Here is the letter written by Mr. Wolf Daerr, the German consul in Barcelona, and published in the Barcelonian newspaper La Vanguardia. The main theme is the presence of Catalan culture as Guest of Honour in the Frankfurt Book Fair 2007 which will take place next October. The letter was in Spanish (from now on, when I say Spanish I mean Castilian, not Catalan, Galizian nor Basque) and I translated it into English.
- La Vanguardia, newspaper that I highly appreciate, has published several articles about the Fankfurt Book Fair 2007. The one dated June 13, 2007 titled "The authors in Castilian called by Bargalló reject their invitation to go to Frankfurt" contains a severe error that can make the reader think that "Catalunya" has been called as Guest of Honour to the Frankfurt Book Fair. If it had been written that the Guest of Honour is "Catalan culture" it would have been correct. For this reason authors from Andorra and the Balearic Islands, who are part of the Catalan cultural area among others, have been invited also. This small difference seems very important to me.
Even though La Vanguardia is a newspaper edited in Barcelona, it is known for being close to the Spanish economical and political power, for its marked regionalism (opposed to the exercise of full Catalan sovereignty) and for its monarchic friendliness. Lately, this newspaper (written completely in Spanish) has been worried about the fact that there are no Spanish-writing authors in the final list of representatives of the Catalan culture in the Frankfurt Book Fair. According to that, and according to the most of the Spaniards, Spanish language is a natural way to express the Catalan culture. Therefore they consider that Spanish-writing authors must be included in that list also. In my opinion the final purpose of this debate is questioning the legitimacy of Catalan-writing authors to represent Catalan culture itself (it seems that we, Catalans, are not good enough to represent ourselves without the strict Spanish surveillance).
Defenders of the Spanish culture say that “real” Catalan culture is everything made in Catalonia regardless of whether it is in Catalan or Spanish. Obviously, if they were right Catalan language and culture would be melted under the grandeur of Spanish language and culture with the connivance of the State. Actually, it means the slow decay of the Catalan tongue, its reduction to an exotic oddity, and its progressive substitution by the Spanish tongue. In my opinion what Spanish arguments hide is another step forward to that inconfesable intention of substitution.
But their theory about the Catalan presence in the Frankfurt Book Fair has several problems and contradictions. The first one is that, if we agree with the Spanish point of view, a Spanish-writing author that works in Catalonia must be automatically considered a member of the Catalan culture as well as member of the Spanish culture. But when you ask them whether a Catalan-writing author that works in Madrid should be considered a member of the Spanish culture or not the vehement answer is “certainly not” (and you have to watch Spanish television to realize that they are right: no Catalan, nor Basque nor Galician on the air).
Spanish culture was invited as a Guest of Honour in the Frankfurt Book Fair some years ago and no Catalan-writing authors were included. I remember no complains nor claims (neither did La Vanguardia) defending the Catalan rights then. Where were those that lose sleep defending the Spanish-writing authors today? (Isn't that called hypocrisy?).
The second one is that in Catalonia coexist many people with different languages: English, French, Italian, German, Russian, Arabic, Chinese… Can a Japanese-writing author that lives in Barcelona be considered a representative of the Catalan culture? Is a Catalan-writing author that lives in Rome part of the Italian culture? Is a Spanish-writing author in Berlin part of the German culture? Is a German-writing author in Madrid part of the Spanish culture? Strictly according to the Spanish logic the answers would say yes. In that case, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell or Harry Fisher are members of the Spanish culture from now on (my condolences to all the Anglo-Saxon world). But in fact, we find that the only affirmative answer is when we ask whether Spanish-writing authors in Catalonia are Catalan culture or not. So Catalan culture is the only exception. The logic that works when we talk about French, Italian, Russian, Vietnamese and Spanish cultures is not useful when we talk about Catalan culture. As if by magic, we become an exception. We are not normal. Catalans are not normal. And if Catalans are not like others it is not necessary to judge them by the same laws and, of course, they can not claim for the same rights. So Catalans are less than the rest of the world (God save the Spanish democracy!). And I ask, is this a cultural matter or a political matter? If it is just politics they should tell us and stop confusing the world. Be courageous, Spaniards, and say that Spain thinks Catalans can not have our own culture without the interference of your Spanish culture (which is best, superior, universal, and the one used by the real Spanish patriots).
The origin of all this mess is that there are two official languages in Catalonia: Catalan and Spanish. Catalan is the native language of Catalonia and Spanish was introduced by force when we lost our independence in 1714 (of course it is strongly denied in Spain and some even say and “prove” that Spanish was common in Catalonia in the Middle Ages and that Catalan language was an invention of those evil Catalans that want to destroy the sacred unity of Spain, crazy huh? But some think it for real). Since then, Catalan culture and language have been repressed and forbidden, while Spanish became the tongue of the conquerors. With the Spanish democracy, Catalan was officially restored again sharing rights with Spanish (but only theoretically -I will talk about that in next articles). And because Spanish is an official language in Catalonia Spaniards think they have the right of being part of the Catalan culture. But where does this right come from? There is no law about that. Even the “sacred” Spanish Constitution (always restrictive with Catalans) says nothing about that. I think the problem is a lack of Spanish self-confidence, the weakness of a superiority complex that needs to be proved day after day. The proud elephant scared by a simple mouse trapped in a cage.
Am I exagerating? Well, you just have to listen to some Spanish media and political speeches about the Frankfurt Book Fair. Criminal anti-Spanish Catalans are offending Spain. For example, Cristina López Schilchting, a journalist from Cadena COPE (an importat ultra-Spanish radio station property of the Spanish Episcopal Conference), has said that the presence of the Catalan culture in Frankfurt without any Spanish-writing author in the final list is a proof of an “ideological totalitarism which is close to those who burn books”. Ok then. So it is normal when Spanish culture is the Guest of Honour and no Catalan-writing authors are invited, but in the opposite situation Catalans are nothing but nazis. Fair play? What's that? And no, she has not finished. According to López Schilchting this is a direct attack to Spain itself and an “economic, intellectual and political offense” made by dangerous “provincial country bumpkins”. Another example. The ultra-Spanish nationalist, Antonio Pérez Henares, in his article called "Linguistic racism" says that the Catalan political parties "allowed themselves to be swept away by an ideology where contempt and hate against "the others", against what is common, against all what is Spanish, is the basis of identity even if that means to be ashamed of your own father and mother". Wow. Do you mean that the Spanish identity is my father and my mother? At the same time? How can it be? Is Spain hermaphrodite? Is it nice to call hermaphrodite to your own country? But if you are right, who are the man and the woman that share my surnames? According to you they can not be my parents because I am not ashamed of them, I am very proud of them. I am really confused. So my father is not my father and my mother is not my mother, and I am ashamed of my real father and mother, that is the Spanish identity. I am lost Mr. Pérez. This is crazy. But I think I do understand what you mean. What for other nations is the normal behaviour it becomes contempt and hate in Catalans. We do not deserve the air we breathe, right Mr. Pérez? We must be awful.
But he is not fully satisfied. To him Catalan writers "are mediocres, unknown, (...) and show a pitiful, impoverished, and mean image of excluding nationalism, linguistic racism and cultural xenophobia". Of course Mr. Pérez believes that Spanish writers are "the only real writers". Well, it seems that Catalan writers are not real. Maybe a nightmare, right Mr. Pérez? Our existence, our identity is a nightmare for you, of course. And no, Mr. Pérez, we are "the others", not you. We are the exception thanks to people like you. Excluding nationalism? Are you talking about your idea of a complete Castilianized Spain with no other languages, cultures and minds but Spanish? Our resistance to that is excluding nationalism? And aren't your insults an example of deep hate? Or are they just an example of nice including nationalism? Maybe devouring nationalism would fit better.
Congratulations, Mr. Pérez. A nice lesson of what is good nationalism (yours) and bad nationalism (the rest -who said excluding?). But Mr. Pérez, what about those Spanish people that live in Catalonia and feel Catalan indepencence supporters? Their origins are Spanish but their hearts are Catalan without any moral contradiction. Are they nazis too? Are they nasty monsters like those evil non-Spanish nationalists? As Catalans, can they start eating raw Spanish babies for breakfast as we use to do in Catalonia?
To summarize, what these Spanish patriots are really saying is “Spaniards can be Catalans in Spanish but Catalans can not be Spanish in Catalan, and moreover Catalans are nazis, mediocres, offensive, country bumpkins, dangerous, pitiful, racists, anti-Spanish, and only live to hate Spain and burn books” (a good sign of the “exemplary coexistence of the whole Spanish peoples thanks to the tolerant and open minded Spanish democracy”). Catalans are the origin of evil. Is there any better argument for Catalan secessionists to claim freedom for Catalonia? Aren't that list of insults enough? Of course not all Spanish people think like that (thanks to Heaven) but those kind of opinions are growing every day.
And the matter is so ridiculous that even Jürgen Boos (Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair) said that “the writers we want here are the less known ones, those that write in Catalan”. Well, I warn you Mr. Boos that Mr. Pérez may think that you are mediocre, unknown, and an anti-Spanish racist (maybe he may think that you eat raw children too). I am sorry Mr. Boos. What Spain really wants is not exactly the same as you. Spain wants you and the entire world to be unaware of the existence of the Catalan-writing authors, the existence of the Catalan culture and even the existence of the whole Catalan people. Mr. Boos, Spain wants you blind in everything related to Catalans. Spain wants to go on minimizing us inside while we are silenced and denied outside. In their minds the best representation of the Catalan culture is the one made in Spanish, much more universal (according to that point of view, I suggest that English culture represents the Spanish culture from now on. We all know that English is much more universal than Spanish and the main language of communication in the world. Spanish people will be delighted to apply their own logic. I am sure). Any resistance is made by annoying country bumpkins (Catalans of course) whose minor culture deserves the darkest corner in a museum of oddities (being generous). Is this evangelization? Is this Castilianization? No. Nowadays it is called “constitutional democracy”.
By the way, there are 130 authors and writers in the final list (including some “dangerous traitors to Spain” as Matthew Tree, Monica Zgustova or Simona Škrabec), none of them Spanish-writing authors. But what about them? Spanish-writing authors as Eduardo Mendoza, Javier Cercas, Juan Marsé and Juan Goytisolo, among others, have expressed their refusal to represent the Catalan culture because they understand that only Catalan-writing authors can do that. This honourable attitude has ridiculed those noisy patriots and defenders of the Spanish essences (who say that they have been forced by the fascists Catalans to refuse -Isn't there an end to this Spanish hating madness and lies?). Of course, the Spanish-writing authors will be in Frankfurt as Spanish culture with their own publishers. But this year the Guest of Honour in the Frankfurt Book Fair is the Catalan culture whether some Spanish "democrats" like it or not.