Carles Riba The humanist poet
"Man of Letters" is a soubriquet that fits Carles Riba i Bracons (1893-1959) perfectly: he was a poet, critic, storyteller and translator, as well as an academic.
Educated under the influence of the Glosari of Eugeni d'Ors, like all those of his generation, he went through a first noucentista period. From a formal perspective, the Primer llibre d’Estances (First Book of Stanzas, 1919) is an example of this but, from the conceptual point of view, these early poems have an introspective intent which already hints at Riba’s literary personality.
What he shared with the noucentistes was the firm conviction that, as an intellectual, he had a "duty" to contribute to the construction of the country. Thus, part of his professional career (which includes his work as a translator, critic and university professor) was aimed at educating the public culturally.
Riba translated modern authors such as Gottfried Keller and Hölderlin, and classical authors such as Virgil, Xenophon, Plutarch, Homer and Sophocles. In 1922, he began his collaboration with the Fundació Bernat Metge (Bernat Metge Foundation), created at that time by Francesc Cambó, which strengthened his humanist vocation for studying the Greek and Latin classics. He was also a member of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans (Institute of Catalan Studies) and President of the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (Institute of Catalan Letters).
While his reputation as a translator and professor grew, in the early nineteen-twenties, Riba entered a phase of poetic crisis. At that time his work was considered somewhat obscure. It was through his contact with the philologist Karl Vossler (1922) and particularly with the poet Paul Valéry (1924) which started him on the road of post-symbolist poetry. His Segon llibre d’Estances (Second Book of Stanzas, 1929-1930) and Tres suites (Three Suites 1930-1935) date from this time. However, Riba's poetry continued to have a deeply personal aspect that differed from the majority of the leading poets of the time.
His activity did not stop during the Civil War, where he gave his explicit support to the republican cause. The first two sections of the Del joc i del foc (Of Games and Fire) date from this time. With the arrival of the nationalist forces in 1939, Riba and his family (his wife Clementina Arderiu and their three children) were exiled to France, where he wrote one of his most famous works, Elegies de Bierville.
After the war, Riba continued working as a writer and translator and, in addition, became a representative of Catalan culture at various national and international conferences.