Misplaced Things: Trabal’s Odd Economy in The Man Who Lost Himself (1929)
Francesc Trabal, a well-known figure in Catalan letters during the first half of the twentieth century and a key member of the group “La Mirada,” won the Crexells Prize in 1936 for his book Vals [Waltz]. While that work has received considerable attention, his earlier production still offers much fertile ground for critical analysis. Especially rich is the Catalan author’s first novel, L’home que es va perdre [The Man Who Lost Himself], which was published in 1929. A wide-ranging narrative, it incorporates the fantastic in a ludic yet intense and ultimately unnerving way and while broadly cosmopolitan in scope, manages to retain a sense of Catalan specificity. In this paper, I consider the treatment of – and relationship between – objects and loss in L’home que…. I argue that Trabal not only displays a sophisticated understanding of the growing material culture of the age but that with this text he also provides an insightful – if absurdist – portrayal of psychological neurasthenia tied to the novel’s peculiar “economy of things.” That the story’s increasingly outrageous developments regarding objects are further tied to a concomitant need on the part of the protagonist to see loss played out on a grand scale – beyond his own purview as a subject – adds a complementary layer to the novel’s portrayal of the pre-Wall Street Crash period and further underscores its importance as a cultural document.
Director, Northrop Frye Centre
Associate Professor of Spanish & Catalan
Co-Editor, Toronto Iberic Series, UTP
Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese
University of Toronto