Barcelona has a literary calling. It’s worth remembering that it’s the capital of Spanish-language publishing and the beating heart of publishing in Catalan. It’s literary role isn’t limited to the book industry, however. It also holds a distinguished position in the literary geography of the western world.
The Publishers’ Guild of Catalonia (GEC) brings together 279 publishers who put out more than 30,000 titles each year. The industry is now facing the challenges of the economic crisis, the new global market, the technological revolution and a shift in reading habits: challenges that seem perfectly manageable for an industry backed by five centuries of history.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Barcelona, a publishing lab since time immemorial, is accustomed to risk because it has always had to defend itself with its own means. More companies and new projects are needed. The more diverse a habitat, the longer it endures.
The Kosmopolis festival, which focuses on literary creation in all of its forms, has been a part of Barcelona’s rich panorama of specialised industry events – BCNegra, Món Llibre, Setmana de la Poesia and Barcelona Novel·la Històrica – since 2002.
Thanks to the experience accumulated with the International Parliament of Writers, in 2006 PEN Català helped create a network of cities to serve as refuges for writers persecuted in their own countries. This host programme, developed with the support of the Barcelona City Council and the Catalan Government, is an important element in the city’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.
The municipal network of libraries is one of Barcelona’s strongest selling points in its candidacy as a UNESCO City of Literature, and it has formed a central part of the project since its outset.
Barcelona is the setting and the protagonist of a host of literary works, so much so that imaginary worlds come alive when a reader walks through its streets for the first time, or when a local returns to a place after having read a novel that is set there.
Perhaps the single most astonishing thing about St. Jordi’s day is that it gets hundreds of thousands of people to browse and buy books. The fact that printed matter, the decline or disappearance of which has been declared inevitable so many times, should still hold such fascination for an entire country – albeit on just one day – suggests that books still have a role to play.
Vil·la Joana in Vallvidrera, currently under restoration, will once again open its doors to the public in the spring of 2016 as a museum on the city’s literary heritage, with a strong focus on the great Catalan poet Jacint Verdaguer, and as a meeting place for different groups in the world of literature.
One of the duties of a city’s institutions is to make the invisible visible. In other words, to make the people aware of their intangible heritage, highlighting it in a tangible way. Symbolic history, therefore, has to be set in motion alongside economic, social, political and urban history.