A Happy Childhood

Reproduction of the text: Carme Arnau. Mercè Rodoreda: un viatge entre paraules i flors (Mercè Rodoreda: a Journey through Words and Flowers). Girona;

Foundation Caixa de Girona, 1999. P. 7-16.

«I remember the feeling of being at home and, leaning over the rail on the roof terrace, I would see the blue jacaranda flowers falling on the lawn and the hydrangeas. I'll never be able to explain it; I've never felt as at home as when I lived in my grandfather's house with my parents»

Mercè Rodoreda «Images from Childhood»

In the 1974 prologue of Mirall trencat (Broken Mirror), Mercè Rodoreda wrote:

Linked to flowers, without flowers for years, I felt the need to talk about flowers, and to make my main character a gardener." And the thing is that, as this character says, “a gardener is different from other people, and this comes from dealing with flowers.” The author is referring to the fact that the first novel that she finished, after her long exile, was precisely, Jardí vora el mar (Garden by the Sea), whose main character is an old gardener, a story mainly set in a splendid garden, where all sorts of flowers proliferate, some normal ones and others exotic, which the author shows that she knows well. And like so many things about Mercè Rodoreda, this “link” comes from her childhood. [...]"

Reproduction of the text: Carme Arnau. Mercè Rodoreda: un viatge entre paraules i flors (Mercè Rodoreda: a Journey through Words and Flowers). Girona;

Foundation Caixa de Girona, 1999. P. 7-16.

As an escape from a life that was too closed and suffocating for her, Mercè Rodoreda began to collaborate with newspapers and magazines, generally with stories, some of them for children: La Publicitat, La Veu de Catalunya, Mirador, etc. Flowers often appear in these stories, as is the case of “The Girl with the Bouquet of Camellias,” where camellias lead to memories, to youth, which would be a constant in Rodoreda’s writing. She also wrote four novels that she later rejected because they reflected her inexperience, showing her strong desire to write, but not much more, as she emphasised in an interview. She only accepted Aloma (1938), which won the 1937 Crexells Award, although even in that case, she completely rewrote it and published a new version in 1969, showing how demanding she was. In the novel, a work of interior analysis, focused on a female figure, an adolescent, Aloma, who lives in a Barcelona that is growing and expanding, but also conflictive, there is a scene that, with variations, would be constant in her writing: a modest home with a garden in the Sant Gervasi neighbourhood, a garden full of flowers. In fact, Aloma’s entry into the world of adults, a world that is always disenchanting for Rodoreda, is represented by the identification of the girl with a wilted flower, and also with the loss of the garden, the only space for happiness, dreaming. It is as if this were a sort of expulsion from an earthly paradise, a garden, as well. And this tie, this identification of female characters with flowers (sometimes they are even named after flowers) would be another constant in Rodoreda’s fiction. The story of a failed first love, Aloma is characterised by some features that would be persistent in her writing: emotion, poeticism, an attempt at symbolism, often focused on flowers and greenery. But this exemplary development, keeping in mind that the author was self-taught, was brought to a halt by the Spanish Civil War, when Rodoreda had to go into exile, which was particularly hard due to the later outbreak of World War II. [...]

A long and difficult exile in France and Switzerland

Reproduction of the text: Carme Arnau. Mercè Rodoreda: un viatge entre paraules i flors (Mercè Rodoreda: a Journey through Words and Flowers). Girona;

Foundation Caixa de Girona, 1999. P. 7-16.

«I was coming out of one of those trips to the end of the night, where writing seems like a horribly frivolous occupation: the flight from Paris, on foot, with incredible sights: the burning of Orleans, the shelling of the port of Beaugency, with cartloads of the dead... two years in Limoges dying every day, like that day, two years in Bordeaux, living there...»

Interview with Baltasar Porcel: Mercè Rodoreda or the Lyrical Force," Serra d'Or (March, 1966)."

In France, she lived in Toulouse and Paris, but when the Germans arrived, she had to flee on foot, facing horrifying sights, particularly the burning of Orleans; fire, in fact, would become another symbol of her work, used to signal destruction, brought about by war, but also the purification that characterises this first material, material that would become progressively important in her work. [...]

A progressive return beginning in the 1970's: Romanyà de la Selva

Reproduction of the text: Carme Arnau. Mercè Rodoreda: un viatge entre paraules i flors (Mercè Rodoreda: a Journey through Words and Flowers). Girona;

Foundation Caixa de Girona, 1999. P. 7-16.

«The town is sensational. The houses are relatively spread out, located at the top of a light mountain from which you can turn your eyes either to the sea or to the white crest of the Pyrenees»

Mercè Rodoreda. Journey to the Village of Fear," from the collection Viatges i flors (Travels and Flowers)."

In fact, her return to Catalonia was not made to Barcelona, a bilingual, noisy city that she no longer liked, without greenery and especially without gardens, but rather to this quiet little village in the Gavarres, which is located at the top of a permanently green mountain, where she built a house with a garden in a secluded spot at the end of the 1970's. [...]

1908 - 1921

1908

On 10th October, 1908, Mercè Rodoreda Gurguí was born in a small house with a garden belonging to her grandfather, located on Carrer de Sant Antoni, currently called Carrer Manuel Angelon, in the neighbourhood of Sant Gervasi de Cassoles, in Barcelona. She was the only child of Andreu Rodoreda Sallent and Montserrat Gurguí Guàrdia. Her father, an accountant for a gun shop, always liked the theatre. Her mother felt a certain inclination towards music. Both shared a fondness for the theatre, and a somewhat bohemian lifestyle, and they attended the Institut del Teatre (Theatre Institute), headed by Adrià Gual, in order to learn declamation.

1909

Joan Gurguí Guàrdia, Montserrat’s brother, left for Argentina.

1915 - 1917

Elementary school studies in two different schools: the Lourdes school, in Sarrià, and another closer to her home, between Pàdua and Vallirana streets. In fact, her great teacher was her grandfather, an admirer of Verdaguer and writer for La Renaixença.

1917

She participates in the reintroduction of the comedy The Mysterious Jimmy Samson, performed by an amateur company at the Ateneu de Sant Gervasi. Rodoreda played the role of Ketty.

1919

Joan Gurguí, who had written regularly to his family, returns to Barcelona. Mercè enthusiastically awaited the arrival of her uncle’s letters, and over time, she turns him into a myth.

1921

Her grandfather, Pere Gurguí, dies. The arrival of her uncle at the Gurguí household changes the family’s lifestyle. Austerity and conventional order are established.

1928

On October 10th, the day that she turns twenty, she marries Joan Gurguí Guàrdia, fourteen years older than she, in the Bonanova parish of Barcelona, with a papal dispensation because of the closeness of their blood relationship.

1929

On July 23rd, Jordi, Mercè Rodoreda and Joan Gurguí’s only son, is born. Mercè Rodoreda then begins to bring herself up to date in every sense of the word and looks for an outlet, work that will relieve her from financial and social dependence on her husband.

1932

The publishing house Catalònia publishes Mercè Rodoreda’s first novel: Sóc una dona honrada? (Am I an Honest Woman?). She writes short stories for various newspapers.

1933

Mercè Rodoreda enters the world of journalism through Clarisme, writing for this publication from October, 1933 until 1934; there she publishes interviews with writers and plastic artists, as well as chronicles of the city or travels.

1934

She publishes Del que hom no pot fugir (What No One Can Flee From), in the editions of Clarisme,and with Proa Un dia en la vida d'un home (A Day in a Man’s Life). Mercè Rodoreda begins to be related to the world of literature, through the writer J. Puig i Ferreter, director of Proa. She meets, on one hand Andreu Nin, who translates the novels of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, etc. directly from Russian, as well as writers such as Francesc Trabal, Joan Oliver, Joan Prat, known as Armand Obiols, who had belonged to the La Colla de Sabadell and later the Novelists Club, like Rodoreda herself. This year the essay Polèmica, by Delfí Dalmau, is also published, where the author interviews Mercè Rodoreda, and the introduction contains declarations anticipating the writer’s literary values.

1935 - 1939

She writes children’s stories for the weekly page of the newspaper La Publicitat, a section called Una estona amb els infants (A Little While with the Little Ones), and short stories for La Revista, La Veu de Catalunya and Mirador, etc.

1936

Her fourth novel, Crim (Crime), is published, later to be rejected by the author, along with the three previous novels.

1937

She begins to work as a corrector of Catalan for the Propaganda Commissioner’s Office of the Generalitat de Catalunya. She meets writers such as Aurora Bertrana, M. Teresa Vernet and makes other friends: Susina Amat, Julieta Franquesa, Anna Murià and Carme Manrubia. With Aloma, her fifth novel, she wins the Crexells Award. Andreu Nin, with whom Rodoreda had a relationship, is killed. This same year, Mercè Rodoreda and her husband, Joan Gurguí, separate.

1938

Aloma is published by the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (Institution of Catalan Letters) in Barcelona. Mercè Rodoreda travels to Prague with the writer Francesc Trabal for the reintroduction of the PEN Club of Catalonia, and there she reads a greeting written by the poet Carles Riba.

1939

Mercè Rodoreda goes into exile on January 23rd, and leaves her son with her mother, thinking to return soon. She leaves Barcelona along with other intellectuals in a library bus belonging to the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes, which takes them to Girona, from where they go to Mas Perxés, in Agullana (Alt Empordà) to go on later to Perpignan and Toulouse, until they reach an 18th-century castle set up to house refugees in Roissy-en-Brie, a town close to Paris. There she lives some months with other writers: Anna Murià and her family, C.A. Jordana and family, Armand Obiols, Francesc Trabal, etc. In this context, a sentimental relationship begins between Rodoreda and Obiols, who formed a couple in exile. World War II shatters the stability of Roissy, forcing them to take flight again: some choose to go into exile in Latin America, and others, such as Rodoreda and Obiols, decide to stay in Europe.

1940 - 1944

She flees from Paris upon the entry of the Germans. At the end of World War II, Mercè Rodoreda establishes herself in Limoges and shortly afterwards in Bordeaux, along with Joan Prat. During these early years, she earns a living sewing for shops and writing stories, which she publishes first in exile magazines, later gathering them together in Vint-i-dos contes (Twenty-two Short Stories).

1946

They move to Paris, to Rue Cherche-Midi, number 21, near the area where the intellectuals meet: Saint-Germain-des-Prés. She continues writing short stories and begins to write poetry. Obiols works as the manager of Revista de Catalunya (Catalonia Magazine) in exile.

1947 - 1953

Mercè Rodoreda begins to have health problems; she also suffers from a strange paralysis in her right arm that prevents her from being able to undertake long writing projects. She seeks out Josep Carner for his experience as a writer of poetry and, at times, as a corrector. She maintains an intense, affectionate correspondence with him. Her poems win different prizes: in the 1947 Jocs Florals in London, she wins the Natural Flower; the next year, in Paris, she is again awarded the Natural Flower, and lastly, in Montevideo, in 1949, she receives the title Mestra en Gai Saber," (an honorary title granted by the Council of the Jocs Florals)."

1951

She is interested in painting. She looks to the most outstanding painters of the day: Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Miró, whom she tries to imitate.

1952

She takes a treatment in the Chátel-Guyon spa, near Vichy, where, apart from her recovery, she also begins to enjoy a solitude that soon allows her to enter fully into her creative work.

1954

Rodoreda takes up residence in Geneva, as Obiols works in this city as a translator for UNESCO. She keeps her room in Paris. An improved financial situation allows them to hire an apartment in a bourgeois neighbourhood, at Vidollet Street, number 19, where from the rooftop, there is a beautiful view: the bare mountain of Salève, the Lemán lake, with the peak of Mont-Blanc in the background. Here she paints sporadically as well. Her only son is married.

1956

She sends three sonnets to Mexico: Evocació dels morts (Evocation of the Dead), which belong to the unfinished project Món d'Ulisses (World of Ulysses), presided over by Agustí Bartra. She is the winner, and they are published in Gaseta de Lletres (Literary Gazette), the literary supplement of La Nova Revista. In Barcelona, clandestinely, the first literary awards in Catalan are held. Rodoreda wins the Joan Santamaria Award with the short story Carnaval (Carnival), written in Bordeaux during the war.

1957

She wins the Víctor Català Award with the collection of short stories written in exile, under the title Vint-i-dos contes (Twenty-Two Short Stories). If the J. Santamaria award encouraged her, the Víctor Català is a definite push to continue writing, which she does.

1958

She publishes Vint-i-dos contes (Twenty-two Short Stories).

1959

She presents Una mica d'història (A Bit of History) to the Joanot Martorell Award competition, and it is published in 1967 under the title of Jardí vora el mar (Garden by the Sea). She writes the short story Rom Negrita (Dark Rum) for Els 7 pecats capitals for 21 short story writers. She begins to write Colometa, the future La Plaça del Diamant (Time of the Doves).

1960

She presents Colometa to the competition for the Sant Jordi Award. She doesn’t win, but Joan Fuster votes for her work, recommending it to the Club dels Novel•listes, whose director, Joan Sales, is very interested in the work and begins to correspond with Mercè Rodoreda. Obiols takes up residence in Vienna definitively for work reasons.

1961

Rodoreda enters La Mort i la primavera (Death and the Spring) in the Sant Jordi Award competition, again unsuccessfully. It is published posthumously in 1986.

1962

Publication of La Plaça del Diamant (The Time of the Doves) by Club dels Novel·listes.

1964

Montserrat Gurguí, the writer’s mother, dies.

1965

On August 25th, she writes to Joaquim Molas responding to his request to publish her complete works. She refuses to publish the first four novels and agrees to rework Aloma. She begins to be known outside of Catalonia, thanks to the translation of her works. The first is that of La plaça del Diamant, translated to Spanish in 1965, English (1967), Italian (1970), French (1971), etc. In 1966 she publishes El carrer de les Camèlies (Camellia Street), which receives the Sant Jordi Award in 1966. Her husband, Joan Gurguí, dies.

1966

She publishes El carrer de les Camèlies (Camellia Street), which receives the Sant Jordi Award in 1966. Her husband, Joan Gurguí, dies.

1967

Publication of Jardí vora el mar (Garden by the Sea). El carrer de les Camèlies wins the Critic’s Award. She publishes the volume of short stories La meva Cristina i altres contes (My Cristina and Other Stories). She works on Mirall trencat (Broken Mirror).

1969

Publication of the new version of Aloma. El carrer de les Camèlies receives the Ramon Llull Award.

1970

Beginning this year, her works are translated to the most varied languages, including quite remote languages, (Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.).

1971

Armand Obiols dies in Vienna.

1972

Mercè Rodoreda spends the summer in Romanyà de la Selva, at El Senyal, the home of her friend Carme Manrubia. Here she lives for six years, until her own house is built in 1978.

1973 - 1975

She finishes Mirall trencat (Broken Mirror) in Romanyà, and it is published in 1974. She closes the flat in Geneva. She begins to write Quanta, quanta guerra...(So Much War).

1976

PrimeraThe first doctoral thesis is written on the fiction of Mercè Rodoreda, by Carme Arnau.

1977

Edicions 62 begins the publication of her Obres completes (Complete Works).

1978

A televised version of Aloma is directed by Lluís Pascual. Rodoreda publishes Semblava seda i altres contes (It Seemed like Silk and Other Stories), with stories written from the war up until the death of A. Obiols.

1980

The collection of Tots els contes (All the Short Stories) is published. Rodoreda receives the Honour Award of Catalan Letters and that of the city of Barcelona for Viatges i flors (Travels and Flowers); Quanta, quanta guerra... (So Much War…) wins the Serra d'Or Critic’s Award, and both works are published the same year. She speaks at the Mercè festivities in Barcelona.

1982

The film version of La Plaça del Diamant, directed by Francesc Betriu, comes out. Rodoreda writes Imatges d'infantesa (Images of Childhood), short biographical stories published by the magazine Serra d'Or.

1983

She dies of cancer on April 13th in a clinic in Girona, and is buried in the cemetery of Romanyà de la Selva.