I start reading Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (2009) by the recent Nobel Prize co-winner Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk, and I am dismayed to realize that the first-person narrator I have visualized for about fifteen minutes as an old man is an old woman. Her name is mentioned at the very end of the first chapter when my neurons have already made the effort of seeing this person as a man, for I must ‘see’ who is speaking; for a few more pages ‘she’ is still ‘he’ in my mind until the wrong image is corrected, with an ugly jolt.

Tokarczuk, the author, has seemingly forgotten that she is writing a novel, not making a film, and has taken for granted that her readers will understand her first-person speaker is a woman. But, why should we? Because we have read the blurb on the back cover? Seen the trailer for the film adaptation by Agnieszka Holland? I grow quite annoyed and end up finding many other flaws that make me intensely dislike this totally overhyped novel by this totally overrated Nobel. [SPOILERS ALERT] If you want to narrate a crime story in which the first person speaker is the criminal you need to do it upfront in an American Psycho in-your-face confessional style, not trying to build up any kind of suspenseful mystery, for God’s sake! [END OF SPOILERS]

My other adventure is casting is more satisfying. My ex-student Laura Pallarés sends me a copy of her first novel Pájaros en la piel, the story of the very intriguing relationship between a young Catalan woman in her early twenties, Júlia, and her Swedish father, Joseph. He and Júlia’s late mother had met when both were seventeen but Joseph ignores that their brief summer romance had resulted in a daughter. When he seeks Júlia out the scant age difference makes it hard for them to bond as father and daughter, as they seem to be more comfortable being friends although of an uncomfortably close kind.

Júlia, the author says, looks like Lily Collins, though this English actress is about ten years older. I imagine Júlia, rather, as Catalan actress Laia Costa, currently thirty-five, in a more youthful version (both Costa and Collins are pretty brunettes with interesting eyebrows and lively eyes). If I see her as Collins, then I’ll need to think of Júlia as an English-speaking girl, which is confusing. Joseph, a cosmopolitan artist, is given a Spanish best friend which justifies why he speaks the language so well. Knowing that he is Swedish, blond and blue-eyed, he is easy to cast: he looks like Alexander Skarsgård who, aged forty-three, could really play Joseph in a possible Netflix adaptation (I wish there is one!). Here’s the funny thing: Laura tells me she was not thinking of any specific actor for Joseph but it seems other readers have told her about casting Skarsgård in the role. Well, it was either him or Eurovision Song Contest winner Måns Zelmerlöw (aged thirty-four) for I cannot think of other Swedish men…

‘Why cast actors in roles in fiction at all?’, you may be wondering. And my reply is, ‘why do you ask? Don’t you do it as well?’ I do not know when this habit of mine started but I assume it is widely shared, and made necessary by what I have often commented about here: the diminishing amount of description in contemporary fiction. Novels offer today less information about characters than screenplays with authors supposing, I insist, that readers have not a mental theatre in the sense of the stage theatre but a mental theatre in the American sense of the word, that is to say, a mental cinema. I don’t have one and so I find myself increasingly struggling with visualization.

If failing to see space is bad enough, imagine what it is like not to see characters, either… Hence the constant casting (or even checking the IMDB.com credits before I start reading a novel in case there is already an adaptation). Not that you need a long description to present a character, mind you. This is for instance Long John Silver’s presentation in R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island: “I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow—a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man, his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulder of his soiled blue coat, his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails, and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white”. That’s him, no need to go fishing about for the perfect cast. Why, I wonder, is this gone?

This week I have put myself through another kind of trouble regarding the visualization of characters consisting of completely changing an image in a second reading. I am currently working on Iain M. Banks’s non-Culture novel The Algebraist for an article on masculinity in SF and, so, I needed to look again at the human protagonist Fassin Taak. When I say look I really mean look. When I first read the novel a few years ago I did it with no pencil in hand, just for fun, and I let myself go. Fassin is a sort of cultural anthropologist with an alien species known as the Dwellers, who live in gas giants like Jupiter. You might think that visualizing the Dwellers, who look “like a pair of large, webbed, fringed cartwheels connected by a short, thick axle with particularly bulbous outer hubs onto each of which had been fastened a giant spider crab” might have driven me crazy but no, I think I get the idea. Fassin has driven me crazy precisely because he is human and supposedly easier to visualize.

The name Fassin Taak gives no clues whatsoever: Fassin is a French surname, as far as Google tells me, and Taak appears to be a Dutch word for ‘talk’. I have found no men called ‘Fassin’ in real life as a first name so no help there. The only description Banks volunteers, and just in passing, is that Fassin has brown curly hair (no length or thickness noted) and light brown skin. He is two metres tall, looks a decade younger than his forty-five ‘body years’ and is handsome, though at the end of his rough adventure he looks older and somehow emaciated. For reasons unknown to me I saw Fassin as a colleague in another UAB Department initially, perhaps because this guy seems very keen on his scholarly pursuits and so does Fassin. This time, however, I decided to really focus and look at Fassin in the face.

A comment by the narrator suggests that the human civilization to which Fassin belongs is the result of alien abductions of Central American, Middle East and Chinese individuals (or just of their DNA) around the fourth millennium before Christ. Together with the light brown skin this indicates that Fassin is NOT white though the curly hair suggested to me that he must be of Middle East descend. This led me to Antonio Banderas because I had been re-reading Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead and Banderas played the Arab protagonist in the adaptation, The 13th Warrior. However, I was a bit scandalized to see Banderas rather than a proper Arab actor play that role and I Googled the words ‘handsome Arab man’ to check other possibilities for Fassin.

Here’s the joke: all men appearing under that heading were as light-skinned as Banderas, who looks totally white to me. Not Alexander Skarsgård white but white enough (a bit darker than me but Spanish white nonetheless). Anyway, I found a photo of a gorgeous Arab man with a nice beard and lovely green eyes and he has become my new Fassin Taak. I have no idea who this Arab man is and I totally avoided checking him up in case he is a celebrity but he has done me a great service of being the perfect Fassin Taak. When I saw a couple of illustrations by Banks’s readers I positively guffawed… MY Fassin Taak, with his love of hard partying and his ability to cry his green eyes out whenever he is struck by emotion is the real thing. At some points he looked a bit too much like green-eyed bullfighter Cayetano Rivera but I got rid of that and Fassin is now for good and for ever a Middle-East guy with shoulder length curly hair of soft locks, dark lips, bright green eyes and suitably light brown skin. Now the problem is that I have no idea what he is wearing, not what his cyborgian light gascraft looks like. Deep sigh…

Banks is no better and no worse than many other writers in describing characters. In fact, he is quite good if you consider how many alien species he describes in his books. The problem with him and any other writer coming after the Modernist revolution and the eruption of film is that they have stopped caring for physical description. In a world obsessed with racial issues like ours, this neglect of description is a real mess, for readers must be told which skin tone each character is but writers feel somehow embarrassed to go into that kind of detail. The result is that the first-person speaker may be a black woman but if we are not told we see by Pavlovian default a white man simply because we are used to that kind of character dominating fiction. I’ll be very happy to be contradicted in this by any of you (if anyone is reading me). Funnily, 19th century writers, who were on the whole very fond of description, did use illustrations to accompany their work but in our extremely visual time using illustration for fiction is a total taboo, except of course for children’s fiction.

I know I am repeating arguments already presented here, and I hope I am not boring my reader but it’s funny how in the middle of this tremendous crisis on identity politics and representation, character description occupies so little room. I don’t think at all that describing character better infringes on readers’ rights to imagine as they wish. I really think that writers are not fulfilling their part of the pact and helping us readers to share what they have imagined for their own sake as much as for ours. So, please, use more description!

I publish a post once a week (follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from https://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. Visit my website https://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/


The mood has changed so much this weekend that I must think somebody is crazy: either the scientists asking for as much prudence as possible until the Covid-19 vaccine arrives (most likely 2022), or my fellow citizens who have taken to the streets disregarding all precautions as if this nightmare were already over. The latter, I should think. My crystal balls tells me that in two or three weeks we’ll be back in square one, with panicky calls to the emergency services and overcrowded hospitals again. If I were a doctor or a nurse I would be seething with frustration, anger, and disappointment and would scream during the daily 20:00 celebration of their heroism. What a mockery!

I’m writing this preliminary note because I no longer know which direction to take: are we still fighting for the survival of the species and nothing else matters?, or are we already on the road towards business as usual to save the economy? I’ll let my reader take their pick. For those of pessimistic inclinations, I strongly recommend the devastating article by Antonio Turiel “La tormenta negra”, which describes all you fear to know about the next oil crisis (https://ctxt.es/es/20200401/Politica/32045/Antonio-Turiel-petroleo-tormenta-negra-crisis-energetica.htm). For the rest, go on reading…

Supposing research still matters in this world, I’d like to discuss an example of bad literary criticism and an instance of great literary investigation. In a world now gone if somebody published a controversial article a polemic would follow with replies and counter-replies ad nauseam. Today, this is not worth the effort because so much is published and because, let’s be honest, you never know who you might offend. I have, therefore, decided not to name the author or the title of the bad article to which I’ll refer (though, of course, nothing is hard to find anymore). In contrast, I’m very pleased to reference the good article on which I’ll comment next: “‘I’ve learned I need to treat my characters like people’: Varieties of Agency and Interaction in Writers’ Experiences of their Characters”, by John Foxwell, Ben Alderson-Day, Charles Fernyhough, and Angela Woods, Consciousness and Cognition 79 (March 2020): 1-14, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2020.102901.

The bad article analyses Hareton in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, defending the thesis that he is an idiot in the clinical sense of the term. To begin with, I was mightily surprised to see the word used formally but Wikipedia teaches me that even though ‘idiot’ is not used in British psychology, in the United States it is still used in legislation, with amendments in diverse state legislations as recent as 2007 or 2008. The author of the article on Hareton uses ‘idiot’ in the sense of someone with an intellectual disability even though Merriam-Webster, an American source, claims that “The clinical applications” of idiot, imbecile, and moron “is now a thing of the past, and we hope no one reading this would be so callous as to try to resurrect their use” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/moron-idiot-imbecile-offensive-history).

The article I am discussing, published by an outstanding A-list American journal of literary criticism, uses a nice trick to avoid political incorrectness: it reads Hareton by measuring his characterization against 19th century conceptions of idiocy. The author is not simply calling Hareton an idiot, then, but suggesting that this is how the original readers would have understood his ungainly appearance and brutish behaviour. In fact, the author uses a Disability Studies perspective so that they can also criticize how persons with an intellectual impairment were callously classified as idiots in the not too distant past. I have nothing against this line of argumentation, for prejudice needs to be exposed and the appalling wrongness of earlier psychology also denounced. The problem is that Hareton is not at all an idiot, nor would original readers have mistaken him for one. The Literature of the past surely has other examples of persons with an intellectual disability worth exploring.

That Hareton is not mentally impaired in any way is very easy to establish: he responds quickly to the young Catherine’s literacy programme, which the lad himself suggests (once he returns the books he has stolen from her). When Catherine understands that he wants to be educated she proceeds, and this is the first step in their joint undermining of Heathcliff’s patriarchal rule. In the process, Hareton’s good looks and warm feelings resurface, having been buried under the thick layer of illiteracy that Heathcliff imposes on his foster son. If you recall, basically he wants to avenge himself by humiliating the son of his main enemy, his foster brother Hindley. When this man dies, Hareton becomes Heathcliff’s adoptive son. The author of the article, thus, misses what any Victorian reader would understand: Hareton looks and acts like any other person of the time who had received no education whatsoever and was subjected to much abuse from harsh parents. In fact, if one pays attention, there are frequent comments about how handsome the lad is despite Heathcliff’s efforts to destroy him physically and psychologically. No reader who reaches the end of the novel should doubt that Catherine has fallen in love with an attractive, warm-hearted, loyal man who is, besides, willing to learn from her (and teach her in return about nature).

What, then, is the cause of the misreading in the article I have mentioned? Two causes: one is the misguided desire to expand the field of Disability Studies to works which have no disabled character; the other is that we are scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to producing new readings of the classics, as my friend Esther Pujolràs tells me. The author of the article knows that the happy ending disproves the thesis, and even acknowledges that there might be no evidence of idiocy in the text, but the article has been accepted by peer reviewers who have seen no problem in publishing a piece which is plainly wrong. I am 100% sure that this has to do with the use of Disability Studies as the theoretical frame, though I must add that I have seen other articles cheekily warning that there is no evidence for the thesis presented. I was taught that this is mere speculation but it seems that the rules have changed. The other question, the depletion of new things to say about the classics, is visible in the thick stream of research that deals with minor aspects. It is, logically, hard to approach a classic like Wuthering Heights from a truly new perspective and so attention is paid to smaller elements missed by previous research. A result of this is that 21st century bibliography looks like an analysis of single leaves on trees rather than of the forest. Another problem is that there is so much bibliography that any new author has hardly room to develop a thesis among so many obligatory references to predecessors. I am not saying that no new work about the classics should be published; what I am saying is that many other authors, works, and aspects of literary criticism are waiting for someone to pay attention to them.

The article by Foxwell et al. is a very good example of this. Finally someone has thought of asking authors how they imagine their characters and here are the first results. The authors present evidence collected with a questionnaire sent to the authors who presented work at the Edinburgh Literature Festival (in 2014 and 2018). 181 replied (mostly women, mostly British) and from their replies the first tentative sketch of the imaginative process behind writing characters has emerged. Foxwell and his colleagues wanted to investigate a phenomenon which I have often mentioned here: writers claim that characters take decisions in the process of building a piece of fiction, often taking it in directions unanticipated by the author. The questionnaire was designed to have writers be more specific about their relationship with their own characters: are they like the imaginary friends of childhood?, is hearing their voices a sort of hallucinatory experience?, are characters’ voices different from the author’s own inner speech?

Although the results are not homogeneous, a general conclusion is that writers imagine characters and then they give them a voice in ways that recall how we suppose a person we know would react in certain circumstances. Of course, this is a very superficial summary of the many aspects concerning the topic which the article analyses. Read it and you will see how amazing the statements from the writers are. Here is an example: initially, the characters “feel under my control and then at that certain point when they feel completely real, it’s becomes a matter of me following them, hoping to steer” (10). The bibliography, full of articles on diverse forms of hallucinatory madness, indirectly hints that somehow the researchers were worried to discover that the authors of fiction actually suffer from some kind of mental disorder. They very carefully point out throughout the discussion of results that all authors know that their characters are mental constructions and that the voices they hear and the conversations they have are perfectly normal manifestations. Normal for a fiction author, I should add. I remain mystified by how it feels to have your imagination colonized by the presence of other people. The article describes quite well what happens in the mind of a fiction writer at work but it cannot say why it happens.

I am not a big fan of the strict, formalist language in which Foxwell and his colleagues write, and which is habitual in cognitive and linguistic analysis. Here is an example: “Those writers whose characters were fully distinct from their inner speech were significantly likely to report dialoguing as themselves with the character (χ2 = 22.19, df = 6, p < 0.001), to feel like they were observing their characters (χ2 = 32.15, df = 2, p < 0.001), and to experience their characters as possessing full agency (χ2 = 28.29, df = 6, p < 0.001)” (9). In fact, I’m quite sorry that there is no room for discussing how the imagination works in literary criticism, from which living writers are mostly absent. There should be, I think, a middle point between the interview and the statistical analysis, but it seems nobody is really interested, perhaps even few authors (see my post of 13 January, “The Elusive Matter of the Imagination: Too Frail to Touch?”). Tellingly, many writers declined the invitation to participate in the survey, refusing to explore in detail mental processes that are personal and delicate. As the researches stress, imagining characters is “a specific aspect of inner experience for which no established vocabulary exists” (13).

I’ll end by suggesting that perhaps that vocabulary does not exist because writing fiction is play and connecting adults with play is always complicated. I do not mean by this that the task carried out by fiction writers is easy child’s play but that dreaming up characters has a playful aspect. We take fiction too seriously to accept that it is a complex game and in the end we have no idea about how it works. If we could resurrect Emily Brontë, everyone would want to know how she imagined and spoke to her characters, so why not ask the living authors surrounding us? Obviously, they have plenty to say.

I publish a post once a week (follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from: https://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. My web: https://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/


I’m not sure that I can do justice to Maria DiBattista’s Novel Characters: A Genealogy (2010) in this hot Mediterranean afternoon and after a mind-numbing two-week spell of marking. The case, however, is that I can’t stop thinking of her distinction between self and identity (or, rather, Self and Identity) and I’d like to add my own thoughts to that. I’m sure that much better brains than mine have discussed this issue but here’s the first lesson about self and identity: each person feels them in a different way and, so, a personal point of view must be necessarily valid. Or I’m just having my cake and eating it.

You may have come across DiBattista, a Princeton professor, because she is co-editor together with Emily Wittman of The Cambridge Companion to Autobiography and a specialist in Virginia Woolf (which explains plenty about her view of character). Her Novel Characters does not seem to have stimulated readers to leave comments in the habitual places, from Amazon.com to Goodreads, but it has gone through seven editions. This means either that it is more popular than it might seem at first sight, or that it has found its place in a rather scant line of publications about character. E.M. Forster’s venerable Aspects of the Novel (1927) still reigns supreme (DiBattista opens her own volume with the inevitable reference to flat and round characters), despite the efforts of neuroscientists to unlock literary creativity. I have managed to forget the big name behind the crass analysis of Hamlet in one of those scientific volumes, which only convinced me that scientists do not read enough literary criticism. I truly think that I have read DiBattista’s rather old-fashioned volume in rebellion against that silly, arrogant man.

Allow me to clarify that I use ‘old-fashioned’ here as a term of praise. DiBattista begins by promising to offer a new taxonomy of character but soon enough she plunges into the comfort of treating fictional constructs as if they were real people, which is what we all do (and enjoy). Her people are divided into Whole (Originals and Individuals), Fractions (Selves/Identities) and Compounds (or Native Cosmopolitans), though I’m not sure why she uses subdivisions which only include one category. She does not offer what I expected from her: a reflection on how authors view their own characters and the mechanism it takes to create them; instead, she discusses the personality of fictional characters with much gusto. That was, if not totally unexpected, quite rewarding. At points I thought I was reading a 1980s, pre-theory volume, of the kind I was asked to admire as an undergrad (by authors such as Tony Tanner and company) and I found myself enjoying DiBattista’s unembarrassed discussion of Alonso Quijano or Isabel Archer, as if these were people in our acquaintance about to have dinner with us. She still trusts that we all have read the same novels, which is a daring position to take in a book published in 2010.

DiBattista writes that one thing is personal identity (or Self, with a capital S) and quite another group identity, the basis of identity politics. “Identity’, she argues, “has come to displace Self in an age and in a culture that has become increasingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan, and multinational”, hence her inspection of what she calls the native cosmopolitan. I think it is only common sense to claim that a “self that is more aware of its outward rather than inward determinations may envision its contact with others somewhat more anxiously–or aggressively as the case may be”. Yet, this is a truth that needs to be repeated for it is at the core of most human tragedy: each Holocaust victim reminds us of what it is like to have a Self but be treated as an individual marked by Identity; the process of dehumanisation of the other, whether in Auschwitz or on the flimsy rubber boats loaded with migrants sinking in the Mediterranean on a daily basis, begins by denying the Self, and continues by abusing Identity. This is the great theme, DiBattista says, of for instance, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children and similar masterpieces. This is the great theme of life on Earth, I should think.

How, then, does one “preserve the rudiments of the Self in the fortress of (group) Identity”, as DiBattista puts it? This tension, DiBattista notes, is present in all hyphenated identities, such as Chinese-American and so on. The problem, I think, is that whereas racial and ethnic compound labels are acknowledged and, thus, have become useful (or relevant) to discuss the clash between Self and Identity, others are invisible, denied, or inexistent. Brigitte Vasallo’s idea of staging the first festival of ‘cultura txarnega’ a while ago in Barcelona met a barrage of negativity from those in Catalonia who believe that we, the culturally hyphenated persons, do not exist (her initiative was, though, welcome by those who needed the label ‘charnego’ to be reconfigured for our times, to express their Self). As I age, I am, like everyone else, chagrined by the growing distance between the Self I perceive in me and the Identity pushed on my body. Yesterday, a young man offered his seat to me on the metro (by no means the first time this happens to me). That was a lovely gesture, for which I thanked him, because I have learned that this is how people see me, but, still, it rankles. Imagine what it must be like to be a Self but be denigrated all the time by misogynists, racists, homophobes because of the Identity you supposedly embody.

So, here’s the great literary conundrum: fiction is supposed to express Self through its best rounded characters but, what do you do with Identity? Authors are making the point that individuals other than white, male, heterosexual, patriarchal men have a Self but in order to do that, they highlight Identity. This is what misogynists complain about when they say that in the novels by women too much attention is paid to femininity (as if men’s fiction were not essentially about masculinity). As those of us supposed to lack a Self shout to high heaven that we also have complex feelings, which is how I felt as a working-class undergrad reading privileged Virginia Woolf, we are increasingly isolated by Identity labels; meanwhile, those who should be labelled escape scot-free. Nobody ever refers to ‘White Literature’ but we have ‘African American Literature’, and we have ‘Women’s Literature’ but not ‘Men’s Literature’. Expressing the Self, in short, is not open to everyone, which is why Identity is receiving so much attention. We collectively believe that this is the best way to have everyone express their Self, but I very much suspect it is just another form of control. Those with the privilege to express their Selves without Identity labels have not really relinquished the privilege, nor do they want to do it. And why should they?

Is claiming the right to a Self a bit too much in the times of the selfie and the narcissistic display on the social media? Possibly. Yet, again, it needs to be done because even in the novel, which offers the deepest possible way to share human experience beyond our immediate circle, the Self is disappearing. I don’t read autofiction, precisely because it manages to offer the hell of narcissism without offering the heaven of understanding another Self, but I was tempted to read Manuel Vilas’s highly acclaimed Ordesa. What I found in its pages was a testimonial of the current inability to express (deep) Self, coming from someone my own age and with a similar experience of being declassed through education. As I put up with the farrago of repetitive, wearisome prose (and he is a major poet!), I told myself that it is not Identity but the Modernist invention of the inner Self that is destroying the novel. Few people are truly interesting and while Vila has been praised for making that very same point, I balk at the emptiness of his main character and possibly self-portrait. At one point, I can’t recall the exact sentence, this pathetic excuse for a man says that feelings are bourgeois, though he doesn’t really mean feelings. He really means the possession of enough sensitivity to notice that feelings must be of a specific kind–that is the Modernist Self, inherited from the 19th century novel. I think that I resent Vilas’s male protagonist because although he is in terms of Identity unlabelled, he still cannot sustain his own Self. And he doesn’t even write well. What a loser…

I’ll finish with a personal anecdote. I was last week in Valladolid and whenever people asked me where I’m from and I replied Barcelona, they had the same reaction: ‘but you don’t have an accent!’ I explained that I’m bilingual, that my accent in Catalan is the standard Barcelona accent, and that my Spanish sounds like the neutral variety spoken on the Telediarios because a) I was educated in Spanish-language Francoist schools until the age of 14 and b) my grandparents on the maternal side were Castilian from Burgos, and I did like very much my grandfather’s crystal-clear, solemn speech patterns. The puzzlement of my Valladolid colleagues, then, has to do with the lack of representation in the media and in fiction of people like me. We don’t exist as an Identity, though we are very common, which means that our Self is hard to express in any language (here I am writing in English!). Novels, by the way, have no place for bilingual people, as they (the novels) are written in one single language. A limitation hardly discussed, by the way, in Literary Theory, if ever.

So, to really finish: ask yourself what kind of fictional character you would be. Would your representation be dominated by an idea of the Self or by Identity? How does your sense of Self cope with the Identit(ies) you have chosen, or have been attached to you by others? Is the Self, as Vilas argues, the privilege of the higher classes and of the declassed educated? What’s the future of the fictional character if Identity labels continue their proliferation? And so on…

I publish a post every Tuesday (follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from: https://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. My web: https://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/