dilluns, 11 de gener de 2010

Quim Monzó - A Profile

At 57, he is The Writer in capital letters, an author considered so important that he now has an entire exhibition dedicated to his life and work that will run until April of 2010 (at the Arts Santa Mònica, at the foot of Barcelona's Rambla). His prolific output and high sales (some of his titles have sold a quarter of a million copies in Catalan alone) are not enough in themselves to explain such reverence, and here he is revered, dislike it though he does. What made and makes him truly special is that starting with his first novel, published back in 1976, he has single-handedly post-modernised Catalan writing with his even blend of popular culture, pornography, fantastic realism, high comedy, stream-of-consciousness narrative, parody, absurd names for characters, and a thorough unpredictability of plot. Cohering it all is Monzó's personal take on a world he sees as both cruelly bleak and irresistibly funny. As good an example as any of what this means in practice is his only novel available in English ('The Enormity of the Tragedy'), in which a man wakes up with a permanent erection and attempts to copulate it away before discovering it's the symptom of a rare illness which will kill him in a matter of weeks. Less fuss, perhaps, has been made about Monzó's newspaper articles, all available in nine separate anthologies. It is here - in a format that in lesser columnists' hands tends to lend itself to glibness, false transgression or the easy use of cliché – that Monzó's aversion to the hackneyed and the trite has resulted in hundreds of short pieces which land their blows as powerfully as does his best fiction. The culmination of his non-fiction work was surely his opening speech at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2007 (Catalan culture was the fair's special guest that year): he read out a hybrid of article, short story, and nonsense verse that caused an instant stir of admiration among his international audience. Indeed he has been an international writer almost from the get-go, as James Ellroy (or any other American) would put it. Monzó's work has been successfully translated into 19 languages, including Dutch, Hungarian, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Romanian. A pity, though, that the one in which he is least present for the present, is English.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, gener de 2010

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