Autors i Autores

Joan Fuster

2. Anglès [Breviari Cívic]

In the tame, muted and distracted struggle against the Regime in the País Valencià – and I shall now limit myself to what I have experienced first-hand – there appeared with innocent obviousness the fact that "all freedoms are solidary", among them "national" freedom. To a greater or lesser extent, the "national problem" of the Valencians infuses all democratically-inspired tendencies. And when people and parties who join in their efforts to bring the people of Valencia out of a multi-secular collective Cloudcuckooland are accused of being "catalanistes" by hard-line ultra-rightists, this is no minor issue. As I write these lines, the newspapers have published articles about a speech made in Valencia by Blas Piñar on 1 October 1978: they sum up the fascist, "espanyolista" tolling of alarm bells in the face of a situation that suggests that the masses are becoming restive over being sidelined as a recognisably separate "people". Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. What is indisputable is that, now, there are no few people in Valencia who are aware of being Valencian and who are insisting on their "identity" … Països Catalans?


From the Valencian point of view, it’s all a terrible mess. In 1962, I published a book, Nosaltres els valencians, in which I tried to denounce the situation. Packed in together with the classic and permanent class antagonisms are others of language, culture and national options. The dithering and perplexity – we are a "perplexed country", as Josep-Vicent Marqués observes so acutely – are palpable in the street every day. Not long ago, from the pages of a municipal newspaper, somebody called on us to be "valencianos y sólo valencianos". Naturally this "solo valencianos" was aimed at the "catalanistes", at the deplorable, reprehensible and crappy "catalanistes". But who in the País Valencià is only "Valencian" nowadays? Let us not be fooled on this: there is not a single Valencian who is exclusively Valencian. To be Valencian is to be something more than Valencian. It means you are either with those who are here "Para ofredar nuevas glorias a España", or you are "catalanista". This means you make a "national" choice. Of course, the gentleman who exhorted us to be "sólo valencianos", starts out from being not "sólo valenciano". He is an "espanyolista" in the bad sense of the word. Would he be so broad-minded as to let the rest of us go on being Valencians, as Valencian as him or anybody else and, at the same time, "catalanistes" in the bad sense – also – of the word? The anecdote is ludicrous but illustrative too.

The fact is that, beyond such alienating and transparently ultra-right fairytales, nobody is "sólo valenciano". Both Valencians and Mallorcans, because of ancestral vicissitudes that are not difficult to explain, have to decide to go one way or the other, "nationally" speaking, and from that choice, when it can be reasonable and properly thought through, there will one day emerge a "País Valencià", which will either go ahead to be itself or will continue to be a mere provincial and financially colonised genuflection to something else.


To begin with, I’ll leave aside the essence of all this mess: the objective determinants of the bilingualism which is our daily bread. This obscure and thorny issue requires separate consideration. However, the matter of nomenclature is not at all thorny or obscure. We simply need to note, after all, that a designation like "Catalan culture" can only mean what we normally understand in similar frameworks ("French culture", "Italian culture", etc.). The adjective – the generic name of the people – naturally plays the role of a “specific” determinant. Because of the language in question? This is the crux of the matter. There is no doubt that language is the factor that bestows individuality on modern national "cultures". This assertion entails some nuances, generally related with the cases of languages that extend through "multinational" areas, for example English, which is common to Great Britain and the United States, or Spanish, with its spread through Latin America. Nonetheless, the influence of language is still so decisive that we tend to speak of "Anglo-Saxon" culture or "Hispanic culture" to indicate the unitary basis of an overall linguistic zone. Yet perhaps referring to language is not enough. The situations of non-monolingual cultures are not as unusual as we might believe. In earlier times, these were "normal". In the Països Catalans during the Middle Ages, the autochthonous "culture" was built on at least three languages. It’s true that this may not have been the best of all worlds: we’ll return to this some day. But we can still recognise the fact as valid. Whatever the case, the justification for the ethnic name acquires its full legitimacy in the immediate "usage" that a "culture" manages to achieve. By this I mean that each "culture" has frontiers that fix the regular procedures of its functioning and, among the latter, we find genuine tradition, the social problems it occasions, and the target market. I’m not sure if I’m as clear as I might be on this. To return to our main concern, it is obvious that the so-called "Catalan culture wrought in the Spanish language", while it often has a lot of "Catalan" in it – and we should specify all this point by point – belongs to a tradition, an order of interests and a public of consumers that are not strictly speaking "Catalan". As for the "Catalanness" of the "culture" wrought in Catalan, there would no point going into that issue at this point. It may not always correspond to the supraregional extension that the term "Catalan" ought to suggest, but that’s another story. In brief, if, to spare ourselves too many distinctions, we use the term "Castilian culture" to refer to what, besides being written in Castilian and addressed to an audience that coincides with the Spanish-speaking – Spanish or even Latin American – population, is organised around the "classical" schemes of language while also obeying the intrinsic movement of the set as a whole, it then seems indisputable that the "culture" propounded by Castellet , created and maintained within the Catalan milieu, is just a regional variant of it, or a more or less nuanced regional contribution. Everybody knows and takes it for granted that present-day "Catalan culture" contains a considerable number of elements written in Castilian – an impressive array of erudite books, journalistic publications, and academic endeavours. It is not this we would argue about. The reality is that the only, unequivocal acceptance of "Catalan culture” is the one that has always held …"


(Fragment of "Països Catalans: entre el problema i el programa" (Països Catalans: Between Problem and Programme), "Països Catalans", in Breviari Cívic (Civic Breviary), 1996, p. 160-161 and 176-177)

Translated from the Catalan by Julie Wark ©

Amb el suport de:

Institució de les Lletres Catalanes