Tarradellas’ prophecy: the origin of the conflict and the big lie

Tarradellas in 1932

I recently spent quite some time carefully reading through the letter which Tarradellas wrote in 1981 about the risks which the ideology and attitude of Jordi Pujol (Catalan President 1980-2003) and its party Convergència i Unió (Convergence and Union) could pose to Catalonia.

Josep Tarradellas was one of the founders of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican left of Catalonia) in 1931 and the party leading the ongoing catalán secession movement.

He went on to become a Member of the Catalan Parliament and local Interior Minister in 1932, and then local Finance Minister four years later.

In 1954, he was appointed President of the Catalan Government-in-exile and then named President of the regional pre-autonomy government by Adolfo Suarez in 1977.

After 33 years in exile and aware of the complexity of Catalan society, his first words in the newly reinstated office of President of the Generalidad (Catalan government) proved revelatory of his political thinking and moral values: “Citizens of Catalonia, I am here at last!”, and not “Catalans, I am here at last!”.

This experienced statesman and authority on Catalan political history and its protagonists retired from office in 1980.

In 1981, he wrote a bitter letter to the population airing concerns which he himself admitted were “becoming almost morbid and had him more than worried” (paragraph 33 of the complete letter reproduced below).

Not so much a letter as a prophecy, his missive began with a criticism of Pujol – the president of the Government of Catalonia for the next 23 years- for refusing to permit the traditional “Viva España!” (and “Viva Cataluña!”) at the official handover ceremony the previous year (6).

The letter argues as follows:

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Myth is the nothing that is everything



Legend has it that Ulysses founded Lisbon (originally called Ulyssippo) on his way back from the Trojan war.

The myth is recounted in the epic poem Os Lusiadas by Luís de Camões (c. 1524-1580), a poet of such great importance that Portuguese is often referred to as “the language of Camões”.

In more recent times, Fernando Pessoa (1988-1935), while recognising that the legend is untrue, argues at the same time that it is real because it exists in the minds of the people as one of the pillars of the Portuguese nation.

His poem reads:


Myth is the nothing that is everything.

The very sun that breaks through the skies

Is a bright and speechless myth–

God’s dead body,

Naked and alive.


This hero who cast anchor here,

Because he never was, slowly came to exist.

Without ever being, he sufficed us.

Having never come here,

He came to be our founder.


Thus the legend, little by little,

Seeps into reality,

Spreading and enriching it.

Life down below, half

Of nothing, perishes.


Original in Portuguese:


O mytho é o nada que é tudo.

O mesmo sol que abre os céus

É um mytho brilhante e mudo –

O corpo morto de Deus,

Vivo e desnudo.


Este, que aqui aportou,

Foi por não ser existindo.

Sem existir nos bastou.

Por não ter vindo foi vindo

E nos creou.


Assim a lenda se escorre

A entrar na realidade,

E a fecundal-a decorre

Em baixo, a vida, metade

De nada, morre.