Two afternoons at the Royal Academy of Bones Lletres de Barcelona

Two afternoons at the Royal Academy of Bones Lletres de Barcelona

Francesc Cambó was about to marry in 1908 with a daughter of Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, which would have linked the two main historical figures of Catalan cultural patronage: the future creator of the collection Bernat Metge and the great protector of Gaudí.

At thirty-two years old, Cambó was already a well-known politician and had some relationships behind him that did not prosper; Josefina Güell, twenty, tuned in with the rising figure; apparently they were going to announce their engagement. But the young woman herself fell ill with tuberculosis and passed away in six months. A tragedy. Not the only one in his life: of the eight Cambó i Batlle brothers, the only one left alive at the age of 25 was Francesc: that was how devastating infant mortality could be in Catalonia at the end of the 19th century.

These and other details in the life of the Catalan leader surfaced last Monday during the presentation, at the Royal Academy of Bones Lletres, of the 900-page biography dedicated to him by the historian Borja de Riquer, president of this institution.

The author of Francesc Cambo. The last portrait (Edicions 62; in Spanish in editorial Crítica) was flanked by the journalist Ignasi Aragay and the economist Albert Carreras, and featured a recorded speech by Joan B. Culla. It was Aragay who glossed over the human part, perhaps the most unknown part of the character: along with his sentimental trajectory, his facet of bon vivant that illustrates the book, with the long cruises on the Catalònia yacht in the Mediterranean, with cabins for ten guests and eight crew members (among them an excellent Austrian chef).

After leaving the Ministry of Public Works in 1918, Cambó set his sights on making a fortune and looked for opportunities to achieve it.

Regarding the economic aspect, Carreras and Riquer agreed that Cambó marked a milestone on a Catalan scale: neither the Marquis de Comillas nor Manuel Girona reached their level of wealth, nor their degree of participation in the large international boards of directors.

Borja de Riquer, president of the Royal Academy of Bones Lletres

Borja de Riquer, president of the Royal Academy of Letters and biographer of Francesc Cambó


Carreras highlighted his will to make a fortune: he established it after leaving the Ministry of Public Works of the Spanish government in 1918 and seeing that as a politician he would never earn the money he thought he needed to achieve his objectives. World War I created great economic opportunities around the world, and Cambó actively pursued them, Carreras said. Until finding her with his entry into the Hispano-American Electricity Company.

Did Cambó become a conservative as a result of getting rich or was he already so before? Carreras and Riquer agreed that his attitude towards the Tragic Week, and his support for the employers and Martínez Anido, already anticipated the one he dedicated to Primo de Rivera and Franco.

Maria Barbal, with the medal and diploma of the Academy

Maria Barbal, with the medal and diploma of the Academy


The presentation of the biography, to a full house, sets the tone for the return to normal activity of the Royal Academy of Bones Letters, slowed down during the pandemic. In spite of which, in the last two years, different areas of the Palau Requesens have been rehabilitated and the Pictorial Collection of the Illustrious Catalans Gallery has been rearranged, with the consequent rejuvenation of the image in the oldest of the Spanish academies. During this time, the philosopher Josep Ramoneda, the philologist Albert Rossich and the theater director Xavier Albertí have joined as number academics.

And on Tuesday the novelist Maria Barbal (Tremp, 1949) did it. In the speech entitled “Ficció i realitat en la”, tinged with references to authors such as Herta Müller, Carson McCuller, Ursula K. Le Guin or Montserat Roig, Barbal outlined an in-depth review of her literary career, and in especially to the reasons for his attention to the Civil War and to the experiences and silence of the losers of the postwar period.

Two specialists in post-war traumas helped Barbal to make conscious what he had unconsciously raised in his novels

In the beginning, he treated it from an autobiographical perspective, but as an established novelist he became close to the specialists in post-war traumas Anna Miñarro and Teresa Morandi, who helped him understand silence as the “voice of the voiceless” and “the only answer that can to formulate to that inexpressible”.

These specialists provided explanations for the transmission of trauma, alive in their pages. And this allowed him a “full awareness” of what was addressed “without being aware” in Piedra de Tartera and that it would not emerge consciously until twenty years later with intimate country

Barbal also wanted to go from theory to practice by including an unpublished story, “Juli i Quima”, in his speech, which was answered by the academic Jordi Maluquer de Motes.

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