Josep Pla (1897–1981), the eldest of four children, was born in Palafrugell on the Costa Brava to a family of landowners. He studied law in Barcelona, abandoned law for journalism, and in 1920 moved to Paris to serve as the correspondent for the Spanish newspaper La Publicidad. Banned from Spain in 1924 for his criticisms of the dictator Primo de Rivera, Pla continued to report from Russia, Rome, Berlin, and London, before returning to Madrid in 1927. He supported the new Spanish Republic that emerged in 1931, but was soon disillusioned and left the country during the Civil War, returning in 1939. Under the Franco regime, he was internally exiled to Palafrugell and his articles for the weekly review Destino were frequently censored. After 1947 his work began to be published in Catalan, and his complete works were published in full in 1966. They comprise forty-five volumes, of which The Gray Notebook—begun in 1919, but polished and added to throughout the intervening years—is the first.
This great work of 20th-century personal exploration and revelation was suppressed—as was all work written in the author’s native Catalan—during the Franco regime. When it was finally published, its delightful depiction of youth culture and family life at the turn of the century, set in a just-flowering Barcelona and the unspoilt beach and countryside, was recognized as an instant classic. It is now available in English for the first time.