Cela’s slap, the gatherings and the den of bohemians and hustlers

The actor Perico Beltran said that “a handkerchief on the neck of Arturo Fernández is a scarf. In your neck it is simply a sore throat“. It counts José Esteban in ‘Café Gijón’, recently published book Cordelia’s Kingdom. When he immerses himself in its pages, he ends up having the sensation of being the handkerchief that Beltrán, alias ‘the last bohemian’, spoke of. Enter the Coffee Gijon is today more shabby, more a handkerchief for sore throats than a scarf.

‘Café Gijón’ is not intended to be a historical document, not even a chronicle, more or less literary, about what happened there. in its pages, colored by Javier de Juan’s melancholy watercolor, Esteban bottles the atmosphere of the old café, where the reader floats between a disjointed lyric of moments, some not exempt from crudeness, and characters who wrote, lived and loved in the shelter of its walls.

It is remembered, for example, the slap that Camilo José Cela gave the poet Jesús Juan Garcés. “The ABC published in those days and years of the Creative Youth a list of donors for a patriotic subscription. One morning it appeared at the end of the list, all of well-known and even famous names, with their contributed amounts of 500, 200 and 100 pesetas , the name of Camilo José Cela with a modest and even ridiculous contribution of 50 cents. Cela flew into a rage and when he learned the offender’s name, he slapped him in the face that landed the poet and sailor’s body on the ground. It was very celebrated.”

Camilo Jose Cela / Javier de Juan

Among other experiences, one of the robberies that Gijón has suffered or manias such as that of Cesar Gonzalez-Ruano, of which they say that he called himself by phone to Gijón so that he seemed to be requested. One more of the extravagances of a writer who produced much of his work between cigarette smoke and the smell of coffee with milk.

Gijón has deserved the rank of a temple of Spanish culture, a mausoleum of all that has been brilliant in the world of letters in the last century. In Gijón, the dead are the protagonists, like those paintings of That, Francis Threshold, Fernando Fernan-Gomez Y Francisco Rabal that crown the room, with their eyes fixed on a kind of Prometheus that try to emulate past glories.

Cafe Gijon / Javier de Juan

But not everything has always been literary and vital intensity in Gijón. There has also been room for boredom, as the author acknowledges. And Pío Baroja agreed with him, who once asked Castillo Puche: “What’s going on there? That Café must be very boring. I’ve been told that some writers have chocolate with croutons or broth there. What cheesy! And is it true that González-Ruano drinks at least ten coffees? What a barbarian! I don’t know how it doesn’t burst“.

Bohemian Cemetery

In Gijón they drank absinthe. The poet Manuel Reina sang about him:

“With green reflections

in the glass trembles,

absinthe, pleasant liquor of the sad,

of dreamers and poets”

However, in Esteban’s book it is clear that wormwood was Ruben Darío’s drink, but the bohemians preferred aguardiente. “A bohemian named Prieto Romero who died on a bench in the fucking street made a famous quatrain: From the opposite sidewalk, with his hand on his hat, a gentleman who is drinking aguardiente greets them.Stephen says.

Raul del Pozo / Javier de Juan

The literary, political and social aristocracy gave way in Gijón to the bohemian and the hustlers. When Café Gijón was about to close, on its centenary, Raúl del Pozo dedicated some sad words to it: “The hustlers will no longer have a place to drink their coffee with milk and the poets will wander around waiting for the hour of glory or the hour of Carabanchel”.

That the Café Gijón It is no longer the bohemian refuge Anyone who passes through it with some regularity knows it. But Pepe Esteban began to glimpse this 20 years ago. “The truth is that, at the moment, the Café is free of bohemianism, in the old way… Bohemianism has to be readjusted or redefined. We are not in the late nineteenth century, when Alejandro Sawa or the young Valle-Inclan They swarmed through the cafes and taverns of Madrid. Today the bohemians are more, I believe, among the painters than among the poets, who have all become civil servants“.

Bohemian ladies / Javier de Juan

Bohemia, like energy, is neither created nor destroyed, it only transforms. Where once there were cigarettes, today there are smartphones, and of course, the bohemian goes badly with 5G. “The bohemian will never die, like the old rockers. They change their ways of manifesting, but there will always be bohemians.” But the bohemian no longer seeks refuge in Gijón, where the menu of the day costs 25 euros and some specialty coffees almost 10.

“The old literary Cafés, those that never die”… Maybe they don’t die in black on white. But the great age of literary cafes is history, although a few crazy, apprentice bohemians, try to keep the flame alive.

Waiter at Café Gijón / Javier de Juan

Source: Vozpópuli by www.vozpopuli.com.

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