The novelist Juan Marsé, 2008 Cervantes Prize, is dead

Juan Marsé died at the age of 87 on Sunday in Barcelona where he was born Juan Faneca Roca on January 8, 1933. The life of the future writer’s little boy was not trivial. Her mother died two weeks after giving birth and, writes Enrique Turpin in his introduction to the collection of short stories Lieutenant Bravo, “Her father, who works as a taxi driver, one day takes charge of a couple in front of a clinic who has just lost their first child, and will not be able to have others. Learning that their driver has just lost his wife, these people with a desire for a child offer him to adopt little Juan ” who will only see his biological father twice. The adoptive father being a communist militant worker, Juan Marsé will not see him every day either, the Francoist prisons often separating them. The future writer will not carry out very advanced studies, entering at 13 years old in a jewelry workshop. In 1961, a grant allowed him to stay in Paris, where he returned without a grant the same year, earning his living as a laboratory boy at the Institut Pasteur in the department of the future Nobel Prize winner Jacques Monod. The city also allows him to quench his passion for cinema and its theaters which haunts his work.

“Orphans by profession”

His first novel, Locked up with a single toy, appeared in 1960, but he became famous in 1966 with Teresa in the afternoon where a poor and calculating motorcycle thief brings sentimental and political disorder to good Spanish society. The hero is called Bande-à-part. “There are nicknames that illustrate not only a way of life, but also the social nature of the world we live in.” In 1970, The Dark History of Cousin Montsé has to do with Viridiana, the 1961 Palme d’Or by Luis Buñuel, depicting the all-out hypocrisy of Franco’s society (from rich to poor with the Church at its peak), the poor dead and her dream of solidarity failing in front of “Miserable patients, prisoners without entrails and orphans by profession”. Appears in 1973 Goodbye life, goodbye love, often considered his masterpiece. “When I wrote this novel, I was convinced that it would never be published. It was between 1968 and 1970, the Franco regime seemed established forever and a depressing idea haunted me: I was convinced that the censorship, which then enjoyed flourishing health, would outlive us all, the Franco regime which had engendered and […] would settle for eternity, like an evil spell cast by the Caudillo in the very heart of future Spain ”, he wrote in 1988. But the novel appeared in 1973 in Mexico where Juan Marsé sent it for a prize that he won. A complex text that begins in the morgue where an employee believes he has discovered the body of a childhood friend, the book is full of various narrative tracks where children and guerrillas mingle until the last sentence: ” Men of steel, forged by so many battles, who dreamed like children. »

“A neighborhood that only exists in my head”

Barcelona and its boulevard du Guinardó are also the perpetual heroes of Juan Marsé, with the vagueness he knows how to maintain around his creations. “I’m talking about a neighborhood that only exists in my head, not in reality”, he said, but this neighborhood of his childhood, he constantly resuscitates in novels that evoke the thriller and often populated by criminals, detectives and prostitutes. Are coming One day i will come back in 1982, Boulevard du Guinardó in 1984 (“The inspector, at the gates of sleep, stumbled against himself and said hi, go to hell” and this is where it will end following a transfer of lividity), the bilingual lover in 1990 (whose epigraph due to Antonio Machado is: “The main thing, in carnival, is not to put on a mask, but to remove your face”), Shanghai Nights in 1993 (at the beginning: “Childish dreams are corrupted in the mouths of adults,” said Captain Blay, who walked before me with his big bold step, under his precarious appearance of Invisible Man.“) And Lizards in the ravine in 2000 with an epigraph, among others, by Nietzsche: “I don’t understand why it is necessary to slander. If you want to harm someone, you just have to say something true about them. ” Juan Marsé was awarded the Cervantes Prize in 2008 for his body of work. Childhood is constantly recalled in his novels even if the writer never used the reality of the story of his adoption as such in his fictions. His latest novel, published in 2016, is entitled This whore so distinguished. There is still a prostitute and a movie theater, but this title is in fact a periphrase to designate memory.

All the translated books of Juan Marsé are at Bourgois (some taken in pockets in Points or 10/18), with the exception ofLocked up with a single toy at Gallimard as the Phantom of the Roxy Cinema (of which the three short stories are however included in Lieutenant Bravo), of the Girl in the Golden Panties at Denoël and The Strange Disappearance of RL Stevenson at Climats


Mathieu Lindon

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