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The Dendogram above represents all the authors published in the influential series Circulo del Crimen. This Spanish series (Forum) published between 1982 and 1986, tended as a rule to only publish one book by author, and only exceptionally two (Simenon, Ed Lacy, Himes) and in the sole cases of McBain and Irish three volumes. As a result, it offered a broad and excellent overview on the Crime genre, showcasing its most important authors (at least from England, the USA, and, to an extent, France), represented by some of their best work.
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.
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
The Club del Misterio Series (early to mid-1980’s) predates the Etiqueta Negra Series (mid- 1980’s to mid-1990). Both Series are devoted to Crime Fiction. Both have appeared post-Franco, and in a cultural context profoundly changed by the Movida. Both have published around 150 books of international Crime Fiction, the majority of them considered classics of the genre. While Etiqueta Negra is a series launched by a Madrid publisher, Jucar, Club del Misterio belongs to a Barcelona-based publisher, Bruguera.
But the most striking difference is their respective scope. The Madrid publisher puts the emphasis on selection and distinction. There are fewer authors, representing fewer countries, and a distinctive branch within the crime genre, the noir novel. On the contrary, the Barcelona series favours diversity : different subgenres, different authors, different countries. It is remarkable that the author most published in this series is Italian (Scerbanenco). Rather than American (or Spanish as is at the time the pattern elsewhere, when only local authors seem capable of resisting the American -and to an extent English- dominance). Continue reading
The Etiqueta Negra (Black Label ) Series, published by Editorial Jucar (Gijón) from 1986 to 1995 comprises 140 outstanding noir novels (including the odd collection of short stories, such as Hammett’s Cuentos). They are from, mainly, America, France and Spain. By then of course, the canonisation process has happened elsewhere long ago (in France, in Gallimard’s Série Noire, mostly, and in Hollywood, obviously). Or it is already well underway: the noir genre’s winners in the international competition for literary survival are very well known. McCoy, Goodis, Himes, Thompson, Manchette, and Westlake, amongst others. But more recent authors, such as Ellroy, and rising stars in particular from France (Daeninckx, Jonquet, Pennac and Vilar) and Spain are integrated within the collection, and benefit the most from such a symbolic canonisation.
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