Second session of the Reading Club: exploring Picasso’s Barcelona with La xava!

The second meeting of The Reading Club consisted of an analysis and comments on La xava, a novel by Juli Vallmitjana set in Barcelona in the 1900s — the Modernista Barcelona of the two Universal Exhibitions and the cultural ferment of the Quatre Gats, where Vallmitjana, by then something of a public figure, regularly saw the young Picasso.


Portrait of Vallmitjana by Picasso | Sketch for the portrait, from the Collection (MPB 110.305)

The reading was very rich: we talked about the representation of the city, the female protagonist, the novel as a rite of passage (from Vallmitjana as a failed painter to Vallmitjana as a writer who found a language of his own), the wealthy Catalan who records and at times invents, the writer’s painterly eye, the persistence of certain words and places from the time and the Raval today, because the novel is set in and around Montjuïc, Drassanes and Portal de Santa Madrona.


Seascape by Juli Vallmitjana. Oil on canvas | Blue Woman by Picasso. Oil on canvas, 1902. The Museum’s curator Eduard Vallès relates the Picasso painting to the following paragraph on page 277:
‘It was drizzling and there were not many people in the street, and the few there were hurried along, as if afraid that the rain would dissolve their clothes, but the girl did not move from the doorstep, shivering with cold and hunger, in such a bad way that, resting her elbow on her legs, she supported her head with her hand because she had lost the strength to hold it up.’

This book has served as a bridge between the literary naturalism of the first session and the next reading, La felicitat, by Lluís-Anton Baulenas, which recreates the same period, but from a contemporary perspective. The author will be with us in person to talk about it.

Jordi Carrión

As Jordi says, one of the topics we discussed at the session was how some of the slang words that appear in the novel are still used today, such as pasma or tasca. Did you notice any others?

For those of you who were unable to attend the session on 3 February, we invite you to follow the Club via the blog, and if you have any questions or comments you’d like to send Lluís-Anton Baulenas, we’ll pass them on and post up his responses.

5 Comments
  • Anna Guarro
    February 1, 2011

    No podré assistir a la propera sessió 🙁 i us volia fer arribar una pregunta per a Lluís-Anton Baulenas: el seu llibre, es podria considerar hereu d’una manera d’escriure sobre el passat de Barcelona que prové d’obres com “La ciudad de los prodigios” d’E. Mendoza? L’autor, relacionaria les dues obres? Gràcies!

  • Jordi C.
    February 1, 2011

    Li preguntarem!

  • Anna Guarro
    February 2, 2011

    Gràcies! per cert, aquest autorretrat de Picasso no us recorda a algú? http://bit.ly/fjIQ8z

  • Núria Puig
    February 2, 2011

    El meu comentari fa referència a l’etimologia de la paraula “xava” que em sembla que no va quedar molt clar en la segona sessió del Fòrum. He consultat el Diccionari Etimològic i Complementari de la LLengua Catalana per Joan Coromines amb la col·laboració de Joseph Gulsoy i Max Cahner,de Curial Edicions Catalanes, Barcelona 1991. El terme xava es troba dins l’entrada del terme XAVAL. Exposo l’entrada del terme a continuació:
    XAVAL, del gitano cávále, vocatiu masculí plural de cávó “fill, noi” […]
    Més argòtiques i agitanades són i han estat les formes xaveia o xiveia (BDC VII, 66, 67) < gitano cávaia vocatiu m. sing. I xava, que en el segle passat, encara era propi i típic dels gitanos catalans com el rambler o tractant de bestiar que posà en escena Em Vilanova: "si tu no has pogut entendrir les entreteles [cf. TELA] de la paya, no t'amoinis més, xava, dexa-la allà, que Déu l'ampari an ella y al seu rambler" (O.C.II, 123). En la meva infància, c. 1911, ja s'usava en certs barris vells de Bna., entre noiets de família obrera i honorable (sobretot en voc.: ep, xava … ; i tu, xava, què fas?; aquell xava li va dir…) i després ha quedat com designació del parlar de la gent de parlar impúdicament inculte (no sempre pobrissalla): una sèrie d'expressions vulgars d'una senyora elegant "ornaven el seu lèxic de coents o de xaves", Joan Oliver (La Dama ambivalent, v. 26; el Món, 3-VI-83).

    Salutacions,

  • Museu Picasso
    February 4, 2011

    Hola Núria, moltes gràcies per l’aportació i per ampliar la informació sobre l’etimologia d’aquesta paraula que vam tractar durant la sessió.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Captcha: *