Calders, Pere

Calders, Pere
b. 1912, Barcelona
   Writer
   Artist, journalist and fervent Catalan activist under the Republic, Calders later turned to fiction, progressing from wartime political satire to science fiction, written while living in exile. His war diary, Unitats de xoc (Shock Troops), portraying the desperate reality of defeat, contrasts with the fantasy novel, Gaeli i l'home déu (Gaeli and the God Man), occupying a supernatural realm where miraculous powers create a harmonious utopia. Fantasy alternates with reality hereafter throughout Calders" career, accounting for his major successes.
   Confined with other Republican refugees to a concentration camp in France, Calders escaped and eventually reached Mexico, where he lived for twenty-five years. Combining work as a graphic designer with establishing himself as a writer, he wrote fiction regularly for Catalan publications in exile. Short stories, often in the neglected genre of fantasy, became his primary vehicle. After returning to Spain, Calders emerged in the 1970s as a major cultivator of Catalan science fiction, with Manuel de Pedrolo and Pere Verdaguer. All three treat science fiction topics with humour and whimsy, usually employing as their setting not some distant planet but the landscape of Catalonia, and blending fantasy, reality and critical comment on mores with the familiar mythic patterns of the genre. During the 1950s, Calders published many of his best short stories, collected as Cròniques de la veritat oculta (Chronicles of Hidden Truth). Gent de l'alta vall (High Valley People) and Demà a les tres de la matinada (Tomorrow at Three in the Morning) include stories logically reflecting the exile experience in realistic or humorous fashion, but usually Calders favours the Utopia/Dystopia mode of science fiction, portraying alternative social structures. His negative or satiric Utopias (Dystopias) closely resemble Catalonia and unfold in an immediate or foreseeable future, employing little jargon or pseudoscientific rhetoric. He often adopts the guise of news reports, profferring ironic, amusing chronicles of failed attempts, spoofs of scientific methods, or burlesques of Spain's technological backwardness.
   Calders" father submitted some of his stories to competition for the prestigious Victor Catalá Prize, resulting in the first serious critical studies and contributing to his return to Barcelona in 1963. His second novel, L'ombra de l'atzavara (The Agave's Shadow), portraying Catalan exiles in Mexico, won the Sant Jordi Prize, spurring him on to publish Ronda naval sota la boira (Naval Round in Fog), a novelette composed in exile. New story anthologies appeared in Spain, but Calders waited ten years before publishing L'invasió subtil i altres contes (Subtle Invasion and Other Stories), and Tot s'aprofita (Everything is Utilized). Exploiting science fiction's satiric potential to political effect, Calders remains, with Pedrolo, among the most significant cultiva-tors of this mode in the Peninsula.
   Major works
   Calders, P. (1968) Tots els contes (1936-1967) Barcelona: Libres de Sinera (thirty years" collected stories).
   Further reading
   - Bath, A. (1987) Pere Calders: Ideari i Ficció, Barcelona: Edicions 62 (best and most complete critical study of Calders" fiction and ideology).
   - Pérez, J. (1984) "Three Contemporary Cultivators of Science Fiction in Catalan", Discurso Literario 2, 1:203–16 (discusses Calders, Pedrolo and Verdaguer).
   JANET PÉREZ

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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