Open Books in Sitges for Sant Jordi (St. George's Day)
Sure, we’re all on lockdown. Sure, without any street life, Sant Jordi loses some of its cheer, color and noise. But Sant Jordi is pure emotion. And that comes from within inside and is externalized. There are no doors that can hold it back when something activates it. And that ‘something’ is reading. Daniel Pennac, a great French writer sums it up like this: "Time spent reading, like time spent loving, increases our lifetime." Whether you write it or read it, the sentence gives you chills in the back of your neck, doesn’t it?
So considering that reading improves our quality of life and that the lockdown prevents us from taking trips anywhere beyond our dining room and the kitchen, today's post is about a different Sant Jordi, without leaving home, but connected to both books and Sitges. Let’s take a tour together?
To start this literary journey, a poem ‘literally’ embedded in Sitges (yes, you can read it - in Catalan - in a mosaic made of tiles next to the Sant Bartomeu church. It was written in 1925 by Josep Carner, one of the best Catalan poets of the 20th century. And you’ll see that when you read it, you will notice the sun and the light of Sitges on your face – we’ve translated it for you here as follows:
O Sitges, sky and mists,
the sea at your feet, carnations in their nest,
white of Spain that dazzles
the sparks of summer.
A heart you want, heart, what do you wish
in you I live, you please me, every part of you.
Your daughter’s eyes are black,
the houses’ eyes are blue.
If I leave you alone, but only halfway
give me a very humble flower:
give me a daisy
with an eye of sun, and wings of snow.
Since this poem is found in Sitges’ old town, let’s take a historical and photographic tour of this area and the rest of the town now along with Ricard Pla Boada and Carles Marqués, also translated into different languages: ‘Sitges, From White to Multicolored’. Another tour, and this time with Lluís Permanyer as a guide, is found in ‘Sitges de ayer y de siempre’ (‘The Sitges of Yesterday and Always’). In this case the images are by one of Sitges’ great photographers: Joan Iriarte, a contributor to prestigious magazines such as National Geographic and also the author of ‘Retratos y entornos de Sitges' ('Portraits and Surroundings of Sitges') and two more works, 'Luz de Sitges' (‘Sitges’ Light’) and 'Sitges en azul' ('Sitges in Blue'), in collaboration with local poet David Jou.
Another book that brings us closer to Sitges’ history, in this case as a tourist destination, is Històries de llençols, forquilles i gots de vi’ (‘Stories of Sheets, Forks and Glasses of Wine'), by Blai Fontanals. The title gives you a few clues as to how well you can eat here...
Sitges is also the setting for fiction novels. One example is ‘Nada es cierto’ (‘Nothing is True), by Nacho Zubizarreta, which sets a story of mystery and secrets places in the town’s streets. In fact, the novel even includes a map of Sitges where the locations are marked. To whet your appetite, you can read (in Spanish) its first pages here:
Another author who chose Sitges as his literary setting was Francesc Miralles, who in his book ‘El Secreto de Picasso’ (‘Picasso’s Secret’) shows us what life was like for the old modernist painters. The Racó de la Calma or the Maricel Museum are two key venues in the novel (and in the history of modernism itself, of course).
Cookbooks are also a good gift, not only for the ‘soul’, but for the palate. One recommendation: ‘Sitges, cuina d’arrels’ (‘Sitges, Grass Roots Cuisine’), by Carmen Panyella and Elena Martínez, which shares the town’s most traditional recipes.
And while we’re talking about books and Sitges, there’s a temple here to stop into. Because by the time you come to Sitges, its Santiago Rusiñol Municipal Library will be open again, now closed to the public due to the Covid-19 health crisis. And it’s well worth a visit: since 1936, it is located in what used to be the home of Miquel Utrillo, one of the standard bearers of Catalan modernism or Modernisme. Therefore, the building is already a treasure in itself. What's more, there is no other library in the world with an inner courtyard like the one you’ll find here...
Fans of history, books and local culture also have another essential consultation point in Sitges: The Grup d’Estudis Sitgetans (Sitgetan Studies Group). And another benchmark publication must be added to that list of ‘essentials’: La Xermada, a local magazine. And if you like ‘live’ poetry, the meeting is every July at the la Fiesta de la Poesia de Sitges (Sitges Poetry Festival). It is a festival where seven poets are invited to give their poems a voice at different venues around town. Verses, summer and the Mediterranean. If you can think of a more elegant combination... ;)
And to finish this virtual tour of Sitges and Sant Jordi, a special mention goes out to authors. Because Sitges has also been and still is the setting for the inspiration and work of different writers. It was for Lola Anglada, one of the most important writers (and illustrators as well) in the Catalonia of the so-called 'prewar period'. The same goes for Josep Carbonell -editor of 'Els Amics de les Arts' (Friends of the Arts), an avant-garde art and literature magazine that was published monthly between 1926 and 1929 and that Salvador Dalí, among others, contributed to. And it has been and will be for Nacho Zubizarreta (we’ve already commented on his novel 'Nada es Cierto') and for John Carlin, author of novels such as ‘Playing the Enemy' (yes, the bestseller that the movie 'Invictus' is based on) or ‘Knowing Mandela'.
Poets, novelists, photographers, books, publications and a Modernista library. Here is our way of celebrating Sant Jordi with you. And next year, but without it sounding like a threat, we'll be seeing each other in the streets ;) #StayAtHome #EverythingIsGoingToBeAlright #SitgesAnytime