Like almost all the Catalans who lived in Barcelona during the dictatorship, Jorge Herralde was a fervent Francophone. Moreover, in those years, the wind of freedom pushed in that direction, beyond the Pyrenees. His first fantasy as a publisher, before he actually became it, was to publish the complete works of Sartre and Camus in a luxury edition, but unfortunately, Gallimard denied him the rights. But at the time he was still studying engineering and he was a somewhat naive boy, as he himself called himself. Then one day, entering the offices of the agency of Carmen Balcells, the legendary super-literary agent who revolutionized the relationship between publishers and writers by making the fortune of the most important Spanish-speaking authors, he came across an essay by the Italian philosopher Giancarlo Marmori,Sense and anagram , and discovered that he had finally found the suitable name for his new publishing house. The famous Anagrama, which later became so famous that it was not so unusual, as Argentine writer Alan Pauls once said, meeting people claiming to be reading an Anagrama book, regardless of the author’s name.
Founded in 1969 and immediately became a symbol of cultural resistance to Francoism, over 4,000 titles in the catalog, with many prestigious names and some refined discoveries (Roberto Bolaño and Javier Marías), Anagrama, owned by Feltrinelli for some years, has reached the finish line of its first fifty years and to celebrate the anniversary its founder, Jorge Herralde, will participate tomorrow at the Turin Book Fair at a meeting with the owner of Adelphi, Roberto Calasso. So, waiting to hear stories and stories of a protagonist of the publishing scene of the second half of the twentieth century, it is perhaps worth recalling that atmosphere of extraordinary cultural effervescence that was breathed in Barcelona at the turn of the Sixties and Seventies, a place where, to use the words the words Mario Vargas Llosa, “the book was the King and literature the Queen”. A truly surprising fact, if we consider the cloak of respectability and hypocrisy that enveloped the country and the profound contempt that Generalissimo had for Barcelona, a culturally anarchic city and the last bastion of anti-Franco resistance.
The truth was that at the end of the 1960s Barcelona appeared much closer to Europe, especially in Paris than to the rest of Spain; it was becoming a cosmopolitan city, breathing the fresh air that came from the Pyrenees or from the French Catalan cities, such as Perpignan, where over the weekend the ladies of good society took refuge to try to attend some film festival, with the secret hope of meeting at least one frame with the face, or ass, of Marlon Brando. For the Catalans, Madrid was just “a pueblo north of Toledo”, as Carlos Barral called it contemptuously, a sort of pioneer in the publishing field with its publishing house, the refined Seix Barral. The legend tells that one hundred year of solitude he came into the hands of Barral even before those of the Balcells agency but he refused the manuscript because he was too snobbish, in his genius, to take an interest in a provincial novella and more generally to the kind of writers according to whom the sea «Es siempre mas azul che nunca».
The truth was that at the end of the 1960s Barcelona appeared much closer to Europe, especially in Paris, than to the rest of Spain
At that time new editorial realities seemed to be springing up on every street corner and Barcelona soon found itself to be the cultural capital of Latin America. All the major writers, from Márquez to Vargas Llosa, lived or passed through the city and along the Rambla so many authors could be met that one of the greatest risks was that of making confusion between guy and Caio. So when one day, at the El Prat Catalan airport, a gentleman approached Gabo discreetly, asking him if it was Cortázar or Vargas Llosa, he, who was trying to sleep in a waiting room, hastily opened an eye and in a voice Seriously replied: “Los dos”. And basically it doesn’t matter if that phenomenon was really a literary boom, or more simply an extraordinary marketing operation applied to literature,
But it was not exclusively a literary question. In the city, the air was definitely changing. The new music, the cinema, the avant-garde editorials entered Spain from the border with Catalonia, where even the high bourgeoisie, traditionally very conformist, had by now abandoned a Francoist regime in a crisis of consensus and therefore forced to cede remnants of modernity. Calle Tuset, in the Eixample area, where Maria del Mar Bonet sang “who wants these people coming to knock at dawn” – an indictment against the police guilty of dropping a student – became for some time the epicentre of the Barcelona pop nightlife, a sort of fleeting and fleeting London Carnaby Street.
It was at this time that Oriol Regàs, a former rally driver, sensed that the envy of transgression of the enlightened and anti-Franco bourgeoisie, later passed into history with the definition of “gauche divine”, (copyright of the critic Joan de Sagarra), had desperately in need of an oasis of permissiveness and tolerance that gave free rein to their anxieties of freedom. Thus was born, in February 1967, the Bocaccio, a place that in a few months became a point of reference for the Catalan nightlife as well as the symbol of a generation tired of being claustrophobically enclosed in the ideological enclosure of the dictatorship. To launch the Bocaccio Oriol Regàs organized a subscription, a sort of popular shareholding with a minimum share of 10 thousand pesetas. 5 million pesetas were collected in a short time, thanks to the adhesion of most of the best youth in Barcelona. Among the first partners, Jorge Herralde also appeared, who later sold his stake to found Anagramma.
Like any young and somewhat confused avant-garde movement that also respects the divine gauche had its muses, beautiful, charming and intelligent young women, always on the front line when there was to be a flag bearer of some new cultural trend. Like Rosa Regàs, sister of Oriol, who at the beginning of the seventies had already founded her own publishing house, La Gaia Ciencia. Or as Beatriz de Moura, a young daughter of a Brazilian diplomat, who opened the Tusquets publishing house in just thirty years. Described by all as a beautiful woman, someone recalled Jeanne Moreau del Jules et Jim by Truffaut, it is said she was able to seduce anyone within fifteen minutes, much less if you were lucky enough to meet her in Bocaccio’s ballroom.
The local symbol of that season will close in the mid-eighties but his golden moment ended September 20, 1975, as if with the death of Francisco Franco he had suddenly exhausted his raison d’etre. That day, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán wrote, “the city was filled with passers-by with the silencer, in the eyes a message of demolished walls, in the throat the dryness of prudent silence. Up and down the Ramblas, as always “.