Pedro Nilsson-Fernàndez

May
01

Manuel de Pedrolo and Catalan Culture in Ireland

It is not the first time that Manuel de Pedrolo’s works has trespassed across Catalonia’s frontiers; Martin Esslin praised his drama in his influential The Theatre of the Absurd (1961), Wesley Barnes included him in his study of The Philosophy and Literature of Existentialism (1968), and George E. Wellwarth mentioned his plays in his article Spanish Underground Drama (1972). More examples of the internationalization of this Catalan author’s works can be seen in the review of his Mecanoscrit del segon origen by the American-based scholar Peter Cocozzella (1975), the analysis made by Louise Johnson in her 1999’s essay Some thoughts on Pedrolo: Estrangement, mothers and others, and the translations of his most successful novels and plays to various European languages.

On this occasion, however, the international presence of Pedrolo’s works acquires a more physical sense, as sixty-eight of Pedrolo’s works have travelled to University College Cork, Ireland, to be located in the Arts and Humanities section of its library. Adelais de Pedrolo, daughter of the author and president of the Manuel de Pedrolo Foundation, kindly donated these books to the Irish institution, after learning that research on the author was being conducted in UCC’s Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. The project, involving a digital approach to the study of Pedrolo’s legacy and its relationship with Catalan’s literary space during the second half of the twentieth century, is being conducted by PhD student Pedro Fernández – also responsible for the Digital Creative Writing initiative Temps Obert v11.1 – and supervised by Dr. Helena Buffery, current president of The Anglo-Catalan Society and scholar in Catalan Studies.

books_MEDThe books are located in the Arts and Humanities section of University College Cork’s library

These 68 books are now available for consultation and represent what is probably the largest collection of Pedrolo’s works outside Catalonia. Ronan Madden at UCC’s library has taken the lead in the task of cataloguing these works, putting extra special care into indicating the date of composition of every work in the entries. In this particular case, this is as important a detail as the publication date, as Pedrolo’s career was so affected by censorship that the gap between the composition of the work and the actual publication date is sometimes as long as twenty years.

University College Cork is a well-known reference point in Ireland for Hispanic Studies. Its Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (SPLAS) is known for its multifaceted approach to Hispanic and Iberian Studies, and has hosted international conferences attracting scholars and researchers from Mexican, Argentinian, Galician, Basque, Catalan and Spanish Studies. As far as Catalan literature and culture is concerned, the department is also very active, offering Catalan Language and Culture as subjects at second and final year level in its undergraduate curriculum, thanks to the funding of Institut Ramon Llull and the hard work of the Catalan lectora Núria Massot, who is also a key figure in the promotion of Catalan Culture among Corkonians. Through close collaboration with the Institut Ramon Llull and Cork City Libraries, the department has organized annual events as part of the Cork World Book Fest, celebrated to coincide with the Dia de Sant Jordi. Past events include the visit of Catalan personalities such as poet Jaume Subirana in 2012, cinematographer Isona Passola in 2013, and the recent visits of musician Pau Alabajos and writer Marc Pastor during this year’s edition. Along with these activities, this year will see another important event for Catalan studies in Ireland, as the Anglo-Catalan Society’s 60th anniversary Conference will be held at University College Cork from the 5th to the 7th of September 2014.

Grouppic_MEDFrom left to right: Ronan Madden, Pedro Fernández, Helena Buffery and Núria Massot

If this has been a dynamic year for Catalan Culture in Ireland, these books have also reached the island at a key moment for Pedrolian studies as a whole. In May, a conference about Pedrolian studies Manuel de Pedrolo, contra l’oblit, will be held at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Led by Catalan writer Sebastià Benassar, it is the first time that such a conference on Pedrolo has been celebrated since the 1990´s colloquium Rellegir Pedrolo.

Everything indicates that this could be a good year for Pedrolian studies. The opportunity to break with a twenty-five year period of academic oblivion seems to be within reach. Pedrolo’s relationship with academia has been a problematic one; his condition as a best selling author during the 1970s and 1980s (particularly fuelled by the success of Mecanoscrit del segon origen) made critics reluctant to include any of his works in the canon. Nowadays, the vast and heterogeneous nature of his production stands as a challenge to any scholar interested in analyzing his lifetime project.

The conservation and recognition of the life and works of this prolific writer will therefore require the commitment of Catalan academics to shift their focus towards the figure of this writer “without limits”, who was so central to the contemporary history of Catalan literature. Only four years away from the centenary of the author’s birth, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to do justice to this writer. If our expectations have been raised as cinematographer Carles Porta works against the clock to complete Bigas Luna’s posthumous project – a film adaptation of Mecanoscrit del segon Origen – my only wish is that its commercial success might serve to create awareness of this unjustly forgotten author, and that similar projects to the Jornada Universitària organized by Benassar continue to appear in the future.

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