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08 May 2014

Reading Josep Pla

From Josep Pla's The Gray Notebook (El Quadern Gris):

“It is dinnertime. The clatter of plates, knives, and forks reaches as far as the street. The southwesterly wind continues to blow damp and indifferent over everything. The smell of pine resin melds with the aroma of roast chicken. Stretched out on the beach next to their empty pot, half asleep, the country folk gaze up at misty stars, which passing clouds hide for a moment.
The dance begins late.”

Descriptions like this pepper almost every page, and Pla's work is an excelllent example to all young (and not so young) writers of the way in which an author can hone style and language. Pla brings Early 20th century Catalonia to life, showing himself to be as astute when talking about regular people as he is when describing a meal or a dance. Here, he is talking with the fishermen:

'“It's bad to say the war is coming to an end?”
“Yes, wars produce fish.”
“Hey, come on.”
“I'm telling you. The voice of experience […] fish like noise, buzz, canon fire, flotsam.”
Sometimes contact with humanity can be depressing.
Hermos said this with eyes that saddened me. His eyes believed what he was saying. My depression deepened.'

Near the end, Pla begins to discuss the work of a contemporary from France, a strange young man by the name of Marcel Proust. Worth the read.

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