About Enric Gomà


All-year-round Carnival

Els barceloninsEls barcelonins

Author: Adrià Pujol Cruells

Publisher: L’Avenç

152 pages

Barcelona, 2018

The book by Pujol Cruells is neither pleasing nor insulting. By means of the passing of the year, he draws an image of the people of Barcelona based on a meticulous observation of their customs, oddities and craziness.

A large part of the texts from the 20th century on the citizens of Barcelona evoke the people of Barcelona of the 19th century, in an exercise of well-meaning nostalgia. A clear illustration of this is Los buenos barceloneses, by Artur Masriera (1924), which introduces us to the serious and circumspect Barcelona of the nineteenth century, with many a top hat and frock coat, at the opposite end to the revolutionary riots. Giving birth to the myth of the “gentleman of Barcelona”. After the Restoration of 1874, Barcelona is a city that wants to forgive itself for the

commotions, barricades and burning of churches and convents, a tradition typical of Barcelona which, if staged today in the form of a son et lumière show, would be a delight for the tourists. This is why the people of Barcelona went to great lengths to erect expiatory temples and to idealise the city without any foundation, since “the history of civilised mankind is nothing but the history of its misery, where all its pages are stained with blood”. We won’t contradict Diderot now.

Els barcelonins by Adrià Pujol Cruells (L’Avenç) is preceded by two nearly identical titles: Los barceloneses by Sempronio (1959), accommodating and slightly insulting, as the time required and its author was happy to oblige, and Els barcelonins by Anna Maria and Terenci Moix (1984), a literary filling within a photographic album by Colita, Oriol Maspons and Xavier Miserachs. Els barcelonins by Pujol Cruells is neither pleasing nor insulting, and definitely not a filling. “Vamos para bingo.”

Through the passing of the year (each month a chapter of the book had been published in the magazine L’Avenç in a section named after the title of the book), Pujol Cruells draws a portray of the people of Barcelona based on a meticulous observation of their customs, oddities and craziness. But Pujol Cruells is no flâneur –he doesn’t fall for this kind of tackiness–, but he earns a living, raises two daughters and stoically resists the attacks of adversity in the Barcelona he depicts.

The book starts with losing a stable job at a dehumanised design school, which coincides with a commissioning, as an anthropologist, of an exhibition on the people of Barcelona at the Ethnological Museum.

Pujol Cruells aims to “understand how the nature of Barcelona is built”. Or what is left. As an anthropologist and as a citizen. He is a citizen of Barcelona like so many others, born in a town, Begur in his case, with close ties to the Empordà landscape and now well-established in the city after many years of living there and fighting to do so. For better understanding, Pujol Cruells would be a candidate for directing the Athenaeum of Empordà in Barcelona, at number 11, Carrer del Pi, if it were ever to reopen.

In Els barcelonins, Pujol Cruells portrays a number of characteristic urban specimens, such as cultural managers, conceptual artists, intellectuals on contract, time-out hipsters, consultants of the Administration, alternative charlatans, those in the creative hangars and others. They are our “pimps, bullfighters and Manolas”, the modern purity of Barcelona, all framed within a certain degree of imposture. According to the author, the identity of Barcelona is a strategy. One of survival and power.

As a counterpoint to this carnival-like rua, Els barcelonins looks into some of the oldest traditions of Barcelona: Santa Eulàlia, Sant Ponç fair, Sant Cristòfol, the evening of Sant Joan, All Souls’ Day (despite leaving out the crown jewel, the Corpus Christi procession). Always advancing in the company of his very own Know-it-all, the voice of consciousness who reprimands, warns and doesn’t let any kind of imposture go unnoticed. Because, while Barcelona is an all-year-round Carnival, Pujol Cruells doesn’t dress up.

An inventory of the eccentric Dalinian Barcelona

Dalí i Barcelona [Dalí and Barcelona]

Author: Ricard Mas

Publisher: Barcelona City Council

555 pages

Barcelona, 2017

In 1974 my parents took me to a Dalí “happening” at Plaça de la Porxada in Granollers. Dalí was surrounded by an impressive throng through which he could be seen pushing his way whilst proudly brandishing his silver-handled cane. I remember him wearing a top hat with a mask, which he removed ever so slowly. I was eleven years old, and I do not mind admitting that I was scared. I asked if we could leave, and we went to have a glass of horchata at La Xixonenca ice cream parlour.

That feeling of strangeness, discomfort and rejection in the presence of an eccentric Dalí can be explained by the sharp contrast between his life and our own orderly middle-class existence. Four decades later, Dalí continues to inspire feelings of strangeness, discomfort and rejection within Catalan society. This should not come as a surprise. Dalí regularly exalted and flattered General Franco whilst relentlessly insulting the most illustrious figures of Catalan culture: “Natural born idiots and mental weaklings such as Joan Sacs, masters Millet and Rossinyol…the idiots Garcés, Soldeviles, Rovires and Virgilis, scoundrels like Pompeu Fabra” (except from a talk at Sala Capsir in Barcelona). For reasons like these, amongst others – such as recommending violent aggression against the Orfeó Català choral society and the painters of crooked trees – Salvador Dalí has not yet had a Barcelona street named in his honour. Present-day historical revisionism it will not make this any more likely.

Foto: Autor desconegutPhoto: UnknowknIn Dalí i Barcelona, Ricard Mas reminds us that Dalí maintained, in the artistic and intellectual sense, close and fertile ties with the country’s capital city. By default, everyone associates Dalí with Figueres, Madrid (the unavoidable Residencia de Estudiantes cultural centre, where the exceedingly shy Dalí was called “the Czechoslovakian”), Paris or New York. Dalí is not equally associated, however, with Barcelona, a city that he often frequented – during his childhood, as two of his uncles lived there; in his youth, when the city revolutionised his artistic outlook in the 1920s 1930s; and during his adult years, when he would spend one week a year in suite 108 of the Ritz Hotel (now El Palace).

Mas has provided an inventory of Dalinian Barcelona: family origins (it is the place where his grandfather Gal Dalí, of whom the painter never wished to speak, committed suicide); his exhibited paintings; his scandalous talks; the pioneering defence of Gaudí following the lead of Francesc Pujols, author of La visió artística i religiosa d’En Gaudí (1927); the visits by Lorca; frequent visits to shops, brothels, restaurants and theatres; medicine (taken in an ambience of considerable chaos) and doctors; and finally, as is customary, death.

Photo: J. Postius. AFB

Photo: J. Postius. AFB

Photo: J. Postius. AFB

Photo: J. Postius. AFB

Dalí i Barcelona, by Ricard Mas, succeeds as a very good portrait of Dalí (it is an ideal complement to the biography by Ian Gibson); as a touristic and Dalian guide to the artistic and commercial Barcelona of the twentieth century; as one of the most complete sources of tales about Dalí, including the countless eccentricities of the man who created the current prototype of an artist (later to be followed by Warhol and so many others).

He was always in the company of “genisteaes” (as he referred to female models), secretaries, assistants, drivers, friends and often with the transsexual Amanda Lear, whom he taught to sing the children’s song La lluna, la pruna. Wherever he went, Dalí engaged in histrionic antics, which his harshest critics considered to be utterly clown-like. Self-respecting Catalans of the time preferred Miró – someone that they might actually like to invite to their homes for dinner – to Dalí, whom they considered to be a buffoon and a dauber. Dalí turned himself into a grandiose spectacle, and did nothing to hide from it: “It’s important for everyone to have fun with Dalí’s stuff, right?” Reading Dalí i Barcelona one realises that high marks are in order.

The customs of Emili Vilanova

Escenes barcelonines (Scenes of Barcelona)
Author: Emili Vilanova (selected by Enric Cassany)
Edicions Proa
456 pages
Barcelona, 2016

Don’t look for any gossip in this book, as what you will find is the humble day-to-day muted routine of the inhabitants of the Barcelona of his time, the second half of the 19th century.

The short story entitled Bèsties embalsamades (Embalmed creatures) ends like this: “Neither has anyone bothered to find out how the fiancé took the death of this creature, because the object of this little scene is to depict some types and not to upset the reader by recounting gossip.” The author, Emili Vilanova, alerts us to the features of the scenes of local customs that he describes: tranches de vie that are more like literary dioramas than actual short stories. So don’t look for any gossip (if that’s what you need, buy the magazine Lecturas), as what you will find is the humble day-to-day muted routine of the inhabitants of the Barcelona of his time, the second half of the 19th century. This is why Enric Cassany chose the title Escenes barcelonines (Scenes of Barcelona) for this anthology, the title of a different book by Vilanova published in 1886. Don’t get them mixed up – that can only end in tears.

In En lo balneari (At the spa; 1891), a rarity for Vilanova, we find his entire work in negative. In this story, he satirizes the well-to-do society that discusses things in Spanish and is as affected, prudish and pretentious as they come, so remote from the lowly people that he usually portrays. Born in 1840 in Barcelona, living on Carrer Basea, Vilanova always defended the low-born, the working people: simple, credulous, traditional, good-natured, far removed from the fashions and new customs of the modern age. Castilian Spanish starts to intrude into the daily life of Barcelona, where for decades it was only the language of soldiers, functionaries and the xanxes (the municipal police, known by a deformation of the typical Spanish surname Sanchez). In Reflexions d’un porter (Reflections of a Concierge; 1887), the concierge complains that in the entire building which he looks after in L’Eixample he is the only one who uses Catalan. In Perladillo (1889), he writes of an Andalusian man: “He’d heard of a famous capital where they live the high life [Barcelona] and where people who came speaking Spanish were more successful than the locals and were more in charge than anyone else.” For Vilanova, Spanish is “the language of the dominators who impose fines, tell us off, punish and charge us”.

Professor Antoni Vilanova (the writer’s great-nephew) explains this whole long-gone world expertly and in bit-size chunks in Emili Vilanova i la Barcelona del seu temps (Emili Vilanova and the Barcelona of his Time) (Quaderns Crema, 2001). Although Vilanova died in 1905 and the first house was demolished to build Via Laietana (then called Via de la Reforma) in 1908, the announcement of the disappearance of the streets he loved provoked despair and bitterness in Vilanova. In “En Parladé” (1891), Vilanova speaks very ill of the man behind the Reform, which he felt was due to “trivial turbulence in his private life, pathetic and mundane imbalances between expenditure and income and sometimes also to big passions, to excessive ingratitude, to an end of love or the spite and disloyalty of a fanciful, fickle woman?” “Because of the love of a woman”, as Julio Iglesias would say; this, implies Vilanova, is why Via Laietana was built. Anything is possible.

We find in Vilanova traces of Robert, Juli Vallmitjana and Narcís Oller. All four of them were masters at portraying the Barcelona that was leaving behind the peaceful life of a small, walled city, solitary and homely, and moving towards the uncertainties of the modern age.

Dr Robert’s right hand man

Doctor Manuel Ribas i Perdigó, born in 1859 in a chocolate shop in Carrer de Ferran, graduated in 1880. Four years later he took up a teaching position at the School of Medicine, where he was to become the most important colleague of the future mayor of Barcelona, Doctor Robert. He chaired the Royal Academy of Medicine from 1924 until his death, in 1927.

© Rosa Ribas Boixeda Archive
Carme Casas i Güell and her children in 1918.

There was a time when the inhabitants of Barcelona commended their soul to God and their body to a doctor with a patriarchal, ceremonious and serious air, a top hat, morning coat and a black leather briefcase, like the ones carried by the aides of nineteenth-century duellists. They used to sport a well-trimmed, thick and rounded-off white beard, although the more extravagant ones opted for a goatee. A goatee is hardly advisable in a doctor, as they run the risk of being laughed at by their patients.

Things were different then. The locals of the time had more faith than they do now. Faith in the Sacred Heart, in anarchy or the Castellví mechanical brake. In that credulous, turbulent and occasionally choleric Barcelona, we do not know what led Manuel Ribas i Perdigó, the second son of a chocolate-maker and grandson of farmers from Hortes de Sant Bertran, to embrace the medical career. Perhaps to follow in the footsteps of his brother John, two years his senior. In any event, young John and Manuel followed the example of the brother physicians Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian (although thankfully they – literally – managed to keep their heads).

Manuel Ribas i Perdigó was born in 1859 in a mezzanine of the Ribas chocolate shop at Carrer de Ferran number 16 in Barcelona, an establishment greatly appreciated for its excellent cocoa, which was shipped to Vilanova i la Geltrú from Guinea. That chocolate shop must have been held in high esteem throughout the city, as it fell foul of the satirical wrath of Pitarra, an honour reserved for the chosen few.

© Rosa Ribas Boixeda Archive
A portrait from 1925, when she was already president of the Royal Academy of Medicine.

We know little about the early years, although we do know that in 1870 the family took refuge in a summer home in Bonanova, at the top of Carrer Muntaner, during the terrible yellow fever epidemic, also known as the black vomit (they could hardly have come up with a more horrifying name). Perhaps it was then, on beholding such deathly despair, that the two boys decided to devote their lives to medicine. It is unlikely that they were driven to do so by the sight of a callus.

In 1880, Manuel Ribas i Perdigó graduated in medicine and obtained the extraordinary award granted following the wedding of Alfonso xii and Maria Cristina. He took his doctorate in Madrid and toured medical institutions in Germany for half a year. There, he acquired a Germanic lifestyle, regular and pondered, including, among other habits, that of checking the exact time on the clock of the Royal Academy of Sciences every day: a custom that has endured among some of his descendants, as has his contempt for music.

After his German adventure, he returned to Barcelona in 1884 and obtained a position as clinical professor in the School of Medicine. His speciality was the treatment of internal diseases, particularly of the digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory apparatuses – everything you might find at an offal stall in the market.

The professor of Internal Medicine was Dr Bartomeu Robert, the future mayor of Barcelona. Dr Ribas i Perdigó became his greatest colleague, and friend as well, and stood in for Dr Robert when the latter had to attend to his political duties. Humble, cordial and very precise in his explanations, Ribas i Perdigó the teacher was greatly appreciated by his students, such as the doctors Pedro Pons, Nobiola, Pi i Sunyer, Bartrina and others who, after qualifying, often consulted him.

When he sat the public examinations in Madrid to become professor at the University of Zaragoza, Ribas i Perdigó lost out to another student who had more backing, and returned disappointed to Barcelona. “Never again will I set foot in Madrid,” he concluded. The years went by, and he remained true to his word.

He wrote Patogenia y tratamiento de la constipación habitual (on constipation), Diagnóstico y tratamiento de la gastroectasia (on stomach dilation) and Tratamiento de la neurastenia (where he recommended the restriction of intercourse in infirm patients as it weakened them, although, it must be said, it is also quite reviving).

In 1898 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Barcelona, which he chaired as of 1924, giving the speech Tratamiento curativo de la tuberculosis pulmonar. His great friend, Dr Robert, vouched for him. It should also be mentioned that in 1909 he read the opening speech of the Royal Academy, Tratamiento general de la arterioesclerosis, a mere 72 pages – one of the longest on record.

© Frederic Ballell / AFB
A water purification machine in the Plaça del Pedró, in 1914, when Barcelona suffered a serious Typhus epidemic which killed almost two thousand people.

In 1888, Ribas i Perdigó married the nineteen-year-old Carme Casas i Güell, with whom he would have nine children: Cristina, Margarida (deceased at the age of three), Joan (ophthalmologist), Bonaventura, Josep (my grandfather), Antoni (ear, nose and throat specialist), Maria, Margarida (much stronger than her earlier and short-lived sibling) and Mercè. I would like to convey my special thanks to Dr Manuel Ribas i Fernández – the grandson of doctor Joan Ribas i Perdigó – for his Memòria del doctor Manuel Ribas i Perdigó, which was of great help to me in penning this portrait.

In the first few years he lived at Rambla de Sant Josep number 37, opposite the church of Betlem, in the house called El Regulador, and opened his practice at Carrer Santa Anna number 24. For some time he postponed moving to Rambla de Catalunya number 11, fearing that patients would not risk crossing Plaça de Catalunya, which was windy, poorly lit and populated with outlandish and blurry-eyed individuals. Not unlike today.

Finally, around 1895, he decided to move home and practice to the somewhat secluded house on Rambla de Catalunya. The office has been conserved to this day, thanks to the widow of Dr Manuel Ribas i Mundó, who was professor of internal medicine at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and grandson of Manuel Ribas i Perdigó.

He participated in the Medical Sciences Congress held in Barcelona in 1888 as part of the Universal Expo, with Papel que representan las enfermedades extracardíacas en el descubrimiento de la asistolia (no need to feel depressed, I didn’t understand anything either) and the International Medical Congress of Moscow in 1894 with Formas clínicas de la cirrosis hepática.

After the death of Dr Robert in 1902, he left the university to focus on private medicine. Not only did he attend to patients in Barcelona and the surrounding area, he also saw patients in Paris, a city he travelled to frequently. He must have been quite satisfied, because Paris vaut bien a patient.

In 1914, at the request of Barcelona City Council he participated in a medical committee tasked with fighting the typhus epidemic that was ravaging the city. One of his indications handed down from generation to generation is that the black spots found on tomatoes can trigger typhoid, and consequently none of his descendants partake of this fruit. Right now, frankly speaking, the last thing we need is typhus.

In 1924, Dr Ribas i Perdigó was named president of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Barcelona – which was changed to “of Catalonia” in 1991 by a plenary agreement – and his presidency coincided with the commemoration of the centenary of the death of Dr Salvà i Campillo, not without a certain degree of tension with the military government of General Primo de Rivera. He was president for three years, as in 1927 he fell ill with stomach cancer and died six months later.

When doctors die on us, we become a little bit lonelier.

Senyor Tonet of Sants

Antoni Piera i Jané was a quiet, tough and resolute man. He never talked about himself or his work, and was not one for waxing lyrical. He was what men used to be like back then, before they were defeated by sentimental and psychological prattling. He was one of the founders of the construction company Foment d’Obres i Construccions, in 1900, and became its manager one year later.

© Montserrat Ribas i Piera Archive
Antoni Piera around 1900.

Sants, a town within sight of Barcelona, surrounded by vineyards, gardens, cherry-tree fields, farmhouses scattered here and there and a few roadside hostels. Factories, as well. I would say that it is around 1850 or 1860, and I do so on the strength of the hoop skirts worn by some young fashion-followers strutting along Creu Coberta. A young carter, Antoni Piera i Sagués, is lugging a cart full of cloth. Everyone calls him Ros d’en Maiol (or Mallol) simply because he is blonde.

He is a descendant of the Piera family of Can Bruixa, a farmhouse in Les Corts that was demolished in 1946. The name of this house, Bruixa, which means “witch” in Catalan, stems from a very unique skill: the Piera family used to buy sick horses, heal them and then resell them at a much higher price. How they managed this remains a mystery. Healing sick and lame horses is an art; you have to know the secrets, and it requires a great deal of patience and skill. Not something to be attempted at home.

Antoni Piera i Sagués transports Batlló cloths all over Spain. A whole string of mule-driven carts laden with cloth picks its way along the road to Zaragoza, Burgos and Valladolid. And that is how the Catalans, tough and tenacious folk, earn their living. Times were different then.

The advent of the railway network led the fabrics to be transported by train and the carters lost their jobs. So Antoni Piera i Sagués purchased a quarry in Montjuïc from Batlló. Montjuïc stone, light brown with purple and wine-coloured streaks, was in great demand for building houses in the Eixample, the neighbourhood that was inexorably spreading over the plain of Barcelona. The carts were now used to haul the stone from the quarry to the building site. He bought up one quarry after another and eventually owned all the quarries on Montjuïc. El Sot del Migdia is an old quarry, as are La Foixarda and the Teatre Grec. When the spectators got bored with the performance they turned to the quarry for distraction. It is a phenomenon that greatly enriches contemporary theatre.

During that period, Ros d’en Maiol (or Mallol) married a girl from El Prat de Llobregat, Antònia Jané, and built a house with a garden and stables in Carrer de Sant Pere in Sants, now Carrer de Sagunt, where the Escola Perú is located. They had six children, and the second-oldest son was Antoni Piera i Jané, born circa 1872, if my calculations are correct. He was destined to become one of the founders of Foment d’Obres i Construccions in 1900.

As of 1893, the Piera family had a construction company that was smaller than Foment, called Piera, Cortinas i Cia, which engaged in the exploitation of quarries, building and public works. Why did they found Foment? To set up one of the most important construction companies in Barcelona, with the contribution of capital from Mas Sardà Bank and Soler i Torra Bank. They had the stone, bricks and wood (the Cortinas family were carpenters); all they needed were investors. Eleven shareholders put up five million pesetas, by no means chicken feed. Barcelona’s growth was unstoppable and someone had to do the building.

© Frederic Ballell / AFB
Work to tarmac Passeig de Gràcia in 1908.

Fomento’s first job was to build the piers known as Moll d’Espanya, Moll de Balears, Moll Nou and Moll dels Pescadors, all inside the city’s port. Years later they expanded the port, paved the streets, cleaned up the sewers while also planning and executing new ones in Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid; they covered the Sarrià train line along Carrer de Balmes and also built the tunnel for the new stretch between Plaça de Molina and Avinguda del Tibidabo in the Sant Gervasi gully. However, Foment really came into its own, if I may say so, in the construction of the palaces, streets, hotels and pavilions of the 1929 World Expo. It built four hotels in Plaça d’Espanya in record time. Once it got going there was no stopping it.

Throughout this whole period, from 1901 to 1933, the Managing Director was Antoni Piera i Jané. This was because in 1901, one year after its foundation, the manager at the time – his older brother Salvador – passed away suddenly. He lived in Can Puig, in Collserola, and had been somewhat under the weather. One day he went out for a walk, took a drink from the Font Groga, and died shortly after, perhaps still clutching his mug. That was how Antoni Piera i Jané became the manager of Foment; my great-grandfather, it must be said – the father of my grandmother, Carmen Piera.

My great-grandfather was known as Antonet or Tonet, and as the years went by he became Senyor Tonet or Senyor Antonet, whichever one people prefer. A friendly, intimate name that evoked his humble origins.

Antoni Piera i Jané was a quiet, tough and resolute man. He never talked about himself, his childhood or his business. Not one for waxing lyrical. That is what men used to be like back then, before they were defeated by sentimental and psychological prattling. True to his reserved nature, and by then married with kids, he rented the farmhouse Can Girona to spend the summers. It was a secluded farmhouse in a small town near Barcelona called Martorelles. It was far removed from the towns where Barcelona’s bourgeoisie spent their summers. All Piera wanted was some peace and quiet; he had enough on his plate with managing Foment and in Can Girona he was his own man. To this day, the road that starts near the crossroads at Sant Fost bears his name: Avinguda d’en Piera. We will also call it that.

When he wanted some amusement he went to the bullfights. Even as a young man, he and his older brother Salvador used to ride the bulls in the local festivities of Sants. When he was older he did not miss a single bull fight in Barcelona. One summer he followed the bullfighter El Gallo all over Spain. This passion was inherited by his two sons, Antoni and Josep, some of his grandchildren, such as the film director Antoni Ribas, and even the odd great-grandchild. Piera was also a practical man, not given to intellectual digressions. During a trip to Paris he hired a guide at the Louvre and told him in French: “Show us the lot in one hour!” There was no messing about. Neither was he short on decisiveness. At one Foment shareholders’ meeting, he became embroiled in a heated discussion with the banker Mas Sardà, and exclaimed: “Either Mas Sardà leaves this room or I’ll throw him out the window!” Years later they were in-laws. All’s well that ends well.

© FCC Archive
Signature of the deed of incorporation of the company Foment d’Obres i Construccions on 3 July 1900. The second figure on the left is Antoni, and the third his brother Salvador, the company’s first managing director.

Politically, he was in favour of the powers that be. Like many Barcelona businessmen, in 1923 he supported the coup by General Primo de Rivera, plotted by the Military Command of Barcelona. Sixty years later, his daughter Carmen still defended him staunchly: “Primo de Rivera brought us peace.” She must have heard that at home.

Due to the gunfighting crisis during Alfonso XIII’s reign, Piera decided (I would venture circa 1919 or 1920) to close the house in Sants and take up residence in Barcelona. He and his family lived in the Hotel Continental for a whole year. They later rented an apartment in Casa Garriga Nogués. In the meantime, he commissioned the architect Josep Maria Ribas i Casas, his future son-in-law, to build a house in Carrer de Mallorca, in 1924.

I suspect that he was hardly enamoured with the advent of the Republic. We know that in 1933 a Foment worker burst into his office and threatened him with a gun. We know not whether the man was a revolutionary or a mere robber. Piera managed to overpower him and everything seemed to be back to normal. But Piera returned home ashen-faced and was unable to sleep that night. He felt unwell the following day. He had ruptured a vein in his heart, which was silently bleeding. When they realised, it was already too late: his lungs were flooded with blood and he died four days later. We know all this through stories handed down, as there is no record of the attack at the office in the press. It was all kept secret.

Piera was laid out at home. The worker who had attacked him turned up unexpectedly, repentant, and apologised with tear-soaked eyes. Before letting him in to pay his respects, the maid asked the widow, who responded with dignity: “I forgive him, but I do not want to see him.” The dejected assailant returned home. All in all, it could be part of a story by the great Josep Maria Folch i Torres.

His grandchildren paid their last respects to him, one after the other, as he lay on his deathbed. A kiss on a cold, stiff hand. And I, from here, pay my own.

Pedrals wastes nothing

© Christian Maury
Poet Josep Pedrals.

I find it distressing to rehash what everyone says about Josep Pedrals, that he’s a young poet, as if we were announcing Youth Fashion Week at El Corte Inglés – denim fashion, bold sonnets, poetic joy, etc. We get it: Pedrals was born in Barcelona in 1979. So what? It was the year the new water treatment plant on the Besòs river was opened. When someone tags him as a young poet, they are tangentially indulging in condescension, paternalism – he’s new blood, the lad is full of promise, we’ll see soon enough, let’s wait to see if he praises me so I can praise him back, etc. Pedrals has no need for such conventional and vile crutches – at this moment in time (and it’s still early days) he is already an exceptional poet. If he died right now of rampant dysentery (God forbid) he would bequeath several books of first-class poetry: the duet comprising El furgatori (published by Labreu, 2006), a poetic diary of an individual called Quim Porta, and El romanço d’Anna Tirant (Labreu, 2012), a conversation between the said Quim Porta and Pedrals wandering around Barcelona with unusual nonchalance, interspersed with poems that tap into popular poetry (ballads, the anthology by Don Mariano Aguiló is highly recommended) and erudition (Baroque): satire and optimism, brazenness and melancholy, and above all the desire to be understood. Or an older book, Escola italiana (published by Empúries, 2003), which uncovers the poems of the Italian poet Giuseppe dei Pedroli, whom I confess I hadn’t heard of. Rumour has it that it is an alias of Pedrals himself. I do not know what to think; people say so many things.

Diametrically opposed to that torturous and plaintive poetry closely resembling a stately burial, and to cryptic and indecipherable poetry, so obtuse that some intelligence services even avail themselves of it, Pedrals blows us away with his poetic audacity and sense of showmanship. And I say so not without reason, as Pedrals is known to recite on stage (I have been told about poetry covens in L’Horiginal at number 29 Carrer Ferlandina on the days of the waning moon), to act and sing and to have recorded the disc Esquitxos ultralleugers with Els Nens Eutròfics in 2010 and En/doll with Guillamino in 2007. Since I have not yet had the time to enjoy them, they are pleasures that await me. One Sunday morning I will head for Sant Miquel del Fai, park on a bend in the road somewhere and listen to them at my leisure.