Ferrater, Gabriel

Ferrater, Gabriel
b. 1922, Reus; d. 1972, Sant Cugat del Vallés
   Poet, critic and linguistician
   Ferrater burst on the Catalan literary scene in 1960 with his first book of poems, to be followed in quick succession by two further volumes, all of which were collected in 1968 under the title Les dones i els dies (Women and Days). In the atmosphere of the 1960s, with its emphasis on "social realism", Ferrater's poems could not fail to be disconcerting: though they dealt to a great extent with everyday life, they were concerned, not so much with "realism" as such, but with what goes to make up an individual life. This is partly a moral undertaking; as Ferrater himself once wrote:
   
When I write a poem, the only thing which concerns me—and which gives me trouble—is to define as clearly as possible my moral attitudes, that is to say, the distance between the feelings the poem expresses and what one might call the centre of my imagination,
   (epilogue to Da nuces pueris (Nuts for the Boys), 1960)
   In his two longest poems, In memoriam (1960) and Poema inacabat (Unfinished Poem) (1966), memory forms a crucial part of this exercise. In the first, a series of anecdotes from a wartime adolescence alternate with more reflective passages in an attempt to grasp experience which was not understood at the time, but which, seen from an adult point of view, seems to make up some sort of pattern. And in Poema inacabat, though anecdote is not so prominent, the fact that the poem is addressed to a girl much younger than himself enables Ferrater not only to look back on his own past but to advise his addressee on how to conduct her own life. Above all, he argues, she has a "right to be happy", though this can only be achieved against enormous odds—the odds he explores in a series of remarkably clear-sighted love poems. Ferrater's moral attitudes do not depend on any transcendental system of beliefs; like Thomas Hardy, one of his favourite poets, he writes simply from his own life, concerned with capturing the perceptions—the "moments of vision"—which unexpectedly interrupt the surface of everyday existence. Though his aims are strictly rational, he also makes due allowance for the irrational— something which accounts for the metaphorical richness of his poems and his willingness to face up to ambiguities. Few poets have left such a vivid record of what it was to live through the atmosphere which followed the Civil War, something which emerges almost incidentally from what are essentially personal poems. Above all, Ferrater writes about a recognizable world; his poems are a serious and many-sided attempt to show what it means to live in this world—one which is accessible to anyone with eyes to see it.
   Further reading
   - Macià, X. and Perpinyà, N. (1986) La poesia de Gabriel Ferrater, Barcelona: Edicions 62.
   - Perpinyà, N. (1991) "Teoria dels cossos" de Gabriel Ferrater, Barcelona: Editorial Empúries (on Ferrater's final collection).
   - Terry, A. (1979) "Preface" to G.Ferrater, Mujeres y días, Barcelona: Seix Barral.
   ARTHUR TERRY

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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