Rafael Tasis

Crime Fiction In Catalan: 2 From the Civil War until Today

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 By Dr Stewart King, Monash University

The development of crime fiction in Catalan from the Civil War until today has been shaped by two major historic events: the Franco regime (1939-1975) and the reestablishment of parliamentary democracy following the dictator’s death in 1975. After the war a series of laws were enacted prohibiting the public use and teaching of Catalan and, during the early 1940s, the publication of books in Catalan. Indeed, in scenes reminiscent of Nazi Germany, books were thrown onto bonfires or pulped. However, from the mid-1940s the regime began to relax some of the restrictions on the use of Catalan, and books started to appear, some in clandestine editions. The effect of such policies on Catalan culture and identity cannot be underestimated. By 1975 only approximately 50 percent of the population could speak Catalan and even fewer could read it. In contrast, the return of democracy has seen the recovery and consolidation of Catalan as a language of communication and cultural production.

Francoist cultural policies shaped in many ways the sort of literature Catalans wrote, as many authors saw it as their duty to defend Catalan as a language of prestige by producing works of high culture. Others, nevertheless, felt that Catalan literature should cater for more diverse tastes by providing books, like crime novels, that catered to the tastes of a readership beyond the well-educated middle class. Of the latter writers, Rafael Tasis and Manuel de Pedrolo stand out.

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Tasis was the first Catalan to write crime fiction after the war, publishing a trilogy of novels set in pre-war Barcelona: La Bíblia valenciana [The Valencian Bible] (1955), És hora de plegar [Quitting Time] (1956) and Un Crim al Paralelo [Crime on Paralelo Avenue] (1960), although the latter was actually written in Paris in 1944 where Tasis resided in exile until 1948 Continue reading

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Crime Fiction in Catalan: 1 The Origins

 

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Dr Stewart King, Monash University

The Catalan capital Barcelona is indisputably the crime fiction centre of Spain. Anglophone readers will no doubt be familiar with Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s Carvalho novels, a series of over twenty novels and short story collections published between 1974 and 2004 that charted Spain’s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy and beyond. A city’s or a country’s crime fiction credentials, however, do not rest on one writer alone. Other writers who may be familiar to anglophone readers are Eduardo Mendoza, Andreu Martín, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Toni Hill, Teresa Solana, and Marc Pastor, among others. While these authors hail from or live in Barcelona, only Martín, Solana, and Pastor write in Catalan. Although less well known to English readers, there is nevertheless a strong, albeit at times uneven, tradition of crime fiction writing in Catalan.

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The development of Catalan crime fiction has been shaped as much by politics as by literary concerns Continue reading