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.
From June 2022, Barcelona has a literary residency (as part of a pilot program). The space chosen is the MUHBA Vil·la Joana, the old farmhouse located in the Collserola park where Jacint Verdaguer died on June 10, 1902.
The residence has three individual bedrooms with a private bathroom and work area, as well as several shared spaces, such as the kitchen-dining room, designed to promote the relationship between the authors who stay there. The environment in which the building is located, in the middle of the Collserola mountain range, offers a favourable environment for literary creation and research, and at the same time guarantees easy accessibility to the city.
With the incorporation of this equipment, Barcelona, UNESCO City of Literature, is integrated into an international writer exchange circuit with the rest of the cities in the network, which aims to promote the mobility of authors as a core element of the diffusion of the world literatures.
The Vil·la Joana literary residencies project includes several modalities:
Writers from cities that are part of the UNESCO Cities of Literature Network.
Translators, prioritising translations of works by Barcelona authors in particular or Catalan authors in general or works by foreign authors in which the city of Barcelona occupies a prominent place, even as a narrative space for fiction, or as the central theme of literary or cultural essays.
Writers from other literary exchange programs with ICUB participation, with the aim of opening the doors to literary talent from everywhere.
It is expected that the space will always open its doors during the spring and summer months and that the stay of the creators will be one month per resident.
The residence includes a parallel program of activities linked to the literary network of the city and public facilities -such as libraries, museums, schools, and civic centres- in addition to the activities that will take place at the MUHBA Vil·la Joana.