Catalan literature

Catalan literature is the name conventionally used to refer to literature written in the Catalan language. The focus of this article is not just the literature of Catalonia, but literature written in Catalan from anywhere, so that it includes writers from the Valencian Community, Balearic Islands and other territories where Catalan or its variants are spoken.

The Catalan literary tradition is extensive, starting in the early Middle Ages. A Romantic revivalist movement of the 19th century, Renaixença, classified Catalan literature in periods. The centuries long chapter known as Decadència that followed the golden age of Valencian literature, was perceived as extremely poor and lacking literary works of quality. Further attempts to explain why this happened (see History of Catalonia) have motivated new critical studies of the period, and nowadays a revalorisation of this early modern age is taking place. Catalan literature reemerged in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to experience troubled times from the start of the Spanish Civil War on. Many intellectuals were forced into exile and Catalan culture was repressed. However, this repression began to temper after the end of World War II. Many measures were introduced soon to protect and promote the Catalan language, such as the creation of official contests to award the best literary works in Catalan.[1]

Middle Ages

Origins

Catalan, a Romance language, evolved from Vulgar Latin in the Middle Ages, when it became a separate language from Latin. Literary use of the Catalan language is generally said to have started with the religious text known as Homilies d'Organyà, written either in late 11th or early 12th century, though the earlier Cançó de Santa Fe, from 1054–76, may be Catalan or Occitan. Another early Catalan poem is the mid-13th century Augats, seyós qui credets Déu lo Payre, a planctus Mariae (lament of Mary).

Ramon Llull (13th century), one of the major medieval Majorcan writers in the Catalan language is not only saluted for starting a Catalan literary tradition clearly separated from the Occitan-speaking world of the time, but also credited with enriching the language with his coining of a large number of words, and his philosophy. See Llibre de Meravelles (including the famed Llibre de les bèsties) and Blanquerna (including Llibre d'Amic e Amat) for more details on his works.

Les quatre grans cròniques

These four major literary works are chronicles written between the 13th and 14th centuries narrating the deeds of the monarchs and leading figures of the Crown of Aragon. They are the following:

Lyric poetry

The first widespread vernacular writing in any Romance language was the lyric poetry of the troubadours, who composed in Occitan. Since Occitan and Catalan are often indistinguishable before the 14th century, it is not surprising that many Catalans composed in the Occitan poetic koiné. The first Catalan troubadour (trobadors) may be Berenguier de Palazol, active around 1150, who wrote only cançons (love songs in the courtly tradition). Guerau III de Cabrera and Guillem de Berguedà, active in the generation after, were noted exponents of the ensenhamen and sirventes genres respectively. During this early period Occitan literature was patronised by the rulers of Catalonia—not surprisingly considering their wide involvement in Occitanian politics and as Counts of Provence. Alfonso II patronised many composers, not just from Catalonia, and even wrote Occitan poetry himself. The tradition of royal troubadours continued with his descendants Peter III James II of Aragon, the anonymous known only as "Lo bord del rei d'Arago", and Frederick II of Sicily. The most prolific Catalan troubadour during the ascendancy of Occitan as language of literature, was Cerverí de Girona, who left behind more than one hundred works. He was the most prolific troubadour of any nationality.

In the early 13th century, Raimon Vidal, from Besalú, composed his poetic grammar, the Razos de trobar ("Purposes of Composition"). This was the earliest and perhaps most influential Occitan lyric treatise. The troubadour lyric followed the Catalans to Sicily later in the century, where Jaufre de Foixa composed a Regles de trobar ("Rules for Composing") modelled on Vidal's earlier work. A third Catalan treatise on the language of the troubadours and composing lyric poetry, the Mirall de trobar ("Mirror of Composition"), was written by a Majorcan, Berenguer d'Anoia.

The first golden age of this language was developed in the Kingdom of Valencia around the 15th century under the variant of "Valenciano" . The Catalan language consolidated and clearly differenciated, even in lyrical poetry, from Occitan language. The prose is widely cultivated, with influences from Italian humanism. Authors as the humanist Bernat Metge the preacher Vincent Ferrer, Francesc Eiximenis or Anselm Turmeda write works now considered as classical models of Catalan prose. The narrative and the fiction are shown in novels as Història de Jacob Xalabín, Paris i Viana or the chivalric roman Curial i Güelfa. In the 15th century the main centre of literary production is Valencia: the lyric poetry has outstanding Petrarchian poets: Jordi de Sant Jordi or Ausiàs Marc, or the elaborate poetry and prose of Joan Roís de Corella. In fiction could be outlined Jaume Roig's Espill or Tirant lo Blanc.

Tirant lo Blanc

Written by the Valencian writter Joanot Martorell, this epic romance was among its time's most influential novels, and possibly the last major book in Catalan literature until the 19th century.