165 writers, representatives of 25 centres from all over the world, have met in Barcelona, which has put the PEN Català’s organisational capacity to the test. H.G. Wells is the international President and amongst the most prominent guests you can find Ernst Toller, the voice of German writers in exile, and Filippo Tomasso Marinetti, the old avant-garde militant from the Italian delegation. Also present on the list is Jawaharlal Nehru, as the delegate of the Dominion of India which has not yet been born. Pompeu Fabra presides over the Catalan centre and Marià Manent forms part of the International Executive Committee.
There is an intense discussion at the Casal del Metge. Faced with the infringement of freedom in a significant part of Europe, H.G. Wells asks the assembly whether the PEN clubs are limited to being a “Society of banquets and leisure trips, or if they should try to constitute themselves as an International of Intellectuals of sorts” J.V. Foix describes the atmosphere and debate over these few days in an article for “La Publicitat”, published on the 22nd May, with the name “Two Presidents: H.G. Wells and Pompeu Fabra”, which would later on form part of the volume Els Lloms Transparents (Transparent Loins). All the discussion and controversy hasn’t ruined the programme, packed with trips (to Sitges, Tarragona and Montserrat), which for many writers is rounded off with a post-congress operation that will take them from the Costa Brava all the way to Mallorca. It’s a type of strategy that allows the guests to get to know the country and that offers the combination of work and leisure. The closing Gala dinner, celebrated in the Ritz Hotel, is splendid.
The menu is decorated with Noucentist designs created by Josep Obiols and offers: Germiny aux pailletes, Saumon de la Loire Montserrat, Chapon du Prat à la catalane, Pâté de Strassbourg en croûte, Salade, Bloc glacé Mireille, Mignardises, and fruits and coffee, all of which are accompanied by Haut Sauternes wine as well as wines from the Reserva Codorniu wine company. The effects of this first congress in Barcelona will soon peter out given the circumstances. It is a time where the world seems to have gone crazy. The end of the Spanish Civil War is only a little more than a year away and it is already easy to distinguish what will latter on be the horrors of the Second World War on the horizon.