The Budapest Bookfair

New Trends in the Spanish Novel
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Speaking at the debate 'New Trends in the Spanish Novel' in Budapest, Luís Magrinyá, a speaker of Catalan, claims to find the language 'an impossible tool for writing'. Instead he has turned to Castilian, which offers him 'flexibility, richness and prestige'.

See Transcript's special Catalonian issue.

The invited participants for this event at the Budapest Bookfair all turned up. Big names were novelists Eduardo Mendicutti and Luis Magrinyá, who were joined by Miguel Sanchez Ostiz, Augustin Cerezales and Moïses Pascual, 'new' novelist Diego Pita, and presenter, Miguel Angel Moreta.

The writers spoke personal choices that influenced their writing. The emotional temperature went high: Mendicutti, a respected writer of gay literature, spoke about his longing for more 'involved', more 'real' fiction - less heterosexual and more homosexual, less intellectual and more 'in touch with the work of ordinary people'. Pascual became irate, insisting that his writing draws on the vitality and workaday reality of rural Spain: 'In Madrid, no one knows what it's like.'

The next subject raised was one that haunts the Spanish as much as it does the Hungarians: multi-culturalism. Both countries are intensely aware of a shift from their traditional culture to a modern, European-wide variety, both have to live somehow with several minority languages and populations, including large Romany communities.

From then on, questions of identity dominated and so did Luis Magrinyá, who spoke at length. He insisted that, contrary to Goytisolo's 'the more languages the better' (I have paraphrased), multi-lingualism led to 'dysglossia'. Brought up in the provincial Catalonia of the 1970s, Magrinyá, who learnt to speak domestic Catalan, found it an impossible tool for writing. Instead he turned to Castilian, the language of imperial Spain, which offered him flexibility, richness and 'prestige'.

Surely aware that an accusation of snobbery hovered over him, he explained that 'oppressed languages' reflect the fact of their impoverishment, that they speak about themselves and fail to adapt to the writer's wider intentions - summed up as 'self-reflexivity and poor instrumentality'. Provocatively, he rounded off by a condemnation of 'minority language hysteria'.

His co-debaters seemed stunned. The talk shifted almost at once to minority causes and the novel. Pascual argued that writing about minorities is the opposite of a constraint, once the engagement is total. Cerezales agreed, drawing on his own writing about Andalusian peasants and Gypsies. Before long everyone had produced an example of a favoured minority interest.

All, except Magrinyá, who stoked new fires by saying that he, for one, preferred writing outside his group and that there is nothing intrinsically interesting about belonging to a minority. But the end had come and the presenter intervened with a bucket of cold water: 'Minorities in one place,' he said sagely, 'can be majorities in others'.














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