In Marca Hispanica III: cartoon nationalism

An odd thing that I found while staying with family in the area, I felt I should report. My half-nephew is more interested in my field than most kids of his age would be, and dragged out for my inspection a book, which transpired to be a cartoon history of Catalonia’s founder figure, Count Guifré the Hairy (so called, intones the 12th-century Gesta Comitum Barcinonensium, because “he had hair in places which other men did not”1). I foolishly didn’t take down details at the time, but it wouldn’t have helped me much because the web seems almost empty of what it was, which I’m fairly sure is A. Jofré Battlorí, Històries i Llegendes de Catalunya, 7: Guifré el Pelós, Col·lecció Ayax (Barcelona s. d), one of a series of several which included, sadly, Comte Arnau (who was not real!) but also plenty that was solidly historical.

Catalan stamp depicting Count Guifré the Hairy

Now of course as the above image may suggest Guifré is quite deep in the Catalan national consciousness, but as I read I was quite spun by this book. Partly because it was weird to see people I’ve visualised in someone else’s versions. For example, I never think of Radulf, Guifré’s son who is oblated as a monk, rebels and leaves to be a priest instead and eventually becomes Bishop of Urgell, as blond,2 but I never would have realised that without someone else picturing him so. And I had never really stopped to think about what Cardona would have been like to come to as a traveller in Guifré’s time, mainly because I’d kind of forgotten it was on roads that were still in use then even when it was supposedly depopulated. Various things like this that make me wonder how much use such attempts to represent our imaginings are in actually getting us closer to the missing reality… Though I personally imagine even the poorest Catalans wearing at least one colour other than brown, which Batllorí seemingly did not.

But also, the history was pretty solid, and this was because the artist had as advisor no less a figure than Josep María Salrach, who is currently I suppose the leading man of the field and was probably so whenever this was written (my half-nephew’s copy was shiny and new, but Batllorí died in 1999, so it must have been a reprint or a very nice remainder). The effective result of this was that you got various properly cartoon action (I wish I could have scanned some of it for you) interspersed with travel sequences basically set up so that Salrach could dump exposition into them (“King Odo is a long way away, son, and cares nothing for his forgotten frontier” and so on). Lots of political thought on horseback therefore. But still, it’s an astonishing thing for a real historian to be involved with. It’s as if, in England, someone wrote a cartoon history of Alfred the Great and got Simon Keynes to advise. I mean, that would probably work; I wonder if it has actually happened?


1. L. Barrau Dihigo & J. Massó Torrents (edd.), Gesta Comitum Barcinonensium: textos llatí i català, Cróniques Catalanes 2 (Barcelona 1925). For work on Guifré in English one is basically limited to Roger Collins, “Charles the Bald and Wifred the Hairy”, in Janet Nelson & Margaret Gibson (edd.), Charles the Bald: Court and Kingdom, 2nd edn. (Aldershot 1990), pp. 169-188. In Catalan, the most recent thing I have seen is R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals, El Temps i el Regiment de Guifré el Pilós (Barcelona 1989), but there is also Jordí Mascarella i Rovira & Miquel Sitjar (edd.), Guifré el Pelós: documentació i identitat (Ripoll 1997). The Collins article is fun mind you.

2. On Radulf see Manuel Rovira, “Un Bisbe d’Urgell del segle X: Radulf” in Urgellia Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 167–84.

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4 responses to “In Marca Hispanica III: cartoon nationalism

  1. Well, there are manga versions of Shakespeare plays, so yes, I’m sure there would be a readership for history in cartoon form.

  2. Angelica Rovira

    March 31,2010
    Dear Jonathan:
    I am searching for my fathers’ family Rovira in Spain/Cataluna.
    My father was listed in several books:
    1- Las Memorias de Bernardo Vega 1920s, 1930s & 1940s.
    2- From Community to Colonia, author Virginia Korrol, 1930s 1940s,as founder and board member of Maria de Hostos organization, and Ateneo Obrero organization. He was a Mason, Supported Socialist Party, and Partido Independista de Puerto Rico.
    3- The CMIU Cigar Makers International Union’s volumes documenting their works; my father was listed as sending the union their New York City’s local dues, 1930s, 1940s. Later on, he owned “La Rovira Cigar Company” during the 1940s, (mi papa era un tabaquero desde pequeno) Bronx, NY.
    My father’s name was Juan Ignacio Rovira
    born in Puerto Rico, 1902-died in Bronx, NY, 1951.
    His father was Carlos Rovira y Gimenez born in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
    His grandfather was Juan Ignacio Rovira y Calderon. I believe his grandfather came from Spain/Cataluna, however, his grandfathere is listed as being born in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
    His sisters’ name was Angelica Rovira.
    His brothers’ name was Oscar Rovira.
    They were also born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico and they were a couple of years older than my father.
    Qualquier ayuda yo estaria muy agradecida.
    Sinceramente,
    Angelica Rovira
    Queiro saber cuando llego la familia Rovira al nuevo mundo/Espania Nueva, New Spain).
    En que ano y endonde se asentaron?

    • I don’t have the knowledge or access to help with this I’m afraid, and I’m not sure why you would think I can. That I cite someone called Rovira doesn’t mean I know anything about his family! I only know his work. You would need to enlist a professional genealogist such as Nat Taylor, who has as much expertise in Catalonia as I do indeed. His site is here, and he or someone like him would be able to tell you what is and isn’t possible in your case. I will say, however, that to the best of my knowledge Rovira was a common surname even before the period of emigration to the Americas, so the idea that ‘la familia Rovira’ might have bodily moved to the New World is probably mistaken, I’m afraid: I imagine that several Rovira families did so, at different times and in different places.

  3. Pingback: Bishops and metropolitans in Catalonia (also, the Carolingian conquest thereof) | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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