Pla i Casadevall, Josep

Pla i Casadevall, Josep
b. 1897, Palafrugell (Girona); d. 1981, Llofriu (Girona)
   Writer and journalist
   Josep Pla was one of the best and most prolific Catalan prose writers of the twentieth century. Essentially a modern-day chronicler of the numerous places he visited both in Catalonia and abroad, he was a shrewd and profound observer of human beings in all their guises, a kind of successor to moralist writers of previous centuries. His prose is both rich and vivid and he is a consummate stylist.
   Josep Pla began to study medicine at university before switching to a course in law. After completing his studies, he took up a career in journalism, and was for many years a correspondent with the well-known Catalan newspaper LaVeu de Catalunya. He also wrote occasional columns in Spanish for such Madridbased newspapers as El Sol. Between the two World Wars Pla's work entailed him spending long periods in European capitals, where he acquired much of his broad cultural knowledge. He was a firm supporter of political Catalanism, particularly of Francesc Cambó and the Lliga Regionalista (Regionalist League). He was out of Spain when the Spanish Civil War broke out, and did not return to his native Catalonia until 1939. Because of Francoist censorship of the Catalan language, Pla published in Spanish until 1945. After that date he began publishing in Catalan once more. The publishing company Editorial Selecta published 29 volumes of Pla's complete works in the 1950s, of which Homenots (Little Men) (the first series was published in 1958) is probably the outstanding example. Homenots is a "gallery of illustrious Catalans", from writers such as Josep Carner, Carles Riba and Salvador Espriu, to painters like Salvador Dalí.
   Then in 1966 the publishers Destino began to bring out the definitive version of his complete works. It is difficult to pick out individual titles from Pla's vast corpus, although the first, El quadern gris (The Grey Notebook) (written 1936–9, published 1966), an autobiographical vision of his early years, is perhaps his masterpiece. El quadern gris is a rich compendium of memories of people and places, observations on how individuals can rise above the prevailing mediocrity of society, and the discovery of the inner self of the protagonist within this panorama. The work is replete with references to literary figures (including Stendhal, Goethe, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), which, in Marina Gustà"s words, are Pla's response to "readings of that period and his search for a moral dimension, based on his own experience, which would support his observations of reality" (author's translation) (Gustà 1987: 188).
   See also: Catalan culture; language and national identity
   Further reading
   - Gustà, M. (1987) "Josep Pla" in M. de Riquer, A. Comas and J.Molas (eds) Història de la literatura catalana, 11 vols, Barcelona: Ariel, X (a perceptive overview of Pla's life and works).
   DAVID GEORGE

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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