And like all writers who sign on Sant Jordi, I have recently been running the usual gauntlet of book presentations that lead up to the big day
On the 23rd of the month (Sant Jordi's Day) the streets and squares of towns and villages all over Catalonia - Barcelona very much included - will once again be chock full of stalls selling books for which many of us will willingly fork out to show our loved ones (be they lovers, family or friends) that we do indeed, well, love them. Once again, large numbers of writers from here and a few from the rest of the world will be boxed in behind trestle tables like so many battery hens, on the qui vive for anyone who might want a volume signed. This year, for the first time in four, I have a new book out and so will be boxed in too, and am already hoping against hope that I won't be placed next to a TV star or an author of crowd pleasers, whose immense queues tend to flank the dearth of punters stretching out in front of those of us whose books do not sell the best. And like all writers who sign on Sant Jordi, I have recently been running the usual gauntlet of book presentations that lead up to the big day. This year, for example, thanks to more than a little help from my friends, the Barcelona presentation went well. But a week later I was in a city of a hundred thousand people of whom exactly three turned up. Two days later, in a town a tenth the size, I had an audience of forty or so. (The differences depend on a variety of factors: the organizers, the weather, the day...). The week after, I was due to do a dual presentation in a big town in central Catalonia with a prestigious writer from French Catalonia: both of us assumed that we were going to make a literary killing, but just two people turned up - one for each of us. Four days later I was in a bookshop in a tiny village near the Costa Brava, and there was standing room only. At the time of writing, the last stop has been Andorra where, despite heavy rainfall - which here keeps people at home as much as does a Barça match - a baker's dozen still braved the storm to make it to the local library. While doing these unpredictable rounds, I recalled some of the disasters of past years: a presentation which wasn't announced at all anywhere by the organizers, with the unsurprising result that nobody came; or the one in which all the audience save four stood up and left because they were supposed be in a ramblers' club meeting and had entered the wrong room; or the never-to-be-forgotten one which the organizers themselves had completely forgotten about until I slipped under the half-lowered metal door of their premises and gave them a surprise. Every time I and others present a book, then, little wonder that we wonder if it's worth it, just as we wonder if it's worth it when we sit behind the tables on Sant Jordi's Day, watching passers-by pass us by. Knowing full well that if and whenever future books of ours come out, we'll go through the whole business again and again and again, without a shadow of a doubt .