By Carmen Sigüenza
MADRID – “Words are the skeleton of things and for that reason last longer than things do” is one of the unpublished “greguerias,” or aphorisms, of Spanish writer Ramon Gomez de la Serna, out of the 400 that Prof. Laurie-Anne Laget discovered and has now published in a book.
The Hispanist Laurie-Anne Laget, a professor at France’s Sorbonne, made the discovery several months ago in one of the 65 boxes packed with manuscripts, notes, index cards and books at the University of Pittsburgh that were left there by the writer’s widow in 1970.
That is how such poetic, satirical barbs as this brief phrase called a gregueria that Gomez de la Serna, who was born in Madrid in 1888 and died in Buenos Aires in 1963, created in 1910, at the start of a century when he became the most avant-garde author to reflect every “ism” not just of Spain but of all Europe, now return to delight the imagination, together with the 15 illustrations that Spanish artist Chema Madoz drew based on the texts.
All of these recently uncovered greguerias were written by “Ramon” in his last years, between 1958-1961, because, as Laget told Efe, “Gomez de la Serna wrote greguerias until the last days of his life.” They were intended for a future book that was never published, but which the author had already entitled “New Greguerias.” He sent other aphorisms to the Buenos Aires daily La Nacion and to the Madrid newspaper ABC.
The box with the “New Greguerias” contained 500 pages and on each page he had written his phrases “with a ball-point pen and with some crossed out” – around 10 or 12 that failed to meet his standards, according to the professor. All were unpublished.
“It seems that his wife,” Laget said, “had also crossed some out, the most erotic ones or those lacking credibility. I have selected the best for establishing the closest relationship with Madoz’s illustrations. But all are the work of a more mature, very interesting Ramon. They will help us further understand that rich, complex personality,” she said.
“The water lily is a flower that escaped from the trees to navigate the waters.” “Capitalist: a gymnast with many telephones.” “An ironing board wears a striped undershirt.” “Octopi are the gloves of the sea.” “What does the moon do in a pond? It washes its face.” These are a few of Ramon’s pearls that have recently come to light.
The greguerias, these visual metaphors and plays on words with touches of humor and at times absurdity, and in which there is always an element of surprise for the reader, were not the only kind of writing practiced by the author, who had a great influence on the generation of 1927.
He also wrote plays, essays, short stories, short and full-length novels and biographies. Noteworthy are his books about the circus and the literary gatherings at Madrid’s Cafe Pombo, as well as “Senos” (Breasts), his special take on the female bosom. EFE