Joan Maragall (1860-1911) represents the arrival the modern age in Catalan literature. He inherited the rhetoric of the Catalan Renaixença and, little by little, stripped it of its frills. The simplicity and spontaneity of the language
marked his largely poetic work, although his prose works, newspaper articles and translations
, mainly of German authors such as Goethe, Nietzsche and Novalis, are also significant.
Aged 14, he began his apprenticeship in the family industry. In 1879, after a fierce argument with his father, he left the factory to enter the Faculty of Law. In this way he was rebelling against the bourgeoisie which he considered mediocre, conservative and unrefined. Even so, his status as a bourgeois heir allowed him to lead a relaxed and bohemian life. In 1886, a family economic crisis turned his world upside down and drove him to put his life back on track, both professionally and personally. Thus, in 1890 he went to work at the Diario de Barcelona
newspaper and a year later he married Clara Noble.
From 1892 Maragall became the symbol of the new winds of modernity that were shaking Barcelona and the guide for the bourgeoisie, who he tried to stir up on several occasions. His poetry went through several stages, but always influenced by two currents: vitalism, with its Nietzschean, roots, and decadentism
. At the same time he strengthened that direct and simple lyricism
, expressive and sincere and, with which he sang of the landscape, customs and festivals, myths and heroes of Catalonia, and the love of his wife and friends
(Poems, 1895) was his first book, in which his popular poem La vaca cega
He contributed to the revival of Catalanism
through popular genres (his second book Visions i Cants
(Visions and Songs, 1900) clearly shows this) and also through his incisive journalistic articles. At the same time he made an effort to promote the language.
Little by little, he rejected the aesthetic possibilities of modernisme and reflected on his own creative experience through the simplification of the themes, metre, linguistic resources and rhetoric.
This is what is known as the "theory" of the living word
(sketched in 1903 in Elogi de la paraula
(In praise of words) and elaborated on in 1909 with Elogi de la poesia
(In praise of poetry). The poems of Enllà
(Over There, 1906) offered the best example of this.
The last stage of Maragall’s career is the most intimate and peaceful. In Seqüències
(Sequences, 1911) he brought some thematic cycles to a close, such as that of Count Arnau, and started another, that of the "Cant espiritual" or spiritual songs, in which he expressed his reflections on man and religion. Nausica
was published posthumously. His work is preserved in manuscript in the Joan Maragall Archive