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Pere Calders, Writer

Joan Melcion

Born in Barcelona in 1912, Pere Calders is another example of a Catalan author wrenched onto unforeseen pathways by the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. At the end of that conflict, and after being interned in a concentration-camp, Calders went into exile in Mexico, where he remade his life. To speak about Calders is to speak about a great short-story writer in Catalan. He is an exceptional narrator: agile, unpredictable and subtle. His stories, often impregnated with a realism touched by magic and mystery, make believable the unbelievable. Calders's gaze is always ironic, though never caustic or embittered.


The Rediscovery of Calders at the End of the 1970s

In the autumn of 1978, there were two events that decisively marked the public recognition of Pere Calders. On 27 September was the official premiere of Antaviana, a stage adaptation of Calders' stories in a performance by the theatre company Dagoll Dagom and, a little over a month later, the book, Invasió subtil i altres contes (Subtle Invasion and Other Stories) was published ten years after the appearance of his previous book, which contained formerly unpublished writing (Tots els contes, [All the Stories, 1968]). Popular success, which had always eluded him, now became a faithful travelling companion for the literary work one of the most beloved and loveable Catalan writers of the twentieth century.

Pere Calders i Rossinyol (Barcelona, 1912-1994) had just turned sixty-six and had retired from his professional obligations at the publishing house Editorial Montaner i Simó not long before. Although Antaviana and Invasió subtil i altres contes revealed the magic of Calders' fiction, the writer already had a long - and also chequered - literary career behind him, after its public inauguration in 1936. Five collections of stories (El primer arlequí [The First Harlequin, 1936]; Cròniques de la veritat oculta [Chronicles of the Hidden Truth, 1955]; Gent de l'alta vall, [People from the High Valley, 1957]; Demà, a les tres de la matinada [Tomorrow at Three in the Morning, 1959], and the anthology Tots els contes, 1968), four full-length novels (La Glòria del doctor Larén [Doctor Larén's Glory, 1936], Gaeli i l'home déu [Gaeli and the God Man, 1938], L'ombra de l'atzavara [The Shadow of the Agave, 1964], and Ronda naval sota la boira [Naval Patrol in the Mist, 1966]), and one novella (Aquí descansa Nevares (Here Rests Nevares, 1967), along with a book of war reports (Unitats de xoc [Shock Brigades, 1938]) and a biography of Josep Carner (1964), had already endorsed him as an established writer of sweeping register.

It is no accident that the belated recognition of Calders' work should have come at the end of the 1970s. This is in keeping with a certain historical logic that, even if it is difficult to distinguish causes and effects, offers us an approximation to some of the keys for interpreting this singular fictional universe.

Writer of Cultural Normality

Calders' formative background was a cultural setting that aspired to normality. In the 1930s, still affected by the successive waves of Modernism and noucentisme, this normality seemed to be within the grasp of the country, so much so that Calders and his young peers, although they considered themselves direct heirs of the more recent and judicious tradition of noucentisme, were not in the least dismayed by the much more breakaway proposals of the members of the artistic and literary avant-garde, who already had a diverse and significant presence in the Catalan cultural panorama of the time. As an "adolescent artist", Calders felt part of a generation that had deliberately distanced itself from realist referents -often represented, from the biased standpoint of noucentisme as a too crudely realistic ruralism- declaredly tending towards the civilised values of noucentisme with regard to its forms of expression but with a certain critical reserve about the moral values imposed by its spirit. In brief, this was a generation that, without renouncing critical reflection on human foibles and contradictions, began to feel that it was free of "sacred patriotic missions", and it had a greater commitment to the formal quality of a creative work than to the reforming effect that the work might have had in its immediate social setting. Continue reading...

If you want to cite this page...

Literary news about Pere Calders in Lletra, the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) virtual space for Catalan literature

<http://lletra.uoc.edu/en/author/pere-calders>

 
   
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