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A journal entry from The Gray Notebook: February 5, 1919.

I was born in a small village. My life's horizons did not reach very far. These circumstances made me especially susceptible to the radiance of the written word. Books were put in my hands, and I read them. What beautiful things can be found in books! Life is this, that, and the other--say books. It later turns out, however, that no one gets the point, and no one makes the least effort to force bookish affirmations to deliver. We discover that what books say serves to dissimulate, to camouflage (a fashionable word) a mediocre, accommodating life. There's none of that in what books say. Scarcely any differences exist among human beings: a little more hygiene or education, a touch of hypocrisy. Yet books do not contain what they contain to delude us! Simply because their authors thought that we would never take them seriously. Every age has been the same, and the ages that are called great only existed in the imagination of those who have written books about them.

Translated by Lawrence Venuti

Editorial note: Excerpted by permission of New York Review Books. An English translation of The Gray Notebook is due out from NYRB Classics in 2012.

Born in Palafruguell, Josep Pla (1897-1981) was a popular journalist who traveled widely to report on world events. His politics, conservative yet liberal, joined with an ironic skepticism that did not endear him to Catalan leftists and nationalists. Yet by the end of his life he was recognized as the most distinguished prose stylist in Catalan. His devotion to writing is evident in his collected works, which fill forty-six volumes. The Gray Notebook (1966) is a diary from 1918-19 that Pla revised over many decades.
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Title Annotation:Catalan Literature
Author:Pla, Josep
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Essay
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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