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Ana Briongos, the fascination of distance | Culture

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In the central square of Isfahan there is a window displaying Ana Briongos’ books. You have to enter from the north and the flaps in Turkish, Persian, Spanish and Catalan are Ali Baba’s Cave (1997) y Black on black (2002) leading to the entrance of the most beautiful square in the world. I returned to Iran in November, took a photo of the books to send to her, but I never got around to sending it. Ana, our dear Ana. Ancestor, friend, teacher, generous, brilliant, she passed away last Tuesday at the age of 77, and has left us even more alone.

In Isfahan, she was well known. People would mention her in the market, on the streets, in the shops. When you said where you came from, the Isfahanis would talk about her. She had first travelled to the country in 1974 on a PhD scholarship. She had also returned to Kabul in the late 1960s to work. These were often her reasons for travelling, ways that allowed her to live with others and to make her own cultures that at first seemed foreign. She told me how to get a visa in 2005 for my first trip to Iran and how to renew it in the country if I wanted to stay longer in 2014. From then on, it was friendship. The gift that must be cared for like a garden and that Ana cultivated like no one else. “Could we join each other for introductions?” we decided when she published Intimate Geographies (2015). Ana was a traveler to follow and had one of the great gifts of those who travel. She was always there, altruistic, helping, giving, knowing that we are all travelers (and strangers) and that we can be in trouble and in need of help at any time.

I realized at the table during a breakfast we shared at the hotel where the Tres Culturas Foundation had accommodated us: “Are you Ana Briongos from The southern seas from the novel by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán?” “Yes,” he answered. Like the protagonist, he lived in pursuit of his political commitment. Ana had studied Physics and had been a member of the PSUC. That morning she also told me that her father used to lull her to sleep as a child singing the Face to sun. I had published A winter in Kandahar (2000) y This is Calcutta (2017), travel books by someone who knew the languages ​​where he went, spent long periods of time there and made great friends. Seeing the world through others. Another lesson and wisdom that he leaves us.

I presented his latest book in Barcelona, My purple notebook. The longest journey (2023). Three trips in one. Her life during Franco’s Barcelona, ​​her travels through Asia and her last stays in Berkeley accompanying her daughter and grandchildren. This last trip was the most precious. She had made the everyday a humanistic, close and friendly story. Living day to day as if it were a trip, seeing what surrounded her (despite how much she had traveled, lived and her age) with wonder and perplexity. When I presented my Menorcan-Iranian novel, The lives I didn’t livehighlighted the theme of saffron, a symbol so Iranian, which was also cultivated in Menorca and united the geography of the two territories.

Last March she wrote to me. I was in Japan, she was going to spend a few weeks in Tokyo and wanted recommendations of places to visit. I imagined her in Koyasan, the Buddhist centre of the country, among dazzling orange tones and in Ise, the Shinto centre of Japan and perfect nature; but she never got to visit them. She had to go back after learning that she was ill.

Friends tell me that in recent weeks he enjoyed looking at the sea from the windows of his house. He said he felt he was beginning a new stage. “The fascination of distance,” he wrote in his latest book, his call.

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