Brandon T. Bennett
This has taken me longer than I thought it would to write. It is not often that I come across a collection of shorts that possesses the razzmatazz present in The Book of Barcelona. This collection, compiled and edited by Comma Press, is sourced and translated from the original Catalan. Catalan, for those that aren't already aware, is a language that has been under threat for many years. The numerous ruling Spanish governments have made their attempts to suppress it, and failed. Like the Welsh, the native speakers of this beautiful dialect are thankfully stalwart. Of course, I can't speak it myself, and so take full advantage of this translated collection. As an English reader, all I could do was appreciate the ability to read these works at all, which in themselves stand out without the need of any real cultural understanding.
As someone that manages a literary magazine, and as someone that presides generally over the short fiction, you can imagine the amount of work I have been through in the pursuit of filled page. Quality, of course, varies, but I know when I see it.
The short that sticks with me the most has to be 'An Exemplary Life' by Borja Bagunyà, a title which is (rather ironically) an understatement at best. Understatement, however, seems to be the running theme for the Catalan writer. Translated by Jennifer Arnold, Bagunyà's style is itself understated, and with it is birthed a kind of magic which is rare in contemporary fiction of any size. Bagunyà, unlike the majority of writers I come across, seems to understand that a fantastic story (in many respects) tells itself. It is a story which reads much like a diary entry, or as if you were listening to someone tell it over a pint, and ends in a quiet marvel.
The Barcelona between these pages is the Barcelona owned by the writers and expressed through their imaginative prose. It is one that is unmissable to those that have crawled cityscapes, and shouldn't be avoided just because you've never been. It is transportive, well-curated, and underpinned by beautiful paragraphs and measured lines.
The Book of Barcelona is available to order online now.
Brandon graduated with a First Class Honours in Creative Writing from MMU, and is thrilled to have recently updated his BRAG photo.
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