«In my opinion, Picasso is an overrated artist»

Juan Manuel de Prada has been the protagonist of a new session of the ABC Culture Classroom, sponsored by the Cajasol Foundation and the Real Maestranza de Caballería of Seville. The writer has presented his new novel, ‘A thousand eyes hide the evening’ (Espasa), a monumental portrait of the Spaniards who were exiled to an occupied Paris under Nazi troops and in which a grotesque look is glimpsed through the protagonist’s narration, Fernando Navalesalso main character of ‘The masks of the hero’.

The event was moderated by the journalist Javier Rubio, who highlighted to begin with that “I was captivated by the style of the novel.” That’s why he asked Prada if it was really a style novel. He has said that it is a story “marked by the narrative voice of Fernando Navales, protagonist of ‘The Masks of the Hero’.” As this novel ended just at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the author found it difficult for a Falangist to recount the conflict, which is why he decided to set it in Paris occupied by the Germans. «It is a story very marked by the personality of the narrator, who has a totalitarian writing and a desire for style.. It is not a novel of style because a story is told, but the form is inseparable from the substance. Every story requires a way to be told. The plot is told in the style of Fernando Navales, a writer who has been ignored and marginalized, in addition to being resentful because he has not been recognized,” says the writer.

From there, Rubio has highlighted that The main theme of ‘A Thousand Eyes Hides the Night’ is resentment. “At the end of the novel, a redemption opens up towards that resentment and Fernando gives up his literary genius in exchange for forgiveness.” Juan Manuel de Prada has corroborated this reflection of the journalist and has also pointed out that “we believe that the artistic is a divine gift, but it can be diabolical. Navales is a resentful writer who has not been recognized. He has been relegated to Paris to a junior position to get him off the map. “They entrust him to recruit the exiled artists in Paris.” Hence, he has recognized that resentment is the theme on which this story pivots.

De Prada has also indicated that Fernando Navales alludes to the book throughout history. ‘Tiberius’ of Gregorio Marañón, who was one of the Spanish exiles in Paris. «Navales has a grudge against this one because Marañón is the one who is going to receive recognition from the Falange instead of him, who was shooting in the Republic. It is a reflection of the parable of the prodigal sonthat explains his resentment.

An unknown episode

The author of ‘The Tempest’ has also revealed an unknown episode in Marañón that has been hidden by both family members and historians because “It has been sold that Marañón belonged to the third Spain, but that is totally false”. In addition to criticizing historical memory for “being a manipulation of the left and an attempted manipulation of the right,” Juan Manuel de Prada has stressed that Marañón was a “stellar intellectual” of the Republic. “When he saw that in 1936 there was a drift, since it was when the Republicans began to kill people in Madrid, he decided to exile to Paris in 1937, and he stayed there until 1942.” He has also highlighted that “From very early on Marañón showed his support for Franco and he said: ‘We liberals have made a mistake.’ Marañón moved from the first to the second Spain, but he did not become a fascist, but rather he remained a liberal. Not all the members of the second Spain were fascists, nor were the sides in the war the democrats against the fascists,” maintains the writer.

Marañón collaborated with the Falange and participated in Columbus Day, which was established in the Second Republic, not with Franco. The novel meticulously recreates an important speech that this doctor gave in a theater on the Champs-Elysées in Paris before 2,000 people in 1941. «At that time he had the courage to say that for the Spanish, race is language. and that a Moor from Tetouan is just as Spanish as an Indian from a Bolivian ranch. In reference to this, Prada added that «I believe that the element that unites the Hispanic race is religion more than language.. Marañón also spoke about the contributions of the Sephardim to Spanish, but in the end his followers have hidden all this.

Navales also speaks of the term ‘nationalseminarism’. In this regard, the writer has said that the protagonist of the novel “sees that with Franco the Falange has been distorted and is experiencing a drift. He wants to be a pure ‘Joseatonian’ and sees Franco’s evolution as very worrying, as he never showed much complicity with Hitler. Hitler was a fanatic and Franco, a pragmatist. Starting in 1942, with the dismissal of Serrano Suñer, Franco stopped looking at the Germans and had a more Anglophile perspective.

On the other hand, Javier Rubio has highlighted that one of the values ​​that ‘A Thousand Eyes Hides the Night’ has is that it has a great background of historical documentation, to which Juan Manuel de Prada has added that said documentation is “almost microscopic.” , detailing in detail episodes such as Columbus Day. «Almost everything I tell responds to a historical truth, but from the point of view of Navales’ absurdity».

Picasso’s selfishness

One of the characters that appear in the novel is Picasso, whom Fernando Navales disparagingly refers to as “a monkey painter.” Juan Manuel de Prada assures that Picasso “is the character who is most battered in the novel and the one on whom Navales lashes out the most. We must distinguish Picasso the artist from the person. He was a sadist and a great egoist. “He considered himself a kind of little god to whom everyone owed admiration, but then he treated his women and lovers with contempt.” Next, the Basque writer said that the painter and sculptor from Malaga was godfather at Max Jacob’s baptism. «During the war the Germans put him in prison because of his Jewish origin. Jean Cocteau He wrote them a letter asking for clemency. He had asked Picasso to sign it, but Picasso refused. Cocteau and Picasso were untouchable by the Nazis. In my opinion, Picasso is an overrated artist and art history has given him more importance than he deserved. For many years Picasso’s personality has been hidden. He was not a politically committed man. He joined the communist party when the Nazis lost the war. Nobody has canceled Picasso, but they did cancel Pemán and Foxá.

Juan Manuel de Prada also says that no specific intention has moved him to write this novel. «I started writing very young and published my first book when I was 24 years old. “I’m probably in the second part of my creative life.” In that sense, in recent years he has published books that go against the grain, such as the biography about Ana Maria Martínez Sagi‘The right to dream’-, “because he was a person who obsessed me.” Previously she had written his fictionalized life, ‘The corners of the air’. «He gave Me some manuscripts to publish twenty years after his death. In a poem he narrated that he crossed the border into exile through La Junquera instead of through Portbou as he had told me. That is why I think that historical memory is a hoax, since memory is never historical, it is fictitious. She lied to me about many things, others she sugarcoated or changed them. This woman has a spectacular life. Her real life was just as exciting, but with dark aspects.

When recreating Sagi’s life, Prada visited up to eighty archives, highlighting two in particular: Moscow Archives of Paris and the Archives of the Paris Police Prefecture. «I found great information. I requested the police files of Marañón, González-Ruano and many other people who were booked. I saw that there was a feast there for a new novel. “Much of what I narrate in the novel is based on these two files.”

Juan Manuel de Prada has also assured that “all the exiled artists collaborate in the cultural activities of the Falange, except Picasso, who was untouchable and a multimillionaire.” However, this situation changed in 1943, when those who had collaborated stopped doing so because they began to see that the Germans were going to lose the war and separated from the Falange. The author has also said that “the strongest thing about this novel is that it shows historical realities that have been hidden. The contemporary history of Spain is built on lies».

Likewise, Prada wanted to dispel false myths about the French resistance during World War II. «From the moment the Nazis arrived in France until a year later there were no attacks or resistance. The attacks begin in France when the Nazis begin their campaign to conquer the USSR. I am a Francophile in the cultural and literary sense, but In these years the history of France was regrettable. In France there was great anti-Semitism. Spain is a country infinitely less anti-Semitic than France. The Spanish consul in Paris, Bernardo Rolland de Miota, saved the lives of many Jews.

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