Journal of Catalan Studies/Revista Internacional de Catalanisme

[Ressenyes / Reviews]

Avant-garde and Politics in the Paisos Catalans
Montserrat Roser i Puig
University of Kent at Canterbury

RESINA, Joan Ramon, Ed., El aeroplano y la estrella: El movimiento de vanguardia en los Pases Catalanes (1904-1936), Texto y Teora: Estudios Culturales, 22, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 1997, p. 289, Hfl. 40.00 / US 25.00. ISBN: 9042001887.

This collection of essays on the Catalan Avant-garde, written in Spanish, started out as a project commissioned by Anthropos in 1990, later to be abandoned and only published by Rodopi in 1997. The book is written fully in Spanish and all Catalan quotations (which have been kept to the minimum) are followed by a translation. As stated by Resina in the introduction, the book does not intend to put forward a theory of the Catalan Avant-garde, but to compile a series of observations on its different aspects in order to show the absurdity of some interpretations of the avant-garde as an aesthetic movement only occasionally stirred by political issues. In this context Resinas excellent introductory study traces the origins of a Catalan avant-garde tradition to the late part of the XIXc and presents it as a working-class anarchist movement.

The book covers a good range of subjects since, although the number of pages devoted to literature is the highest, it also includes studies on music, architecture and the plastic arts. The quality of the essays is very high and all of them come across as well researched and well written. Giuseppe Grilli looks at biographical writings on Josep Maria Junoy; Joan Abelló Sanpere offers a detailed study of Futurism in Catalonia with a particularly interesting account of Marinettis visit to Barcelona and its consequences, and Josep-Vicent Gavaldà Roca looks at Joan Salvat Papasseits ideology by relating it to the writings of the Málaga psychiatrist Diego Ruiz. There follow three articles on J.V. Foix: Manuel Duran traces his debt to Modernisme, Surrealism and his interest in the plastic arts and provides some biographical information; Enric Bou describes the latest part of Foixs diary, Cròniques de lultrason, as very closely linked to his earlier ones but with the addition of a metaphysical reflection on ageing and death; and Josep Miquel Sobrer writes on the relationship between J.V.Foix and Salvador Dalí by analysing their political discrepancies and their shared international sources. Antonio Monegal looks at Dalís literary writings of the period prior to the formulation of the critical paranoia theory and studies the poetics of objectivity in some of them. Oscar Rivera Rodas addresses the question of the understanding of the limitations of language and knowledge with specific reference to Carles Riba, J.V. Foix and Joan Salvat Papasseit. José B. Monleón writes a very interesting article on the Valencian reaction to the literary avant-garde in Barcelona, following the views expressed in the magazine Taula de lletres and interpreting the late development of the movement there as a direct reaction to its marginal situation. Eduard Resina Bertran shows the avant-garde elements in the music of the composer Robert Gerhard (which he sees as more apparent than real) and addresses the question of why music should have been so far behind the other arts in its sharing of the innovations of the time. The book closes with Jordi Oliveras Samitiers study of the originality of Catalan architecture within the context of the European Avant-garde.

As a whole, the collection is highly interesting and even in the cases where there are several articles on the same author the amount of overlap is minimal. It seems a shame that the articles were not updated with references to the great amount of bibliography on the Avant-garde published between 1990 and 1997. The impracticality of so doing is explained by Resina himself as a necessary sacrifice, since it would have further delayed an already very late publication. The collection is thus slightly dated but its contribution to the understanding of the complexities of the avant-garde both in the Països Catalans and in Spain easily outweighs such a shortcoming.