'Apocryphal classics': how to imitate the great Catalan writers

An anthology of imitations, parodies and falsifications of 20th century Catalan literature? Yeah! And very funny.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
17 March 2023 Friday 23:49
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'Apocryphal classics': how to imitate the great Catalan writers

An anthology of imitations, parodies and falsifications of 20th century Catalan literature? Yeah! And very funny. Quite a few readers are aware of the parodies of Cuban writers that Guillermo Cabrera Infante introduced in his novel Tres tristes tigres (1960) but there is little awareness that imitation, parody and falsification have been very common in Catalan since the time of modernism. We found false poems by Apel·les Mestres and Àngel Guimerà, by Josep M. López Picó and by Marià Manent. Fake articles by Josep Pla, Carles Soldevila, Irene Polo, Rosa Maria Arquimbau, which appeared in the magazines of the thirties signed with their names. False interviews with Carles Riba (talking about sports!) or Nicolau M. Rubió i Tudurí (about African hunts). And also fake drawings, fake jokes, fake news...

And how did we come up with such a book? In the first months of the pandemic, to distract myself, I wrote four apocryphal stories by Joan Perucho. I've read it so much that I know all its tricks. So I invented a story from Botánica oculta (1968), one from Historias secretas de balnearios (1971), one from Fantastic Monsters (1976) and a version of the story With the technique of Lovecraft (1976) which I titled With the technique of Lovecraft by Joan Perucho. One day, reading the writings of J.V. Foix sobre arte y arquitectura discovered that in 1924 he had published a calligram by Joan Salvat-Papasseit, a note by Josep Pla y de Sarrià. He bit the hook and then Foix exclaimed: "Apocryphal!" It was exactly the same idea. I spoke with the friends of the publishing house Males Herbes who saw it clearly from the first moment: an anthology with the title Els nostres clásicos apocryfs, which will match the historical cover of the collection Els nostres clásicos of the publishing house Barcino, from the twenties, and that gathered this abundance of second grade literature. Texts and drawings from the satirical magazines La perdiu ab salsa and L'Esquella de la Torratxa, many of El Be Negr e, which systematically devoted itself to criticism and painting and, pulling the thread, the imitations that Sergi Pàmies wrote of Espriu, Foix, Pla y Rodoreda, talking about Sant Jordi's Day or the columns that Quim Monzó published the year of the Frankfurt Fair dedicated to Catalan literature (2007) imitating the washed-out style of the articles that Baltasar Porcel promoted when he was traveling . We also have a false Salvat-Papasseit by Màrius Serra and an article by Josep M. Espinàs written by Ramon Barnils.

And the parodied ones, weren't they pissed off? If today a communication medium dedicated itself to publishing false poems by Narcís Comadira or Sebastià Alzamora and false stories by Eva Baltarsar or Nuria Bendicho Giró, I don't know what would happen. We have become very picky. At that time there was some explosive anger (from Agustí Esclasans, for example, who was the laughingstock of El Be Negre), but if someone got upset it was their problem. Many of these texts are delicately written. For example, the great Valentí Castanys who ran the sports weekly Xut! published a number written and drawn exclusively by intellectuals that is the pear, with a poem by Sagarra about a discus thrower in the Montjuïc stadium that makes you laugh. The avant-garde poets Sebastià Sànchez-Juan and Salvador Dalí also appear in it.

Avant-garde art was one of the favorite targets of the jokes of El Be Negre, who announced exhibitions and impossible works of art. Salvador Dalí bought a wagon full of rotten donkeys for his work F loretes del subconsciente and Joan Miró a consignment of flu microbes that he thought he would incorporate into one of his canvases. Parody is a key element in the culture wars that became so important in the 20th century. In 1898 L'Esquella de la Torratxa dedicated an issue to joking with the modernists. They made fun of Alexandre de Riquer who painted those lanky decorative panels in which the figures barely entered. In L'Esquella they titled the fake Alexandre de Riquer Idil li estret (Narrow Idyll). Ten years later the tables had turned and it was Santiago Rusiñol who, under the pseudonym Xarau, began to publish parodies of the Glossari by the noucentista Xènius.

Josep M. de Sagarra carried out a resounding conversion to Catholicism. L'Esquella de la Torratxa, of June 18, 1937, laughed at him in a note entitled J.M. de Sagarra rethinks it. He says like this: "Dunkerke.- News arriving in this capital assure that the well-known apostate in reverse Mr. Josep Maria de Sagarra regrets having married in the church and that his wish would have been to marry in the cathedral."

"Reverse Apostate"! “Get married by the cathedral!” How good were these people. Josep M. de Sagarra and Mercè Devesa got married in Paris, in the church, in the first year of the war, and they were highly criticized for it and for fleeing Barcelona.

It is a festival of ventriloquism, ingenuity and literary talent that shows that everything has been written in Catalan and everything can be written, that some postmodern strategies are older than carracuca, that humor is a fundamental element of our 20th century. That we still take the classics too seriously and that there is still a field ahead. Second grade literature is a sign of maturity. It confirms the existence of a community of intelligent readers who know the style of the original authors and who laugh and applaud the successes of the supplanters.