Neus Real (Autonomous University of Barcelona)
From the standpoint of literary history, Xavier Benguerel is a writer who has a lot to offer. A member of the same generation as Anna Murià, Francesc Trabal, Maria Teresa Vernet, Ernest Martínez Ferrando, Mercè Rodoreda, Pere Calders, et cetera, his life story and his literary production are two strands through which, whether they are entwined or separate, one can follow the processes of twentieth-century Catalan culture. Convinced that it is craft that makes the writer, Benguerel constantly reworked and rewrote his books with the result that he offers first-rate information for analysing and understanding nothing less than seven decades of writing. These are seven decades in which one should always bear in mind the range of literary-cultural endeavours in which he participated and all the documentation he left on this (no bagatelle).
These initiatives, these traces left by a witness, the written fruits of Benguerel's relationships and the numerous titles that make up the corpus of his work, have given shape to a rich and plural whole that offers, needless to say, many possibilities for approximation by the researcher. This set of works, as is well-known, includes all the genres (although, here, we are speaking essentially of a narrator): from poetry, to literary criticism, to the short story, the novel, theatre, memoirs, essay, journalism and translations (of such illustrious names as Baudelaire, Poe, Salinger and Valéry, among many others). Then again, are his endeavours in the institutional and publishing spheres (for example the review Germanor, in Chile; the Club dels Novel·listes (Novelists' Club) after January 1936, his work for the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (Institute of Catalan Letters) during the Civil War, and with the collections "El Pi de les Tres Branques", from exile, and "El Club dels Novel·listes", on his return to Barcelona). It is in relation with all this that we also find a prodigious quantity of letters exchanged with an extremely long list of intellectuals including Josep Carner, Salvador Espriu, Josep Ferrater Mora, J.V. Foix, Domènec Guansé, Joan Oliver, Joan Puig i Ferreter, Joan Sales and Joan Triadú (and these letters have been read and studied and, in some cases, classified and published by Lluís Busquets i Grabulosa, a specialist in Benguerel and whose book Xavier Benguerel, la màscara i el mirall [Xavier Benguerel: the Mask and the Mirror] is essential reading).
As for his literature in the 1920s and 1930s, Xavier Benguerel presents an ever-expanding character along with some simultaneous particularities that bestow on him a well-defined personality right at the start of his writing career. Pàgines d'un adolescent [Pages of an Adolescent] (1930), for which he obtained the "Les Ales Esteses" Collection Prize in 1929, reveals some significant traits in this regard: the importance of narrative in Benguerel's writing, his recurrent resort to autobiographical material, the central space occupied by the neighbourhood Poble Nou and, finally, a style and a way of working that make his texts stand out in every period even while he is always responding to the context and fitting in with the literary trends of the day. Hence, through the story of Ricard, the young Benguerel made his debut with a novel that ascribed to the psychologically-grounded and Barcelona-centred themes of the time, choosing as his preferential motif one that fitted into the twofold framework that shaped the literary concerns of sexuality and the unconscious, on the one hand, and the cultural volition of creating standards and modernising literature (and, on the rebound, society) in Catalonia, on the other. At the same time, he put all this through the filter of his own experience, shaping it with a lyricism born of another of his qualities, that of a poet, while also manifesting very specific cultural inquietudes that remained with him to the end of his days, and that would gradually acquire increasing prominence in his work. Continue reading...