Porcel, Baltasar

Porcel, Baltasar
b. 1937, Andratx (Mallorca)
   Novelist, playwright and journalist
   Baltasar Porcel is one of the leading Catalan writers of the post-Franco period. He wrote theatre early in his career, but largely abandoned this genre after the 1960s. His 1959 play Els condemnats (The Condemned), which received the Ciutat de Palma de Teatre Prize, is an existential tragedy. La simbomba fosca (The Dark Zambomba) (1961) is closer to the Theatre of the Absurd. Like Waiting for Godot, it is subtitled "a tragicomedy" and has as little progressive dramatic action as Beckett's play. In common with other avant-garde plays in Franco's Spain, La simbomba fosca received an unfavourable critical reception. Porcel's 1962 play Èxode (Exodus) is one of a number of Spanish and Catalan plays of the 1960s and the 1970s to display the influence of Brecht.
   In his first novel, Solnegre (Blacksun) (1961), the recipient of the 1961 Ciutat de Palma Prize, Porcel combines a Sartrian existentialism with a sensuous evocation of a primitive Balearic community. It is the forerunner of his mature novels, in which he creates a mythicized vision of his native Andratx, rather as Salvador Espriu did with his native Arenys de Mar. Porcel has described the mythifica-tion process as follows: "it began by being Andratx, my town, and now I don't know what it is: a mythical microuniverse which exists only in my mind, a mixture of reality, imagination, barbarism and poetic gentleness" (author's translation) (quoted Bou 1988:367). Those works in which Porcel creates this mythical world are characterized by a brilliant, baroque prose style, and also by the presence of an occasionally gratuitous violence which recalls the tremendismo associated with Cela. A case in point is the 1968 novel Els argonautes (The Argonauts). The Andratx series culminates in Difunts sota els ametlles en flor (Dead Men Beneath the Almond Tree), which won the 1970 Josep Pla Prize. Difunts sota els ametlles en flor lacks a novelistic thread and is rather a series of portraits of eccentric human types set against the background of the mythicized Andratx. The term "background" is something of a misnomer in this case, as the setting acquires a central importance in the work. It is perhaps in Difunts sota els ametlles en flor that Porcel's delight in storytelling for storytelling's sake is most evident.
   Since the death of Franco, Porcel has attempted to make his fiction more cosmopolitan, for example in his 1984 work Els dies immortals (The Immortal Days). In addition to prose fiction and plays, Porcel has written travel books, as well as numerous press articles, in La Vanguardia, Destino, Tele-estel and Serra d'Or. He has written on polemical international issues, for example in El conflicto árabe-israelí (The Arab-Israeli Conflict) (1968), and in 1977 published a bibliography of politicians, including Josep Tarradellas and Jordi Pujol.
   Further reading
   - Bou, E. (1988) "La literatura actual", in M. de Riquer, A.Comas and J.Molas (eds) Història de la literatura catalana, 11 vols, Barcelona: Ariel, XI (a general introduction to the work of Porcel).
   - Marfany, J.-L. (1988) "El realisme històric", in M. de Riquer, A.Comas and J.Molas (eds) Història de la literatura catalana, 11 vols, Barcelona: Ariel, XI (sees Porcel as an exponent of historical realism up until the end of the 1960s).
   DAVID GEORGE

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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