165 writers, representatives of 25 centres from all over the world meet in Barcelona, at a congress which is to test the organizational capacity of the Catalan PEN centre. H.G. Wells is the international President. Amongst the most prominent guests are Ernst Toller, the voice of German writers in exile, and Filippo Tomasso Marinetti, the avant-garde former militant from the Italian delegation. Also present is Jawaharlal Nehru, as the delegate of the, yet to be born, Dominion of India. Pompeu Fabra presides over the Catalan PEN and Marià Manent forms part of the International Executive Committee.
There is intense debate at the Casal del Metge and H. G. Wells, faced with the infringement of freedom in a significant part of Europe, asks the assembly whether the PEN clubs are limited to being a “Society of banquets and leisure trips, or if they should be constituted of a Society of International Intellectuals, of sorts”. J.V. Foix describes the atmosphere and debate over these few days in an article for “La Publicitat”, published on 22nd May, with the title “Two Presidents: H.G. Wells and Pompeu Fabra”, which would later on form part of the volume Els Lloms Transparents (Transparent Loins). The debates and controversy don’t dampen the programme, however, which is packed with trips (to Sitges, Tarragona and Montserrat) and which, for many of the writers, is rounded off with a post-congress operation that will take them from the Costa Brava all the way to Mallorca. This strategy, of sorts, 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 card itself is decorated with Noucentisme designs from the hand of 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, Fruits and Coffee, all accompanied by Haut Sauternes and wines from the Reserva Codorniu. Circumstances, in which it seems the world has gone insane, will soon bring to an end the after-effects of this first congress in Barcelona. The end of the Spanish Civil War is a little more than a year away and the horrors of the Second World War are already becoming visible on the horizon.