NORTHERN CATALONIA

5. Translator Patrick Gifreu
Gifreu, patrick211
'The unity here is not the language, it's something else, a sense of being bound up with something, but something anterior to the language: a Catalan identity in terms of cuisine, rugby, gestures, ways of doing things. There are people who speak in Catalan and others who don't'.

Patrick Gifreu has always stood out from the crowd. He went to the Universitat Catalana d'Estiu not to learn Catalan but because he had heard that the people behind the Tarot de Quinze magazine were going to be there. Unfortunately, they were not. However, he went to Barcelona, made contact with them and became involved in the subsequent issues of the magazine and then with Éczema.

He chooses not to speak of the socio-linguistic dimension of Rossellonès - the name sometimes given to the Catalan spoken in the north - the importance of which he plays down: 'The unity here is not the language, it's something else, a sense of being bound up with something, but something anterior to the language: a Catalan identity in terms of cuisine, rugby, gestures, ways of doing things. There are people who speak in Catalan and others who don't'.

Gifreu, born in Perpignan in 1952, is a translator, poet and essayist, and wages his own war, concerning himself with gaining recognition for the work, with friendship and travel. So he doesn't turn to Rossellonès when he sits down to write, 'because it's reductive'. What he is interested in is the content of the books, where the linguistic problems he has to deal with are of a different order: 'finding the correspondence in Catalan for words that are not in everyday use'.

His translation of an anonymous 14th-century work, Kamasutra català. Mirall del fotre (Catalan Kamasutra. The Mirror of Fucking) is the most typical example, because it is a book that has been ignored by the lexicographers. He has translated it into French and adapted it into modern Catalan. Nor does he seek to win prestige for Catalan, because he considers that the great works of Catalan literature already have that prestige. 'There is a lot of opposition to Catalan, but not to the point of rejecting a book by Llull'.

At the present time, Gifreu is regarded as the finest translator of the Catalan classics into French; classics of which he points out that no one, even in the South, reads more than three lines. 'My contribution is on the popular level. One of the few things that I can boast about is that all of my translations have marked a step towards wider acceptance'. He is currently finishing off the Blanquerna, of which there is no modern translation in French, a language he has no objection to, 'always provided there is enough strength behind it'.

He looks for the same thing in Catalan. 'This is a backwater of France and in a way I see myself as a strategist. Because when I take Llull or the Kamasutra to Paris, I take Catalan to Paris, and at the same time, doing my work in French, I break away from provincialism. Because all of the culture in French that is produced here is provincialism'. And to finish off alludes to a sensitive issue: the fact that religion has kept Catalan going. 'The lower clergy, by way of the mass and the religious traditions, has been a force of resistance right up to the present day'.











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