The abandoned | Culture | THE COUNTRY


Irish writer John Banville, in his Dublin studio in 2008.
Irish writer John Banville, in his Dublin studio in 2008.

“I write because I can’t write,” I heard John Banville whisper on one occasion. And I thought that one day I would make an anthology of texts by my favorite authors, of all those who write because they can’t write. In the weeks that followed I was composing a spectacular list of names, although the project did not go ahead in the end because I soon saw that it would give me a lot of work if I took it seriously, and the proof was that, no matter how hard I tried, I did not I never managed to see the end of that list of great names. If I remember correctly, the same day that I resigned from the spectacular list, another one that I had also resigned came to my mind and that César Aira had maliciously suggested to me in the Venezuelan Andes: trace the moments in which very consecrated writers showed their deep regret – tears included – for having written the birrias they had written.

César Aira, on Monday in Barcelona.

Argentine writer César Aira, Formentor award

I sometimes relate that Aira project to the one I planned as a young man with the ill-fated JH, my best friend from school: it consisted of taking revenge on the Marists and their insistence that we “write well” (as Pemán or Alfonso Paso, they told us ) composing a terrifying list of countrymen who would have written with that atrocious neat style that they had wanted to impose on us, a “national style”, like a revalidation exam.

It was not the only project that JH and I abandoned. We shared another very funny one, but one that soon became unrealizable due to the lack of authors who would have expressly used the point of view of a sponge to tell a story. And we only found two: the first, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, in his brilliant The incongruous (reissued in 2010 by Blackie Books), and the other, Julio Cortázar, who in one of his first-hour texts spoke of participating as much as possible “in that sponge breathing in which memories continually enter and leave …”.

One day I discovered that the abandoned was my most familiar landscape. Undeterred, however, I launched myself into a new project, which, yes, I also ended up parking: bringing together in a book the most notorious cases of Spanish writers with a revalidation exam style, but I was overwhelmed when I understood that, behind the A cliché of the expression “to write well”, contained a monumental cursilada and a general disaster already experienced in France, for example, where they were tied to the Paul Bourget style, to a “national style” derived from the Voltaire style: phrases always well spun, neat, well written and so deadly in Venice that they still horrify today for their perfection and stiffness.

I changed that project for a meticulous study of the precarious, fleeting cycle of all civilizations, specifically ours. And soon I noticed that variant of the cold official and perfect style, civil servant, as of iceberg before the Titanic, very end of time, of the inept (it has been seen clearly lately) European Union. By the way, I was immersed in the study of that glacial language yesterday when I also decided to abandon it.


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