«The classics can be carried in your pocket»

Updated:18/11/2020 01:16h


The first time that Carlos Garcia Gual (Mallorca, 1943) read Homero It was in his grandfather’s library. But it was in Madrid where he specialized in Greek literature, philology, mythology and philosophy, garnering a vast bibliography and obtaining recognitions, such as the Alfonso Reyes 2020 International Award that will be awarded today in Mexico.

The 77-year-old professor, who studied Philosophy and Letters at the Complutense University of Madrid, you will receive this award through Secretary of Culture of the Government of Mexico and the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature (INBAL), la Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) and the Alfonsina International Society.

The Ministry of Culture of Mexico defines him in an official statement as “writer, philologist, Hellenist, translator, editor, mythographer and literary critic.” The jury, made up of Mexican writers Coral Aguirre, Felipe Garrido Y Jose Javier Villarreal, ruled that García Gual deserves this recognition “because his passion has bequeathed us a extensive e essential bibliography». Of this, titles such as Death of heroes (2016), The origins of the novel (1972), Dictionary of myths (1997) o Voices of long echoes (2020), which is his most recent publication.

An award that unites Mexico with the world

The award ceremony is scheduled for November 18 at 6:00 p.m. in Mexico, 1:00 am on November 19 in Spain. The transmission can be followed through the social networks of the Autonomous University of Nuevo León from the Facebook page of UANL culture.

The Alfonso Reyes International Award is given to those personalities who have extensive experience in the field of humanities. It has also established itself as a link between the mexican literature and the universal culture and as one of the most prestigious awards in world literature. Within the list of winners are José Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Ignacio Bosque, Ida Vitale, Sergio Pitol and Mario Vargas Llosa.

What does it mean to receive this award? What is the bond that unites you with Reyes?

It is a great honor and an illusion because it is a recognition of a part of my literary work, as a Hellenist and admirer of Alfonso Reyes. I have written a foreword to your translation of The Iliad, by the edition that the Autonomous University of Nuevo León de Monterrey did, and I have also been a reader of Reyes for a long time. Of his books, I have a copy of Gathering of Madrid 1949. I found it in my grandfather’s library. I have others from various publishers and two or three of the Complete works. Remember that he wrote about Greek religion, mythology, history, and rhetoric of the ancient world. Also, I have an anecdote. I live in Madrid a few meters from where Reyes lived when he came to Spain. He lived on Calle Torrijos, which is now called Calle del Conde de Peñalver. So i read your book Madrid cartons and the letters from that time when he began to know the city. Reyes maintained a sympathy for Spain all his life

Hellenism was cultivated by Kings. What do you think about his work? What thoughts does reading it give you?

Don Alfonso Reyes did not like to be called a Hellenist because it sounded professional to him, and he always, very modestly, said that he knew little, although he knew a lot about the Greeks. He was above all a humanist and as such has left a long mark. It covered many subjects. He knew about literature and poetry, he gave many classes and in the end he undertook the adventure of translating The Iliad, which is composed with remarkable ease. I think that reading Reyes is easy since he has a splendid Castilian, Borges praised him a lot, and I really liked reading him.

“Alfonso Reyes maintained a sympathy for Spain all his life”

How would you describe your relationship with Mexico?

I have been to Mexico several times, I have a relationship for some years, I was a curator of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, I have participated in some colloquia on myths and history in Zacatecas and I have also given lectures at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in Mexico City, and at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León, in Monterrey, where they have welcomed me very well. I have also been as a tourist in areas like Yucatán. I have great admiration and sympathy for Mexico and Mexicans. I also have many friends there, such as the teacher Elizabeth Sánchez Garay, and I had the opportunity to meet the poet Minerva Margarita Villarreal.

Faced with technological changes, where are Hellenist studies heading today? What is the importance of the humanities?

I have lived the experience of the progressive cornering of the humanities in secondary education. I have been a high school professor in Spain for about six years, and also at the university. In Spain there is still the specialty of classical studies, Greek and Latin, but, in general, these studies have lost a lot of ground and this deserves some guidance. We live in a world of masses governed by technology and there is contempt for the humanistic world and ancient history. I think that the classics and the studies of the ancient world lead us to meet other people, other paths and other times, and that the humanities open horizons of knowledge and sensitivity.

“The classics and the studies of the ancient world lead us to meet other people, other roads and other times”

What differences do you find between the methods and forms of study today?

More than a change in the method, there is a clash in the way of teaching, because today there are pedagogical plans based on the belief that the main thing is immediate employment. There are also the ideas that guide one can sustain their culture on television and in its mainstream programming and also in the songs that are in vogue. Everything else is left aside and I believe that the inner formation of the individual is important.

His new publication “Voices of long echoes”, edited by Planeta, presents a selection of classics. How do the authors and the works it addresses stay current?

It is a personal selection. Basically, some articles were prologues and the intention is to guide the reading of some classics. There are many who are not there, I leave aside some tragedies and lyrical poets, and I speak of some authors who had prestige and are little read today, such as Plutarch, who wrote biographies of heroes and in other times, as in the 19th century, he considered himself a great author. Well, I’m talking about Homer to emphasize that he’s still alive. The book is written with a certain ease and I point out the books where these authors can be read. In Spain there are very good translations and editions. Today you can already carry the classics in your pocket, it is already very easy to approach them.

“More than changes in teaching methods, there is a clash in the way of doing it, and I believe that the inner formation of the individual is important”

Do you think there will one day be a composition similar in proportions to Homer’s “The Iliad”?

The Iliad It is an epic war poem, the great warrior heroes are long gone and these types of themes are no longer possible except in comics and in certain movies. Today, there are stories that have certain epic echoes, like the movies of Star Wars or the Percy Jackson books. A curious thing is that children and young people like mythology: it is as if those old stories have a certain charm and that attracts them.

How can you invite people to read the classics?

Classical books not only sharpen the sense of beauty or a certain emotion, they also provide pleasure and illusion. There is a deep pleasure in doing these readings, which perhaps is not such an immediate pleasure, and you have to make an effort to enter to know and enjoy. In this sense, the classics should be read for pleasure, not obligation.

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