Away from the madding crowd, Antonio Gala, who was 92 years old, has died. The passionate poet, playwright, narrator, columnist and screenwriter withdrew from the spotlight and took refuge in Córdoba when his health failed. In the Andalusian city where he died are his foundation and his house, where in recent years he alternated his stays with his retirement from ‘La Baltasara’, in Malaga. A polyhedral creator with a sharp pen and tongue and Renaissance talent, he leaves an extensive body of work celebrated by a public faithful to his dramas, his articles and his novels, in which he almost always unraveled the feminine soul. Hence he had more female readers than male readers.
The “insigne poet from Córdoba”, as he was once presented, was actually born in the La Mancha town of Brazatortas (Ciudad Real) on October 2, 1930. His father was a doctor there, and in the Castilian-La Mancha town he was baptized as Antonio Ángel Custodio Sergio Alejandro María de los Dolores Queen of the Martyrs of the Holy Trinity and of All Saints. But he spent the bulk of his life between the Caliphate city and Madrid, where he began to forge his success in the sixties of the last century. He succeeded in the theater, but for him his true success was the foundation that bears his name. “It is the great work of my life,” Gala assured the institution that watches over young talent and to which he gave all his assets, including a prodigious collection of 3,000 canes.
A precocious reader of Rilke and San Juan de la Cruz, Gala wrote a story at the age of five, her first play at seven, she gave a lecture at the Círculo de la Amistad in Córdoba at fourteen, and at fifteen she entered the University of Seville. Graduated in Law, Philosophy and Letters, Political and Economic Sciences, he applied for the State Bar just to please his father. He abandoned the attempt after two years of study to enter the Carthusians of Jerez, an order from which he would be expelled, according to what he recounted in ‘Now I will talk about myself’, an autobiography that he published two decades ago.
From monastic silence to bohemian bustle
He soon passed from monastic silence to bohemian bustle. To frequent the theatrical gossip and show business and to work at whatever it took to earn a living. In Madrid, he taught History of Art and Philosophy at various schools, before heading first to Portugal and then to Florence, where he directed the La Borghese gallery for a year, before letting himself be rocked, on his return, by the murmur of success. . He filled theaters, sold thousands of copies, reigned in book fairs, before Pérez-Reverte, Javier Sierra, María Dueñas or Ruiz Zafón and the films based on his novels were commercial successes.
In July 2011, he revealed that he suffered from colon cancer “difficult to remove” against which he fought in confinement at home and which he defeated in 2015. Since then his public appearances have been counted. Limited to supporting students from his foundation, such as the awarding of the Loewe Poetry Prize to his friend and former scholarship holder Ben Clark in 2018.
«I do not write so that they love me or to be quoted. I write to communicate things, I need to do it by destiny. I am a writer because I have no choice. He is a writer even if he does not write and until the last day of his life”, said Antonio Gala who assured that he feared neither failure nor the grim reaper and who dared to anticipate his epitaph: “he died alive”. He repeated that it was not a classic “because to really be one you have to die several times” and he had “no urgency or desperate rush to die.” And that he had looked death in the face several times – “I have suffered three clinical deaths”, he recounted – and he knew that the lady with the scythe had lowered her gaze and was being given another chance.
He claimed to be “realistic rather than optimistic or pessimistic” and could be as sweet as unpleasant. “Most people are provincial, coarse, vulgar, fat on the outside and inside,” she stated in an interview. She admitted, however, that over time her character, sometimes vitriolic, had tempered. «I have become less funny and less acid. Before he was in favor of ridiculing the enemy and now less. I dare not laugh at anyone because, unless they are ridiculously born, everyone, or almost everything, is respectable,’ he declared.
Participating in all literary genres, theater and the novel provided their greatest satisfaction to one of the most widely read, popular and recognized writers in Spanish and who accumulated almost 500 awards: del Planeta, who won in 1990 with his first novel, ‘El manuscript crimson’, to César González Ruano that he received in 1975 for ‘Los ojos de Troylo’, in which he remembers the death of his dog, or the theater Calderón de la Barca that he deserved in 1963 for ‘Los verdes campos del edén’. ‘Los buenos días perdidos’ won him the National Literature Award in 1992.
It added 460 titles in its miscellaneous bibliography, with dramas, verses and fictions such as ‘The Turkish Passion’, –made into a film by Vicente Aranda with Ana Belén as the protagonist–, ‘Rings for a Lady’, ‘The pedestal of the statues’, ‘Petra regalada’, ‘The papers of water’, ‘Granada de los nazaríes’, ‘Beyond the garden’, ‘The sleeping beauties’, ‘Córdoba de Gala’, ‘Landscape with figures’ -of which there was a television series -, ‘To the heirs’, ‘To whom goes with me’, ‘Notebook of the Autumn Lady’, ‘La solitude sonorous’, ‘Inés unbuttoned’, ‘Dedicated to Tobías’ and ‘The water papers’, his last title, appeared in 2008 and in which he mixed essay and novel
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