Two gentlemen
José Manuel Caballero Bonald, Francisco Brines and Ángel González during the tribute to Antonio Machado held at the National Library in 2007.EFE

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In the days when Francisco Brines is about to receive the Cervantes prize from royal hands, his old neighbor of Madrid portal Caballero Bonald dies, who had it in 2012. I think I have read all the books of the Jerez writer, but I come back to know his death, like a magnet, last, Wits Exam (2017), a masterpiece of peninsular memorial prose, comparable in sharpness and narrative grace to Spaniards of three worlds of Juan Ramón, to the Contemporary portraits from Gómez de la Serna, The meetings by Vicente Aleixandre, the Tributes of Pla or the Autumn in Madrid around 1950 by Juan Benet.

The verbal discoveries, the occurrences, the brief and exact vicissitudes, the glimpses of the good novelist, make of the hundred portraits of Caballero Bonald a figurative gallery difficult to forget; the author has plenty of words to make José Hierro visible with his “look of a Tartar chieftain”, although he follows the elderly Azorín for a long time along the Carrera de San Jerónimo, a “walking mummy” on his way to the cinemas of continuous sessions to which The old 90-year-old traveler became so fond of it.

Generous but not flattering, Caballero also pays attention to Brines, “apparently oblivious to everything that does not concern his probity”, and the Valencian probo is seen (from the adjoining window?) As someone who “has reached the most in the practical field it is to know how to consult a telephone book or a watch, and even so he has never managed to get anywhere on time ”. Steely humor, once hurtful, is a perceptible gift on many pages of Wits Exam, but don’t think that this is a book of revenge or gossip. Caballero is not always chivalrous with his characters, although he knows how to surrender to those who have a true art. And how he succeeds with Brines, when he says that in his work “true poetry occupies more space than poem.”

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