In The Post


As everyone knows (except certain English journalists based in Barcelona, blessed with an apparently wilful ability to ignore what's happening in front of their faces) we are currently in the middle of a process both popular and political which will probably lead to the appearance of a new European country on the world's stage. The Catalan and Spanish media carry regular news items on all aspects of this process, save one: the subtle commentaries on it provided by a host of recent Catalan theatre productions. Take for example, 'Una història catalana' (2012) by Jordi Casanovas, in which a tiny village in the Pyrenees inhabited by greedy 'native Catalans' and a violent neighbourhood in the industrial town Sant Adrià de Besòs, full of recently arrived Spanish speakers, meet in an uneasy compromise when a gangster-made-good from Sant Adrià offers to turn the village into a money-making rural retreat patronised by bourgeois Barcelonans. In Pere Riera's 'Barcelona' (2013), two women friends meet up in the city precisely on the two days in 1938 when it was most heavily bombed. One had fled abroad to try and become a Citizen of the World, the other has decided to sit out the Civil War at home, which home becomes a symbol for a Catalonia that survives - albeit in a bombed-out, half-cocked way – despite (or because of) all the conflict and diversity, both political and personal, that flows through it in the course of the play. Finally, Santiago Rusiñol's 'Llibertat', written in 1902 and never professionally performed until this year, is a satire on 'integration': the inhabitants of a Maresme coastal village find they have to look after a freed slave boy: they find him cute when small, but increasingly reject him as he turns into a real person with adult feelings: in the end, forces of both the left and right prove themselves unable to fully accept a black man as a fellow Catalan (curiously, Òscar Kapoya, the black Catalan who played the lead role, doesn't feel this to be the case at all in real life). All three plays, each in their way, are coolly and sometimes cruelly perceptive investigations into what it means to be Catalan or, indeed, to be in Catalonia. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, patriotic propaganda: on the contrary, I would suggest they are gentle indications that we are now entering a post-nationalist phase, in which the stress is placed on what really has happened - or is happening - inside Catalonia rather than on any of its many national myths. Most English people wouldn't deny their nationality, but would probably balk at being called nationalist. Independence – or rather, its current imminence – could well be offering a majority of Catalans a chance to do the same.


 Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, setembre de 2013.


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