«My literary career has not been one of gifts»
It was the year 36 of the last century when he was born, at number 1 of the Rambla Nova in Tarragona. Eighty-six are the books that she has published, which will soon be eighty-seven with the presentation of the collection of sea stories Blaumari, next Thursday at the Teatret del Serrallo. She has been recognized with practically all the literary awards and with the Creu de Sant Jordi. Olga Xirinacs is a referent of Catalan letters who has worked in almost all genres, from children to poetry and narration. In these pages the writer reviews some chapters of her life and her trajectory, inseparable from society itself.
Could we say that it belongs to the Catalan bourgeoisie?
Yes, although not in the upper bourgeoisie because here, in Tarragona, I don't know if it existed. But it ends with me. I mean, my kids have to define themselves.
Was she raised with the values of the Bourgeoisie?
Well, I studied at the nuns' school, at the Carmelitas de la Caridad and then the fine arts, music and drawing.
What do you remember of those times?
In our country there were parties, concerts, to which, among others, the governor came. My grandfather was very fond of culture. He was director of the Philharmonic Society. In fact, there is still a piano in the house on Calle Cavallers from the ones they bought.
Did you choose to play the piano?
No, although I liked it and I finished my degree, which is seven years. I can say that everything you learn when you are young helps life when you are older. I know how to use my hands on the piano and now, if I want, I sit down and can play.
And taught classes...
No, very few. To someone who wanted to start, but I did not dedicate myself to it.
What I'm missing are translations. With 86 published books I don't have one. The only one, from the Sant Jordi Prize, I paid for it myself
How was Tarragona in the forties of the last century?
I was born in the same place where we are now, in May 1936, shortly before the Spanish Civil War broke out. La Rambla was not a very busy place unless there were events. We all knew each other and during my childhood people still went to fetch water from the fountains with buckets. The Paseo de las Palmeras had real palm trees, well placed, with their stone plinths. And the gentlemen went out for a walk.
And the ladies?
Also. The girls and the soldiers, although at different times.
With the evolution of the city, the physiognomy of his house also changed. Why did they throw her to the ground?
It was my parents. We did not have the power to dispose, we had not yet inherited. They reached an agreement with a real estate company to build a more modern building and get more flats, naturally. You always lose with these things. The house was much prettier, modernist, it looked like a fairy house. Precious. When my grandfather came to Tarragona she was alone, she looked like a lighthouse, the ones on the other side had not yet been made.
Was she a happy girl?
Yes. I really liked going to school and in the summers, to Rubí, with my grandmother, where I went since I was a month old. I remember it perfectly, like now, even the colors of the paintings on the walls. It's a wonder we can remember these details in adulthood.
How did you get into literature?
It was enough to see the library that was in the house when I was born. Of books in Catalan, from the time of the Republic. That's why I started reading in Catalan very soon. Another thing is to write it, since at school everyone was obliged to study in Spanish. Now there are voices that deny it, they say that they had never forced us. Lie. People my age are illiterate in their language.
How healthy do you think the Catalan language is?
I'll tell you how bad. Before you asked me about the changes. Well, everyone spoke Catalan before the arrival of immigration. Now we have the battle of 25% in the school. Think that if a good immersion had been applied, even if it was 50%, the tongue would be strong, we would be strong. But there was no real immersion.
Did you ever have problems with the censorship of the Franco regime?
Not because I started posting too late. I started with poetry until a time came when I needed to tell stories. In 1984 I won the Sant Jordi Award with in my head a slab, a fictionalized biography of Virginia Woolf, which required a lot of documentation. So much that there is now talk of feminism and Virginia Woolf, this book is never cited. Not even the Spanish or English version, which I paid for. What I'm missing are translations. With 86 books I have none. Not even one.
Because no one has bothered, although I have asked a lot. Now the prizes are given in two or three languages, but it never worked for me. My literary career has not been one of gifts, but efforts. I have not had godparents.
I don't want to be negative, but how are the theaters? The Metropol and the Tarragona. Things are done in the city, but they don't have enough echo
He plays all the piano and literary keys. What genre do you like the most?
I have published them all, except in theater.
She is a teacher in Gay Saber, the second woman after Mercè Rodoreda.
Are the Floral Games still held?
Yes. Precisely the last ones have won the Glòria Coll, from Riudoms.
What you are telling me was in 1978. Until then, the Floral Games had been held in exile. The first I beat them in Lausanne, where I was also the queen. It was very emotional because while here you couldn't display any Catalan flag, you could find them in Switzerland. I won the following ones in Munich and 1978 was the reunion, the union of all the democratic city councils was commemorated and everyone who was in exile came. The act of celebration took place in the Saló de Cent in Barcelona, it was splendid. Meanwhile, she raised three children and at home there was never a lack of food at the hour. I also taught.
Yes. Here and in Barcelona. Training of older people, to learn to write. I myself had to learn Catalan and I taught him.
From Òmnium Cultural, of which I was president after Josep Anton Baixeras and which was founded to learn the Catalan language. We went like the apostles, two by two, asking the schools in Tarragona and Vila-seca if they wanted us to teach them Catalan because at that time the language had not yet entered the Teacher Training College. As an anecdote, I will say that I was Xavier Graset's first Catalan teacher.
It's hard to have to start every day with this sadness. Decadence, disease, the body takes us where we don't want
Among other things, she is the author of...
I like it a lot. I have always read and have had a large library. Of fear and psychology of fear. I am 84 Simenon.
What are you afraid of?
I am afraid of dying in bad ways. When I stretch out to take a nap or go to sleep at night, I would want whoever should take me, death or whoever, to do it calmly. At home I'm fine but the loneliness, not being able to talk to anyone, not being able to comment... I have quite a few correspondents with whom I write letters now that the written letter is not done.
Tell me about that solitude to which you refer so much lately.
I feel very bad. I didn't see my husband get sick because he left suddenly. And this makes me represent him as he was, that he can enter through the door of the house at any time. My life was cut short and in five years I have not recovered. I am adapting because I need it, but I miss myself a lot and every day I want to die. I miss my husband, located in Mont-ral. I couldn't go back because they couldn't take me. It's hard to have to start every day with this sadness. Decadence, disease, the body takes us where we would not like to go, although we learn this as adults. The only thing that leads me to get ahead is to obey life. Now life tells me to be here talking to you and in a while it will tell me to do a dinaret If I don't want to die of starvation.
Is obeying life synonymous with letting go?
I would say that letting go has a much broader connotation and not as regimented. This is loneliness.
As for the culture of Tarragona, how do you perceive it?
From what I have seen lately, it is one more party culture, except for some exhibition or presentation; in the middle, very little.
Should you work more or in another way?
Activities and theater are carried out, but they do not manage to go up. I don't want to be negative, but how are the theaters? The Metropol or the Tarragona. The latter, if we have to go older people with wheelchairs or wheelbarrows, does not have easy access. It is not suitable. In general, we could say that things are done, but they do not have enough echo.
People my age are illiterate in their language. At school everyone was forced to study in Spanish. Now they deny it. Lie
As a citizen, she complains about the noise. Tarragona is not a quiet city?
No, not at all. In fact, I belong to the anti-noise society. For example, years and years of generations of skaters have come here. I even have them drawn.
Last year, during the celebration of its 85th anniversary, the Honor Award for Catalan Letters was publicly requested for you.
There are many prizes and this is out of our reach.
Do you think that if you were from Barcelona it would be different?
I don't think so either. It is true that from the Garraf strip down, few reviews are made. But for them to remember, I should go out more and it is not my case. The big city is very loser, it does not bring its children together. There is a time for everything and as we get older those calls no longer ring, those summons no longer come. It's the end. When you realize, it has become like a void in front of you. That's when a depression hits you and you have to react, let's go again. And that's what I've done. I start a book, whether I'll finish it or not, I don't know, because it's hard for me to start. Is a reality. They have to go up other generations.
He knows that when he dies he will appear everywhere...
I know but to dead donkey, barley to the tail.