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Happiness is on the shelves | Culture

by News Room
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The shelves of the library are full of photographs, small trophies and some rare objects. Among all the memories that have come into my hands, I have chosen some and not others to always have them present enthroned on the shelves. These objects that liven up the library over time have ended up becoming part of the daily look and only take on their own existence when I have had to lift them or move them aside for a moment out of necessity to take out the book they were leaning on.

Leaning on the spine of a volume by Jung, the discoverer of the collective unconscious and a disciple of Freud, is a portrait of my aunt Pura, dated 1916. She was barely 18 years old. It is, without a doubt, a studio portrait in which she appears seated in an armchair, all bejeweled, with a long dress embroidered with lots of lace, with a mother-of-pearl fan in her hand. She was the classic aunt like the one Joan Manuel Serrat sings about. I remember her already very old in the rocking chair reading the book of hours or perhaps praying for a wayward brother who had gone after a bullfighter and for another who spent his afternoons and nights in the casino playing julepe. She was the single aunt, pious and good to the core, who said yes to everything and left the no for my mother, who was always ready to deny you any pleasure. I remember that on the way back from her funeral, when I arrived in Madrid, the news broadcast that Kennedy had been assassinated.

Next to his portrait there is a fossil of a petrified clam that I found on top of Montgó, from when this mountain would have been submerged in the sea thousands of millions of years ago, and next to it in succession I keep a small green and yellow boat with eyes on the gunwales that I bought in Malta, and a little further on a bullet capsule that an old man gave me who was a soldier in the civil war and according to what he told me, true or false, he could have killed a red with it but he didn’t do it because having him in front of him a few meters away he fired into the air and it turns out that after some time they became friends. The capsule is made of copper and is inserted between a volume of Greek epigrams and the complete works of Proust.

I look very good, as a young man in a black jersey and white trousers at the Parthenon and in another photograph with a group of friends who have just disembarked on a jetty in Sabina de Formentera on their first trip to Ibiza. Some friends have died. However, all the photographs, trophies and strange objects on the shelves only remind me of moments of happiness. There is none that takes me, beyond nostalgia, to any bitter past. They are on the shelf, matching what I have lived and what I have read. The travel photographs are a projection of the novels, the stories, the essays, all the stories that support them. On a shelf there is a small bust of Miguel Hernández next to a Roman amphora pot, the silhouette of the town where I was born drawn by Andreu Alfaro. Among all the trophies that I have won over the years, I keep on the shelf with special appreciation a statuette of the Maltese Falcon that the people from Cartelera Turia gave me in Valencia for the novel Tram to Malvarrosa.

My entire life may be condensed in these objects. In a photograph taken by Magnum photographer Elli Reed, I am in the Hutu refugee camp in Benako (Tanzania) playing with a group of children. I remember that one of them, who was lost, followed me everywhere. He had adopted me as a father and looked at me with indescribable tenderness. I see him in that photograph and I wonder what fate has brought him, whether he was a victim or an executioner, whether he is still alive or dead, whether he reached Europe in a small boat or was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean. What was his name? His memory brings me back to the heroism of Doctors Without Borders, who risked their lives only for human solidarity without anything in return.

A starfish, along with photographs of like-minded writers, memories of sailing, lunches and after-dinner conversations under a vine, successive summers that have helped one grow old in the sun. I don’t know if the most important thing in a library is the books or the objects that one has been depositing on the shelves. If I look for a volume by the pre-Socratics, I know that it is behind that log of a medieval ship that a sailor gave me, if I want to read The flowers of Evilby Baudelair, and the Parallel lives, from Plutarch, I will be forced to set aside a portrait of Toby, the stray dog ​​who helped me understand life as it is. Not everything is in books. Happiness is also on the shelves.

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