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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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The poet Joan Margarit dies at the age of 82: goodbye to the most Catalan and republican Cervantes

The reputed author who was beaten as a child for not “speaking Christian” and who fought for the dignity of Catalan died today after treatment for lymphoma.
Joan Margarit was always going to leave too soon, and we know that well because we needed him. What difference did it make that he had withstood the onslaught of life until he was 200 years old: he would have left early in any case, because here the earth is orphaned of his word, of his tremendous dignity, of his powerful simplicity and of his deep imagination that he understood The wolf and the departing train, the light of the attics and the war, the vanity of others and personal defeat, the summer without the eyes one loves – those of one’s sister, those of one’s grandmother or those of daughter Joana-, freedom and waiting.
He spent his entire life understanding loss. That was the essential, he said, what made us human beings: remembering that we are animals and that we live in risk, in that risk that sinks us and also raises us, sometimes. Children astonished at an impossible chance that we cannot solve by taking soma capsules, as in Brave New World.

Joan Margarit knew everything – from his mind as an architect, a citizen and a good man – and he gave it to us in his poems: perhaps because he lived everything, almost everything important, everything beautiful and atrocious since that May 11 of the 38 in which the head appeared in Sanahuja, Lleida. His parents were married in 1936, the July that the civil war began. When he was five years old, a uniformed man beat him “for not speaking Christian.” Until today he continued to believe, as before – as always – that freedom is going undocumented. That freedom is a king leaving by train to exile, making love in the parks or the words ‘republic’ and ‘civil’.

Dark Spain

It supposes one that is written differently when one has grown up in dark Spain. When he has grown up among candles, without electricity in the poor town, going to the frozen patio with the urinal in his hands. One assumes that one writes differently when it is appreciated that life is calculation, music and poetry: little more to understand the world.

One assumes that it is written differently when it is understood that what is fundamental is truth, not beauty. When you listen to Schubert and Mozart as if they were distant brothers. When he wants to live confined forever and when he is dealing with a treatment for lymphoma from which he does not care how to get out, because the joke has been good up to now. Still, Margarit was always a militant. She always resisted. She was one of those unique men who have more power in their fingertips than in their fists.

The poet said that he was interested in culture, because the rest “no longer has a solution.” He said that Spain scared him “since the Catholic Monarchs.” He said that poetic language is not what people think – not sweet, silly, cowardly -: poetic language, he stressed, is the harshest of all. He said that what is important to say in the poems is inside: enough looking for it outside.

His daughter Joana

In his verses he often addressed his daughter Joana, who had passed away and suffered from Rubinstein-Taybe syndrome for thirty years: his true love. He believed that without poetry, man is out in the open. He believed that the poet is the great pragmatist, not the economist. He believed that poetry must be cruel, even the most beautiful. He was awarded the Reina Sofía Prize for Ibero-American Poetry. He was awarded the Cervantes prize. It was so many things that deep down he didn’t care. He had grown very thin in recent months. He had soured: he had become more lucid than ever – because of the bitterness that survives us inside when cells begin to dislocate.

Margarit’s romance with the tongue was intense but troublesome. He always expressed himself in both Spanish and Catalan, but, as he emphasized, “there is no great poet who does not write first in his mother tongue.” He recognized his thorns in one of his poems, called Dignidat: the Castilian is not to blame for his strength “and even less for my weakness.” Catalan was an old abode full of beautiful songs: they will surely be saved.

Some verses

“I try to seduce you in the past (…) winter fantasy to dance with you,” he wrote in Faros en la noche. “Don’t throw away the love letters. / They will not abandon you (…) The years will fall. Books will tire you. / You will descend even more, / and, even, you will lose poetry. / The noise of the city in the windows / will end up being your only music / and the love letters that you will have saved / will be your last literature ”, she recommended in another emblematic poem. “Not even this violence with which I wish / be right. / Nor does it believe that happiness / has a subtle relationship with lies. / Nor be as dirty / of heart as mine, / despite the fact that they were soiled by the war ”, he launched in Nothing exalts an old man.

She believed that morality was “a bitch of those who barked incessantly, / ugly as a rat”: “All day nagging, / sniffing at the wolfdog of life / who, indifferent and strong, barely looked at her. / Today I saw him go to the garden, / he had his morals between his teeth, / taken by the neck, scared, shrunken (…) Today I cleaned my books, that is, my time. / From Simone de Beauvoir I throw them all ”. Yours we never, master. Rest in peace.

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