The opening speech

JAVIER PÉREZ ANDÚJAR:

Barcelona and beyond

At times, borders are there to be crossed, surpassed, ignored, as we take one step beyond them, if nothing more than to get a better view of the landscape. That notion explains how Javier Pérez Andújar is able, in his articles, to leap from Barcelona to Sant Adrià, Badalona or Santa Coloma with the ease that comes from feeling like a member of a metropolis understood more as a social reality than as a municipality.

Javier Pérez Andújar was born in Sant Adrià del Besòs in 1965 and took his degree in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Barcelona. The written word, preferably printed, is his life, as he discovered at a very young age through a range of authors from Machado to Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. It already was such when he got one of his first jobs, an early-morning paper round. That may not have been the job of his life but, still half-asleep, he was glad to be distributing, not flowers or pizzas, but letters that made words that formed phrases that contained ideas.

We first became aware of his bitter-sweet ideas in Saló de lectura, a BTV television programme for which half the people of Barcelona still thank Emili Manzano. In it, he was one of the first to pay homage to Don Quixote ahead of the knight’s fourth centenary. He did so, not only by talking about the book, but also by launching a fascinating collection of kitsch objects, from ashtrays to keyrings, related to that melancholy character. In this way, he proved, as he was to do so many times thereafter, that cultured and popular things are not so distant from each other but are, at times, merely two sides of the same thing.

In his works – many essays and a few highly entertaining fables – Pérez Andújar often takes one of his walks (alone or with his mother) as the starting point for a journalistic description of the soul and mystique of metropolitan Barcelona, crossing from Sant Adrià to Barcelona almost without realising it because, at heart, the two municipalities are different aspects of one same reality. In this way he has become, as he himself has claimed on occasion, a kind of journalist of “the Block of Flats International”.

Although he is satirical or, rather, provocative by conviction, tenderness nevertheless has a place in his work, as we see in Los príncipes valientes [The Princes Valiant], his first venture into narrative, published in 2007. But what he really enjoys is annoying people, at least a little, because when somebody goes too far, they may possess power, perhaps, and the right thing is to criticise them. As anyone will know who has read his two versions of Catalanes todos, the 2002 edition or the 2014 version. 

This film fan and winner of the 2014 City of Barcelona Prize also explored the world of the new immigrants in the outskirts of the city in Milagro en Barcelona [Miracle in Barcelona], a work that combined two talents (the literary skill of Pérez Andújar and the photographic artistry of Joan Guerrero, from Santa Coloma) to one end: that of describing an invisible city. The result is a reminder that perhaps we need to go one step further and cross a border or municipal boundary in order to see Barcelona in all its plenitude. For we should never forget that a centre can never be a centre on its own, but that the periphery is also necessary, encircling it and making it what it is.