Trafika Europe Corner: An excerpt from the play AGAINST FRATERNITY written in Catalan by Esteve Soler, translated by H.J. Gardner

The cockpit of an airplane. The pilot begins an announcement.

Good afternoon, this is your captain speaking.

Pause. Testing… Pause.

What I will tell you now will… will be… will be forgotten. No one will remember it. Maybe after some time has passed, when someone brings up this incident, maybe they’ll remember the name of the airline, or even the flight number, the destination, or the boarding time. But what I am going to say, this recording, in fact… Most certainly, what I’m going to say, what will be recorded in the black box, will be forgotten, or even lost. On purpose. No one will remember it. No one will want to remember it.

Pause.

Let’s see, where to begin?

Sounds of someone banging on the cockpit door.

Well, in the first place, I have to tell you all, all you passengers and crew, all of you, I have to tell you that there is no cause for concern in what I’m about to explain, no reason at all to worry about me ignoring the airplane as we fly. Other than at takeoff and landing, us airplane pilots don’t really do much. I mean it. I’m more than familiar with our flight path, with this journey you all have chosen. And that is what matters. Everything has been mapped out and decided long before you or I ever got on board.”

As we have been exploring the concept of Gothic revival, it is natural that the Gothic would have changed since its beginnings in the 18th century with the likes of Dickens, Poe, Stoker, and Shelly. Gothic fiction is characterized by the supernatural, the mixture of the past and the present, and an ambiance of fear that runs through the narrative. It’s true that many of the novels of the past have included fantastic nature, imposing architecture, and questions of what truly is human. Of course, these trends repeat and are definitely not solely Gothic—in other words, sublime nature and imposing architecture does not necessarily make a novel Gothic.  

In our upcoming issue of Trafika Europe, we want to push the boundaries of what could be considered Gothic, and so, we are including various works that touch on some aspect of the Gothic or another. This excerpt from Against Fraternity by Catalan author Esteve Soler, translated by H.J. Gardner is but one example of a modern echo of the Gothic. What screams more modern than an airplane in terms of space and architecture? While it is not tied to a revival of gothic architecture, it is a claustrophobic space, often dark, with little to no knowledge of the passengers about what happens outside. 

Furthermore, we all want to have faith that our machines and their drivers will get us from A to B without problem; however, this excerpt shows our lack of control if one of the two chooses another fate. Nothing could be more surreal than hearing someone announce that your life no longer depends on you. Like the person banging on the door, the reader feels a sense of imprisonment, as if they were stuck in Dracula’s castle.

As the world evolves, so does its literature. Perhaps Soler was influenced by the uncanny, horror writing, or even directly by the Gothic. At the same time, the Gothic—and any piece of literature for that matter—can only be interpreted by its readers. We do not claim to mark any new trends nor do we wish to box Soler into the box of Gothic. Our goal is to show a revival of the Gothic spirit, revealing the uncanny, the surreal, and the horror that affects us today. This piece will sit along with many others in the issue, showcasing a new echo of the Gothic, showing the presence of how its origins have impacted literature today.

By Esteve Soler

Translated by H.J. Gardner


Esteve Soler‘s award-winning plays have appeared in eighteen languages in theatres around the globe, making him one of the most widely translated contemporary Catalan authors. His seven-scene works form two trilogies, the 2007 Indignation Trilogy (Against Progress, Against Love and Against Democracy) and the 2017 Revolution Trilogy (Against Freedom, Against Equality and Against Fraternity). His dark comedy critiques of society were featured in the film “7 Reasons to Run Away,” which premiered at SXSW and won a 2020 Gaudí Award in the category of audience favorite.

A graduate in Performing Arts from the Institut del Teatre and the Universitat de Barcelona, Soler has taught playwriting at the Universitat de Lleida and the Sala Beckett. Translations of his drama are featured at CatalanDrama.cat, the website of the Sala Beckett / Obrador Internacional de Dramatúrgia.


Since 2010, H.J. Gardner has been translating contemporary Catalan theatre for Sala Beckett / Obrador Internacional de Dramatúrgia in Barcelona, working with Catalan playwrights to bring their work to the international stage in English. Her translations include “Summit” by Marta Buchaca, directed by Neil LaBute at La MaMa (2017), and the works of Esteve Soler, which appeared in New York City at the Between the Seas Festival (2014) and at the Prelude Festival-Spotlight Catalonia (2010). Her translation of “Before the German’s Here” by Marta Barceló was the winner of the 2021 American Literary Translators Association Plays in Translation contest and seen at Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre in Tucson, Arizona. She served as a guest editor of the 2024 special Catalan issue of Metamorphoses, a journal of translation, and taught Catalan language and culture classes at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This translation was funded with the support of the Fundación SGAE.


Have something you’d like to submit? Trafika Europe will be accepting submissions until June 15, 2024. Look at our submissions guide at www.trafikaeurope.org/submissions


Read previous posts in The Trafika Europe Corner series:

Trafika Europe Corner: LOST IN TRANSLATION by Hannah Katerina

Trafika Europe Corner: Three poems by Károly Lencsés, translated by Ágnes Megyeri

Trafika Europe Corner: Three Poems by Guðrið Helmsdal, translated by Randi Ward

Three poems by Deniz Durukan – in Trafika Europe Corner II.11 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Marius Burokas – in Trafika Europe Corner II.10 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Franca Mancinelli – in Trafika Europe Corner II.9 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Nina Kossman – in Trafika Europe Corner II.8 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Alexander Kabanov – in Trafika Europe Corner II.7 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Andrey Gritsman – in Trafika Europe Corner II.6 by Andrew Singer

Kosovan poet Fahredin Shehu – in Trafika Europe Corner II.5 by Andrew Singer

Three poems from Icelandic by Gyrðir Elíasson – in Trafika Europe Corner II.4 by Andrew Singer

Trafika Europe Corner II.3 – New Latvian poet Jānis Tomašs by Andrew Singer

Trafika Europe Corner II.2 by Andrew Singer

Trafika Europe Corner II.1 by Andrew Singer

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