Pere Gimferrer: ‘Carlos Pujol always put himself second; therein lies his greatness’

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Five years have passed since the death of the humanist and writer Carlos Pujol.  For this reason, UIC Barcelona, which houses the author’s personal archive, organised a conference in homage to him. Writers, literary critics and editors all participated in this event.  Over the two-day conference the various speakers separated out the different literary disciplines Carlos Pujol was involved in: poetry, novels, aphorisms, essays, translation, and editing.  He authored 50 literary works and translated a further 80.  In the words of his friend, also an author, Pere Gimferrer: ‘Carlos Pujol always put himself second; therein lies his greatness’.

Pere Gimferrer: ‘Carlos Pujol always put himself second; therein lies his greatness’

The event was inaugurated yesterday by Dr Xavier Gil, rector of UIC Barcelona, who underlined the fact that Carlos Pujol imbued his life and his work with Christian humanism and he expressed thanks to the former professor from our university for his teaching, his dedication and his generosity.  José Creuhera, President of Grupo Planeta and Atresmedia, a friend of Carlos Pujol and a member of the jury for the Planeta prize for over 40 years, underlined the fact that he was “multifaceted and wise” and also said he was someone he felt a lot of affection and admiration for.  Dr Teresa Vallès, the main researcher on this project, presented the personal archive and the new website, an indispensable tool for those who would like to know more about the prolific writer, who was not paid much attention by most literary critics of his time.  Marta Lagarriga, Carlos Pujol’s widow, underlined the fact that her husband was not interested in winning literary prizes, and said that he was more interested in publishing.  This is a wise way to go into literature: a choice he made when he was at the centre of the system. He never took advantage of the power he has within the Planeta publishing group.

José María Pozuelo Yvancos, a literary critic, described the humanist profile of Pujol and paid special attention to a historical novel he wrote, located in both Paris and London.  It was called La sombra del tiempo, and has recently been re-edited.  Carlos Pujol “understood that literature became fertile in certain locations that were of equal importance, not only within the novel itself”, he stated.  Andrés Trapiello stated that “poetry is to Carlos Pujol what drawing is to a sculptor.  He comes in with a voice that is like no other”.  He used French Alexandrine verse and began to publish poetry at the age of 50. The literary critic David Castillo pointed out that his critics were not very militant:  “His irony was distance.  He said what he had to say, without any song and dance about it. “ Ernesto Ayala, who published a critique of La sombra del tiempo in 1982, in the pages of a magazine called El viejo topo, lamented the fact that he did not ask Carlos Pujol to write a book about Cervantes’s life in Rome.

Gaston Gilabert, a Faculty of Humanities professor from UIC Barcelona, read out a speech from Manuel Longares, who was unable to attend the event due to health problems. “He was never more personal than he was when writing aphorisms, not in his novels, his poetry, nor his essays”, wrote Longares; his “meandering descriptive method was full of humour, and he must have felt highly comfortable in this (type of writing)”.  Pujol wrote three books of aphorisms, in which he reflected on writing and what writers should be like.  “The task of writing is fundamental and also superfluous.  People write blindly and words are like guide dogs.  For him literature always had to have a hint of exaggeration.:  “It completes life in relation to dreams”, he wrote.   “When something starts to become important it is because it already belongs to the past”.  Manuel Longares defined Carlos Pujol through this aphorism: a sceptical, ironic, simple, honourable, kind and paradoxical man.

Andreu Jaume, a translator, compared him to T.S Elliot, since he had an absolute ambition to look in depth into and navigate through Western tradition in a fully comfortable way, without leaving any challenges behind.  He was a role model for his generation as far as French literature was concerned.  “As a translator Pujol had a good ear, and while he translated, he was also creating a tradition”, he stated.

The conference-homage ended with a round table with participation from representatives of the four publishing houses that published the work of Carlos Pujol.  Manuel Borrás (Pre-Textos), Miguel Ángel del Arco (Comares), Daniel Fernández (Edhasa) and José Ángel Zapatero (Menoscuarto). During the closing session, Carlos Pujol Lagarriga, the writer’s son, read out an unpublished short story by his father and this constituted the culmination of this event.