The vital magma solidified by Juan Vilá in 1980 has all the components enunciated by the Madrid novelist, but also has love. A force that, according to Hesiodo postulated, allows the relationship between all parts of the cosmos. A cosmogonic principle, a feeling if you like, which Vilá sometimes describes as “disgusting” and “overrated”. Ungrateful Vilá, because it is love that prevents him from letting the hurtful nude of himself drawn in 1980 through the unceremonious dissection of his peculiar family from overflowing in an effusion of blood.
1980, fourth and splendid novel by the author of m, El Sí de los perros and Señorita Google, is thus a family nude painted by an adult over 40 through the eyes of a child wounded by a “sad, very sad ”, exempt from any kind of physical penalty, but full of emptiness, fear and loneliness. Until his hour of miracle and salvation arrived in the year that gives the work its title and in the person of a 62-year-old “Catalan bourgeoisie” who fell in love with his widowed mother, 37, and became his second father when he was seven years old.
The family setting that frames this women’s novel starring two men – the author and his second father – can be summarized in a few lines. Vilá is the youngest of the three children of an unequal couple. The one formed by a man who “was neither smart nor handsome (nor) had a penny” and by an intelligent, ambitious woman, obsessed with excelling, who lives in an atavistic war with her mother (the “ogresa” grandmother) and feels overshadowed by two prettier sisters. He marries to escape the family cloister. Stop working and studying. And you are wrong. Not only does she have to continue living with her parents –she, her husband and the child, the girl and the boy who will come– but, in addition, her husband “was not up to her standards in any way”.
When Vilá is three years old, his father is killed in a car accident, crushed by a truck. And for the mother, in a Spain that seems, only seems, to burst all its seams after the death of the dictator, the seas open. She works, has fun, has lovers, frees herself, settles on her own, leaves her children in the care of her grandmother ogres. Until, five years later, “the miracle” is performed. This Catalan man, a Catholic, right-wing “Catalan” appears, large, elegant, “with the appearance of an English banker”, a widower, with three children. Quite the opposite of what was then the Vilá family, “the barbarians of the capital, the ordinary and unstructured family that understood each other through shouting and bad manners.”
“The Catalan bourgeoisie” falls in love with his mother to a halt, forgets his family in Barcelona, adopts Vilá’s as his own, surrenders the lady and becomes the second father of the child Juan. After the initial hatred to be expected in those who fear that their mother will be robbed – and with little memory of a father whom they will end up considering merely “biological” and whom they now make amends for in 1980 – the boy Juan is rescued from his sad world of loneliness and fear for that man who, five years later, will end up giving her his last name. This will not prevent the author from seeing his life today as a permanent flight to hide his “almost absolute” vulnerability.
The story is peculiar, to be sure, although not unusual. A good story, with a long dozen characters, with meanders, tributaries and a secret about which, of course, I will not even give a clue. A material suitable for writing a new chapter of that “father’s literature” that, with hardly any tradition in Spanish letters, has been gaining momentum in recent years. And yet …
However, 1980 is not that. Or it is much more than that. It is a novel by Juan Vilá, the most hidden cult writer in Spanish literature. The father of an artifact as devilish and explosive as me, of a satire of pijismo as ruthless as The Yes of the Dogs, of a humorous outburst about love and technology like Miss Google. In short, from the narrator of rage, fury and diatribe, whose bitter bile is made not only bearable but stimulating thanks to a very refined language – he annihilates noise like water on fire -, to a fine sense of irony, to an enviable ability to see edges in the plains and an astonishing facility to link a serene reflection with an exuberant phantasmagoria, always bridged in time.
Reading 1980 may come to mind Disenchantment, that four-voice piece that Chávarri conceived as a polyhedral portrayal of the poet Leopoldo Panero and ended up being the impressive self-demolition of a family in front of the camera. The main difference, apart from the polyphony, is that in the film, love is confined between the lips of Felicidad Blanc, the widow, while in the novel each character is “skinned” and, with very rare exceptions, loved.
Vilá, who carries a reputation as a misogynist and even admits the adjective, rants in these pages against love, in particular against suffocating maternal love. Yet love. Perhaps because, in the fight to better understand who one is, that is the only fertile way to destroy family myths. Destroy them with love so as not to destroy yourself.
Anagram 168 pages