Breaking the sound barrier

Els límits del Quim Porta, a book by Josep Perals, is bound to disturb and hypnotise. The whole book breathes poetry, lyrical sonority, ideas, constant revelation of language, with words chosen to the millimetre to achieve a music that carries readers beyond the borders they are accustomed to. This is an enormous creation –and not just because of its 615 pages– wholly devoted to language, experiments, games, the possibilities for twisting language, fiction, fantasy, thought.


With Els límits del Quim Porta, Pedrals closes the Bolló trilogy, which also includes El furgatori and El romanço d’Anna Tirant, both shorter than this book. The author, an acknowledged rhapsodist and giant of stage, with one foot in the world of drama and the other in the world of music, in this volume he makes the figure of Quim Porta – the chief guide, that is ‘he who leads me’ and ‘what matters’ – disappear. One of the characters, Pedrals, along with his friends, all of them with evocative names that change as the book progresses – Carmina, Ventura Astruc (Astrucutura) and Maties Galí (Galimaties) –, strives to search for Quim Porta, at the same time as he pursues his own poetics and the secrets of Catalanness and some lost works of literary tradition (in a tone that is half encyclopaedic, half unbridled humour, he manages to create a hilarious black market of buried books). The characters are immersed in a constant search, fed with beverages and various substances that feed the humour the work is steeped in, in a constant questioning, pinching and doubting.

The author stretches this humour and laughs very openly at himself, and the game is rounded off with the presence of the Eye of Providence, the name he gives the reader and how he addresses him, through annotations that turn out to be a counterpoint adjusted to make all the fragments of text breathe (narrative, dialogues, poems, plays, novelettes, recaps...) and provide a few encyclopaedic notes – playful or real, it makes no difference; the thing is that the game never stops but flows in a torrent of music with hypnotic effects. The choice of fragments makes the reader think about – and encourages him to – approach this creation however he likes. If the limits here have been broken, like a sound barrier, and the Eye of Providence has been granted the power to do what he likes about it, he can take the book as though it were a ‘choose your adventure’, and read it in mouthfuls, through the poems or starting from whatever mysteries take his fancy. The creation allows it.

The structure is a work of engineering divided in two parts and ten mysteries, ‘Mysteries of pain’ and ‘Mysteries of joy’, inspired in the mysteries of the Rosary. A sturdy creation impregnated with references from the world of theology – which Pedrals knows directly through his father. His natural, baroque, deliberately crowded style squeezes language to unimagined limits, even when he seems to do so in the form of narrative. Here he seems to have taken a leap forward, to be more settled than in the two earlier books, both in the style and in the depth of his reflection. The games, the rhymes and the irony – or the more festive staging in reciting the poems – must not hide the fact that there is deep thinking – about his own voice, the multiplication of the ego, about literature, about the meaning of everything – which it is worth not passing over. Humour acts as a channel to make the crack opened up by thinking deeper. Apart from such traditional compositions as the sonnet, the style has been honed – Pedrals claims to have polished the book, despite the 615 pages. In spite of this and the fact that some of the filling devices can still seem too much, the voice sounds solider, the voice sounds – because it sounds – virtuoso. His love of distorting language might bring to mind Foix and we can establish various parallels, but the fact is that it is difficult to find anything quite like it in Catalan literature. Precisely because if there is one thing this great volume does it is to break limits and corsets.

Els límits del Quim Porta
Author: Josep Pedrals
Publisher: LaBreu Edicions
615 pages
Barcelona, 2018

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