Peter Bush Dolors Miquel Quim Monz贸 Joan Sales Montserrat Roig Michael Eaude Teresa Solana Najat El Hachmi
Welcome to issue 106 of LiTRO From the editor When I first went to Barcelona in the late 60s, Catalan was banned, a language that Catalans could only speak in the safety of their homes, and Catalan literature suffered an equally semiclandestine existence. Torture, imprisonment and death possibly awaited those who dared to try to go public with their language or claim other democratic right like the freedom to organise in unions. I think the writing in this issue of Litro shows how Catalan literature and language have survived civil war and decades of dictatorship to emerge in a range of old voices that were once silenced and new ones who refashion old myths, are self- critical and satirical, sexy and playful. These writers are eager to extend their language and confront the issues of the day. Some were born elsewhere and write in Catalan and their visibility speaks for the self-confident openness of the culture. If you enjoy Miró or Messi, Gaudí or Ferran Adrià, you’ll relish these literary ways into Catalan history and culture. Peter Bush Guest Editor May 2011
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Contents Anthem for a Siesta Rambo Dolors Miquel
Extract: Body Hunter Meets Galician Najat El Hachmi
A Hunger and a Thirst for Justice Quim Monz贸
The Aragonese Front, 1937 Joan Sales
The Song of Youth Montserrat Roig
I Come From A Silence Michael Eaude
The Party Teresa Solana
Mammal with Flea Dolors Miquel
Listings Alex James
Anthem for a siesta Rambo (universal Prayer) dolors miquel
ift up your hearts… lift up your bums!
Lift your bums off those chairs, sons of the Sow! Lift your bodies off those sofas, you couch potatoes! And, if you can’t because you’re too stuffed with vitamins, walk with your sofa stuck to your bum, you siesta Rambos, like a snail, in a huff, like a snail, carry your house. Arise from the grave, you multimedia suckers, leprous consumers of the American dream. Arise from this cloister, this big cathedral, enclosed order of the 21st century. Men enclosed. Eat the mystery of the excrement, expelled by the materialist intestine from the belly of the dollar cow. Lift your bums off spongy lies, sons of the Sow! Smell the air polluted by your shit. Wallow like pigs in the great dunghill of life. Wallow in there. Here we go...
Dolors Miquel, born in Lleida, has published several books of poetry including Trucker’s Haiku (1999) and recently The woman who watched the telly (2010) and an anthology of medieval Catalan verse, No one to be seen (2010) she has won the Gabriel Ferrat and Ciutat de Barcelona Prizes and feels immensely privileged to be a woman writing in a nation that doesn’t exist and in a language that is always being questioned. 6
Body Hunter Meets Galician najat el hachmi
’ve met lots of Galicians working in that factory, but I found mine in a disco a long way from the city where I live, and that’s why we did such different things together. Well, you know, sir, maybe not that different, please don’t start imagining anything outlandish. I told him I’d a way of spotting Galicians, whether he wanted to believe me or ; by that time I’d developed a special knack that allows me to detect them. You don’t believe me? I tell you I can, if I’m in a crowd, I can pick them out a mile off. Sure, I know they not so different, but they’ve got traits in common. Lots are swarthy, black-haired, round-faced, but you also get fair-haired, thin-faced bright-eyed specimens. You can’t find words for what makes them alike, because it’s nothing concrete, it’s a particular way they have. OK, maybe I’ve imagined this Galician bit, but not entirely, I tell you. I bumped into my Galician at the bar when my arm brushed against his. He smiled and asked me in Spanish: what do you bet we were born the same day? I couldn’t hear him and let myself be carried away by the music. The beers I’d drunk were making me light or heavy-headed, as if I couldn’t feel my weight, or whether my body was mine or belonged to someone else. Which is the whole point of getting drunk, right? I felt he was so close I could smell his breath, the hair falling over his eyes as if he were half asleep. So what do I get if it turns out we were born on the same day? That’s not possible, I replied. The 18th March, I said as slowly as I could, emphasising the ‘th’ and the ‘ch’. The kind of thing that makes men go wild, wherever they come from. There you are, me too! I called him a liar, said what a roundabout way to pick up a girl, trying to be original and that I didn’t believe him for one minute. He took out his ID card and showed it to me. Hey, it’s not the same month, day or year! Sorry, I sometimes forget when my birthday is. I was still looking at his ID card when he started to sniff the roots of my hair behind one ear while his hair tickled my shoulder and cheek. His long black hair fell down like a curtain. I tried to smell the fatty smell the roots of his hair gave off, you know, the fatty, almost unnoticeable smell greasy hair gives
A Hunger and a Thirst for Justice quim monzó
he fact he had been born into an aristocratic family didn’t mean Robin Hood couldn’t hate social inequality. From childhood, he’d always felt indignant when he saw how the poor lived in abject poverty while the rich wallowed in luxury. Robin Hood was repelled by a contrast that left the rest of his family unfazed. He was sure the powers-that-be were always on the side of the wealthy, and he couldn’t simply stand by and watch that degrading spectacle, so one day he decided to do something about it. He selected the richest of the rich families in the county. He didn’t even need to spy on them to execute the plan he had in mind. He knew them all so well: he was familiar with their every move—where, when, and what they did, when exactly they could be taken by surprise. Then he fixed a day to do the deed. But he had to dress for the occasion. He couldn’t wear his usual garb; they’d recognize him. He opted for a black silk mask and a hunting cap, complete with a slender, gray feather from the trunk in the attic that his Uncle Richard had brought him from a visit to the Tyrol. He took his bow, quiver, and arrows and mounted his best steed. From afar he could see the castle-windows lit up and hear the music pouring out. As he had anticipated, they were throwing a party. Perfect. That way he’d catch them all together, and the pickings from his choice selection of the wealthy and their guests would be rich. He burst into the house, indifferent to the mess his horse’s muddy shoes were making on the deep red carpet. The crème de la crème of local society was present: not only the hosts (the richest of the rich, the owners of the castle, the main target of his incursion), but also their friends: marquis, counts, and dukes, who were possibly not as rich but in any case were excessively rich when compared to the community as a whole. It was an exceptional harvest. He stole their tiaras (silver, gold, and jewel encrusted silver), their rings (none was unadorned: all were as thick as the links of a chain), their earrings (some were long and hung down to the shoulder), 12
The Aragonese Front, 1937 joan sales Castel de Olivo, 19 June
am in excellent health, but as full of grumbles as a sickly child. I can’t tell you how much I have suffered serving in a division I loathed. I negotiate a different posting, arrive with high hopes… and everything collapses on me again. I thought I would find Juli Soleràs. They’d told me he was in the field hospital, I don’t know whether wounded or ill; but it turns out he’s been discharged. And I’ve not seen a single familiar face among the thousands in the incoherent phantasmagoria the war has paraded before my eyes from the moment it broke out. The lieutenant colonel commanding the First Brigade interrogated me fiercely about why I’d been delayed so. Not surprising really, given the time that lapsed between the issue of my new posting to the day I joined them; he seemed satisfied by my straightforward explanation: a very sore throat. However, his touchy welcome needled me. Had I been anticipating a welcome with open arms? We know nothing about other people, and indeed couldn’t care less; on the other hand, we want them to know all there is to know about us. Our longing to be understood can only be compared to our reluctance to understand anyone else. Because – and I don’t want to hide this from you - the people I now see around me leave me completely cold. If only I found them unpleasant! Frankly, to be honest the lieutenant colonel had reason enough to be suspicious. A lieutenant who seeks a transfer from his unit that’s on active service to another that’s being reorganised and will remain weeks, if not months, far from the front line, could provoke malicious comments. People serving in these regular units cannot imagine how hellish are brigades that are simply collections of escapees from prisons or lunatic asylums led by raving visionaries. You need to live it for eleven months, as I have. 18
The song of Youth montserrat roig To Drs Nolasc Acarin and August AndrĂŠs Before the final night comes to a close for me, I turn my back on the ominous day that is today; so degraded it already seems dead to me. And a new burst of faith still encourages me, and I turn, with leaping heart, to the bright light through galleries of deepest memory. Josep Carner, AbsĂ¨ncia
er eyelids were not tightly shut; they were merely closed. She did this every morning before the nurse came in. She liked to have her eyes half shut, as if covered by a transparent, light pink handkerchief. A silk handkerchief. Then she would slowly start opening her eyelids and confirm that everything was still in its usual spot. She would open her eyes because she wanted to, just as she could choose to move her hands and turn her head a little from side to side. She looked up: the milky light of the first hour of the day, still sleepy, was coming in through the window. She saw the peeling white walls and, in the middle of the room, the folding screen. Yes, everything was still in its place. The objects were waking up with her. They were returning to their places at the end of the night, so short. In hospitals, nights are very short. She heard the laborious, constricted breathing of the woman behind the screen. It was a harsh sound, as if she had a machine on top of her chest. A death rattle, the sound of someone dying. The woman on the other side of the screen would be the fourth one to die since they had transferred her to that room. The gap between inhalations would be ever greater, the sound ever harsher until, at daybreak, she would not hear anything any more. They all died at dawn. Just like the night. The doctor from the ward had once told her that this phenomenon was due to cortisol, the stress1 hormone. That was why she liked to sense her eyelids covering her eyes, to
i Come From A silence michael eaude
n 1958, a 17 year-old working-class lad from Xàtiva, an industrial town in the province of Alacant (Alicante), wrote an apparently conventional teenage song about riding pillion on a motor-bike. He was called Raimon and the song was Al vent, In the wind. Face in the wind heart in the wind hands in the wind eyes in the wind the wind of the world. In the raw, rhythmic voice of Raimon, backed by just a strumming guitar, and at the particular moment of the dictatorship, it became a song about riding free. This was the voice of the new generation, not cowed by the terrible defeat of the Civil War. For many who heard this voice coming out of the far reaches – for a Barcelona resident – of where Catalan was spoken, its impact was like hearing Jacinto Verdaguer at the 1866 Jocs Florals. New and authentic. And all/ all full of night/ searching for light/ searching for peace/ searching for God/ in the wind of the world. Raimon’s early songs did not analyze the world. They expressed what masses of young people felt. They wanted to ride in the wind, free, and they were longing for a better life. It showed that music could reach beyond the censorship. Even Franco’s censors, notoriously inconsistent and foolish as they were, might draw back from censoring a song about a motorbike. Yet these crits cantats (sung shouts) were profoundly political. The nova cançó (new song) was a movement of cantautors 34
The Party teresa solana
his time we’d agreed I would go and collect Borja at his place, naturally wearing my new suit, and from there we’d go to Mariona’s. The homage was invitation only for a hundred or so and began at seven, though we wanted to get there early, and did so at three minutes to. Very few people had arrived. Journalists and television cameras were around, and drinks, though not canapés, were circulating. A small army of waiters stood to attention, ready to do their duty, and Mariona’s butler, Marcelo, was supervising proceedings as efficiently as ever. He was a fine figure of a man, and his delicate manners contrasted with an athletic body that was midway between Johnny Weissmuller and Rock Hudson. Mariona had alerted him to our security worries and he’d promised to keep a beady eye out. The modernist salon, where the event was being held, was dominated by a huge black-and-white photograph of murdered novelist, Marina Dolç. It seemed very recent. I stared at her face, in particular, her eyes: they radiated an extraordinary serenity and bore the half lucid half bitter expression of people who’ve suffered a lot and refrained from speaking out. I thought how she wasn’t at all like the extremely ingenuous heroines of her novels. No, Marina Dolç might have been many things in her life, but she’d surely never behaved like a fool. My brother, who’d known her personally, was in agreement. Next to the portrait of the writer were a huge bunch of red roses and a copy of each of her books, as if it were a kind of altar. They’d also lit candles and a real pianist was playing pieces by Satie in a corner of the room where guests were now beginning to huddle. More people gradually came and the room filled up. Everyone greeted Mariona, whom they treated with deference but as a lifelong friend. Most guests were acquainted and were dressed extremely fashionably. One lady had turned up in a long evening dress that jarred slightly and another was resplendent in a posh trendy style of tight jeans baring her belly button, and high-heeled sandals. There was some variation among the men as well, but most wore a tie.
Mammal with Flea dolors miquel
God, the mammal,
look agog at the universe and invisible things and at the flea on the belly of my dog. Will she too look at me with the same spiritual contentment? And take a chance on the hypothesis of trismegistic universes? Suddenly feel an infinite desire for love and call it God? God, God. Call it God in a canticle for the microbes lying still on the flea’s belly up, down, as far as my hand or even further? Will the flea feel infinite power on the belly of my dog? Think of destroying the forest of long, soft hairs that autumn plucks and fills my flat with flakes? Think of nuclear war? Feel the Westernness of the void of centuries? Will the flea consult a psychotherapist or psychiatrist when she intuits she’s beholden to the gaze of another? Will the flea blame her father and mother for her neurosis? Or call me Goddess? Or even worse: call my dog Goddess, or think she’s the daughter of my dog? Will she too ask stupid questions like me? And crucify other fleas?
Translated by Peter Bush
listings may 2011 Get transported back in time this month, from The Blitz, to the Prohibition, to the golden era of the romantic poets, and Victorian magic lantern worlds of story-telling, in this month’s events, edited by Alexander James. Throughout May, The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900. Victoria & Albert Museum. See the art inspired by romantic poetry. The V&A will showcase the most comprehensive exhibition ever staged on the Aesthetic Movement in Britain, conveying the importance of art and the pleasure of all things beautiful. The Cult of Beauty will display the greatest masterpieces in painting together with sculpture, design, furniture and architecture as well as fashion and literature of the era. The exhibition will also explore the personalities in the group including William Morris, James McNeill Whistler, Frederic Leighton, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Oscar Wilde. 7th May, The Orphanage Masked Ball - 9 Adam Street London WC2N 6AA - From 10PM to 3AM. Early bird tickets now available at £20 each OR £25 with a Dance Lesson. Taking the ball back to its decadent heyday of bowers, top hats, dancing and story-telling, an event for the discerning literati. see://www.thelasttuesdaysociety.org 7th May, Prohibition The Grand Hall, The Town Hall, Euston Road, London, 8pm to 2am…or earlier if the police arrive. Prepare to step back in time as we revisit the roaring twenties. Swigging cunningly concealed cocktails and contraband liquor from teacups is the order of the day as we strive to evade the ever-beady eye of the law and indulge in a spot of illegal drinking, gambling and Charleston dancing, and maybe even some poetry. Live bands and cabaret acts are at hand to entertain even the most particular of cads and good time girls, see: www.prohibition1920s.com
15th May, The Little Theatre of Dolls, 11 Mare Street, E8. 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. Magical puppet shows for children and adults alike. With their creations, they invite the viewer into fantastical worlds where anything is possible. In beautifully crafted sceneries the audience get to experience magical realities and stories acted by exquisite hand made puppets that have all been created by the artists. 18th May, Whisky and Lit. The Book Club, Leonard Street. What have Hunter S. Thompson, John Steinbeck, Charles Bukowski and Michael Jackson all got in common ? They have all waxed lyrical about Whisky in their writings. Come and join Colin Dunn as he guides you through a evening of Whisky appreciation, sampling different expressions of Fine Malt Whisky interspersed with the reading of some of the world’s great writers. Learn how to appreciate Whisky by smell and taste and have a stab at writing your own review, to be read out on the evening. www.wearetbc.com 14th May, The Blitz Party, Venue Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch. Bunker opens at 8pm, Floorshows & entertainment from 9pm. Blackout till late (2am). The Blitz Party gives party goers the opportunity to step back in time at our 1940’s East End air raid shelter, where drinks, dancing and neighbourly spirit are the order of the evening. Sip classic cocktails and dance the night away to the UK’s finest live swing bands, performers and 1940s DJs. 14th May, Brave And The Bold Festival, 3.30pm onwards, £10, Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, NW8 8EH. Made from Scratch Theatre Company presents new work by new companies. The Brave And The Bold festival aims to celebrate those choosing to make their own work. With the aims of collaboration, support and developing future relationships this one day festival or readings and performances looks towards a brighter future led by a new generation of theatre makers. See: www.cockpittheatre.org.uk. 19th to 25th May, Lord of the Flies, Regent’s Park, Open Air Theatre. See the opening performance at the New Shakespeare Company home theatre. After a group of schoolboys survive a massive plane crash, what starts as a classic desert island 51
adventure quickly becomes a struggle for survival as superstition and immorality sees the community slide into a darkly sinister world. Created by the same team as last season’s The Crucible, the production will rediscover this gripping drama in the unconfined and unparalleled atmosphere of theatre in the open air. www.openairtheatre.org. 20th May, SCROOBIUS PIP PRESENTS WE.ARE. LIZARDS, £6, The Book Club, Leonard Street. DJs: Scroobius Pip, FNORD, Buddy Peace, Destruction, PUSH Music, Darcy, Redshift Rebels, Midnite Socialite, Andy Hepburn. The beat poet is back for the fourth instalment of his WE.ARE.LIZARDS party with another massive line up over both floors. Headliners come in the shape of FNORD who will be blowing your minds with a mix of electro, new wave and post punk. Buddy Peace will also be joining in the fun and picking some weird and wonderful tracks for his special set. 20th May to October. Pirates: The Captain Kidd Story. Museum of London Docklands. From Treasure Island to Pirates of the Caribbean, discover the truth about the real pirates who ruled our seas over 300 years ago. Through maps, letters and illustrations, follow the true story of the infamous Captain Kidd in this family-friendly exhibition and learn how Kidd’s legend still shapes our idea of pirates today. 24th to 28th May, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea. There’s even a literary-themed garden this year. Come and experience the greatest flower show in the world at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea. Every year the grounds of the Royal Hospital are transformed into show gardens, inspirational small gardens and vibrant horticultural displays that make up the world’s most famous flower show. For more information visit www.rhs.org.uk. 26th May, Reward, Hoxton Pony. The new monthly club night curated by New Young Pony Club and Brian Smith of Silver Music. See poetry come to music in the latest showcase of upcoming band and poets from all over the world. Expect to hear nothing but exciting inspiring music and poetry from the dawn of the electric era to the modern idealists making us move and shout today. See: www.thehoxtonpony.com 52
Free exhibition Until 31 August
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LITRO | 106 CATALAN “…He pulled me over to his friend, and now the three of us were having a good time; all their legs were wrapped round mine and both were breathing hard on me, the Galician with his warm tongue, his teeth all over my neck and his hands on my breasts till he’d pulled the material away, till I was completely naked in front of his friend, who was gawping…’” Najat el Hachmi, The Body Hunter, page 7
LA RUTA DE LA SEDA XX, 2006 Mixed Media on paper - 238 x 112 cm Photo Gasull Courtesy: Jaume Plensa (Vegap) This issue was supported by The Institut Ramon Llull