Sunday, 13 December 2009

"In my mind I'm going to Catalonia"

With apologies to James Taylor for the above title.

"The identification of one state with one national language is rather like monogamy - much praised as an ideal but as often ignored in practice," starts John Payne in "Mind Your Language", a chapter in the new edition of his Catalonia: history and culture.

Catalonia has just hit the streets, or perhaps the ramblas, and is Five Leaves' last book of 2009, just squeezing into the year. In addition to the important language issue, John's book covers - as the title does more than suggest - Catalan history and culture. As well as bringing his 2004 book up to date, this new edition includes a fresh chapter on Catalunya Nord, that part of historic Catalonia within France. It has been a good year for the author as his Signal book on the West Country has also appeared. For the avoidance of doubt the West Country here is around the author's home near Bath rather than, say Galicia or Asturias.

John Payne's book could easily be read in tandem with Michael Eaude's Barcelona, which went into a new edition last year.

1 comment:

John Payne said...

Well, Ross, you promised the second edition of Catalonia for Christmas and here it is, with a few days to spare too. Thanks.
You point out that for the first time there is a chapter on Catalunya Nord - the historical parts of Catalonia now within the French State. I am especially keen to hear comments from readers about this chapter.
You also mention Mike Eaude's book on Barcelona. Mike is a resident of Barcelona, active in many community campaigns, and this is a classic insider-outsider view of this great city.
My own experience of Barcelona goes back rather further - to 1968-70 when I lived and worked there. This was, of course, the Spain of the State of Emergency, and the vicious repression of protest especially by the 'grises' (Franco's military police). But it was also the Catalonia of a vigorous and lively political and cultural fight-back, encompassing not only political struggle, but also music, theatre, and the visual arts.
One of my more unlikely achievements in Catalonia was persuading the border police to allow two youn Dutch students into Spain. They wanted to turn them back because they had a book by Karl Marx in their luggage. I flashed my university pass, and explained that Marx was now on every reading list at the University. This was not strictly true but certainly most of my own students were busily reading Marx, Gramsci, Althuesser and so on. Incredibly the border guards let them through.