A ministry to measure stupidity, everything Josep Pla yy other books of the week | Babelia

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen at a concert by the singer, in 2012.
Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen at a concert by the singer, in 2012. Cordon press

Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), the splendid blind spot of early 20th century English literature, did not achieve deserved fame until she was practically in the grave – she died in 1958, and the novel that made her famous, The towers of Trabzon, it had been published just two years before. Four decades earlier, in 1918, and thus written during the First World War, it published And all that, where he imagines a world in which, after the end of a ridiculous war, a Ministry of Brains has been created that controls the degree of stupidity of the human being – and issues valid and invalid certificates – to avoid the absurdity that it can have another. Macaulay shows with this title that there has always been a powerfully ambitious and, at the same time, outrageously funny literature written by women.

All the literary power of Josep Pla’s masterpiece, The gray notebook, which through the first person of the newspaper acted as the focus that allowed to contemplate the Catalan writer with a new light, overshadowed the narrator Pla. Perhaps not so much the novelist as it certainly did with the storyteller. But that should and could change. Because all that corpus, starting from the autobiographical paradigm, has just been compiled by Jordi Cornudella in a single book, published both in Catalan and in Spanish translation. Is about The ash of life. Narrations (1949-1967).

Among the titles analyzed by critics of Babelia, it also stands out Autobiography of my father, that gathers the essence of the literary purpose of the great renovator of autofiction, Pierre Pachet. It is a book turned into a fragmentation bomb with a delayed effect, a work published in 1987 whose trace we can later follow in the eyes of Pierre Michon, Emmanuel Carrère or Edouard Louis. In addition, the new novel by the Chilean writer María José Ferrada is also reviewed, The poster man, which can be read as a work of fiction, but also as an allegory. Even as a prose poem. Ferrada narrates how, one day, a man named Ramón decides to leave his home and go live at the Coca-Cola billboard near his district. There he installs his new home and sees the world from a bird’s eye view.

There are also two essays. On the one hand, Democracy. The last utopia, in which Manuel Cruz analyzes the dangers that threaten democracies, understood as work in progress, imperfect systems in continuous evolution. And on the other, The body without limit, in which Roberta Previtera studies the work of two Spanish painters from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Antonio Fabrés and Gabriel Morcillo, whose works, in an orientalist style, were populated by semi-nude models, practically all male. A trend that resulted to the liking of officers who participated in the 1936 coup, senior officials of the Nazi regime and Peronists, who acquired his paintings piecemeal.

Finally, the music critic Diego A. Manrique analyzes Renegados. Born in the USA, a book based on a meeting —more than six hours of talk— between the former president of the United States Barack Obama and the rock star Bruce Springsteen, in which they compare trajectories, talk a little about everything and make it clear that their focus is on United States: there is no interest in the rest of the world.

cover 'And all that.  A prophetic comedy ', ROSE MACAULAY.  EDITORIAL SMALL

‘And all that’, written in 1918 and which addresses a dystopia on the control of stupidity, shows that there is an ambitious and hilarious literature written by women. Criticism of Laura Fernández.

Cover of 'The ash of life', by Josep Pla.

A volume allows to rediscover the entire narrative of the Catalan writer. Texts of a great literary power overshadowed by his masterpiece, the journal ‘Cuaderno gris’. Criticism of Jordi Amat

In María José Ferrada’s novel ‘El hombre del cartel’, a worker decides to leave his home and go live with the Coca-Cola cartel. Criticism of J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip.

cover 'Democracy.  The last utopia ', MANUEL CRUZ.  ESPASA EDITORIAL (PLANET)

Manuel Cruz lucidly and rigorously analyzes emancipatory political projects as a continually evolving utopia and warns of the threats that threaten them. Criticism of Nicolás Sartorius.


The essay ‘The body without limit’ by Roberta Previtera analyzes the work of the two Spanish painters, who enjoyed the admiration of the military coup plotters of 1936. Criticism of Ángela Molina.

‘Autobiography of my father’ is published in Spain, a book that renewed the genre in 1987 and which, together with ‘Devant ma mère’, forms a beautiful set of homage to language and filial love. Criticism of Juan Carlos Galindo.

Former United States President Barack Obama and legendary musician Bruce Springsteen meet to tell their American story in 'Renegades: Born in the USA' (Debate, 26.50 euros).  Two old friends share in this book, inspired by the podcast produced by Higher Ground, their reflections on life, music and their love for America, with all its challenges and contradictions.  The edition includes handwritten lyrics to Springsteen's songs and exclusive photos from the authors' personal archives.

Two believers in American exceptionalism compare trajectories in a volume that includes the meeting between the former president and the rock star. Criticism of Diego A. Manrique.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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