The new Festival 42 turns Barcelona into a mecca for fantastic literature

Many of the issues that are raising the big questions we are asking ourselves about the future will be the axes of the 42, the Festival of Fantastic Genres of Barcelona that will start on Wednesday, November 3 until Sunday 7, with 200 participants and 75 activities. Post-humanism (or how we will be when technology has transformed us as human beings) and robots, feminism, terror, video games and the Barcelona of the future are some of the axes that will join the already traditional epic fantasies and terror that in recent times have acquired a transgressive format.

The appointment, to be held at Fabra i Coats. Espai de Creació and the nearby Ignasi Iglesias-Can Fabra Library, hosts some of the best exponents of fantasy and science fiction narratives from around the world, such as Alexandra Bracken, Susanna Clarke, Nicholas Eames, Stuart Turton and Francesco Nepitello. Together with them, the local talent of Laura Fernández, Albert Monteys, Joan-Lluís Lluís, Cristina Fernández Cubas, Manel Loureiro, Rosa Montero, Elia Barceló, Care Santos, Marc Pastor and Maite Carranza. The conference will be face-to-face with two honorable exceptions: Clarke, author of one of the year’s books, ‘Piranesi’, who will participate by videoconference since she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and barely leaves her home, and Greg Kasavin , writer and designer of video games and specifically of ‘Hades’, the most awarded video game of recent times, which will have to use the screen for agenda reasons. Along the same lines, they will also speak with those responsible for ‘Narita’, an ‘indie’ video game created in Barcelona, ​​but also with Francesco Nepitelio who has recreated the world of JRR Tolkien in an analog board game.

Search for a wide audience

Claiming fantasy beyond a specific genre, be it science fiction or horror, is the intention of the festival, curated by the writer and professor Ricard Ruiz Garzón, who flees from labels at the same time as new literary trends aimed at a ever wider and younger audience. “However, we are not interested in addressing here only the fans of the genre, we want the festival to embrace both the most freakish side and the most erudite and that is why to start we need to break down prejudices,” says Ruiz Garzón. In this more strictly literary option that is not afraid of genres, there is room for proposals such as that of Bolivian writers Giovanna Rivero and Edmundo Paz Soldán, the North American Carmen maria machado or the russian Anna Starobinets.

The festival also wants to vindicate the good moment that non-realistic narratives in Catalan are living, not only because of the appearance of new authors but also of awards and specialized publishers, as well as translations of essential names such as Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Stephen King, Verne, Bradbury, Vonnegut or Lovecraft. In this framework, the British Douglas Adams (from whom the festival has taken its name) will be honored with a panel discussion and the Polish Stanislaw Lem, whose centenary is celebrated this year. 42 will host an exhibition and two round tables on Lem, one of them with the presence of the author’s biographer, Wojciech Orlinski, and his personal secretary and literary executor Wojciech Zemech. Many may be amazed at the tribute that will be paid to the Barcelona-born Ana María Matute, but it must be remembered that one of the peaks of her literature is the novel ‘Forgotten King Gudú’ in which medieval adventures are mixed with elements of fantastic literature. , whose writing dragged through decades of literary drought until its publication in 1996 brought it back to the present day. That date is now 25 years old.

With an eye on the Celsius Festival in Avilés, which for a decade has been building loyalty to its audience with an offer in which, in addition to literature, the festive atmosphere prevails among author signatures and book sales, 42 will also award the best books on the subject through nine categories : original work, original work translated into Catalan and Spanish, revelation work, best classic translated into Catalan and an honorary award, which this year will be multiplied by two. The awards will be made public on Saturday, November 6 at Fabra i Coats.

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As proof of its open vocation to all disciplines, the festival will close with a recital conducted by Sebastià Portell that will combine poetry, illustration and live music. It will not be the only one, on Wednesday November 3, in a cabaret key, another show will remember the figure of the disappeared and also versatile Víctor Nubla.

The meaning of life, the universe and everything else

In a festival like the 42, put under the invocation of the hilarious science fiction writer Douglas Adams, humor is not another ingredient. Commissioner Ricard Ruiz Garzón loves to be asked the reason for the name. That allows him to talk about one of his favorite sagas, the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, written by the British author who died prematurely of a heart attack at age 49 in a Los Angeles gym. Well, in the first of the five novels in the series there is talk of a supercomputer called Deep Thought that has been asked about the meaning of life, the universe and everything else. The importance of the question leaves the device dumb for seven and a half million years to finally conclude that the answer is 42. What the hell did that mean? Adams, who avoided giving an explanation after his aroused readers pointed out the most bizarre theories about Buddhist monks or base-13 mathematical combinations, decided to reveal it once and for all in the 1990s: « It had to be a number, a simple, small number. I sat at my desk, looked out into the garden and thought ‘it’s going to be 42’, and so I wrote it down. Divisible by two and also by six and seven. It’s the kind of number you can calmly present to your parents.».

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