Antonio Gala bids farewell to Cordoba at the age of 92, leaving behind an incalculable legacy.
The world of Spanish literature mourned the loss of one of its greatest figures: the poet, playwright, novelist, and writer Antonio Gala, who passed away on May 28, 2023, at the age of 92. With his departure, Andalusia would have lost one of its most passionate lovers of its heritage, history and cultural heritage. He kept dreaming of the remains of Granada until he wrote a novel about its last king, entitled “The Scarlet Manuscript”, which is the confessions of Prince Abdullah the Younger to his sons about the fall of his kingdom. If fate wanted to say to him: “You are the last king to leave Granada.”
The writer has been honored with numerous awards: the National Literature (Planeta) Award, the Calderon de la Barca National Award, the Barcelona City Award, the Quijote de Oro Award and others. And his publishing house published an obituary in which it said: “We will always remember him for his literary legacy and great support for young creators. With this departure, we can only say: (Farewell Antonio, Farewell Antonio) ». For his part, Pedro Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain, posted on his Twitter account, condoling his family and friends, noting that “Spain has lost one of its greatest writers, and will always draw inspiration from his literature.”
Antonio Gala was born in the village of Brazaturtas, Ciudad Real, in 1930, where his father was a doctor who was forced by work conditions to move to Cordoba when his son was an infant, so he considered himself from that moment an authentic Cordoba. He received his secondary education in the city he loved, and studied law, philosophy and the arts in Seville. He was proud when talking about his city; It embraces icons, mosques and cathedrals, and for his accurate knowledge of their details. Queen Sophia used to use him during her visit to the city to be a “tourist” guide for her, and he was passionate about its mosques and cathedrals, which prompted him to stand against converting the mosque into a cathedral, as ordered by Charles V, and considered it a violation of Islam and Catholicism at the same time, so that this Spanish king regretted on you did.
Based on this, the late writer believed that the concept of Andalusia is based on coexistence between languages and religions. It is the only possible solution. And after the transformation of the Great Mosque of Cordoba into a World Heritage site since 1984, with the approval of “UNESCO”.
His relationship with poetry began in Cordoba, and soon spread to other genres. After that, he passed the bar exam successfully, but soon submitted his resignation immediately, as he refused to work in this corps. He also admitted that what prompted him to study law was to satisfy his father’s desire, when he obtained a lawyer’s degree. She put it in front of him on the table, and then he went to writing literature. His first poetry collection was “My Intimate Enemy,” which he wrote at the age of seventeen, and won the Spanish Adonis Prize for Poetry in 1959.
He soon moved on to writing for the theatre; He wrote the following plays: “The Green Fields of Eden,” thanks to which he won the “Spanish National Prize for Theater” (1963), and “Why are you running, O Ulis?” (1963), A Little Grass (1968), The Good Days Lost (1972), Ringman for a Lady (1973), Guitars in Trees (1974), and Petra Regalda (1980), “The Cemetery of Birds” (1982), “Samarkand” (1985), “Karm” (1988), “The Rogue” (1992), and “Sleeping Beauty” (1994). Script in TV series from 1989.
In poetry, he wrote the following collections of poetry: “Love Poems,” “Andalusian Desire,” and “The Intimate Enemy.” As a poet, translating poetry from one language into another was viewed as a difficult case; He does not want to translate Rimbaud or Verlaine with Spanish rhymed and measured poetry, but sees meanings, connotations, symbols, and inspiration in translating poetry.
As for the novel, he started writing it late, but he met with great success after his novel “The Scarlet Manuscript”, “The Turkish Wall”, “Granada Bani Nasr”, “The Two-Headed Eagle” and “The Law of the Three”. Two of his novels have been turned into films, namely “The Turkish Walla”, which was inspired by the Spanish director Vicente Aranda, and “Behind the Garden”, which was directed by Pedro Olia. While in the novel “Granada Bani Nasr” he deals with the history of the city and its luster during the Bani Nasr era, until its fall in 1492 at the hands of Kings Fernando and Isabella, who do not hesitate to describe them as brutal and barbaric. In the novel “The Turkish God”, the late writer presents his philosophy of love through the character of Dessi and Yamam, the Turkish tour guide. During her trip to Turkey with her very conservative husband, Ramiro, she falls in love with this young man, and emigrates to his country, sacrificing all her life for him, but he was only interested in his trade in precious carpets and antiques.
Then he wrote his famous novel “The Scarlet Manuscript”, which launched his fame into the horizons, as it won the “Planeta” award (1990), which is one of the most important prizes for the novel in Spain. It has been printed and reprinted more than 20 times to date, and the number of copies sold has reached more than one million copies.
The novel raises the following question: Was “Abu Abdullah al-Saghir” (the last sultan of Andalusia) a traitor who lost Andalusia, as history tells us?
“History is written by the victor”… words that apply to “Abu Abdullah al-Saghir”, the last king of Andalusia, who handed over Granada to King Fernando and Queen Isabella, to turn the page on 7 centuries and more of the Islamic presence in Spain. But Antonio Gala stood against this victor and told the truth that the invaders tried to falsify; He puts us in front of another person who has been cursed by history: but he is a person of flesh and blood who lives life through its ups and downs, someone who cries because he knows that history will place on his shoulders this great weight of defeat.
The embodiment of the tragedy of “Abu Abdullah al-Saghir”
Who among us does not recall in his memory the words of his mother when her son turned to take a last look at Granada crying: “Weep like women for a kingdom that you did not maintain like men?” with his body. A biography and novel, from childhood to exile, that reveals the life of a classy prince fascinated by peace and culture, forced into war and politics, against the background of internal conflicts, fanaticism and betrayals.
The writer did not speak with the tongue of the defeated king, that is, with the voice of the first person’s conscience, as if Abu Abdullah al-Saghir was writing a lengthy letter from his exile in Fez to his sons to explain to them and justify the loss of his kingdom. The late writer did not speak in the language of the victors of his people, but in the language of the defeated Arab prince. It is the historical moment when the protagonist succumbs to death in a hospital in Fez, asking to listen to Andalusian music as a last and healing medicine.
The conditions were created for the late writer to write this great novel because the Spanish Civil War overshadowed his childhood, although his yard was full of flowers, but he suffered from the early death of his brother (Louis), and his ghost continued to haunt him for many years.
A passion for Arabs
The passion for the East and Andalusia drove him to visit a number of Arab countries such as Iraq and Syria, and the Moroccan city of Asilah was his window to the Arab world, as he made his journey through the Strait of Gibraltar and the port of Tangier, to this city, with white walls and blue doors, as he was keen to attend the opening of Al-Mutamed Ibn Abbad Summer University. And he used to carry his stick studded with the head of an ivory lion, and wander in its alleys, and sometimes beat the ground with his stick, and alert like a blind man with closed eyes to an intimate inner voice, which is the curlews of Andalusia and the music of Granada. He was sitting in the Raissouni Palace on the first floor, where the windows overlooked the sea. He looks with sorrow and pain at the year 1492 AH, which bears two faces. One of them is bright and the other is dark in the history of Spain and the world, and they are: the exodus of the Arabs from Andalusia and Spain’s discovery of America, that is, between the fall and the rise.
Granada remained tattooed in his memory. During our wanderings in the city of Asilah, his gaze would wander far behind the walls as if he was searching for what he wanted in the folds of its white walls. “Spain in the heart…” Lorca shouted. And here is Antonio Gala whispering to the sea, saying: “Granada is in the heart”; For Andalusia, in his view, is the most important moment in human culture, for the Spaniards and others: an unforgettable time, and immortal scholars, such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina and Ibn Maimoon, who devoted the influence of Arab culture to the Spaniards and Europe, but rather they are the ancestors of Spanish culture; As the Arabs created a life, civilization and glories, the effects of which still remain in the Spanish cities to the present time.
It can be said that the late Antonio Gala is an author who achieved great success with readers in the field of poetry, drama and novel alike, which is a rare literary case. His style was distinguished by vivid images and lyrical spirit, and his mastery of writing, both in style and form. As his works range from lyricism, testimony, history, and major issues of an ethical and critical nature; He is a writer who succeeded in putting emotions, naturalness, stories, flavors and colors among the shades of his words, as seen by the Spaniards. Therefore, he occupied a special place in the hearts and minds of readers. He knew how to reach our souls and illuminate our present like no other. He is a writer with an innate talent, from which breathtaking lyric poetry exudes. And reading his literary works is a fun and complex adventure in feelings, details and history that makes us unite with ourselves and with the world.
However, his works present at the same time the labyrinth of confusion and emptiness in the human soul. His mastery of weaving words, life and ideas is characterized by skill and knowledge, and his great knowledge of the vocabulary of creativity, poetry and prose. Therefore, the late writer was described in various creative epithets, such as: “the alchemist of words”, “the king of metaphors”, “the magician of words”, and the writer of the present through the past, who gave the details of daily life a poetic spirit.