peripatetic to say the least. Dropping in
and out of colleges, he studied jour-
nalism, English literature, and German,
eventually receiving a degree in the lan-
guage from the University of Barcelona.
Over the years, he has written young
adult novels, worked as a translator and
a musician, and put in seven years at a
publishing house that specialized in self-
help titles and books on alternatives
therapies. In 2007, he released an album
of songs he wrote and played, called Hotel
Guru. Currently, his writing career alter-
nates between literature and what he
calls “psychology journalism.” In 2009,
Maria Tonezzer, an editor in Barcelona and a fan of Miralles’s YA fiction,
approached him to write a book for the adult audience—“an intimate
story about solitude... a happy family or a happy couple,” he says. But
“there’s no story in that,” according to Miralles, and he decided to write
a book about a lonely man—and, because both he and Tonezzer love cats
(Miralles has two: Billy and Sort, which means luck in Catalan), he gave
the main character a cat.
It’s tempting to think that Samuel de Juan is the author’s alter ego,
since both the fictional man and the nonfictional man are from Barcelona
and both love language, classical music, foreign films, literature, and
tea. But, Miralles says, he based the character of Samuel on his father,
Miralles describes his father as a silent man who rarely spoke to his son and daughter.
He listened to classical music, taught himself several languages, and liked to spend
his leisure time “correcting dictionaries.” The younger Miralles remembers only one
conversation of any length—five or so minutes at most—about the history of the Statue
of Liberty, when he was six years old. In Love in Lowercase, the character that most
resembles the author, he insists, is Titus, the tortured solitary old man and writer for
hire that even on his deathbed still worries about the commissioned work he needs to
finish. “I’m afraid I might end up like that,” Miralles says. “It would be good, on one
hand, because I’d still be doing what I love. But it would be bad because I’d be working
until the end of my days.” Perhaps his American debut will change his fate. “It’s like
a dream accomplished to bring this small story set in Barcelona to the biggest market
of readers,” Miralles says. ■
ROM A NCE
B Y CARRIE TUH Y
Carrie Tuhy is a New York writer and a world explorer.
Barcelona, the setting for Francesc Miralles’s novel Love in the Lowercase, is a
city of book lovers. For more than 75 years, St. Jordi’s Day, the feast day of St.
George, has been celebrated throughout Catalonia on April 23. The date also
commemorates Shakespeare and Cervantes, who both died on that date in 1616.
According to the tradition, a man gives a rose to a woman, and the woman in return
gives him a book. “Everyone does it, not just romantic couples; even bosses give
roses to their female employees,” Miralles explains. Legend has it that a dragon
terrorized a local village, demanding its children, until St. Jordi slayed the beast
and a rose tree sprung from the blood of the dragon.
On April 23 in Barcelona, throngs of people crowd the two main sections of
La Rambla (Barcelona’s most famous street) and a part of the Passeig de Gràcia
from morning to night, searching for the latest titles and the writers who are
signing them, while street vendors hawk roses. Miralles estimates that more
than 4 million books are sold in one day, which would be more than in the whole
rest of the year. And this year, St. Jordi’s Day falls on the 400th anniversary of
the death of Cervantes and Shakespeare.
Miralles himself doesn’t wait for a specific date to give books as gifts. If he
finds a favorite, he’ll buy a case and give them to “ 20 to 50 people” over the
next few years. In Love in Lowercase, the main character, Samuel, presents his
long-lost love with El Fallo (published in English as The Flaw) by Greek author
Antonis Samarakis. It’s a book about friendship—and, unsurprisingly, it is a
book that Miralles himself loves. —CARRIE TUHY
St. Jordi’s Day