Upon announcing that he has begun to read Eduardo Mendoza’s latest novel, the president of Spain’s Aragon region felt compelled to add that “[Mendoza is a novelist] who, like nearly all great Catalan authors, writes in Spanish”. Javier Lambán is right to point out that there are many great Catalan authors who write in Spanish. But his “nearly all” —a scorn to so many superb writers who write in Catalan, including some from Aragon— reveals a very widespread prejudice.
Lambán feels that Catalan language literature is minor and insignificant: a couple of big names but the rest are nothing to write home about. It’s hardly surprising that Lambán should endorse such a prejudice because readers in Spanish have very little access to literary production in Catalan: it is seldom discussed or translated and few universities offer courses on it. There are more universities offering Catalan classes in Germany than in Castilian Spain. Likewise, the German translations of Catalan authors like Jaume Cabré, Mercè Rodoreda and Quim Monzó may sell up to fifty times more copies than the same titles translated into Spanish. How come there is such a difference? While Germans approach Catalan literature without an ideological bias, a good deal of Castilian Spaniards are prejudiced and look down on it. We could call it the Lambán syndrome.