The Jerez writer and poet José Manuel Caballero Bonald, who died this Sunday in Madrid at the age of 94, was an outstanding member of the Generation of 50 and in 2012 he received the highest award in Spanish literature, the Cervantes Prize. He was also recognized with the National Critics Award three times, the Nacional las Letras Españolas in 2005 and the Nacional de Poesía in 2006, as well as the Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana in 2004.
Son of a Cuban father and French mother, Caballero Bonald was born in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) on November 11, 1926. After studying Nautical Studies in Cádiz, he graduated in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Seville. He taught Humanities and Literature at the National University of Colombia for years and, on his return to Spain, he settled in Madrid.
In 1952 he published his first literary work, the collection of poems’ Las adivinaciones‘. Later appeared the anthology “Live to tell it” (1969), the novel “Ágata, ojos de gato” (1975, Critics Award) and the poetry book ‘Descrédito del hero’ (1978, Critics Award). His poetry continued to bear fruit with titles such as “Diario de Argónida” (1998) and the anthologies “Double life” (1989), ‘Amatoria poetry’ (1999), ‘Years and books’ (2004) and “Noise of many waters” (2011).
The book “Personal Anthology” (2003) was followed by “Violators Manual” (2005), which was National Poetry 2006, “The night has no walls” (2009) or the long autobiographical poem “Entreguerras” (2012). His prose include “All night they heard the birds pass by” (1981, Seville Athenaeum Prize), “In the father’s house” (1988, Plaza and Janés Prize), “Campo de Agramante” (1992, reissued in 2005) , “The custom of living” (2001, republished in 2004) and “Office of the reader” (2013).
He is the author of essays such as “Lights and shadows of flamenco” (1975, reissued in 2007), “Luis de Góngora” (1982), “Seville in the time of Cervantes” (1991), “Sea inside” (2002) or “A literary Madrid” (2009 ). In 2014 he presented his next collection of poems in Madrid, “Desaprendizajes”, that defends doubt as a way of facing life.
For Caballero Bonald, who many consider “the poet of the great metaphor”, “there are very few things in life that I do not doubt, and one of them is poetry. Poetic activity makes me feel safe in the face of everything. that offends me, in front of everything that I detest “, declared Bonald, who added: “Those who are never wrong, those who go through life sure of everything, are nothing more than imbeciles in disguise.” That same year the compilation “Poetic Anatomy” appeared, in which the poet dialogues with the “nebulous and enigmatic” characters of the Canarian painter José Luis Fajardo. With a precise and sincere adjective, Bonald made of his work an allegation of poetry as “knowledge”, as an element of “dissent from the world and from literature.”
At the beginning of 2016 he added another award to his long list of awards, the Francisco Umbral for the Book of the Year (2015), for his collection of poems “Desaprendizajes”, considered one of the culminating titles of his work, an award that, when delivered in Valladolid , could not pick up the poet due to his advanced age. In May 2017 he published “Examination of Wits”, a hundred literary portraits of writers and artists that he met throughout his life.
In 1998, the Jerez de la Frontera City Council created the Caballero Bonald Foundation, which has among its objectives the custody and dissemination of his work. In addition, the foundation announces the Caballero Bonald International Essay Award. From 2010, the writer and poet kept part of his legacy in the Cervantes Institute’s Box of Letters, which will see the light in 2051, when it is the 125th anniversary of his birth.