Juan was 32 years old when he won the Short Library Award (Seix Barral) with Last Afternoons with Teresa . 55 years ago he was the young man on the back cover of the book with a white sweater and white collar, relatively well combed his unruly hair, with a marker in his hand, telling something.
Teresa Serrat, the protagonist, was not yet 20 years old when she finds Pijoaparte. She appeared on the cover (in a portrait of Oriol Maspons to Susan Holmquist, her model) sitting in a convertible like that of Marsé’s fiction.
In the 2005 edition, apart from the typeface, they only change the face of the novelist, who looks at the camera (by Jaume Sellart) and the extensive curriculum of who has won almost all the awards since he obtained the most prestigious in the Spanish literature of the 60s.
Hair is already white and scarce; the rictus walks towards silence, although half a smile waits for the portraitist to finish off his task. The shirt, again, is white, and behind there are plants from a back garden.
And Teresa? Teresa has not changed. Neither for her nor for the novel have those 55 years that have passed since the memory of that fiction to this one that returns in rereading.
José Manuel Caballero Bonald, of the best readers of Marsé, contemporary and his friend, says in Exam de Ingenios (Seix Barral): “I am very pleased to reread it, among other things because there I go back to frequent, properly comforted, a novelistic route that I It still seems one of the most passable of those promoted in the last half century. ”
And it contrasts: “What a relief to meet again, in the face of so many recent prosodias of stone cardboard and not very little prone to the stylistic negligence of sencillism, with a narrative prose as fresh, as competent as Marsé’s.” Only García Hortelano looks like CaballeroMarsé’s rival in the field of that excellence.
To the editions that he managed the time he has added his spots, even physical ones (a copy fell in the mud in 1966 and another one the awkwardness of the late age was flooded with coffee the day he finished 2019).
But from this last reading, which celebrates the 87 years that Marsé turns on Wednesday, stands out again that feeling that we were all Maruja, Pijoaparte and even Teresa. That character, the author said in the note to an edition that he has not touched, he woke up to politics “in his garden of San Gervasio advancing towards Manolo with the red handkerchief peeking through the pocket of his white trench coat and with a trembling disposition musical on the legs ”.
There are the spots of time, but that freshness that attracts Caballero Bonald has not vanished. Manuel Longares, to whom I requested the rereading at the time that I was doing mine, ratified “the excellence, the validity, the ambition that has not stopped time”.
As if he were ahead of all times (and the times of his own writing), Marséit welcomes in Teresa the narratives that are going to come, and even the disenchantment that, in politics and in the university, which then went together, would strike out the imposture and pedantry that stood out in classrooms and gardens.
If only the essence of the story survived, this would be a sociological account like those that at the time we felt like bibles. But what palpitates in Teresa’s rereading is the narrative power, the tearing of writing, the patience to make words the music of a newly tuned piano. I asked Marsé now where this music could come from in his literature. And he answered me by email.
Marsé says: “Behind a novel there are usually other novels, and in my case there were three. In a horizon of readings that then, when I started writing the novel, I had already quite far away, two books and a movie persisted.
Stendhal’s Red and Black , Princess James’s Casamassima and A place in the sun , the version film of the novel by Theodore Dreiser An American tragedy and the funny thing is that James’s novel had not read it, its strength came to me through an article by the American critic Lionel Trilling published in his book A liberal imagination . Marsé concludes : “That said. Behind a book there is always another book. ”
Last afternoon with Teresa is like “the spirit of a certain summer, linked for a brief moment to the vertigo of silk and the moon”, and shines, after more than half a century, as if that boy who spent tomorrow turns 87 had inaugurated a way of counting the present as if it were to be imperishable. The cool mystery of literature.