In English Voices From Spain

The redeeming regional minister

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Originally published in Catalan: «La consellera redemptora». Jordi Llovet. El País.

9th June 2018

Hosanna, sing all the nations and the hierarchy of angels in heaven. Hosanna to the Catalans of the earth and hosanna in the highest heaven. Thus sings the whole universe now that Laura Borràs has been appointed regional minister of Culture. And you may ask: why such enthusiasm? What reasons are there for the heavens and the earth to glorify this appointment? Here goes the answer.

Borràs is the first minister of Culture to actually be deeply cultured. As she has shown in her books, she is well versed in Hesiod and Homer, in Marlowe and Goethe, in Balzac and Flaubert, in Woolf and Joyce, in Ausiàs March and Jordi de Sant Jordi, in Villalonga and in Sampere, in Joan Margarit and in the great Marçal. Hosanna! Finally, a minister one could have a serious conversation with about the things that make a country great for centuries: Shakespeare is the undoubted glory of England, Lull of the Crown of Aragón, Montaigne of neighbouring France, Leopardi the pride of all Italy.

Finally a minister who will no longer devote herself –unlike her predecessor Lluís Puig, in love with folklore and with no other known culture– to visiting the Patum of Berga, the snail festival in Lleida, the great calçot-eating contest in Valls, the human towers (castells) of Vilafranca or the sardana dancers of the Bisbal group. Hosanna! Finally a well-read, educated minister, devoted to Schubert’s piano sonatas and Glenn Gould’s second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Finally a woman of letters whose writings are comparable to those of Auerbach, Karl Vössler — mentor to Riba–, Curtius, George Steiner and Roland Barthes.  

Have no doubt: after discussing it with the regional minister for Education, who is also a well-read man, she will spread the works of Cervantes, of Goethe –like in 1932, when the Catalan regional government published a translation of a triad of his poems to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his death–, of Sophocles, of Boccaccio, of Erasmus –Erasmus especially–, of Voltaire –humour, humour!– of the Encyclopédie and the Enlightenment, of Flaubert and Dostoievski, of Pascoli and Carducci, of Kavafis and Seferis, Ibsen and Alfred Jarry. Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Wasn’t she the one who wrote, “In times in which reading is so discredited, it may seem naive to try to vindicate the need for it, and yet we must do so”? Wasn’t she the one who admitted that there’s a literary canon that no one can afford to look down on, lest Pitarra turn out to be greater than Euripides simply by virtue of being Catalan? Aren’t the following words, quoting Eliot, hers: “A classic can only exist when a civilization has reached a degree of maturity”? We reached it centuries ago! Wasn’t it her, armed with Pallas, reasoning and warring, who brilliantly summarised three well-known and undisputed literary masterpieces: “The Iliad extols war; Lolita’s main character is a pedophile, and Shakespeare’s works are full of murderers”? Yes: it was her; just like she acknowledges that “the habit of reading is being thrown out of the curriculum, leaving an ever-shrinking space devoted to reading”, and just like she admits, despite her great IT skills, that it’s unfortunate that new technologies are gaining ground against reading and against almost all that which was solid. All that’s left now, in line with the constant coherence of her CV, is for the minister, once again holding hands with Bargalló, to have computers removed from schools and promote –as she has the power to do, after all– the reading of all those classic works that she so competently studied, and in such depth.

Praised be the Lord! Through her influence, tv will no longer drown us in ritual weapon dances and neo-medieval fairs; the regional government will no longer give a dime for feudal tournaments, living nativity scenes, or old Holy Week processions in a country full of unbelievers. For the time being, the Plan for Museums seems to have been stopped; in contrast, the National Plan for Books has the approval of our president, always so keen on delicate verb forms and the refined style of the Noucentiste literary movement, and so devoted to Prat de la Riba, Catonia’s ordaining mind. Have no doubt: all the men and women of letters in the region will finally find in Borràs a redeeming minister: everyone will go back to reading, Mozart and Beethoven will fill public squares –together with Toldrà’s beautiful songs–, and there will only be subtle concessions to nationalist culture: for example, the Egmont ouverture –honouring a Flemish hero in the war against the Spanish–, transformed into a metaphor for our heroism; Dvorak’s Moldava, equivalent to our Llobregat, the liquid soul of Catalan patriotism; Verdi’s Nabucco, an allegory for the liberation of all oppressed nations. And all the homely cultural nonsense will end, for Borràs is above all educated, pro-Europe, universal and cosmological. Sing, oh Catalans, with me: Hosanna in the Catalan fatherland and in the highest heaven, for we have been given a redeemer to save us from the cultural misery that engulfs us!

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