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Catalonia at the Frankfurt Book Fair

This story has been around for months, but the International Herald Tribune has a piece on the troubles Catalonia is having getting writers to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, where Catalonia is the Guest of Honor.

This is one of the rare times that the FBF chose to honor a region rather than a country, and initially, the Ramon Llull Institute was only going to invite authors writing in Catalan to attend. Spain’s literary world freaked out, Catalan backtracked, and ended up inviting Spanish authors as well.

But many are refusing to go, calling the gesture an insulting afterthought prompted by political interference and serving up a nasty dispute for the normally genteel confines of the world’s largest book fair.

I have no place commenting on Spanish/Catalonian art and politics (and politics of art), but this really isn’t doing much to help promote Catalan or Spanish literature. Catalonia has a great tradition of authors writing in Catalan, very, very few of whom have been translated into English. (Merce Rodoreda, a bastardized version of Albert Sanchez Pinol’s Cold Skin, and now Quim Monzo, are the ones that come immediately to mind.) In my opinion, following years of oppression, the Ramon Llull Institute deserves an opportunity to promote the writers it exists to support and to spread the word about a “Catalan asethetic.”

On the other hand, it doesn’t make much sense for both the Catalan and Spanish governing bodies to marginalize writers living in Catalonia and writing primarily in Spanish.

Maybe it would’ve been best to have Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque Country, and Spanish-speaking Spain all be Guests of Honor and to celebrate the whole of literature from Spain at once. But really, we can’t have Frankfurt without some controversy . . . that’s what publishing people thrive on.



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