I was born at the tail end of 1958, and stumbled across Catalonia when I was about 18. Stunned by my own ignorance of this nearby culture and language, I learnt the latter to find out more about the former. I moved to Barcelona when I was 26. On top of everything, as I had been writing badly in English since the age of about 16, I tried writing in Catalan (having made myself almost bilingual in it) when I was 32. I eventually ended up publishing two novels, a collection of short stories, an autobiography, a road book and several essays (on racism, religion…) in Catalan, before going back to English for my most recent novel, SNUG. (The discipline of working in a second language has – or so I believe – helped me to get over the hurdles I’d come across with British English).
Over the years, I couldn’t help noticing that in the rest of Spain – monolingual Spain, at least – there was considerable animosity towards the Catalans in general, which went way beyond regional bickering: this wasn’t and isn’t because there’s something wrong with Spanish people, but because they have clearly been encouraged to dislike the Catalans (as tight-fisted, as treacherous, as separatist, as anti-Spanish, as the eternal Other within the borders of Spain), by certain political circles and their affiliated media, since approximately the mid-eighteenth century. This has resulted in a situation in which Catalans who wish to use their language normally and enjoy some degree of political autonomy are made to feel like strangers in what is nominally their own country (Spain). It was the gradual observation of this state of affairs which made me change from being an enthusiastic autonomist into a federalist and finally an independentist. I am not nationalist, but countries do exist – whether we like it or not – and Catalonia is one, and that fact is not reflected within the structure of the Spanish state. Ergo…
As Catalonia finally heads for independence, funnily enough, I now find myself visiting England more and more frequently as my current novel and the next two are or will be in English and having cut myself out of the English loop for so many years I now feel the need to try and sneak my way back in, but without leaving Catalonia
I can be contacted at www.matthewtree.cat or at @matthewtree or at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Matthew-Tree/166058666780191?ref=ts&fref=ts or via my agent: firstname.lastname@example.org. The picture in my profile was made by photographer Alba Danés