‘Just Books and Language’ – Interview with Abel Cutillas by Heather Wells

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‘Just Books and Language’ – Interview with Abel Cutillas, co-owner of Llibreria Calders, Sant Antoni, Barcelona by Heather Wells

Bernat Puigtobella walks me to the Calders bookshop in the trendy neighbourhood of Sant Antoni, Barcelona. On our way he tells me that this bookshop has a certain reputation among literary circles and it is increasingly becoming known by anyone in the literary world; rather it is much more than just a bookshop.

Outside the welcoming open doors of this bookshop is a line of bookstalls and bunches of roses in celebration of Barcelona’s literary festival St Jordi. The Lliberia Calders is heaving with people. Once I interviewed Abel, it was clear to see why:

I sit with Abel at the stools by a bar at the back of the shop and he turns his stool facing towards the shop floor and says to me: ‘I have to do this because I also need to watch the shop whilst you interview me in case any shoplifters try to steal the books…’

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Abel Cutillas, co-owner of the Lliberia Calders bookshop in Sant Antoni, Barcelona

How old is your bookshop and can you tell me a bit about its history?

We are one year old and we opened last April. This is the second St Jordi festival we have seen at our shop. We set up in Sant Antoni because it is a very trendy area, but also this is a neighbourhood for businesses so the location seems just right, plus it is not too far from the centre. The bookshop is names after Pere Calders, a very famous Catalan writer here.

How do you survive, when other bookshops are closing down?

We are using a new economical model. Other shops pay high rent, but here the rent is not so high. We have a lot of books, a wide-range. The rent may go up, but we are OK till now! Also, it is just two of us who run the bookshop (himself and Isabel Sucunza) so we don’t pay to employ anybody. We do all the work – it is just the two of us here all day 7 days a week.

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Wow, that’s a huge commitment to be here all the time and work 7 days a week.

Yes, because we have to do that otherwise it won’t be a success.

[As he says this, Abel has to run off during the interview as a customer is enquiring about a book]

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Your shop is multifaceted. What other events occur aside from the selling of books?

[Before he can answer, Abel apologies and says he has to answer the phone that is ringing]

We run presentations, recitals, cultural acts, we have literary figures coming here. [There is a piano at the back of the shop too]

I’ve been to hear the President Artur Mas speak about Independence. What is your view on it? And how do you see this relate to literature?

Of course I want independence. We are a state built on culture. It is our identity card. We don’t have any institutions; we have no army, just books and language.

 

I imagine that the Calders bookshop has a very different feel in the evening compared with its daytime feel. It is bookshops like this that make one pine for a paperback, and it is in the perfect setting to relish the escapism of literature.  

Lliberia Calders, Pere Calders 9, Sant Antoni, Barcelona

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