The CCCB, a center commited to Literature

January 27th, 2016 1 Comment

Since 11 December 2015, Barcelona has formed part of the UNESCO’s Creative Cities network in the field of literature. Together with Baghdad (Iraq), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lviv (Ukraine), Montevideo (Uruguay), Nottingham (England), Óbidos (Portugal), Tartu (Estonia) and Ulyanovsk (Russia), Barcelona now has official recognition of a reality that has been palpable in the city for a long time.

K15 // Martín Caparrós & Jon Lee Anderson © CCCB, Carlos Cazurro, 2015

Literature is one of the primary focuses of the CCCB and forms part of its founding principles: “The CCCB is a space for the creation, research, dissemination and debating of contemporary culture in which the visual arts, literature, philosophy, film, music, the performing arts and transmedia activity are interconnected in an interdisciplinary programme”. Literature is, therefore, one of the subjects that have most featured in exhibitions and activities over the centre’s twenty years of history.

In 1995, just a year after its inauguration, the CCCB presented the exhibition James Joyce’s Dublin, the first of a series devoted to cities and the writers linked to them. After Dublin, the series continued with The Lisbons of Pessoa (1997), The City of K. Kafka and Prague (1999) and Cosmopolis. Borges and Buenos Aires (2002). All of these exhibitions went beyond the writing to relate the works of authors with their literary and personal landscapes, to discover how the cities that they inhabited were the direct or indirect protagonists of their works. In The Trieste of Magris (2011), the Italian city served as a physical tour around the work of the Italian writer; with Pasolini Rome (2013), the filmmaker met the writer to defend his most critical role and Bolaño Archive (2013) recalled the passing of the Chilean writer through Blanes, Girona and Barcelona via a detective-style journey that visitors had to resolve, a kind of “meta-exhibition” that allowed relations and clues to be discovered in the very work of the author of The Savage Detectives.

Bolaño Archive. 1977-2003 © Lidia González Alija, 2013

Other writers as subjects of exhibitions and debates have been Calders (The Mirrors of Fiction, 2000), Espriu (I Looked Upon This Land, 2013), W.G. Sebald (Sebald Variations, 2015, an exhibition that related the walks taken by the German author with contemporary art), Julio Cortázar (Travels, Images and Other Territories, 2004), Federico García Lorca (1998) and J.G. Ballard (Autopsy of the New Millennium, 2008).

Espriu. I looked upon this land © La Fotogràfica, 2014

It was the exhibition devoted to Borges that gave its name to the amplified literature fest Kosmopolis, which held its first edition in December 2002. Since then, every two years (with some exceptions: in 2005 a special edition was held to coincide with Book and Reading Year and the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Quijote), it has brought together some of the best authors of world literature, including several Nobel, Cervantes and Príncipe de Asturias prize winners, such as Juan Marsé, Gao Xingjian, Claudio Magris, J.M. Coetzee, Tzvetan Tódorov, Amos Oz, Ismail Kadaré, Mario Vargas Llosa and Svetlana Alexievich. Kosmopolis bears the subtitle “Amplified literature fest” because it is more than a literature festival, because the themes for each edition are related to each other, because writing, science, comic art, the written and spoken word, music and theatre all form part of a programme that explores the letters from very diverse perspectives. And because it does not focus on a single form of literary expression, but rather encompasses them all. For all these reasons we would be so bold as to say that Kosmopolisis the only festival held in Barcelona on literature understood in its broadest sense, since other meet-ups, such as BCNegra or Barcelona Poesía, focus on the field of literature specialising in the crime and poetry genres, respectively.

K04 // Mario Vargas Llosa © CCCB, Susana Gelida, 2004

Beyond the exhibitions, the CCCB has also hosted book presentations, courses, tribute events and lectures by authors from al over the world. To cite just a few examples: Paul Auster presented his Winter Journal in 2012; Erri de Luca talked about the Mediterranean; Amin Maalouf debated on identity and memory; Orhan Pamuk reflected on the future of museums and literature; Herta Müller presented a small-format exhibition on her work; Salman Rushdie explained why we live in the time of strangeness, and Jonathan Safran Foerdefended the need to stop eating animals.

K15 // Salman Rushdie & Rodrigo Fresán © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2015

In this year 2016 we will be commemorating the seven-hundred year anniversary of the death of Ramon Llull and over the course of the year various activities will be held related with the writer, philosopher, theologian, professor and missionary. At the CCCB we are joining the commemoration with an exhibition, The Thinking Machine. Ramon Llull and the ars combinatoria, which offers a new perspective regarding his work. However, this is not the first nor the last anniversary to be celebrated at the centre: we also remembered J.V. Foix with the recital FestFoix. 25 Years With/Without Foix; we hosted a tribute to Joan Vinyoli on the thirty-year anniversary of his death, Anniversary Promenade. Tribute to Joan Vinyoli, and Raimon read texts by Joan Fuster on the 2012 commemoration of ninety years since his birth and fifty since the publication of his most important work, Nosaltres, els valencians. For the last three years we have also been celebrating Orwell Day; once a month we host a meet-up focusing on the spoken word, PoetrySlam, and regularly the Friends of the CCCB participate in the Reading Club led by journalist and writer Antonio Lozano. Furthermore, since 2013 the CCCB has formed part of the Literature Across Frontiers platform, which promotes literature and translation in minority languages with member literary festivals from places as diverse as Turkey, Poland, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Norway, Portugal and Slovenia.

Apart from Llull, the literary programme for 2016 is again brimming with important events. Kosmopolis will continue its monthly offerings with a broad-spectrum programme that will serve as a foretaste of the 2017 festival. For example, in May and June we were visited by Northamerican writers John Irving and Don DeLillo and in November we will be hosting Eurocon, Europe’s most important science-fiction literature meeting. And, last May, we received the most autobiographical authors of the moment at the Primera Persona festival, which confirmed authors such as Renata Adler, Juan Marsé, Carlos Zanón, James Rhodes and Jordi Puntí.

Primera Persona 2015. The writer Caitlin Moran talking the journalist Marta Salicrú © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2015

With this track record, Barcelona’s candidate status as Literary City was a project that the centre defended with enthusiasm and with the conviction that it was a recognition that Barcelona has deserved for some time. Now, with this honorary title, the city has fully entered the worldwide league of creative cities, and the CCCB will continue to be on the front line, defending literature as one of the fine arts. Because, as defined by the principles of Kosmopolis, literature is “the only discourse that does not try to model the world on absolute foundations, disciplinary frontiers or ideological straitjackets”.

The return of Kosmopolis, the Amplified Literature Festival

December 17th, 2014 No Comments

As 2014 draws to a close, the team of the Centre de Cultura Contemporània is hard at work preparing the programme for next year’s Kosmopolis Amplified Literature Festival, from 18 to 22 March 2015. The festival, which on its eighth outing is extended from three to five days, will once again be converting the spaces of the CCCB into a place where readers meet writers of books and scripts, musicians, playwrights and journalists from around the world.

As always, Kosmopolis promotes literature in all its forms—oral, written, on paper, electronic devices and the stage, with music and on the big screen—and combines talks, readings and lectures with screenings, concerts and live arts.

The full programme of the festival will be announced at the beginning of February 2015. Until then, here’s a preview of some of our outstanding guests and themes.

Among the first international writers to confirm their participation are David Grossman, a big name in literature today with yearly Nobel mentions; Rachel Kushner, the latest revelation in US literature and finalist in the National Book Award 2013; Taiye Selasi, creator of the concept of Afropolitansim and one of the authors in Granta’s collection of the best US short stories of 2013, and William T. Vollmann, an unclassifiable writer considered by David Foster Wallace to be one of the most singular voices of his generation.

Kosmopolis focuses on high-profile aspects of world and literary current affairs, and is organized into themes and sections that form a leading thread through the festival’s large programme of activities.

Solf-portrait of William T. Vollmann

In this coming edition, we’ll be looking at new journalistic narratives and the evolution of investigative journalism, which has taken on special significance in recent years in a context shaken by global crises and the potential of Internet technology for data access and news sharing.

There’ll be a central space about the influence of the writer W. G. Sebald in today’s literature, with dialogues, workshops and screenings associated with The Sebald Variations, the CCCB’s exhibition about this German author who died in 2001. Curated by Jordi Carrión and Pablo Helguera, the exhibit will also have an online space for reflection—the Sebaldian bloghosted by the Kosmopolis webpage.

We’ll be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland. First printed in London in 1865, this book continues to fascinate children and adults, artists, philosophers and quantum physicists, and has had a huge influence on literature, cinema and the plastic arts.

There are new features in the festival’s special sections, too: Kosmopolis Bookcamp, devoted to the world of books and publishing, from Thursday to Saturday, will be exploring the limits and possibilities of the book from different viewpoints. What opportunities does the digital surround offer for expanding stories? Why is there a resistance to exchanging print for e-books? How are major publishing mergers and international sales platforms combining with the boom in new publishers and local bookstores? And Canal Alfa, the audiovisual programme inspired by literature, is back, stronger than ever, with two outstanding new features: the daily premiere of an evening feature film showing and a whole Sunday devoted to TV series of great literary quality!

All this and much more at Kosmopolis 2015!

>> If you’d like to receive all the latest information about the festival, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on the social networks of Kosmopolis and the CCCB.

LLEGIR MÉS-LEER MÁS-READ MORE

The Art of Creating New Readers

June 10th, 2014 No Comments

The literary canon is a compendium of works that overcome the oblivion of time and continue to be read. In the operation of keeping alive books that are not strictly current – by offering them to new readers, who make new interpretations of them – a fundamental role is played by those publishers that are committed to the publication of more or less well-known classics.

Kosmopolis. Programació contínua held a round table with five publishers for whom these classics are essential to the structure of their catalogue. These are the three Catalan publishers Edicions de 1984, Minúscula, and Sajalín, Turkish publisher Metis and Dutch publisher Lebowski. Edicions de 1984 is, together with Metis, the most veteran of them: both have three decades of experience behind them. The first of the two has recovered the works of authors such as Dino Buzzati, Hans Fallada, Kurt Pinthus, Aleksander Pushkin, Honoré de Balzac, Lev Tolstoi, Juli Vallmitjana, Eduard Girbal Jaume and, more recently, Walt Whitman, William Faulkner and Alfred Döblin. In the case of Metis, founded in 1982 in Istanbul, it has dedicated a large part of its almost 800 published titles to date to “highbrow literature and critical theory”: in the first section it includes Georges Perec, Marguerite Yourcenar, Henry Bauchau and Bilge Karasu; in the second, it has published works by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Walter Benjamin, Emile Cioran and Sigmund Freud.

Minúscula, which in 2015 celebrated 15 years in the publishing business, has, from its first two titles – by Joseph Roth and Marisa Madieri – built up a catalogue that, in the words of its publisher, Valeria Bergalli, has “a marked interest in European culture, in an artistic heritage that has never known frontiers and in writers that, at decisive moments, deciphered the signs of the times with extraordinary sensitivity”. Thus, it has opted for authors such as Varlam Shalámov, Giani Stuparich, Gertrude Stein, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, Hans Keilson, Svetislav Basara, Pierre Bergounioux, Rachel Bespaloff and Shirley Jackson. Coinciding with its tenth anniversary, it launched a collection in Catalan, in which it has published Anton Chekhov, Dacia Maraini and Ferdinando Camon, among other authors.

In the case of the Dutch publisher Lebowski, it combines the publication of contemporary Dutch authors with classics such as Natsume Sooseki, Gaito Gazdanov, Erich Kästner and Cornelis Bastiaan Vaandrager and established 20th century names in American letters such as Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Charles Bukowski.

Sajalín is, of the five publishers that were present at the round table, the youngest of all. Its mission is very clear: “to publish in Spanish unpublished or forgotten works of the best contemporary foreign narrative”. In just five years, it has enabled its readers to discover the work of Edward Bunker, Seumas O’Kelly, Osamu Dazai, Kenneth Cook, Edlef Köppen, Beppe Fenoglio and Luigi Bartolini. It has recently incorporated novels by Waguih Ghali and Dambudzo Marechera.

The “Unknown Classics” round table was part of the Schwob project, which aims to make better known around Europe some forty books of high literary quality that have rarely been translated, including titles by Miklós Banffy, Tibor Déry, Kees Bordewijk, Víctor Català and Álvaro Cunqueiro. The session was followed by a second debate focused on writers who have started to open up a pathway recently. This is the case of Marina Espasa, Yannick Garcia, Jenn Díaz and David Gálvez. Espasa made her debut in 2012 with the novel La dona que es va perdre (Empúries), and publisedh her second book, El dia del cérvol (L’Altra) on 2015. Garcia, who became known with De dalt i de baix (Edicions 62), a book of poems that won the Gabriel Ferrater Prize in 2003, has returned after a parenthesis of nearly a decade with the collections of short stories Barbamecs (Cossetània, 2012) and La nostra vida vertical (L’Altra, 2014): the latter having won the Documenta Prize. Jenn Díaz is the youngest of the four authors – she is only 28 years old and, surprisingly, she is also the most published: Mare i filla (Amsterdam, 2015) is already her fifth novel, the first written in Catalan. Meanwhile Gálvez, born in Vilanova i la Geltrú but resident in Andorra, presented a first singular and very daring novel, Cartes mortes (Males Herbes), and has recentry published Res no és real (Males Herbes).

Watch the debate in this video.

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