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Eight Catalan Authors to Discover

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On October 1st, more than two million Catalans cast their ballots in a referendum for independence from Spain. Though Catalonia’s fight for independence is an enduring theme in the region’s history, this referendum was one of the more defining steps towards an independent republic. At around midnight, it was announced that approximately 90 percent of the two million people who voted chose independence. The Spanish government had deemed the referendum illegal, and the day was filled with violence as nearly 900 people were injured by the Spanish police, leaving many feeling that independence is necessary now more than ever. Two days after the referendum vote, Catalans took to the streets in order to demonstrate against the violence enforced by the Spanish government. 

Catalan parliament has since declared independence from Spain, and Madrid is poised to impose direct rule on the region. The next chapter of Catalonia's history is about to be written.


Catalonia is a region in the northeastern part of Spain, on the Mediterranean coast, spanning the Pyrenees and bordering with France. There are 7.5 million residents in Catalonia, 15 percent of the total population of Spain. The region is distinct both culturally and linguistically. Some famous Catalan cultural figures include Salvador Dalí, Antoni Gaudí, and Joan Miró. Though nearly all Catalans speak Spanish fluently, their language is more similar to the French dialect, Provençal, as well as Italian.

In 1931, Catalonia was given more autonomy from Spain when the country became a republic. However, under the dictator Francisco Franco, who came to power in 1939 and ruled Spain until 1975, the Catalan language, as well as all regional languages in Spain, were banned, and the culture was suppressed.

Given the recent events, the future of Catalonia is unclear, but the referendum and the police’s violent reaction has strengthened many Catalans’ determination for independence. Catalan authors have written about their distinct region in numerous novels and short stories. For a start, here are eight Catalan authors ranging from classic to contemporary, but do look out for other classics, with works by  Caterina Albert, who wrote under the pen name of Victor Català, Montserrat Roig, and Pere Calders, and contemporary authors such as Marta Rojals, Jordi Puntí, or the creepy work of Marc Pastor. Other books to read about Catalonia by non-Catalan authors are George Orwell's classic Homage to Catalonia, in which he recounts the Spanish Civil War, Colm Tóibin's Homage to Barcelona, and Leonardo Padura's The Man Who Loved Dogs, which, while focusing on Leon Trotsky's life, also thoroughly explores the life of Rámon Mercader, Trotsky's murderer, who was a Catalan communist who fought in the Spanish Civil War. 



The Time Of The Doves

Named after a famous square in the Barcelona district Gràcia, Rodoreda’s novel tells the story of a young and naive shop girl who is pursued by an older man and the eventual marriage between them. Published in 1962, the novel is set during the time of the Spanish Civil War, and though political, the main focus of the story is the relationship between the man, Quimet, and Natalia, who Quimet nicknames Colometa, which translates to Dove. Rodoreda was born in 1908 and lived in exile in France and Switzerland following the Spanish Civil War. Gabriel García Márquez called The Time of the Doves, “the most beautiful novel published in Spain since the Civil War.”

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The Gray Notebook

The Gray Notebook is a diary that the writer Josep Pla kept from the age of 20 when he was a law student at the University of Barcelona. He returned to his family in Palafrugell, a small town in the region of Girona, when the university shut down after the Spanish flu broke out. Pla chronicled his daily observations and experiences from May 1918 to November 1919, when he completed his degree and eventually left for Paris to work as a foreign correspondent. The book was only published in 1966 when Pla was 69. At that point, he returned to these diaries, revising them and creating an autobiography built on his earlier entries while also weaving in observations from a career as a writer.

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Dictionary for the Idle

An untraditional dictionary, Fuster’s book, first published in 1964, lists terms like Defect, Egoism and Cynicism, with Fuster’s own definitions of these often abstract terms, and comments both funny and profound such as, “Money: I don’t understand those who say they despise money. It’s so hard to earn!” Fuster was born in 1922 in Sueca, Spain, near Valencia and wrote in Catalan and was a fierce advocate for unity within Catalan culture. 

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The Dolls' Room

This is a classic of contemporary Catalan literature, and a portrait of a vanishing age. Villalonga’s novel is the story of two married aristocrats Don Toni and Dona Maria Antònia Bearn narrated by Don Joan, a family priest. The novel is a satire about the idealization of wealth and status and our own ability to fall for its allure. The book takes place on the island of Mallorca, and includes dialog in the dialect of the region. Villalonga published the book in both Spanish and Catalan.

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A Thousand Morons

The stories in A Thousand Morons are filled with absurdity, irony, and often explore darker psychological themes. Published in 2012, this collection of short stories is divided into two parts, the first with seven longer fleshed out stories on the theme of aging, and the second with a dozen more playful pieces of flash fiction. Monzó is one of the most well known contemporary Catalan authors, famous for his short stories that expand on the theme of Spanish surrealism.

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Confessions

At 60 and with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer's, Adria Ardevol re-examines his life before losing his memory. Running the historical gamut from the Inquisition, via Franco's rule to the present, he recalls a loveless childhood where the family antique business and his father's study becomes the centre of his world. Jaume Cabré is one of the most internationally celebrated contemporary Catalan writers.

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This Too Shall Pass

Although originally written in Spanish, this book is firmly planted in Catalunya. Blanca is forty years old when her mother dies. Left shocked and rudderless by the death of the most important person in her life, she deals with her grief by turning to her closes friends, her family, a change of scenery, and sex. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to her mother's former home in Cadaqués on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, with plans to meet her married lover. 

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The Last Patriarch

This novel takes on the subject of immigration to Catalonia. Mimoun leaves Morocco for Catalonia, expecting his wife and family to stay in their village, while he enjoys the freedom and sophistication of Barcelona. His plans are thrown into disarray when his family insists on joining him in Catalonia. Things get much worse when his daughter starts reading the dictionary, and taking on the Catalans in their own language.

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Leeron Hoory is a writer based in New York City with a focus in arts and culture.

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