FunCulturalGratitude and friends

Gratitude and friends

The Spanish writer and poet José Manuel Caballero Bonald died recently in Madrid at the age of 94. He lived in Bogotá in the sixties, a stay that he did not fail to mention in his memoirs or in his interviews.

“If the homeland is what you see from the window of the house where you live comfortably, I have several homelands, some more durable than others: the Coto de Doñana, Jerez, Mallorca, Bogotá … I was in Colombia for about three years and I wrote my first novel there, I had my first child… I remember that country a lot, ”said José Manuel Caballero Bonald in an interview with Javier Rodríguez in 2015, published in the newspaper El País in Spain.

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This mention of the city in which he lived for 21 months is repeated throughout his life. Adding to her the names of Eduardo Cote Lamus, the first Colombian who met in Madrid in 1954, Jorge Gaitán Durán and Hernando Valencia Goelkel, who became three of his best friends, so death would have taken him away in the sixties. Gaitán and then to Cote, and decades later to “Hernandito”, as he always called him.

Caballero survived these writers for decades, thanks to whom, especially Cote Lamus and Gaitán Durán, he was appointed by the charismatic Mario Laserna Pinzón, rector of the National University (1959-1961), as professor of humanities.

Appointment that he accepted immediately even if he was not very convinced of his skills as an educator, because his jobs in Madrid were irregular and because the Franco dictatorship had him fed up.

Just married to the Mallorcan Josefa Remis, he arrived in Bogotá, at the modern El Dorado airport, in a city that was catching up with its Latin American neighbors not only in terms of thought, but also with public works that were inaugurated regularly.

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Since he arrived in Bogotá, José Manuel Caballero Bonald had a space in El Espectador’s Magazine, at the time it was called Dominical , under the leadership of the unforgettable Gonzalo González, “GOG”. Every Sunday an article of literary criticism appeared on Spanish, Latin American and occasional Colombian authors.

In addition, the chronicle, in three installments, about his trip down the Magdalena River, which this newspaper also published and of which the writer was proud and for which he received praiseworthy comments, is famous in his biography. In the foundation that bears his name in Cádiz there are copies of these articles, to which the writer made some arrangements by hand.

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The Thursday gathering in the office of Mr. Guillermo Cano, director of the newspaper, when the writer delivered his article for Sunday, is part of his best memories, because there he met who the writers, painters, journalists and journalists were at that time. most recognized poets.

His time as a teacher was not very bright, but he managed to rescue some of his students for reading, which he always considered as the best way to find freedom as fighters for a better world.

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In the National he became close friends with the chaplain, Father Camilo Torres Restrepo, to whom he dedicated a beautiful poem and whose death he would regret from Spain. He also met many Spaniards who escaped the Franco regime and taught classes at the National University or at the Universidad de los Andes.

With those compatriots he toured the city center and traveled to “hot land”, because “strolling” was one of his hobbies, as well as drinking wine in long nighttime gatherings in his own or someone else’s home, or in the few establishments that operated in the city. cold capital night.

He finished in Bogotá his first novel that he had started in Mallorca, Dos Días de Septiembre , for which he won the Short Novel Prize in 1961 and which recreates the post-war years in a town of Jerez winemakers. He related that, over the years, he was discarding it because he considered it of less value.

He participated in the television contest Thirteen thousand pesos for his answer , and won the top prize. The host of this program was for years Antonio Panesso Robledo, a columnist for this newspaper for years and whom he met on one of the Thursday social gatherings. The theme was flamenco, of which Caballero Bonald was not only a follower, but also a specialist.

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His first son was born in the Palermo Clinic and lived those 21 months in the surroundings of the White City, in a building where he always remembered the address precisely, as well as his neighbors.

He translated Greek theater plays for the HJCK station and was also its correspondent for a couple of years when he returned to Madrid. He repeatedly recalled the beauty of Gloria Valencia de Castaño.

His relationship with Gaitán Durán was evidenced in his collaborations and in the review of his works in the magazine Mito , as well as in the publication of his poetic anthology in December 1961, when the Jerez-born writer left Colombia.

José Manuel Caballero Bonald survived the COVID-19 he had last year. Some ailments of recent years took him away unexpectedly, because he kept talking with his friends and answering one or another interview in writing, since he did not show much of a skin cancer that made him “unpresentable”, as some said time.

(*) The author of this article is preparing a book about that short, but fruitful stay in Bogotá of the Jerez writer.

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