Josep Palau i Fabre was born in Barcelona on 21 April 1917. He is regarded as one of the great figures of contemporary Catalan literature. Thanks to his relationships with luminaries such as Picasso, Artaud, Octavio Paz, Cocteau, Lorca and Alberti, he connected Catalan culture with the most important artistic movements of the 20th century.
Josep Palau i Fabre was born into an artistic family; his father was a painter and interior designer. Besides being a poet, author, playwright, short-story writer and essayist, Josep Palau i Fabre is also an art expert, especially in the art of Pablo Picasso. Palau i Fabre has written more than 20 books about Picasso (some of which have been translated into nearly a dozen different languages), including Doble assaig sobre Picasso (1964), El "Gernika" de Picasso (1979) and Picasso cubisme (1990).
Palau i Fabre studied arts in the early 1940s and was a committed activist against literary and cultural repression during the Franco era. He was the editor of the clandestine publication Poesia (1944–45) and founded the La Sirena publishing house. He went on to be a founding contributor of the magazine Ariel (1946–1951). In 1945 he was granted a scholarship by the French government to study in Paris. Palau i Fabre was only due to stay in France for two years but he didn’t end up leaving until the 1960s. Whilst in Paris, he made a whole range of contacts with writers and artists from Artaud to Octavio Paz and from Camus to Picasso.
His first collection of poetry to be published was Balades amargues, in 1943, with L’aprenent de poeta following in 1944. Two more poetry collections followed –Imitació de Rosselló-Pòrcel (1945) and Càncer (1946). They were all republished with other previously unpublished poems in Poemes de l’Alquimista (1952).
Works for the theatre came after his poetry publications: La tragèdia de Don Joan (1951), Don Joan als inferns (1952) and Esquelet de Don Joan (1954) are some of the works that make up the Don Joan cycle. Palau i Fabre wrote the cycle as a reaction against a puritanical and repressive society, tackling the theme of love head on. He continued his individual works for the theatre with Mots de ritual per a Electra (1958), La caverna (1969) and Homenatge a Picasso (1971)
–published as a single volume entitled Teatre (1976)– and, later, with Avui Romeo i Julieta (1986) and L’Alfa Romeo i Julieta i altres obres (1991). The author also wrote two short books about the theatre: La tragèdia o el llenguatge de la llibertat (1961) and El mirall embruixat (1962). He went on to publish Antonin Artaud i la revolta del teatre modern (1976) an appreciation of the works of Antonin Artaud, one of the main intellectual and artistic influences on Palau i Fabre.
Palau i Febre has also published short stories with his collections Contes despullats (1982), La tesi doctoral del diable (1983), Amb noms de dona (1988) and Un saló que camina (1991), which, together with other stories, are collected together in Contes de capçalera (1993). In 1996 he published La metamorfosi d’Ovídia i altres contes.
Apart from essays on Picasso, Palau i Febre published a collection of essays under the title Quaderns de l’Alquimista (1997), the first series of which were first published in 1976. The alchemy is a method which together all the author’s ideological texts with his poetry. Palau i Fabre has also translated works by other poets –Una Saison En Enfer and Illuminations (1966) by Rimbaud and works by Antonin Artaud in Versions d’Antonin Artaud, published in 1977– as well as prose including Cartes d’amor de Marianna Alcoforado (la monja portuguesa) and Balzac’s L’obra mestra inconeguda, both published in 1986.