Jordi Puntí or Daring
Jordi Puntí (Manlleu, 1967) has translated Paul Auster, Amélie Nothomb and Daniel Pennac, among others. He is currently the editor of the literary supplement, Quadern, published by the newspaper El País. Jordi Puntí has received public and critical acclaim and is considered one of the most promising new voices of contemporary Catalan literature.
The main feature of the character of Jordi Puntí (Manlleu, 1967) is restlessness. He is possessed of a fidgetiness that has led him, since he was very young, into a lively and intense intellectual activity that has enabled him to become not only a leading young Catalan fiction writer with a bright future but also an outstanding figure in the cultural life of the country, in different spheres and with resounding public success. Since obtaining his degree in Romance Philology in 1991, he has worked in major Barcelona publishing houses (Edicions 62, Quaderns Crema and Columna), has co-directed the collection of medieval poetry "La flor inversa (The Inverse Flower)" along with professors Jordi Cerdà and Eduard Vilella, and has produced a great number of literary translations, notable among which are texts by Daniel Pennac, Amélie Nothomb, Paul Auster and even the well-known comic books of Asterix. Jordi Puntí, who is now working on his first novel, writes articles for the Barcelona edition of El País on cultural and sporting matters (especially football, one of his great passions) and is a regular speaker on the radio station RAC-1. He is part of the facetious literary group Germans Miranda; with whom he has published Aaaaaahhh (1998), El Barça o la vida (Barça or Life) (1999), Tocats d'amor (Touched by Love) (2000), Contes per a nenes dolentes (Stories for Naughty Girls), (2001), La vida sexual dels Germans Miranda (The Sex Life of the Miranda Brothers) (2002) and Adéu, Pujol (Goodbye Pujol) (2003). However, the most outstanding feature of his professional biography consists, without a doubt, of two collections of stories that have been very well received indeed, by critics and public alike. These are Pell d'armadillo (Proa, 1998), winner of the 1995 Fundació Enciclopèdia Catalana Prize and Serra d'Or Critics Prize, and Animals tristos (Empúries, 2002), three stories from which have served as the basis of a screenplay for a film by Ventura Pons entitled "Animals Ferits". To all this must be added the publication in 2005 of the novella Set dies al vaixell de l'amor (Seven Days on the Love Boat) (Mobil Books).
It should be said that Jordi Puntí forcefully represents a plausible and reasonable way of understanding the professional harvest of Catalan literature at the threshold of the twenty-first century. This literature intentionally distances itself both from the transcendentalist vacuum inspired by Romanticism and from the well-known political instrumentalisation of Catalan resistance-style writing. His is literature that asserts itself in practice rather than in theory, showing its autonomous identity in managing to consolidate the territory that is proper and exclusive to it, that of human stories, called into being by working with everyday language without forgetting that of books. This is writing understood as a craft, like any other, ancient in its roots and of infinite possibilities, a profession that demands, more then anything else, constant work and practical reiteration and to be convincing through its results. It is a craft that, in this case, accepts and continues the rich tradition of literary engagement in the mainstream mass media, one that goes from Jacint Verdaguer to Quim Monzó via names such as Josep Pla, for example; a tradition that also reveals a fully contemporary conception of literature, which is more open than ever to permanent communication and dialogue with the literatures of other traditions, which end up mingling with that of the author in a natural way. To be specific, in the case of Jordi Puntí, this is the Anglo-Saxon tradition in particular. His literature has been able to set up connections with all sorts of creative and artistic innovations, in particular in the audiovisual sphere. Its focus goes beyond the cultural and academic mores because it is through aesthetics, which has the etymological meaning of "keen or sensitive perception", that one can discover the emotional experience of the human being.
As a writer who deals with everyday matters and the feelings that organise and give dynamism to human life, Jordi Puntí is concerned to testify to the complexity and tension of interpersonal relations without dissimulating his desire to understand and to make comprehensible the behaviour of his characters. In more than one regard, his stories have adopted a literary stance that is very similar to that upheld by Gabriel Ferrater for his poetry, especially in the sense of proposing to offer "a description, moving from moment to moment, of the moral life of an ordinary man", as he stated in his well-known definition. It is not surprising, then, to find Puntí's proximity to not a few poets in the Ferrater tradition, for example, Francesc Parcerisas or, even more, to Jordi Cornudella or Jaume Subirana. The literary discourse is established, therefore, as a way of finding out about reality, enabling a good dose of common sense that conjures up the fragility of illusions and shelters them from brutal reality. Discourse, and hence language, is not an innocuous way of approaching the contingency to which the human being finds that he or she is submitted but, on the contrary, language is part of this contingency, of the possibility or otherwise of making sense of reality. It is at once solution and problem, the grandeur and the wretchedness into which both narrator and reader are equally immersed. Introspection and the telling of private experiences, are thus very much in the limelight.
Jordi Puntí's stories are full of couples in crisis, of lonely people who watch television and eat pizzas, of intuitive young girls who seek fulfilment in an amorous adventure, of people who shop in Ikea, of impersonal settings like motorway service areas, camp sites, airport duty-free shops or the cold interior of planes on the trans-Atlantic run. These soulless places of social congregation, without memory or any singularity, are constructed as a metaphor for the impossibility, which is the case with the vast majority of people in our society, of creating a personality that is distinct and very different from all the rest, and of bringing to fruition an accumulation of desires that do not stimulate or help in any way with one's personal growth but end up becoming an obstacle. The stories we are told with great precision bring us closer to a vulgar and crude world that is perilously like the one the reader knows, frequently without the protective screen of irony or sarcasm, without any cultured notes or displays of intelligence by the narrator that might comfort us. Absurdity and vulgarity besiege sentimental relations and also appear in the discourse, whether thought or spoken, of these relations. Unlike the characters of Romantic novels, which vindicate a hero, Jordi Puntí's characters cannot withstand the inertia of society and they do not know how, and are unable to go beyond the scepticism of conformity, or beyond their impotence. They speak, moreover, in a language that is twitchy, edgy, full of clichés and banalities that, like parasites, colonise their minds and prevent them from thinking independently or in any way that might be liberating. In the opulent and boring society that is portrayed for us, sentimentalism and vulgarity freely gush forth, much like the barbarism and horror that so easily take over the shipwrecked children on the deserted island of William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
Jordi Puntí's stories, written in polished, genuine and very elegant language, which is full of stylistic surprises and great adroitness in describing events, are reminiscent in many ways of the classical model represented by Quim Monzó and other authors of the same ilk, for example, Sergi Pàmies, Empar Moliner, Toni Sala and Josep Maria Fonalleras. They also evoke the American-style locally-focused model established by Ernest Hemingway and subsequently associated with John Cheever, John Updike and Henry Roth. However, unlike them, Puntí situates the experience that dissolves the sentimentalism right at the heart of his stories, in a gesture that is disturbing, uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking. He is convinced that, while good moralising literature or that of manners and mores, contemplates sentimental personalities from a position of superiority and discrepancy, most readers and television watchers consume great quantities of fiction of the worst quality, bland and cheap stories that stir up the most childish and ingenuous passions, and with alienated antiheroes that are complacent about their own resignation and their non-existent sentimental education, who, unlike the main characters of harsher and crueller stories, never enjoy the consoling, cathartic and corrective power of tragedy. Puntí's treatment of stupidity and sentimentalism has nothing to do with the caustic and critical approach of a Flaubert. The question is, can a writer really, in all justice, situate himself outside the real world, above it, as if he had nothing to do with it? Has he never been tarnished by cheapness and vulgarity? A writer as aristocratic as Nabokov thought it was possible. Perhaps after the literary experience of evil, as presented by Dostoyevsky, Baudelaire and Bataille, today's taboo territory is that of unabashed sentimentalism, that of the person who does not know how to be an outsider and does not want to be one either.
Many characters in Jordi Puntí's stories do not live. They act. It is as if life, thanks to the omnipresence of the mass media, had become a constant show, a masked ball without hindrances or limits, in a systematic apotheosis of narcissistic personalities who always want a mirror that will justify them. It is the uprooting power of self-deception. It is living without much sincerity for fear of, and lack of confidence in, oneself. In the story "No estem sols" (We Are Not Alone), to give just one example, we can see the ambiguity that dominates the existence of people. "The scene had the feeling of being in a movie but it isn't clear whether Helmut was sending himself up or whether he really believed it." It is disturbing precisely because it isn't clear.
Copyright © 2006 Jordi Galves