The The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647) by the Jesuit Baltasar Gracián, a classic among the classics of Spanish literature and one of the most well-known and prestigious books of universal thought, translated as The art of worldly wisdom: a pocket oracle and published in 1992 by Doubleday in New York as a manual for business executives, reached unimaginable sales figures of over one hundred thousand copies. It was on the New York Times list of best-selling best sellers and became essential reading for yuppies, managers, brokers and all sorts of high profile employees. That was not precisely the good Don Baltasar’s target reader, but the substance of his arguments and the talent of his thought was more than the book’s very distant date of conception, and the fact that it was conceived in another language to that of the current US, and in the middle of an exotic culture with the Atlantic in between. We would like another classic, Bartleby, the Scrivener (1853) by Herman Melville, not only to meet the expectations of the literary reader or citizen seasoned in letters or eager for erudite readings; but we want it to satisfy those of the curious reader who desires to be seduced by the unknowns that any intellectual challenge may pose, regardless of the professional sector or cultural context he or she has chosen, or which serves them as a framework. It is tempting to think how Melville’s splendid book will benefit a management student at Pompeu Fabra University at the Barcelona School of Management; a student of graphic design at Elisava, or one who is trained in international trade at ESCI or who will become an engineer or medical professional, or one who wants to devote their time to creative writing, constitutional law, corporate communication or the industry of editing books and their contents.
The Universitat Pompeu Fabra has always opted to add culture to teaching, to enrich the transmission of knowledge and also to shape its university community with gratifying, comforting experiences, from any intellectual perspective: in short, to trap those who work or study in it in the very happy cage of intellectual challenge and cultural fruition. Literature does not belong to men of letters as art is not the property of the artist. Economics is not limited to the economic sphere, like law or history, it is part of the heritage of humanity. We know that not everything is culture, as much as that culture should not be exclusive but complicit, and Universitat Pompeu Fabra wishes performing and visual arts, literature and architecture, music and any imaginable manifestation of human sensibility to be part of university life beyond any well-meaning rhetorical desires. Newton along side Borges and Wagner with Molière. Kafka in comic form and Verdi as a rock opera. DNA as a sculpture and politics exposed in the Berlin Wall’s graffiti. ‘Culture’ understood as lax and rigorous at the same time, without being synonymous with ‘elitism’ or needing to be cooled off. ‘Culture’ understood as strata of knowledge that benefit the integral formation of the human being, as a heritage that contributes to making all professional training more solid and more visible.
Perhaps André Maurois was right when he concluded that “culture is what remains after having forgotten what was learnt”. You will not forget what you learn here, and you will have everything you gain if your memory betrays you.
Javier Aparicio Maydeu
Culture delegate of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and director of the Master’s in Publishing