Albert Espinosa, the scriptwriter known for his hit TV series Polseres Vermelles (‘The Red Band Society’). Barcelona’s streets were filled with bookstalls where the most popular authors signed their books in front of huge queues of excited fans. For bookshops it is also a great chance to bring in some much needed revenue as it is estimated that on Sant Jordi’s Day they invoice between 8% and 10% of the whole year’s profits, a figure of around 18 million euros.

Cèlia Muns / Paula Montañà

April 24, 2013 07:37 PM

Barcelona (CNA) - Sant Jordi (Saint George) is one of the most significant days on the Catalan calendar. On April 23rd, Catalan men give a rose to their beloved and women give a book to the one they love making the tradition a mixture of culture and romanticism. For bookshops it is also a great chance to cash in as it is estimated that on Sant Jordi’s day they invoice between 8% and 10% of the entire year’s profits. “Editors of the whole world envy us for having a tradition like this, Sant Jordi is like a joyful oasis in these days of crisis” says Xavier Mallafré, president of the Catalan Book Editors Association. This year the booksellers are expected to make about 18 million euros only on this extraordinary day, more or less the same as last year. This year, the biggest selling book in Catalan and Spanish has been the historic novel Victus by Albert Sánchez Piñol, which relates the story of Catalonia’s decisive defeat in the battle of 1714. Brúixoles que busquen somriures perduts by the author Albert Espinosa, a touching story about family, love, adversity and second chances has been the biggest selling book in the new ‘Mediatic’ category, created this year.

Throughout Sant Jordi, the streets of Barcelona are filled with the most popular authors of the day who go from one bookshop stall to another signing their books and talking to fans. Huge queues are usually formed in front of the bestselling authors category so this year the main stalls have been blocked by hundreds of Espinosa’s readers. He was busy from 11 o’clock in the morning, and didn’t stop greeting his excited fans, most of them teenagers, throughout the whole day. Over the last few years the author has become famous for novels like El món groc (‘The Yellow World’) or Tot el que podríem haver estat tu i jo si no fóssim tu i jo which have been translated into several languages. But what has really launched Espinosa to fame is his television series Polseres Vermelles (‘The Red Band Society’) that is being adapted by the American director Steven Spielberg and is now being exported to different countries such as South Korea, Finland, Mexico, Italy and France.

Despite the overwhelming success of Sánchez Piñol’s new book, the second and third Spanish bestsellers have been La reina descalza, by the Catalan author Ildefonso Falcones and El Maestro del Prado, by Javier Sierra. In contrast, the top two Catalan language books following Espinosa’s bestseller are Plans de Futur, by Màrius Serra, and L’estiu que comença, by Sílvia Soler. There is no doubt that the historical novel is still on the rise in Catalonia as the top ten bestsellers list confirms. Martí Gironell, a journalist and Catalan writer of this genre says that “we like to know what happened when we weren’t there, and in this kind of novel the author accompanies and guides the reader to a distant past. I really do defend this genre”.

Though Sánchez Piñol’s book is one of the stars of the day, the author was not in Barcelona, so their fans haven’t been able to get their books signed. However, Màrius Serra’s fans have been luckier. Though he has been very busy and confesses his tiredness, to him Sant Jordi is “joyful anomaly of a cultured nation that wants to be free”. He also highlights a peculiarity of this year’s celebration: “there are two great thematic lines: economic books that talk about the crisis and the self-determination books which are on the increase since this process started”.

S’ha acabat el bròquil, by journalist Jaume Barberà, is the first Catalan book in the non-fiction ranking and it also talks about the self-determination process. According to him, “it’s really significant that we have so many books of this kind because we are a country which lives in a state of social and national emergency, so for us independence is a tool for creating a better society”. Barberà is not the only writer that has used this day to claim for Catalan sovereignty. Montserrat Carulla, a famous Catalan actress who has recently published the book Un Pont al Passat, says “I would tell a foreigner that Catalonia is a nation that wants to be a state and that’s why today everyone is on the street”.

In all, Sant Jordi is not only a bookselling day, but also a festival for authors and readers with the aim of reaching the whole world. “This day should be exported to the rest of the world; it mixes culture, romanticism and spring. And it should always be spring” says Santi Balmes, the singer of the band Love of Lesbian who has recently written the book ¿Porqué me comprásteis un walkie talkie si era hijo único? Catalan Carlos Ruiz Zafón, is one of the most requested and international writers of the day. He is known for the novel La sombra del viento (‘The Shadow of the Wind’) which has been translated into 36 different languages and says that “it’s the party of books, friendship, ideas, literature...It’s probably the most beautiful festival of the world and we are lucky it is in Catalonia”.