The poet, narrator, and translator Josep Piera, 55th Catalan Letters Award for his lifetime achievements in literature.

  • Activist for the language with a long literary career, has made La Safor one of the main subjects of his work.

01.03.2023 - 17:49
Actualització: 01.03.2023 - 17:53

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The poet, narrator, essayist, journalist, and translator Josep Piera (Beniopa, la Safor, 1947) has been awarded the Prize of Honor of Catalan Letters, given by Òmnium Cultural. The organization highlights his extraordinary literary trajectory, with a constant and persistent defense of the Catalan language in the Valencian Country, through literary creation, society, and education. Piera has been an unmistakable poetic voice and has made literature the reason for his personal and collective life, turning the territory where he has lived into one of the central themes of his work. Thus, he has made the mountains of the Safor, with the Cingle Verd and the Drova Valley, a mythical setting. His work as a translator is also noteworthy.

His civic aspect in articulating the Catalan literary system from the Valencian Country explains, in large part, his trajectory, in addition to the adaptations and versions of Arab-Andalusian poets, the translation of Italian poets, and the updating and dissemination of the classics. With his activism and commitment to language, literature, and his country, he has become a key figure among the generation of the seventies and subsequent ones.

As a poet, he began publishing in Catalan in the early seventies when he was selected for the anthology Carn fresca de joves poetes valencians, an anthology that marked a before and after in the creation, renewal, and modernization of Valencian poetry. This coincided with the beginning of the so-called generation of the seventies, of which Josep Piera is one of the main representatives.

During this period, he also actively collaborated in the creation of the Association of Writers in Catalan Language (AELC) and was part of the first executive team, along with Josep Maria Castellet, Jaume Fuster, Josep Maria Llompart, and Enric Valor, among others. He also actively participated in the revival of the Catalan PEN Club, of which he was vice-president for the Valencian Country. After holding a seat, from 1981 to 1985, he was also the vice-president for the Valencian Country of the AELC and later of the Catalan PEN (1987-1995).

At the same time, he participated in the direction of the Encontres d’Escriptors de la Mediterrània from the beginning of the eighties, organized by the City Council of Valencia. In the 1985-86 academic year, he was a Catalan lecturer at the Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, in the chair of Professor Giuseppe Grilli. From this Neapolitan experience, one of his most celebrated books was born, Un bellíssim cadàver barroc, also published in Italian, which critics considered an unusual contribution to travel writing dedicated to the city of Naples.

Upon his return from Naples, an undiagnosed illness worsened, keeping him hospitalized for more than a year (1988) at the Francesc de Borja hospital in Gandia. From this experience, he published Ací s’acaba tot, a real and mental journey where the illness and old Europe, represented by the island of Sicily, are the protagonists.

An activist for language and literature, Piera was one of the founders of the literary magazine Cairell in the late seventies. He participated in poetry events and recitals, both in Catalan-speaking territories and abroad.

An activist for Catalan language

A tireless activist for language and literature, he was one of the founders of the literary magazine Cairell in the late 1970s. He participated in poetry events and recitals, both in Catalan-speaking territories and abroad. He collaborated in literary magazines such as Èczema, L’espill, and Caràcters, and in daily newspapers.

His books, both in verse and prose, have been awarded some of the most important prizes, such as the Andròmina for novel, the Carles Riba for poetry, and the Josep Pla for narrative, among the most significant ones. From 1974 to 1979, he worked in the field of education, collaborating in various studies and courses on the introduction of the mother tongue in teaching, with the support of the University of Valencia and coordinated by Manuel Sanchis Guarner.

In 1980, he left the education field to devote himself fully to literature. At this time, he published literary criticism articles in magazines, with special attention to the literature of the new generations. In terms of literature, the 1990s stand out for the books motivated by his interest in ancient and modern Arabic poetry, with titles such as El paradís de les paraules (1995), a historical essay that makes the Andalusian poets of Islamic Valencia (11th, 12th, and 13th centuries) protagonists, incorporating them into the cultural memory of Valencians in particular and Catalans in general.

Seduccions de Marràqueix (1996) and El jardí llunyà (2000), or the Catalan translations of poems by Ibn Khafaja, first with Mahmud Sobh and then with Josep Ramon Gregori, are notable examples.

A life dedicated to great personalities of the Valencian Country

Later, he published several books dedicated to literary and cultural personalities of the Valencian Country, halfway between historical essay and fictional biography, such as Jo sóc aquest que em dic Ausiàs March (2001), Francesc de Borja, el duc sant (2009), where he avoids hagiography to humanize the figure of the Duke of Gandia, Jesuit general and Catholic saint. El somni d’una pàtria de paraules (2012) was dedicated to the figure of Teodor Llorente, the great patriarch of the Valencian Renaissance, to recover an emblematic figure of Valencian Romanticism.

Josep Piera has cultivated autobiographical and travel narrative, inspired by his numerous trips around the Mediterranean, with long stays in Greece, Italy, and Morocco. Based on the landscapes of La Drova, where he spent summers as a child and where he settled from 1974 onwards, he has created a poetic prose capable of turning this area of La Safor into a symbolic and literary place. He translated several poets into Catalan, including the Arab classic Ibn Khafaja of Alzira and the Italian Sandro Penna.

His first and only novel, Rondalla del retorn (1977), won the Andròmina dels Octubre prize and was the first to narrate the war of 36-39 in Valencia from the periphery’s point of view.

From that moment on, his books oscillated between the intimate story and personal memories. He wrote and described Mediterranean travels and landscapes while exploring the nature of human beings: El cingle verd (1982), Josep Pla award, and Estiu grec (1985) were published by Editorial Destino. Un bellíssim cadàver barroc (1987), Ací s’acaba tot (1993), Seduccions de Marràqueix (1996), and A Jerusalem (2005) were published by Edicions 62. In 2001, with Jo sóc aquest que em dic Ausiàs March, he wrote the first literary biography of the great poet of the 15th century. In 2001, his narrative entered the world of memorial literature with El temps feliç, followed by Puta postguerra (2007) and Els fantàstics setanta. 1969-1974 (2020). Halfway between literary essay and literary memoirs is Mai no és tard (Vinyoliana), published by the University of Valencia in 2016.

Another topic he has dealt with is the relationship between Valencian cuisine and sensory memory or cultural history, with rice as the main subject. In this field, El llibre daurat. La història de la paella com no s’ha contat mai (Pòrtic, Barcelona, 2018) stands out. His versions of Andalusian poets have been sung and recorded by Al Tall on the album Xarq al-Àndalus, and Carles Dénia, in El paradís de les paraules, among other musicians. He also collaborated by reciting Jordi de Sant Jordi and Ausiàs Marc on the album Dinastia Borja, by Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras. Since 2005, he has been a member of the Philological Section of the Institute of Catalan Studies. In 2010, the Gandia City Council awarded him the distinction of favorite son. In 2019, he again directed, along with Àngels Gregori, the recovered Encontres d’Escriptors de la Mediterrània, now organized by Mostra Viva.

His work, in prose and verse, has been translated into Spanish, English, French, and Italian, among other languages, and his poetry has appeared in various collective anthologies.

In 1991, he was awarded the Cross of St. George by the Government of Catalonia for his contribution as director of the Year of Tirant. In 2013, his career was recognized with the Abril d’Acció Cívica Valenciana Award. Subsequently, he received the Lletraferit Prize (2020) and the High Distinction of the Valencian Government, as well as the Literary Creation Award of the Valencian Public Universities (2021), and the Lluís Guarner Award.

In his role as a cultural animator, it is worth highlighting his direction of the Year of Tirant, the commemoration of the 500 years since the appearance of Tirant lo Blanc, and his participation in the organization of the Ciutat de Gandia literary awards. During the 1990s, he directed the publications of the Tres i Quatre publishing house.

The weather, an obsessive monothematic topic.

In 2020, he published the memoir book The Fantastic Seventies (1969-1974) and, in connection with that, he reflected in an interview with VilaWeb on time and memory. “Souvenirs are subjective, but memory is objective,” he said. He also spoke about growing old and how the final degradation becomes a metaphor for the world.

A few weeks ago, together with his wife Marifé Arroyo, he reflected on the calm that comes with age. He used the example of the mobile phone that “my young poet friends gave me, who put Facebook on it for me.” Sitting in a cozy living room overlooking the garden, he claimed that many times, by observing changes in nature, he was able to find much more pleasure than by swiping his finger on the phone screen or watching a fictional series.”


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