Xavier Folch, historic publisher of Empúries and a benchmark in independent publishing, passes away

3 min
The editor, writer and politician Xavier Folch

The publisher and writer Xavier Folch died on Thursday at the age of 83, as confirmed to ARA by family sources. Born in Burgos in 1938, he began his career as an editor at Ariel, was one of the founders of Crítica and together with filmmaker Pere Portabella in 1983 was the founder of Empúries, which later became part of Grup 62. The publisher Empúries has lamented his death on Twitter, defining him as a "great companion and committed editor". The news of Folch's death has elicited numerous reactions from personalities from the world of politics, such as Jordi Sànchez, the director of the literature department of the Institut Ramon Llull, Izaskun Arretxe, the writers Biel Mesquida and Josep Pedrals and the bookseller Guillem Terribas. "He was impressive for the ability he had to weave complicities in many areas", says the director of Núvol, Bernat Puigtobella, who worked with Folch at Empúries in the late 1990s and succeeded him as editor. He had the ability to convince people to do great things", recalls Puigtobella, "he encouraged Joan Solà to do great things" Gramàtica del català contemporani, """which is a masterpiece, and which came out before the Institut d'Estudis Catalans". Bernat Puigtobella also remembers seeing Folch's office as "ministers and very important people": "He was always orchestrating things, but always from the shadows. You never saw him on the front line, but behind the scenes he pulled a lot of strings".

"The main virtue Xavier had was that he was a discreet enthusiast", says the writer Jordi Puntí, who published his second book, Animals tristos in Empúries. He published hundreds of books that were very important and that opened the way", he explains, "and at the same time he recovered authors that had never been published in Catalan, such as J.D. Salinger. Jordi Puntí also highlights Xavier Folch's work as a poetry editor, for how he knew how to "link generations", publishing the books of Joan Vinyoli, with whom he was a close friend, Narcís Comadira, Albert Roig and Enric Casasses, and the peace of mind he gave to the authors through his commitment to continuity. He also published two more established poets: Miquel Martí i Pol and Pere Quart. "He was a great collector of poetry books and he knew how to detect the value of Enric Casasses, and he discovered and defended Dolors Miquel". Another of the poets he published was Miquel Bauçà, with whom he began by publishing Marsala Street.

Xavier Folch's work was also capital for Joan Brossa, when he published it in the Catalan collection of the publishing house Ariel, Cinc d'Oros. "The public rehabilitation of Brossa as an important poet of Catalan modernity comes from those volumes and from the fact that there was an introduction by Manuel Sacristán, who was the PSUC's top ideologist", says the poet, translator and essayist Francesc Parcerisas.

Of the experience of publishing with Empúries, Jordi Puntí recalls his "complicity". "As a good independent publisher, he wasn't insistent and didn't chase you all day long, but he was always discreetly aware of what you were doing and encouraged you", says Puntí.

As a curiosity, Francesc Parcerisas recalls how Folch used to call him and Sam Abrams to brainstorm and seek advice when he was working on the creation of the publishing house Empúries. "At that time Enciclopèdia Catalana and Edicions 62 were very important and opening a hole was difficult. A medium-sized publishing house like Empúries didn't have it too easy and had to distinguish itself, and I think it succeeded".

From the anti-Franco struggle to the 2007 Frankfurt Book Fair

Xavier Folch's publishing career began at the publishing house Ariel. "His political career was very influential in his work as a publisher", says Parcerisas. "He left his classes as a professor of economics and went to Ariel, which was a focus of progressive projection, and he did a very important job when he was in charge of the collection Ariel fortnightly" says Parcerisas. It was at the same publishing house where he began to publish in Catalan with the collection Cinc d'Oros.

Xavier Folch played an outstanding role in the anti-Francoist struggle: he took part in the Caputxinada and in the Assembly of Catalonia. In parallel with his work as a publisher, he was a member of the PSUC in the Catalan Parliament between 1980 and 1984, and was President of the culture commission and rapporteur of the law of linguistic normalisation. Precisely during an official visit of the King and Queen of Spain to Catalonia in 1985, Folch explained the situation of the Catalan language to them and denounced that two years after the Linguistic Normalisation Law, not all the objectives that had been proposed had been achieved.

Between 1984 and 1986 Xavier Folch was a member of the Consell Assessor de Cultura de la Generalitat. He was later elected member of the board of directors of the Corporació Catalana de Ràdio i Televisió (CCRTV), was a founder of Ciutadans per el Canvi and formed part of the Elefant Blau platform. He was also director of the Institut Ramon Llull between 2004 and 2006, where he ensured that Catalan literature was the guest of honour at the 2007 Frankfurt Book Fair. Among the awards he received, the Creu de Sant Jordi, stands out.