The genius of Gabriel Ferrater
The commemoration of the year Gabriel Ferrater (Reus, 1922-Sant Cugat, 1972) is coming to an end, an event that has served to spread his work and recognize his figure through various activities, as well as reissues and new publications. Between these, Overcome fearby Jordi Amat (Edicions 62/Tusquets) and the anthology Give new to childrenwith selection and prologue by Marina Porras (Editorial Comanegra). Both authors bring the reader closer to a polyhedral character through his life trajectory and, especially, his work that ranges from poetry, to translation, painting or linguistics.
Overcome fear is the title of Amat's biography. Fear of what? “Fear is the psychological key to understanding Ferrater. The fear of being very intelligent and not being able to use it to live; the fear of not being able to consolidate stable relationships with women; the fear of the ghost of the father's suicide; to illness; to alcoholism; namely that he needs to drink to be brilliant. He is a character who suffers from anxiety attacks at some point in his life and they are not treated », responds the writer.
“Fear is the psychological key to understanding it. Fear of not earning a living, knowing that you need to drink to shine» (Jordi Amat. Philologist and writer)
Despite his fear or precisely because of it, Ferrater shone. «He is a radical poet in two senses», comments Amat. «On the one hand, his written verse is practically like colloquial language. When you read some of his poems it seems that he speaks and this, in Catalan, had barely been done and in this sense I compare him with Jacint Verdaguer and Josep Carner. On the other hand, there is a dimension that has to do with morality. In other words, Ferrater is an enormously demanding poet when it comes to thinking morally, with an honesty that the Catalan poetry of the late 1950s did not. He flees from symbolism, from metaphysics. He thinks in a very modern way the meaning of life and relationships with others, especially with women and desire ».
Beyond his poetry, Marina Porras delves into the figure of Reus from her essaysabout which his doctoral thesis is about. "He is an indisputable poet of the Catalan 20th century, but, on the other hand, it is not said so much that he is an indisputable intellectual of the Catalan 20th century", defends Marina. Of these essays she points out that “they disprove the idea that Ferrater was a disorderly intellectual or that he tiptoed over what he played. The level and depth with which he worked is appreciated and they make it clear that is one of the most important critics of Catalan literature. What is surprising is that he could dedicate himself to so many disciplines with such a high level of ambition and quality ». Porras, philologist and writer, makes an approach to Gabriel Ferrater from texts of Catalan and foreign literature, public and private letters, as well as the interviews he gave throughout his life. She «she wanted to show all the disciplines to which she dedicated herself, so she had to include texts on Catalan literature, language or painting, so that the reader, reading them, could situate herself in what Ferrater did and how he did it».
Reusense was a inveterate and excellent readera facet in which both authors agree. «Carner, Riba and Foix are his three poets of the 20th century. Also Ausiàs March and Josep Pla, who obsessed him”, says Porras. “The speed and density with which he understood things or the ease when learning languages that allowed him to have a very broad knowledgethey make it unique. In this sense, preparing the biography I found a series of documents that allowed me to understand why he started writing at a certain time and not before and that it has to do with the readings he did. Besides March and Carner, Shakespeare, for example. I mean, before he started writing, he was a great reader. So what did he understand? What he understood is how these three very important writers explained life », highlights, for his part, Amat.
Ferrater and the women
Likewise, both authors underline the importance of women in their lives. Just as he began to publish poetry very late, he also had more or less stable relationships very late and always with women significantly younger than him. «Because he liked them, obviously, but also because he could not have relationships that implied a commitment to a stable life and this is one of the keys to his life», says Amat. Precisely, based on the documentation found, it has been possible to reconstruct his relationship with Jill Jarrell, with whom he would end up marrying, based on the letters that were exchanged. “No one had ever read them before and it is a very intense love story. It is very well appreciated how Ferrater lived couple relationships, "says Amat.
«Ferrater had a brilliant intelligence, but I don't know if he was a genius» (Marina Porras. Philologist, writer and bookseller)
Although his figure could marry the image of the romantic poet that has survived to this day, in reality it is not. «It seems that he has everything, the relationship with women, drinking, suicide... It is an attractive dimension. However, there is another part of eternal adolescent, I think I was not and did not want to be prepared for adult life», points out Amat. «His image as a tortured poet is not true. His life was very vital, in the sense that he loved people. He shared what he learned and his former students from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona agree on this, where he taught. What happens is that she had to live through very harsh circumstances, the Barcelona of the 50s and 60s and on a private level, his family, who fell apart before his eyes », says Marina.
Ferrater, genius? "He had a great, superior intelligence," they conclude.