Barcelona is the literary hub of not one but two languages: it is the world’s largest centre of publishing in the Spanish language, and the capital of the Catalan language.
If a book-lover must choose a day to visit Barcelona, it can only be Saint George’s Day on 23 April, a hugely popular celebration with the entire city’s main streets full of people looking for books and the signature of their favorite authors and a turnover of 22 million Euros which represent a wide number of titles sold: 53,000. The total amount of books sold is 1,62 million.
Barcelona was a Founding Member of ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network) in 2006, having already been one of the oldest members of the previous City of Asylum Network (dissolved in 2005). Barcelona has continued to be safe haven for persecuted writers, providing them with security and a cultural environment to stimulate their creative and literary activity.
Don Quixote said all his misadventures had been worth it, just for the chance to see Barcelona, the only real city mentioned in Cervantes’ masterpiece: the ingenious gentleman’s visit to a Barcelona printing press is just one example of the tradition of publishing dating back to the Middle Ages.
A world-recognised editorial capital since the 19th century, Barcelona exports books all over the world. 50% of exports are to Europe, and 44.8% to Latin America. Catalonia has 272 publishing houses, employing 4,907 staff people, and many more freelance, in the publication of 31,759 titles, earning €1,208,990,000. The city’s rich map of bookstores includes independent gems with books in several languages and a weekly second-hand book market that dates back to 1882: the recently renewed Mercat de Sant Antoni fills its bookshelves with old books and rarities every Sunday morning.
Every year in early February, Barcelona hosts BCNegra, a meeting dedicated to the detective
novel, turning the city into the main focus of attention for fans of the genre around
the world. It is said, and not without reason, that this is when Barcelona becomes the crime fiction capital of Europe.
Barcelona Poesia is the oldest poetry festival in the city, which has been held since 1985. It brings together the creative flow of a genre that has its own strong pulse in Barcelona. New voices in poetry or the very latest from already consolidated poets can be discovered in different parts of the city. Evening recitals in different corners of Barcelona are now a classic event, with great staging and the best poets. It’s also a good time to pay homage to those no longer with us.
Kosmopolis is an extended literature festival that has been held in Barcelona since 2002. Oral, written or electronic literature by authors, poets, scientists, musicians, comic illustrators, playwrights or script writers can be either listened to or read. The event tries to connect with the foundational spirit of art and freedom as citizens of the cosmos. There is also a permanent programme that keeps the spirit of the festival alive between its biennial events.
Music, literature and scenic and visual arts can be found at Primera Persona, where authors using their own experiences for creative material play a starring role. People such as James Rhodes, Stephin Merritt, Juan Marsé and Carlos Zanón, Jaume Sisa and Pau Riba, Junot Díaz or Manolo García, among many others, have visited the festival that was created in 2011 to bridge the gap between life experiences and novels, monologues, films and songs.
Annual meetings have been held for critical thought and alternative literature since 2015 at Fira Literal, a book and ideas trade show organized by the cooperative CULTURA21 SCCL, sponsored by publishers Tigre de Paper, Virus, Pol·len, Bellaterra and Icària. From a collaborative and a particularly social spirit standpoint, Literal aims to offer readers a different literary slant than that offered by big organizations, and a point of view that is vastly different from mainstream arguments. As well as conferences, interviews and the book market organized, there is also music and gourmet food, all within an ambiance of cooperation and alternative thought.
The Faber Residency is where creators, scientists and humanists can work and exchange ideas. Located in Olot, a 2-hours ride from Barcelona, the residency is open to writers, translators, artists and scientists from around the world so that they can develop their work. It is a space where ideas and knowledge are exchanged among residents from different disciplines.