Who I Am And Why I Write?
Maria Barbal (Tremp, 1949). Born in the region of Pallars Jussà, she moved to Barcelona in the mid-sixties –in what she calls "a cultural migration"– and graduated with an Arts degree from the University of Barcelona. She first became known as a writer with Pedra de tartera (Mountain Scree - 1984), which won the Joaquim Ruyra prize in 1984, among other major awards. Her other works include Càmfora (Camphor - 1992) winner of the National Catalan Literature Prize 1993, awarded by the Catalan government, Carrer Bolívia (Bolívia Street - 2000), Bella edat (Beautiful Age - 2003) and País íntim (Intimate Country - 2005). The clarity with which she writes of human relations and the effects of time on one's life experiences has earned her critical acclaim and a wide readership.
I am a woman. I was born in Tremp so they call me "Trempolina". I spent my childhood and early adolescence in the Pallars region. Hundreds of days in Jussà and hundreds of hours in Sobirà.
My parents gave me what they were unable to have themselves: an education from an early age, but that was in the 1950s, the schools breathed submission and Catalan was ignored. Again, unlike my parents, I wasn't bothered by any necessary work that wasn't studying. My brother and I, like most kids from Tremp, learned to swim in the Sant Antoni reservoir. I'm speaking about holiday time, but the best holidays we had were in the early years, in the Àssua Valley, in my godmother's house when there were still cultivated fields and livestock to be taken out. Not far away from home, as if it were an effortless game, I learned the tasks of summer. Reaping, binding the sheaves, threshing ? It was the end of an epoch which, when I was twelve years old, had already finished for my mother's family with the great flow of people going from the mountains to the cities.
Mine was only a cultural migration. I arrived in Barcelona in 1964 when I was fourteen to continue my secondary school studies. I didn't know then that it would become my city. This occurred much later when I finished my Arts Degree at the Central University of Barcelona and I decided to find a job in teaching.
I'd liked writing for some time but this was an instinctively intimate endeavour that I tended not to talk about.
I remember writing some verses on a pad with squared paper when I must have been about thirteen or fourteen. From this stage there are also some notebooks where I wrote a diary. Before I went with my classmates from the Institut Montserrat on a trip to Castile my father had asked me to write a report. His love for the land, people, reading, anecdotes, and words I regard as definitive in the fact of my beginning to write. But now I'm being asked why I write, in present tense.
There's more than one answer so each one covers only a part of the reasons, although any one of these parts alone is sufficient reason for me to write.
I write because I like it.
Because it's a way of getting inside other skins. By which I mean it enables me to be who I'm not, and to do what I don't do. No doubt it's an attempt at transvestitism and nonconformity.
I write to have the freedom to say what I wouldn't say in conversation.
Sometimes I write out of need.
Copyright © 1998 Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (Institute of Catalan Letters), with the author's permission