Joan Margarit, the first bilingual Cervantes, dies

Joan Margarit i Consarnau poet, architect and 2019 Cervantes Prize winner, died this Tuesday at the age of 82 at his home in Sant Just Desvern (Barcelona) due to a serious illness that was diagnosed a little less than a year ago, according to his family. . Margarit, (Sanaüja, Lleida, 1938) suffered from cancer and explained a few weeks ago that after nine sessions, the chemo was not working. “In life you have to reproduce and bother as little as possible,” repeated someone who liked to define himself as the “bilingual poet.” Visor will publish in three weeks ‘Animal del Bosque’ which will be the posthumous collection of poems by Margarit, a teacher who summarized poetry in the words “beauty, truth and culture.”

He obtained the first Cervantes that recognized the Catalan and that he received six months after winning the Reina Sofía. The pandemic prevented him from reading a speech of gratitude on April 23, Sant Jordi day, and receiving from the hands of King Felipe VI the diploma and the accrediting medal in the solemn ceremony that is held every year in the Paraninfo of the University of Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of the father of the modern novel. The Kings were delivered to his home on December 21.

It was one of the most veteran winners of the Cervantes, which he obtained when he was 81 years old. It won the 44th edition of the Nobel Prize for Hispanic Letters for shining in its two languages, Catalan and Spanish. He was awarded “for his poetic work of deep significance and lucid language, always innovative,” as recognized by the jury. “We reward a great poet in the Spanish and Catalan languages,” said José Guirao, then Minister of Culture when communicating the ruling.

Margarit was not the first Catalan to receive Cervantes, which had already fallen on writers born in Catalonia such as Juan Marsé, Juan Goytisolo, Ana María Matute or Eduardo Mendoza. But he is the first to write a good part of his work in the Verdaguer language.

Owner of an «innovative and transcendent» voice, his poetry shone in Catalan and Spanish

He defended his mother tongue as “the only or one of the few cultivated languages ​​without a state”, as he assured when depositing his legacy in the Caja de las Letras of the Cervantes Institute. “I am a Catalan poet but also a Castilian, damn it,” he claimed after remembering how the Franco dictatorship imposed Castilian on him “by kicking.” A mistreatment that “I do not intend to return,” added this creator who began to write in Spanish more than six decades ago, which since 1981 published only in Catalan and from the end of the 90s until the end he alternated both languages.

Catalan was his mother tongue and he claimed not to know a single poet in all of history who had written in a language other than his mother tongue. “But there are poems that appear in Spanish, and they are never a translation,” he explained. His active bilingualism gave him many readers and the greatest poetic awards, such as the Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana, the most relevant distinction for poetry in Spanish and Portuguese that he received in May 2019 as “the great architect of poetry as a moral instrument ».

Architect by training, professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and poet of “honest intensity”Margarit made her work a hymn to beauty, enclosing thought, life and ethics in her verses. Thoughtful and leisurely writing, it could take months to fasten a poem. He understood poetry as “the prelude to truth”, and poems as “tools” to reach the reader’s heart.

Catalan conflict from poetry

He approached the Catalan conflict from poetry in ‘Un hivern fascinant’ (2017), a collection of poems in which he opted for “intelligence” and “self-criticism” and in which he distrusted “the manipulation of the masses.” He resorted to the “lyrical beauty of his Catalan language” to prevent the risk posed by the clichés that politicians use to their advantage. “If a politician talks to you about the direction, watch the portfolio, and the direction or the future are one of those topics with which people are easily manipulated in their youth, because topics are paths that people go through,” he said. when presenting the collection of poems.

He debuted in 1963 with ‘Crónica’ and in her long career Margarit combined poetry with her teaching work. He made the calculation of structures of the Sagrada Familia and titled a collection of poems ‘Calculation of structures’. He was also the author of ‘It was not far, it was not difficult’ (2011) or ‘You are late in your time’ (1999-2002) and collected his complete works in ‘All poems (1975-2015)’.

In 2008 he received the National Poetry Prize and the Rosalía de Castro. In Chile he received the Ibero-American Poetry Pablo Neruda 2017 and in Mexico the Víctor Sandoval of Poetas del Mundo Latino 2013.


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