political writing

Taking the view that the plain folk of Catalonia were illiterate and uncouth to a degree that would lead to ridicule in more cultured lands, Catalan language evangelists at the turn of the nineteenth century launched a barrage of self-help books. These guides taught business and social forms that will be familiar to English-speaking readers, including the obligatory suitor’s request, father’s denial, daughter’s tears, father’s unexpected encounter with a tram, and mother’s agreement.

However, what distinguishes them is that – like a couple of contemporary Irish and Filipino manuals I’ve seen – they also seek to tutor the public in bourgeois nationalism. Here, for example, from Gil de Rusena’s popular El Memorialista Català (Barcelona: Salvador Bonavia, 1920), is a model telegram to a deputy:

Joan Grau.                                        Senate, Madrid.
Admirers applaud triumph speech favouring Catalunya.
                                           Marc Soler. Josep Mora.

The station of the nationalist cross immediately following Youthful Enthusiasm is, of course, Wrongful Imprisonment. Here, from the same volume, is a model letter from a young detainee to “a good patrician”:

Most distinguished Sir: From the corner of a cell where I have been being imprisoned for three weeks, I allow myself to direct to you these brief lines, praying that you will pardon my audacity.

But it is natural that he who weeps in the shadow of a prison for causes unknown should try to stretch his arms out to those who might assist him in a predicament so mournful.

Before talking to you of my woes, I must recall that tomorrow you celebrate your name day, and this writer last year had the honour of attending your home with a committee delegated by fellow members of “La Catalaùnica” in order to wish you a good day. So, this year, it is impossible that I let this day pass without demonstrating to you – as best I can – my recognition of all the kindness that you lavished on me last year, desiring for you in passing, in the present, new happiness and congratulations, and for many years to come.

I must inform you that that Association was dissolved; but I have always been drawn by my love for Catalunya, I found myself in a disturbance, and, roused to shout something that they must have assumed was subsersive, I was detained and imprisoned.

It being so that, despite having received various visitations, no light has fallen on my sad situation, I direct myself to you hoping that in order that my detention not be prolonged more or, at least, that my cell be improved, until the sun of justice shines.

While a million thanks await you, being most appreciative of your assistance, and long live Catalunya a thousand times, your attentive and faithful servant presses your hand.


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