Journal of Catalan Studies/Revista Internacional de Catalanisme

[Ressenyes / Reviews]

Recomane tenebres. Obra completa

VICENT ANDRS ESTELLS, Recomane tenebres. Obra completa, vol. I. Tres i Quatre: Valncia, 1999. 273 pp.
Dr Dominic Keown
University of Cambridge

It is gratifying to note the steady increase of critical interest in the work of Estells both domestically and internationally. For long, this exuberant individualist remained marginalised from the contemporary poetic chorus, ill served not only by Francoist repression but also the chronically deficient editorial and distributional machinery of the Pasos Catalans. Nowadays he occupies his rightful position on university syllabuses both at home and abroad, eliciting a rich and varied response from all who come into contact with his inimitable, innovative voice. For this reason, the fourth edition of his complete work is surely to be welcomed and, if anything, long overdue after a wait of seventeen years from the third. In this volume, the seminal introduction by Joan Fuster to the first edition - a sine qua non for any Estellesian scholar - retains the freshness and penetration it exemplified on its release in 1972. This intensely elucidating preamble to the formulation and exposition of themes and motives central to the poetic voice is nothing short of magisterial. The rest of the volume is given over to the following poetic works: La nit (1953-56), El primer llibre de les glogues (1953-58) and El gran foc dels garbons (1958-67).

Though the artistic value and creative excellence of the lyrical expression is unquestionable, it is at this point that the reader begins to lose patience with the bibliographical laxity which characterises this venture as a whole. Firstly, not the slightest piece of relevant editorial information is made available in relation to the various collections. The dates offered refer, presumably, to the process of creation rather than appearance? Apart from La nit, why are there no details given about publication? If, as one suspects, these collections were unpublished, what justification is there for their appearance together now in a volume of the Complete Work? We are informed, for example, that three of the eclogues appeared in Donzell amarg and that the rest are unpublished. If this is true, why are they separated from Donzell amarg and why doesn't this collection appear in its own right in this series? Furthermore, what is the overall criterion concerning inclusion? Is there any chronological basis to the exercise? More important still, who is behind the selection of material to be gathered in this format? Is the poet himself? Or, is it more likely (as might be inferred from the lack of data) the publisher who seems to release and re-release Estells's poetry - in random order and incongruous combination - as and when it is considered editorially convenient?

In the early seventies and against the repressive background which needs no illustration, this type of chaotic procedure was understandable. A generation later, however, such shoddiness is inexcusable. What is needed for the continued appreciation and assimilation of this gifted writer is a carefully produced series of his writings which meets the standard academic criteria of a critical edition: not the same old hastily concocted and laconically dispatched exercise in misapplication. The misprints and inaccuracies which blighted the first edition, for example, are repeated here over a quarter of a century later. Still more disappointing is the inevitable impression that this will also be the case in subsequent volumes with their characteristic omissions, inversions and inexplicable oversights which have so far been left uncorrected in four reprints (though we refrain from producing a predictive list in order to avoid spreading further bibliographical gloom among scholars).

All in all, the lasting impression left by this re-edition is that a great opportunity has been missed to put this unique poet and his community on the lyrical map of Europe. So much good could have been achieved in the area of consciousness raising by a careful revision of this series carried out by a team of accredited academics. Unfortunately, as is not unusual in the cultural ethos of the Pas Valenci, we are left holding the baby, wistfully thinking of how wonderful things might have been if he looked a wee bit more like we all remember his father.