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Institut Ramon Llull is a consortium comprising the Government of Catalonia, the Government of the Balearic Islands, and the Barcelona City Council. Its mission is the support and promotion of Catalan language and culture abroad, in all its forms and means of expression.

Reading and sharing Marta Orriol’s work

Language.  En línia, 11/12/2020

The Center for Catalan Studies at Queen Mary University of London has organized, with the support of Pushkin Press, an online reading group on Learning to Talk to Plants, the award-winning novel by Marta Orriols, recently published in the United Kingdom. The event will feature the participation of the author and Mara Faye Lethem, translator of the work into English.

On December 16, at 8 pm (London time), the Centre for Catalan Studies at Queen Mary University of London has convened an event via Zoom to talk about Learning to Talk to Plants, by Marta Orriols. The writer will take part, along with the translator of the book into English, Mara Faye Lethem.

Orriols’ novel is a moving portrait of grief which is strangely uplifting and coincidentally relevant for our present situation. Learning to Talk to Plants was published in the United Kingdom last September by Pushkin Press, which has organized jointly with the Center for Catalan Studies this discussion and launch party -- the last public event the centre will hold this year.

The reading group is an activity open to anyone who wants to attend (not just students, not just from the UK). For this reason, during the activity, Catalan and English will alternate, so that everyone can have their say.

The event is online and free, but places are limited so please register for your ticket here:

Queen Mary Catalan Book Club Tickets, Wed 16 Dec 2020 at 20:00 | Eventbrite 

The novel

Paula’s partner has died in a car accident – but no one knows her true grief. Only hours before his death, Mauro revealed that he was leaving her for another woman.

Paula guards this secret and ploughs on with her job as a paediatrician in Barcelona, trying to maintain the outline of their old life. But all of Mauro’s plants are dying, the fridge only contains expired yoghurt and her mind feverishly obsesses over this other, unknown woman.

As the weeks pass, vitality returns to Paula in unexpected ways. She remembers, slowly, how to live. By turns devastating and darkly funny, Learning to Talk to Plants is a piercingly honest portrayal of grief – and of the many ways to lose someone.

With a slow pace, the play of narrative voices reveals the protagonist's opposite feelings, which go from love to hate, from pain to abandonment, from desire to guilt, and invite the reader to confront to the taboo of death and, above all, to the life it offers us.

The author

Marta Orriols (Sabadell, 1975) lives and works in Barcelona. An art historian by training, she studied creative writing at Ateneu Barcelonès and film script at the Bande à Part film school. She collaborates with a number of newspapers and magazines.

With her first book, the collection of short stories Anatomy of Short Distances (Edicions del Periscopi, 2016), Orriols achieved remarkable critical and public success. In 2018 came her first novel, Learning to Talk to Plants, with the same publishing house, which was awarded the Omnium Prize for best novel of that year.

Critics and audiences also praised the novel, which has been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, German, English, French and Italian – rights have also been sold to Chinese and Hebrew. Orriols has recently published her second novel, Sweet Introduction to Chaos (Edicions del Periscopi, 2020).

The translator

Based between Barcelona and Brooklyn, Mara Faye Lethem translates from Catalan and Spanish. She has translated novels by Jaume Cabré, David Trueba, Albert Sánchez Piñol, Javier Calvo, Patricio Pron, Marc Pastor, Toni Sala and Alicia Kopf, among others. She collaborates with ALTA’s mentoring scheme for emerging literary translators and is a reviewer for The New York Times.



Marta Orriols

Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes

Edicions del Periscopi

256 pàgines

Publicació: octubre 2018



Marta Orriols

Learning to Talk to Plants

Translation from Catalan: Mara Faye Lethem

Pushkin Press

256 pages

Published in September 2020

The group discussion and launching event will take place online via Zoom on Wednesday 16 December at 8pm (London time).

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  • Generalitat de Catalunya Govern Illes Balears Ajuntament de Barcelona

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