Last afternoons with Juan Marsé | Culture

Juan Marsé with his daughter, Berta, and his grandchildren in 2000, in Barcelona.
Juan Marsé with his daughter, Berta, and his grandchildren in 2000, in Barcelona.Pepe Encinas

The city was a still ghost under a summer sky marked by the sad curse of the pandemic. Through that lonely place in July, Berta Marsé made the path that took her to her father’s room, Juan Marsé, seriously ill in a Barcelona hospital, suffering from an illness that imprisoned him within the walls of dialysis. He died on July 18, a year ago, and this Sunday friends and relatives pay tribute to his life in one of the places he loved the most, Carmel, in whose library the Barcelona City Council has organized the memory of the great portraitist of the soul of the city in which he was born.

Berta Marsé is a writer. Those days when the father rested the rage of feeling in the middle of an impossible battle, she was writing down the impressions that this vigil left him, “like a soldier in the waiting room”, pending the entry and exit of the doctors. “The doctor finally comes out,” he wrote. “He has no news for me, but things are not looking good and he advises me to go home, to rest, to calm down. Yeah, but… how? At home it will be worse, I prefer to be around here. His hands clasped behind his back so as not to cling to the sleeves of his robe and vampirize some of all that overflowing energy. If it could be done, but it can’t physical contact is prohibited, limited access, the cafeteria closed, the corridors deserted, the few authorized family members swarming like ghosts… ”.

She was, already in the street, one of those ghosts that the city welcomed with indifference, not a sound around, and she went through what used to be a bustling city as if she were frightening quiet birds, pigeons that she feeds, “I sit down to smoke under the sun, with a group of teenagers who listen to bachata. The smell of marijuana reaches me and I go begging, but I am left alone because an emergency helicopter is landing and the boys are leaving in disarray. Leaves fall from the trees. I close my eyes and don’t move until it happens. That’s it, I tell myself. It is done”.

The vigil next to the father. Berta now says: “He was not solemn at all, and also did not want to die, until the last moment he fought and was looking for an emergency exit, also with his words, in Spanish and Catalan. Things like: ‘There is no escape’ and ‘this is over‘, and some other swear word ”. His notes recall: “He continues to wear his watch, the one that he never takes off. It dances on your wrist. He asks me ‘Berta, am I dying?’ I answer: ‘I don’t know, Dad.

Carmel is now the place that honors him, how much a symbol for him and for his country that date, July 18. The place was where he went “with his friends from Gràcia in search of adventures, Carmelo was Comanche territory… The entertainments made him nervous, but if the prizes were cheap, he was happy for us, the family. I didn’t know how to answer, but I imagine that, in his own way, he liked them too; but he liked to read them more than listen to them ”.

Take care of the father. “It was a very intense feeling, of imminent danger, of large-scale catastrophe, compounded by not being able to see almost anyone given the confinement and restrictions in the hospital.” A year ago now. “This is over”. “Thank you, and see you later, my father tells me when we say goodbye until tomorrow.”

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