The Catalan Review, twenty years on
by August Bover (University of Barcelona)
It is a commonplace that the Catalan character seesaws between two opposing yet, at the same time, complementary extremes: the famous “seny” (good sense or judgement) and “rauxa” (impulse or spontaneity). And it may well be that success in the different situations that life places in our path depends, to a large extent, on striking a balance between these two forces. Well, I am convinced that these distinctive features of our national character must be transmitted to the scholars who, in North America and elsewhere, become interested in our culture. To create an association like the North American Catalan Society (NACS) in 1978 was regarded almost everywhere as something of a foolhardy or wild (“arrauxada”) enterprise. If the association has survived up until the present time, it is, undoubtedly, because the foolhardiness has been tempered by an appropriate degree of good sense. However, even though the simple creation of an association like ours was already seen as a risky operation and with little chance of survival, only eight years later, in 1986, North American Catalan scholars came up with a new proposal, probably even more difficult to carry through and ensure the continuity of, that is, the creation of an international journal devoted to Catalan Studies, written in English and Catalan. Between the Catalans and the North American Catalan specialists who moved around between universities in the US and Canada in the seventies and eighties of the twentieth century, there were a good number who knew how to fuse the two contrary, yet complementary, elements that I mentioned a moment ago, and they achieved a marked degree of success. They didn’t lack spontaneity, to such an extent that the idea of creating a journal of a particular type occurred to two different groups, led by Mercè Vidal-Tibbits and Josep Roca-Pons, respectively. If publishing a journal was already a difficult proposition, to publish two would have been clearly suicidal. The generosity and sense of responsibility of the colleagues who promoted these two projects took the wise decision to unite their efforts. Thus, the Catalan Review was born, already twenty years ago. Under the auspices of the NACS, the first issue appeared in June 1986, edited by Manuel Duran and Josep Roca-Pons, subsequently followed by Josep Miquel Sobrer and myself, with Mercè Vidal-Tibbits as managing editor. We produced the monographic volume, Homage to J.V. Foix, which the Sarrià poet managed to see before his death the following year, at the age of 94. Since then, the Catalan Review has been possible thanks to the work and dedication of a long list of friends, colleagues and collaborators, some of whom we have lost, like our friend and first editor Josep Roca-Pons, whom we continue to miss. Fortunately, a significant number are in active service today, ranging from those who have been present since the beginning together with those who have joined us more recently, like Brad Epps, who accompanies us today and is Guest Editor of Barcelona and Modernity, the volume we launched in Barcelona last week and we are launching again here today.
Over our first twenty years we wish to acknowledge the financial aid obtained from the following institutions at different junctures: the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Fundació Congrés de Cultura Catalana, the Fundació Jaume Bofill, the Executive Committee of the Program for Cultural Cooperation, the Banc de Sabadell, the Càtedra Barcelona-Nova York, the Institute of North American Studies in Barcelona, the Centre UNESCO de Catalunya, the Comissió Amèrica i Catalunya 1992, the Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain’s Ministry of Culture and the United States’ Universities, the Institut Català de la Dona, the Grup Català de Sociolingüística, Brown University and the Institut Ramon Llull. Gratitude must also be extended to those who have dealt with the production side, such as Jaume Vallcorba Plana, and, at the present time, the Estudi Montse Corral, as well as Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, who take care of distribution. Our thanks are also due to those who have acted as mediators for us on given occasions, thus, Joaquim Muns, Gregori Mir or Josep Massot i Muntaner, together with all those who have taken part in the publishing committees. And here, allow me to highlight Jaume Martí-Olivella who, ever discreetly, has been a mainstay of both the NACS and the Catalan Review, from the outset and, more especially, at difficult moments along the way, and Maria Rosa Lloret in Barcelona, without the help of whom the journal could hardly have gone ahead. Last but not least, our recognition goes to the authors of the Catalan cultural information included in the journal, to the translators, and to all the authors of articles and reviews.
In accordance with the desire of the founders, and as the sub-title indicates: International Journal of Catalan Culture, the international nature of the journal is a feature which can be readily appreciated and may be further substantiated by consulting the bibliographical and thematic indexes which Mercè Vidal-Tibbits published in Volume XI:1-2 (1997). (I understand that a follow-up is soon to appear.) In spite of a clear predominance of literary subjects, the journal has also dealt with history, art, music, sociolinguistics, economy, grammar, history of the language, industry, new technologies, folklore, nationalism, anthropology, philosophy, photography, theatre, advertising, the cinema, and more – a thematic variety that is best reflected in the volume devoted to Barcelona and Modernity. Besides this most recent volume, and the one devoted to J.V. Foix, edited by Jaume Ferran and Josep Roca-Pons (as I mentioned earlier), the Catalan Review has published other monographs that have also been well received: the Homage to Mercè Rodoreda, edited by Jaume Martí-Olivella; the Homage to Ramon Llull, edited by Manuel Duran; the Studies on Josep Carner, edited by Jaume Coll; Women, History and Nation in the Works of Montserrat Roig and Maria Aurèlia Capmany, edited by Jaume Martí-Olivella; Sociolinguistics, edited by Milton Azevedo, Albert Bastardas, Emili Boix, Paul O’Donnell and Maria Rosa Lloret; Pere Calders and His Contemporaries, edited by Manuel Duran, Bernat Puigtobella and Maria Rosa Lloret; Homage Volume for Professor Joseph Gulsoy, edited by Philip D. Rasico, Donna M. Rogers and Curt J. Wittlin; and Catalan Literature as National Literature: Origins, Development and Future, edited by Josep Miquel Sobrer and Joan Ramon Resina. Moreover, since the colloquium celebrated at Brown University in 2001, the selected proceedings of the NACS colloquiums are also published in a volume of the journal, the case of those which will appear shortly with contributions from the colloquium held at Eton (England) with the colleagues and friends of the Anglo-Catalan Society.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, the modern, international diffusion of Catalan Studies received a definitive push when pioneer journals, such as Romania or Revue des Langues Romanes, decided to open their pages to our culture, making it accessible to a wide range of scholars. A century later, in the second half of the twentieth century, the Catalan Review made a further step, a major one in so far as visibility is concerned, this a constant source of concern for a culture that cannot count on a State to defend it. Like the room of one’s own that Virginia Woolf claimed for women, the Catalan Review won a space for Catalan culture on shelves devoted to periodical publications in a good group of important libraries all over the world. And this has been achieved by overcoming every kind of obstacle and difficulty, and in the knowledge that only the demand for quality will encourage us to continue and to consider new challenges. It also depends on all of us whether this will be possible for many more years to come.
Catalan is a Romance language spoken by the population of about 10 million people in the east of the Iberian Peninsula (Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, most of the region of Valencia, and the Eastern Strip of Aragon) and the Principality of Andorra. In addition, Catalan is still spoken in the French administrative region of Roussillon, as well as in the city of Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia.
Like other Romance languages, Catalan developed out of Latin during the Middle Ages. The first documents written in Catalan, a collection of sermons dating from the late 12th or early 13th centuries, are known as the Homilies of Organyà. Catalan has been an important language for everyday use and literary expression in the eastern territories of the Iberian Peninsula from medieval times up to today. Following a period of political and cultural hegemony lasting until the 16th century, literary expression in Catalan suffered a decline until the 19th century when, propelled by Romantic ideals, the literary use of the language underwent a renaissance (a period known in Catalan as the Renaixença).
Today, Catalan and Spanish are the co-official languages of the Catalan-speaking territories in the Iberian Peninsula, and it is the only official language of Andorra.