Catalonia explained in English

With independence dominating political discourse, a new book compiling articles about Catalonia from recognised figures attempts to present the issue to foreign readers.

ÒSCAR PALAU

With independence dominating political discourse, a new book compiling articles about Catalonia from recognised
figures attempts to present the issue to foreign readers hat’s up with Catalonia?

This question has no 
doubt gone through the minds
of not a few people since the mass demonstration in Barcelona
on September 11 that thrust the issue of Catalan independence
into the spotlight. Finally, it seems, Catalan aspirations of
sovereignty have made the step up from hypothetical domestic
argument to genuine political issue of international proportions.

And, it is not the only 
question being addressed; there
are others, from "Who are the Catalans?" to "Why do they
want to leave Spain?"

Yet, so few of the many of the recent articles written about the
Catalan issue have managed to provide real insight into the
matter, whether due to those articles being written by Madridbased
foreign correspondents or because the publication in question
failed to avoid resorting to the clichéd view of Catalonia as a
wealthy, isolationist region of Spain revelling in its victimhood.

Now, an American writer 
and editor, Liz Castro, who has
for many years supported the independence cause, has provided
deeper answers to questions like those above in her recent book
that attempts to provide some clarity on the issue.

What’s up with Catalonia?, 
written in English, aims to explain
to foreign readers, clearly but without any attempt to
avoid the deeper, underlying issues, why Catalonia finds itself
in the current situation. Despite her background as a writer on information
technology, Castro is well placed to produce such a
book given her close association with the publisher, Catalonia
Press, which has already made a few forays into this territory
with its publication of Matthew Tree’s, Barcelona, Catalonia: A
view from the inside, and What Catalans want: Catalonia next
state in Europe, by Toni Strubell.


Expert views


In her book, Castro spoke to 35 recognised figures from the
spheres of politics (Oriol Junqueras and Ramon Tremosa),
economy (Elisenda Paluzié and Germà Bel), journalism (Vicent
Sanchis and Vicent Partal) and civil society (Muriel Casals and
Carme Forcadell), as well as academics and personalities from
the world of culture. Castro asked her subjects to provide a
short article explaining what Catalonia is and what the
country as a whole wants, from the point of view of their specialised
field. Castro even managed to get Catalan president, Artur
Mas, to write the introduction.

With her contributions in 
hand, Castro then set herself to
compiling and editing the texts to come up with a 200-page book
that has now been published with a cover reminiscent of the
United States’ Declaration of Independence in 1776. Naturally,
the cover design was far from an accident and Castro points out
that the Declaration bears one resemblance to her book in that
it was "a list of reasons why the Americans wanted to separate
from the English."

To help fund publication of 
Castro’s book, the publisher resorted
to crowdfunding via the Verkami initiative, offering a
digital or hardcopy of the book in exchange for a donation. Fortunately
for Castro, the project was a success and attracted some
600 patrons, raising 12,000 euros in the process to add to the
original budget, which means the book will potentially reach
many more readers than first thought.

Among them will be a variety 
of politicians (starting with US
President Barack Obama), journalists, business people and
other influential figures, who will receive a copy, a task that the
Catalan government has pledged to support. Copies of
the book will also be sent to libraries, particularly those in the
Anglo-Saxon countries. Finally, those patrons who donated
money to the crowdfunding project will also play an important
role in getting the word out to their friends and acquaintances abroad.

In order to make the whole 
process more transparent, Castro
has pledged to put up a map on the internet showing where
in the world the book has been sent. And there is little excuse for
not finding a copy, as the book is available across a variety of digital
services, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Apple iBookstore.

Since news of the book came 
out, Castro has been asked to
produce a version in Spanish, something she is keen to do in
time, along with versions in French and German: "They say
that the Spanish are not interested, but that is not true. Even if
they wished it were," she says.