Without him, without his books or his cats

Death anniversary of Carlos Monsivais

In life, they told him everything. Perhaps out of sheer envy. Or to make up for his millions of words, thousands of articles, hundreds of favorite topics, countless facts, bibliographic records, frivolous stories, important facts, precise dates, and his always punctual presentation of the deepest matters. “Mr Memory” they say it was the name Sergio Pitol invented for him. “Elephant memory”, many told him, before adding that there was nothing that scared him more than losing his memory and disconnecting completely. They also called him “The prologuist of Mexico”, in a desperate attempt to quench the burning mockery of finding him, not only in all periodicals and non-periodical publications, but also at the beginning of each interesting book on the novelty tables. He was also “the father of the Mexican chronicle,” a meritorious title that earned him one of his last journalism awards. But at the same time they hung adjectives like “ubiquitous” or phrases like “one of the most present authors of twentieth-century Mexican literature.” His name was Carlos Monsivais.

Born in May 1938, but died on June 19 of the symbolic, bicentennial and very overwhelming year of 2010, Carlos Monsiváis traveled the Mexican journey in each of his laps and was reflected in each of its prisms. The calendar was his ocean, the almanac his ship and time – as is often the case – his companion and his most terrible threat. Creator of many very good phrases, sentences and paragraphs (“Blessed is he who reads, and more blessed is he who does not shudder at the scimitar of the economy, which denies access to the dubious paradise of books and magazines, which in these years of anger, of monsters that rise from the sea, of blasphemies that descend to curb the stutter, and of dragons that charitable beings film and record the whole day so that no one panics”); One day, describing himself, he said: “I threw my heart at random and it was won by reading.” And he forgot to mention the writing of it. of a vast work. Of so many books.

Remembering him just today, a day after his death twelve years ago, on a Monday, surely he would have loved it. Because this text in your memory, dear reader, makes it easier to get used to your absence and no longer asks you to be the ideological sentinel of all those who lost their compass, the fierce chronicler who did tell us with truth how the things or the appropriate critic of the prevailing stupidity (which we already know is more and more abundant and we put up with every day). Nothing else represents the useless hope of recovering Monsiváis without Monsiváis. Or to be looking for him in the places where he was, from the meowing of cats – own or others – even in the rereading of many of his books.

It is useless to try to imitate him, because Carlos Monsiváis wrote about everything: demonstrations, boleros, danzones, Pedro Infante and Agustín Lara, the Chopo tianguis, Mexican stories, Salvador Novo and Guillermo Prieto, celebrities with privileges, politicians with voice without vote, singers of innate wisdom, cinema, literature, the tamale cakes of their Portales neighborhood, university students, soccer players, photographers and painters, journalists, moneros and wakes. However, his political ideology, his critical perspective, his contempt for authoritarianism and the established order were always present in his work. And they were very difficult for his detractors to deal with.

Always concerned about the act of reading, he responded to questions about the disappearance of readers and books due to the advancement of technology: In this regard, he wrote: “The reader is increasingly considered a representative of the readers, due to the process that, it makes us all, at some level, emblematic of the global. There is little left to hear in meetings: “How global you saw!” or “Seriously, I had no idea you were so local.”

A lover of cats and books –we don’t know in what order- Monsiváis regularly shared his house with a dozen felines –some left and others arrived– and each one had a better name than the previous one (Miss Oginia, Miss Anthropía, Fetiche de Teddy, Catzinger, Danger, Ignore Case and Meow Tse-tung). The oldest of all was Genius Myth and the last one who arrived he named Catastrophe). His library, with nearly 24,000 books, as many magazines, documents, photographs and comic books, was an unbeatable collection, the representation of his vocation and his long-standing passions. In an interview conducted a year before he died, he told the whole truth: “Without my books it would be impossible for me to live and without my cats too. Books don’t meow, nor do cats provide wisdom, so I couldn’t choose.” And then he finished: “I would rather live without me then.”

His ashes, today in the Library of his El Estanquillo Museum, were deposited in La Gatera, an urn in the form of a feline, which Francisco Toledo made for him. He rests very in peace, there is no doubt. And if he were here, surely today, he would still be celebrating his birthday. For my mother, bohemians.

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