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(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Josep Arseni Vicenç Foix i Mas (“Foix” rhymes with gauche), or J. V. Foix, was born of peasant stock. His father came from Torrents de Lladurs, a town in the province of Lérida (Western Catalonia). The second of three children—he shared the household with two sisters—he received the usual schooling and exhibited an unusual, precocious interest in Catalan culture and literary studies. His formal education came to an abrupt end in 1911 after an unsuccessful bout with the study of law. Other occupations were to absorb the young Foix’s attention. Following in his father’s footsteps, Foix worked in earnest to build for himself a reputation as the premier pâtissier in his native town.

In retrospect, Foix presented the intriguing figure of a man with two private lives: One belongs to the bourgeois merchant, who plods a course marked by the work ethic leading to material rewards; the other pertains to the genuine artist fully devoted to a métier that thrives on the values of the spirit. Foix plied his trade by day and wrote at a feverish pace by night. The first fifteen years of his career (beginning, approximately, in the year 1915) were years of particularly intense activity. In his book Catalans de 1918, he provides a captivating account of his numerous sessions in libraries, his contacts with the many aspiring authors of his generation who later became his intimate friends and with established scholars and literati—Fabra, Mosén Jacinto Verdaguer, d’Ors, Carner, and Riba—who were all engaged in the epic task of shaping the future of Catalan culture. From 1917 on, various journals of the avant-garde mushroomed in Barcelona, and Foix contributed articles to all of them and directed some. Himself a central figure of the intelligentsia, he became acquainted with the prominent personalities who were creating a stir in the literary and artistic circles of the Catalan metropolis: Paul Éluard, Federico García Lorca, Tristan Tzara, Dalí, Miró, Luis Buñuel. Foix relished playing the part of a cultural middleman of sorts, an aesthetician at large. In this role, he introduced, in 1925, the first exhibitions of Dalí and Miró.

Foix’s creative surge paralleled and in some cases even anticipated the artistic renewal experienced throughout Europe in the mid-1920’s. While the revolutionary tendencies which were fermenting on the Continent were making their sensational impact in Catalonia, especially through the movements of Futurism and Surrealism, and García Lorca was publishing Romancero gitano, 1924-1927 (1928), Foix was reaping in Gertrudis the first fruit of a protracted labor. By 1930, he had completed the main components of those books which many years later...

(The entire section is 657 words.)