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Empar Moliner

Jordi Galves

Empar Moliner (Barcelona, 1966), once an actress, is currently a very popular journalist who contributes to El País, Catalunya Ràdio and even late-night television talk shows. Her journalistic chronicles, written with the same corrosive style of her short stories, have been recently collected in an anthology, which has also been a success with both critics and readers.

It all began with some books. Thick, blood-coloured books that the grandfather of Empar Moliner (Santa Eulàlia de Ronçana, Vallès Oriental, 1966) would give her every birthday; as she grew and her character became more established, she would receive a new volume each year until finally she was able to fill a whole shelf with the children and teenagers' weekly magazine collection En Patufet (1904-1938). In the Moliner household there was rarely much occasion for extravagance and fineries, and if in cases like this the younger children were usually given the older ones' hand-me-down clothes, as the writer was the only girl and the oldest of six, she set out as a reader - more or less exclusively - through second-hand books directly from the far-off days of her parents' parents. It was an unusual luxury that was decisive in her formation both as a person and as a woman of letters. Not simply because this publication had been intended for other children in another country, during the most splendid period of contemporary Catalan culture - which went from the end of the cultural movement of the Renaixença to the defeat of political Catalanism during the Spanish Civil War, but it was especially decisive as Empar Moliner soon began to feel a tremendous curiosity about that unique and overflowing family heritage: thousands and thousands of pages for teenagers and children that bore no relation whatsoever to her world and even less to that of her parents. Her grandparents' days, represented by those books as old and fascinating as blood, filled with short stories and tall tales, drawings and jokes, antics and puzzles, word games and brainteasers, were an initial and decisive learning thanks to reading. Like so many others, Moliner was fired with enthusiasm by the traditional tale of Patufet - equivalent to Tom Thumb in English - the adventures of a tiny boy trapped, as in the myth of Jonah, in a monstrous stomach. It is no mere chance that Moliner's literature features domestic and family conflicts, everyday and cruel, repeated and as known as the back of one's hand. As in the children's world, the home is the domain of savage fears, of incestuous cannibalism, of acid frustrations, of the deaf tragedies of the person who is searching for themselves when confronted - precisely - by those they love, those they share the home with, those of their own environment. "Where are you, Tom Thumb?"

The importance of the En Patufet weekly magazine is clear as, on the one hand, it connects Moliner's literature to the great traditional European stories and to some of its adaptors or new story-tellers, such as the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, and also because, on the other, it would soon lead her to discover leading figures of Catalan culture of the first three decades of the twentieth century, such as Josep Mª Folch i Torres, Cosme Vidal, Joan Llaverias, Gaietà Cornet, Joan Junceda and Josep Carner. The Catalan that Moliner uses in her writing, modern and bang up to date, hugely flexible - daring, even - is naturally an intuitive and personal creation of the writer's, but it has its deep roots in the curiosity for street Catalan, while at the same time its style is based on the literary - lyric but also humorous - Catalan of En Patufet, a Catalan very close to what would be used by the Sabadell group, that of Joan Oliver and Francesc Trabal. In short, a Catalan and a literature that keep a firm grip on life and on the careful observation of life - to some extent like in the model of Pàgines viscudes by Josep Mª Folch i Torres, the heir to the best school of everyday realism, that stemming from Charles Dickens. Moliner's literary origins come from popular culture in capital letters, from the artisan world of Barcelona, a culture that is also made up of the values that foster effort, hard work and personal achievement, beyond family hardships and trials and the toughness of the environment. Agile, nervy, with great instinct and intelligence, Empar Moliner would soon take charge of herself, she would seek a dedication "without looking back - as illustrator Joan Junceda stated that work should be - through fear at turning into a pillar of salt, like Lot's wife." Continue reading...

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