Raimon Casellas

P1130649

Biography

Raimon Casellas i Dou (b. Barcelona 1855) died, almost certainly by suicide, in 1910. The motives for his premature death can be read between the lines of his novel Els sots feréstecs (1901).

Casellas was an art historian and critic who, in his own creative prose, practised what he preached. As well as Els sots feréstecs (1901), he published two collections of short stories (Les multituds: 1906; Llibre d’històries: 1909). He was a leading and most influential figure in the phase of Modernisme, which over the turn of the century aspired to set Catalan culture on the same cosmopolitan footing as the advanced national cultures of contemporary Europe, breaking with the perceived stagnation of the official Spanish culture and also with the localism of literature in Catalan as it had emerged from the nineteenth-century revival movement. Casellas played a major role in propagating in the Catalan context the newest trends and influences from abroad (across a wide range of intellectual and artistic endeavour) and thus in creating a new potential for modern Catalan culture.

Modernisme was superseded by a more sober, regimented cultural model which prospered in the early twentieth century under the sign of a bourgeois-conservative nationalist project. This articulated a reaction against the exuberant eclecticism and ‘anarchy’ manifest during the phase of Modernisme. Casellas was torn between his own initial artistic idealism and the demands of the new model for catalanisme, despite substantial achievements in the advancement of Catalan nationalist politics and cultural normalisation made in the first decade of the twentieth century. Class conflict and social turbulence, however, were exacerbated during the same period, and this factor undoubtedly contributed to Casellas’s final disillusionment, perhaps anticipated already (intuitively and poetically) in his novel.

Wikipedia

http://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Els_sots_fer%C3%A9stecs

Biografia

Raimon Casellas i Dou neix a Barcelona l’any 1855, fill d’una família de tintorers, i estudia Humanitats i Filosofia al Seminari Conciliar entre 1964 i 1972. S’ocupa del negoci familiar fins que es pot professionalitzar com a periodista.

Des de jove s’interessa per l’art i la literatura. L’any 1891 comença a escriure de manera fixa com a crític d’art a L’Avenç i, a partir de 1893 fins al 1899, a La Vanguardia. L’any 1892 és nomenat membre de la Junta de Museus d’Art de Barcelona, des d’on treballa per recuperar i indexar l’art medieval català.

Arran d’una estada a París amb Santiago Rusiñol i Ramon Casas l’any 1893, on descobreix les tendències de l’art modern que circulaven per Europa, es converteix en el crític d’art més influent de Catalunya. Col·labora regularment a la premsa, i els seus articles defensen l’impressionisme i el moviment de l’art per l’art en detriment de la pintura decorativa, de temàtica històrica i costumista. En aquest sentit, a l’Ateneu Barcelonès pronuncia la primera conferència a Catalunya sobre prerafaelitisme i parnasianisme; i al mateix temps divulga l’obra pictòrica de Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Burne-Jones o Puvis de Chavannes i d’altres corrents que aportaven novetats formals i l’apropament als corrents d’Anglaterra, França i Alemanya.

L’any 1891 publica a L’Avenç el seu primer relat de ficció, “La mort d’en Bicicletes”, però haurà d’esperar per aconsagrar-se com a narrador fins a la presentació del relat “La damisel·la santa”, durant la Tercera Festa Modernista de Sitges, l’any 1894.

El gènere novel·lístic aleshores es considerava poc idoni per a donar sortida a la intensa subjectivitat emotiva que caracteritzava la literatura modernista, i que semblava tenir en la poesia o en la narració curta els canals més adequats per expressar-se. Tot i així, a partir de 1899 treballa intensament en la redacció d’Els sots feréstecs, la seva obra més ambiciosa. Al mateix temps de dedicar el seu temps a l’escriptura, l’any 1899, a instàncies d’Enric Prat de la Riba, passa a ser redactor en cap de La Veu de Catalunya, l’òrgan del partit conservador Lliga Regionalista i únic diari en català de l’època. Aquest és un fet significatiu, ja que el situa ideològicament al costat de la lluita política regeneradora del catalanisme i, alhora, li dóna facilitats per a publicar els seus relats en català amb regularitat. La mateixa novel·la Els sots feréstecs comença a publicar-se en aquest diari com a narracions independents, tot i que després pren unitat temàtica amb la publicació del 1901. L’obra, amb un llenguatge de base ruralitzant, ric i treballat, està carregada de continguts simbòlics i s’estructura a partir de la dualitat entre un capellà i una vella prostituta. Per la seva influència en els escriptors modernistes posteriors, ha estat considerada la novel·la que inicia el corrent principal de la narrativa modernista en català, i la precursora del naturalisme rural. El 1908 Eugeni d’Ors el lloava d’aquesta manera: “[Els sots feréstescs] ve a ser dins la nostra Renaixença, el Don Quixot de la literatura rural”.

Fins a la seva mort, Raimon Casellas és redactor en cap de La Veu de Catalunya, i escriu relats curts que aplega en els volums Les multituds (1906) i Llibre d’històries (1909). En la seva faceta com a historiador de l’art, escriu la monumental Història documental de la pintura catalana, encara inèdita.

Durant els fets de la Setmana Tràgica de l’any 1909, Raimon Casellas és confós per algú altre i una patrulla del Sometent li dispara. Tot i sortir il·lès de l’accident, els seus nervis se’n ressenteixen. Aquest fet, afegit segurament als conflictes amb Enric Prat de la Riba, el temor a ser cessat de La Veu de Catalunya, i la sensació de sentir-se desplaçat per la nova generació noucentista (vegeu el seu escrit d’autojustifcació), li provoquen una crisi depressiva que l’aboca al suïcidi el capvespre del 2 de novembre del 1910 llançant-se a la via del tren a prop de Sant Joan de les Abadesses. Amb motiu d’aquesta tragèdia, el pintor Ramon Casas, gran amic seu, pinta l’emotiu quadre titulat “Enterrament de Raimon Casellas” (1910).

Bona part dels articles sobre estètica i crítica d’art que Raimon Casellas havia publicat a La Vanguardia van ser aplegats pòstumament en dos volums amb el títol Etapes estètiques (1916-18), amb un pròleg reivindicatiu d’Eugeni d’Ors.

http://www.escriptors.cat/

logo_espais_escrits

http://www.espaisescrits.cat/home.php?op=6&module=escriptors&ides=88

September 2015 – London

Castellanos

Dark Vales by Raimon Casellas

This September will see the launch of Dark Vales, the first English translation of the Catalan classic ‘Els sots feréstecs’ written by Raimon Casellas and first published in Barcelona in 1901. This novel was translated by Alan Yates, edited by Eva Bosch and published by Dedalus Books with the help of Institut Ramon Llull.

http://www.dedalusbooks.com

What follows is the first section of the introduction to a Catalan edition of Els sots ferestecs written by Jordi Castellanos and published by Curial Edicions Catalanes in 1993.

Jordi Castellanos was a Catalan scholar born in 1946. In 1983 he wrote his doctoral thesis on Raimon Casellas and Catalan Modernisme, becoming the foremost specialist in Catalan literature. He was also an expert in Noucentisme, a Catalan cultural movement that originated largely as a reaction against Modernisme. He died in 2012.
The First Modernist Novel

The appearance of Els sots feréstecs (Dark Vales) in 1901 marked the beginning of one of the most brilliant periods in Catalan novel writing. Not only was his novel the first to be published before the others, but especially because it presented a series of innovations that would feature in the work of those that would follow. In fact it was an achievement, being the first time that the aesthetic values of Modernisme were applied to a longer novel, a genre that would no longer be a <<servile copy […] an indifferent and anonymous annotation of reality>>, but would become fundamentally, the expression of an artistic temperament, as if <<… more inclined to suggestion than to imitation, this temperament on its own accord wanted to say something personal about its thoughts, feelings and dreams when offering us the image plucked out from the world.>>

From its early beginnings in 1892, Modernisme had applied such principles to the short narrative, where it was possible to convert <<the intensity of feeling>> (as a means of capturing and expressing profound reality in an analogous form) into a core of <<visions>> or of subjective <<impressions>>. However, not only the fragmentation, but even the scattering inherent to the technique (basically, a means of capturing the emotive impact that the profound meaning of things had on the artist), was not easily reconciled with the process of building a coherent, broad, and complex novelistic world. Furthermore, the Modernistes believed that the novel, like any artistic work, no longer had to <<represent>> or imitate reality but should transcend it, something that was only achievable through the artistic emotion born from the contact between the subjectivity of the author and the reality that surrounded him. Fiction, as it was conceived until then, was in crisis. A crisis that was general in the whole of Europe.

The solution found by Casellas in Els sots feréstecs is fairly simple, and is actually related in some respects to the solutions adopted by the French Symbolist novel. The process involved transferring the emotive subjectivity of the author to the main character, so that he/she can complete the original journey that the author started while developing the work, turning it into an artistic experience. To create from the same presupposed ethical and aesthetic values an emotion-conscience that <<knows>> reality and to restructure it, drenching it with its own subjectivity. In this way the experience of reality (unknowable and fragmented) can be objectivised in the novelistic discourse through the character of the protagonist-artist. The novel thus becomes the journey of an individual searching for his personal fulfilment within the tensions generated by the contact between his subjectivity and the reality that surrounds him.
Casellas finds this solution on the go, because until that moment all the literary plans that he had made responded to his intention to capture reality through various <<visions>>. For example: the social phenomena of the masses in a series of short stories, Les multituts (The Masses) gathered together in a single volume in 1906. It was in 1899, during a period in which he was regularly publishing short stories in the newspaper <<La Veu de Catalunya>> when he discovered a new possibility. On the 19th of March 1899 he published L’Aleix de les tofones (Aleix the Truffle Man), a <<vision>> of a character from Montmany, the place where the author had spent his childhood. It then occurred to him that he could present a series of <<visions>> beyond the scope of the local sources, and as a result El pallasso bosquetà (The Local Entertainer), published on the 4th of May, already appeared with the new title per Els sots feréstecs (for Dark Vales). But just as he was about to continue what was until then nothing more than an experiment similar to Las Multituts, and confronted the character of the exiled priest, he found the solution that allowed him to assemble all the scattered material in one novel: father Llàtzer would become the unifying conscience, the cohesive centre of a series of subordinate themes. In this way the novel was published at the speed that it was written without any regular periodicity. The pauses in the rhythm of publication (four months before L’església abandonada (The Derelict Church), two before La Roda-soques (Footloose), and another four before Udols en la nit (Howls in the Night)) testify to the effort he took in placing each thematic group within a cohesive whole. Once the publication in the newspaper concluded, he incorporated the first two stories – changing them, especially the first, to make them fit within the group –, he then changed the title to Els sots feréstecs, and with a front cover designed by Josep Pascó, published it as a volume.

The solutions that the work offered, both thematically and formally to the crisis suffered by this genre were emulated by other writers, and his influence, directly or indirectly, can be detected in many of the most significant novels (and not only novels) of Modernisme: Víctor Català, Prudenci Bertrana, Pous i Pages, Miquel de Paol, Alfons Maseras, Xavier Montsalvatge, Jeroni Zanné, Josep Maria Folch I Torres, Josep Morató and many more. As a novel by itself and also because of its impact, Els sots feréstecs (Dark Vales) is a key work in the history of the Catalan novel.

(Translated by Eva Bosch, edited by Jiro Osuga)

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