Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sant Jordi: The Festivity of the Book, and a Singular and Universal Language and Culture

About the author of this article for Help Catalonia
Special Colaborators
MHP Josep Bargalló Valls is the author of this article

Josep Bargalló
@josepbargallo
First Minister and Minister of the Presidency of Catalonia 2004-2006
Minister of Education of Catalonia 2003-2004
Councillor in Torredembarra Town Council (1995-2003)

President of the Ramon Llull Institute (2006-2010)

From 2010 he is Professor of the University Rovira i Virgili



Catalan is a Romance language with over a thousand years of history and literary production, born in medieval times, along with other literatures expressed in the new languages ​​that arise from the fragmentation of Latin. Philosopher Ramon Llull, thinkers such as Bernat Metge and Francesc Eiximenis, poets like Ausiàs March and novelists as Joanot Martotell (with Tirant lo Blanc) place the literary production of the Catalan language in the forefront of Europe since the very beginning, and they do it from the more swiftly talent and creativity.

Ramon Llull, between the XIII and XIV centuries, paved the way for the use of new Romance languages for philosophical thought, theology and popular science, and also for poetry and narrative. Ramon Llull, in his work Catalan, impersonates the outbreak of the medieval Roman cultural richness. It was the first author to use a historically significant Romance language to express the philosophical and technical knowledge and was the creator of literary Catalan, with a superb command of language, both in prose and verse. And, with his own biography, very hazardous, and his trips, Llull also starred in the opening of a bridge of dialogue between the Christian and the Muslim world. In fact, at that time he already was a highly regarded author: just as happened with the "big ones", Ramon Llull is still known by its name translated into Latin or into the native language of each country:
Raimundus Lullus, Raimundo Lulio, Raymond Lully...
However, Catalan is not just an ancient language with its own history. It is also a living language, modern, and will in the future. Product of the comings and goings of the European history itself and the Mediterranean history in particular, Catalan is understood, in the XXI century, in various areas from four different states, and has a high number of speakers, almost 10 million, what clearly exceeds the average of the official languages ​​in the European Union.

The Catalan language is today the only official language of Andorra (the state of the Pyrenees), has official statutory – besides the Spanish -, in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands - with the recognition of its variants-, and it is used for public communications by the City Hall of Perpignan (and other Catalan-speaking municipalities in the French territory known as Northern Catalonia) and by l’Alguer (on the island of Sardinia). Main language of compulsory and post-compulsory education in the territories where it has legal status as official, outside its scope has also a significant presence in the University: some curricular subjects are in Catalan, as well as Catalan universities themselves, over 170 universities worldwide, in all five continents, with a special emphasis on Europe and to a lesser extent, in America.

Catalan is also a language brought to new technologies. In early 2007 Google announced an agreement with five Catalan libraries to digitize and upload more than 300,000 books written in Catalan, the second agreement of this kind involving non-English library materials. Since April 2006 Internet users can also register the domain .cat, a generic domain (gTLD) intended for the Catalan linguistic and cultural community. Catalan is also the only language that, as such, has an Internet domain. It is probably the result of being a highly used language on the net and not being official in any large state with its own domain. In fact, according to data made public annually since 2005, Catalan is located around the 25th place ranking in the Internet, with slight annual fluctuations. This position improves to 20th if the measure taken is the websites / speakers.

The importance of the presence of Catalan on the Internet, with its own domain, is probably the most obvious example of its paradoxical situation. Majority languages ​​do not need their own domain because they are all official and belong to a big state which already has self domain (.fr, .de, .es, .it, .uk, .us, etc.). Minority languages, however, which are not official in any large state, have no economic, social or cultural power... what would give them a specific domain. This is another example of the constant paradox related to the Catalan language. No large state has it as an officer, but it’s powerful enough to achieve a proper place in the global communication society, the main icon of modernity.

With Catalonia being the publishing capital of the Hispanic world and taking into account the Catalan economic and cultural influence, we should not be surprised of its relevance in this field. Over 10.000 books in Catalan are published every year. Most of these ten thousand titles, of course, were originally written in Catalan, but a significant number correspond to translations: indeed, the Catalan edition reached the 10th place worldwide in number of translations from other languages. Catalan is also a majority language regarding the reception of works originally published in other languages. The Catalan language is not, therefore, a minority language. Neither is the literature, thought, creativity and industry expressed in that language. Neither for its historical significance, nor for its current situation.

The strength of the Catalan publishing industry – in Catalan or Spanish - is very well known. Barcelona is not only the capital of the publishing industry in Spain - more than 80% of titles are published there-, but also of the foreign market: the Catalan publishing industry gathers more than 50% of exports throughout the state. Not only that, but 18% of the Latin American market, one way or another, directly or through the presence of domestic subsidiaries, is held by Catalan publishers.

The internationalization of our publishing industry, however, goes beyond the Spanish speaking countries, and spreads everywhere, consolidating and enlarging its potential. It’s a solid and powerful industry, with tradition and future. With presence in all subjects and having also edited books in both languages spoken in the society where it is located, even though its market is much broader. In fact, for our industry, Spanish is the language that provides a safe and guaranteed presence in the international market, and Catalan the one which ensures its uniqueness, but also a diversification that strengthens its economic potential.

The strength of this industry, the recognition of our literary tradition and the force of our language made Catalan culture became, in 2007, guest of honor at the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair, the one gathering more professionals worldwide. It was the first time - and the only one up to now – that the guest of honor was a culture and a literature that did not represent itself any state or any group of States.

But our heritage is not only historical or traditional. Catalan culture has been - and is still - highly creative. Regarding last hundred years, artists like Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Antoni Tàpies and Miquel Barceló, architects such as Antoni Gaudí, Josep Lluis Sert, Enric Miralles and Santiago Calatrava, musicians like Pau Casals or Alícia de la Rocha, opera singers as Josep Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, Victòria dels Àngels, Jaume Aragall o Joan Pons...

The sturdiness of our literary creation has been recognized in the voice of authors from all over the world who have spoken about it with admiration and knowledge, like Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Seamus Heaney or Harold Bloom. Without being too thorough, I remember that Garcia Marquez has written about the novelist Mercè Rodoreda, Vargas Llosa about the medieval novel Tirant lo Blanc, Heaney did it about the poet Gabriel Ferreter ... Bloom studied Ramon Llull as well as modern and contemporary authors. In The Western Canon (1994), he included six Catalan writers of the XX century: Carles Riba, J.V. Foix, Mercè Rodoreda, Salvador Espriu, Joan Perucho, and Pere Gimferrer - still active.
Some years before the Frankfurt Book Fair, we saw how a young Catalan author, Albert Sanchez-Pinyol, achieved international recognition with his novel La pell freda (The Cold Skin), translated to thirty languages ​​between its appearance - in 2004 -, and 2007, when the Fair took place. That same year another novelist, Jaume Cabre, emerged placing more than 500,000 copies of Les veus del Pamano (The voices of Pamano) in Germany and reached, in a short time, translations in twenty languages, which have increased steadily. Modern and contemporary Catalan literature represents a remarkable wealth of genres, styles and influences.

Ours is a culture with a great creative and industrial tradition, that’s for sure. And that is why we like to remember that Ramon Llull was the first author who wrote about philosophy and science in a neolatin language – doing it in Catalan -, and that our Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat is the “doyenne” Publishing editorial in Europe, and elsewhere. But we also want to emphasize the vision of a radically modern culture, linked to new technologies, which can provide all possible records. Language and literature, of course, but also art, industry, cinema, popular culture, dance, theater, music, design, graphics, architecture, comics, tourism, gastronomy... Tradition and modernity, history and contemporaneity, cities and regions, renowned names and emerging young talents. And always, as a common link, creative talent. Our unique contribution to world culture.

That was the motto chosen for Frankfurt 2007: "Catalan culture, unique and universal". Talented and creative. Traditional and modern. Trespassing borders.
Josep Bargalló


2 comentaris:

  • Narcs says:
    April 23, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    Catalans us necessitem en aquest simulador Politico-Militar i Econòmic Gratuït!
    Ajuda a la nostra comunitat de Catalans a aconseguir la independència en aquest brillant simulador!
    Enllaç al joc:

    http://www.erepublik.com/en/referrer/Naboal

  • Lluc says:
    April 23, 2012 at 2:55 AM

    Podríeu no posar tot el títol en MAJÚSCULES? A Internet queda com si l'estessiu bramant.

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