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Eugeni d'Ors (Xènius)

Eugeni d'Ors, "Xènius"

Josep Murgades (University of Barcelona)

His Life

With a turn-of-the-century cultural education, Eugeni d'Ors i Rovira (Barcelona, 1881 – Vilanova i la Geltrú, 1954) is an early and exemplary case of the professionalisation of the Catalan intellectual as a writer and cultural organiser.

After 1906, he was an assiduous daily contributor to La Veu de Catalunya with his Glosari [Glossary], an opinion column through which he emerged as the man who put Noucentisme into words and leading theorist of this politico-cultural trend in the service of bourgeois reformism.

Appointed secretary of the Institute of Catalan Studies in 1911, he became head of the newly-founded Librarians' School in 1915 while, in 1917, he was put in charge of Public Instruction of the Mancomunitat [union of the four provincial governments of Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona and Lleida] of Catalonia. After the death of Prat de la Riba, his most stalwart protector and promoter, Ors progressively distanced himself from the programme of the conservative political party the Lliga Regionalista and this would culminate with his being victimised in the form of abrupt dismissal in 1920, which led to his defection from his country.

Once established in Madrid, he continued his incessant activities as publicist and public speaker, now in Spanish. Elected to the Royal Spanish Academy of Language (1927), the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and his joining the seditious government in Burgos enabled him once again to participate in tasks of cultural organisation as permanent secretary of the Institute of Spain (1937) and as director general of Fine Arts (1938).

After the end of the Civil War, he established the Academia Breve de Crítica de Arte [Academy of Art Criticism], a veritable focus of promotion of modern art in the Spanish capital in the early 1940s. After 1946, in a renewed attempt of approximation to his country, he succeeded in bringing together a group of admirers in another academy he founded, the Faro de San Cristóbal Academy near Vilanova i Geltrú, the town in which he was to die in 1954.

The Glosari

The column headed Glosari (1906–1921), which continued under the same rubric –Glosario– throughout the Spanish phase of his life in the dailies ABC, first, and then Arriba España during the war, is his great work, the true quarry from which, directly or indirectly, all the other works are mined, both those of unmistakably literary intention (La Ben Plantada, 1911 [The Elegant Woman]; Gualba, la de mil veus, 1915 [Gualba of a Thousand Voices]; and Lliçó de tedi en el parc, 1916 [Lesson on Tedium in the Park]), and those of more ideological intent (Filosofia de l'home que treballa i que juga, 1914 [Philosophy of the Man Who Works and Plays]; Lletres a Tina, 1914-1915 [Letters to Tina]; La Vall de Josafat, 1918-1919 [The Valley of Josaphat]; and El nou Prometeu encadenat, 1920 [The New Prometheus Bound]).

Before anything else, however, and independently of the monographic series that appeared under the auspices of Glosari, it must be noted that a glossa is a brief essay, a gloss of rarely more than a page where, in dazzling style that seeks the reader's complicity and starting out from different occasions held out by reality in any one of its guises, value judgements are pronounced or reflection is invited on matters or circumstances of a diverse range, with attention both to individual points that are outstanding for whatever reason and, in particular, to questions that are somehow relevant for collective existence.

The glossa, as Xènius (the pseudonym with which d'Ors signed Glosari) conceived and practised it, thus becomes a textually proteiform and thematically versatile genre, notable for the minimum significative unity of a wide-ranging well-meshed system of thought, Orsian thought, which is structured around an analogy, convinced of the primordial unity of the world and the cosmos, and attentive in its reconstruction. Continue reading...

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