Three authors and three exhibitions: Almudena Grandes, José Hierro and Cristina Peri Rossi.
April 26, 2022

Almudena Grandes, José Hierro and Cristina Peri Rossi. The Complutense hosts, coinciding with the celebration of the Week of Letters, three exhibitions dedicated to each of these three great authors.

Professor of Romance Philology José Manuel Lucía Megías is the curator of the exhibitions dedicated to the two Spanish authors, while Professor of Hispanic American Literature Jesús Cano is responsible for the one dedicated to the last winner of the Cervantes Prize, which can be visited until April 28 in building A of the Faculty of Philology and Philosophy. Those dedicated to Almudena Grandes, installed in the lobby of the Faculty of Geography and History, and to José Hierro, located in the María Zambrano Library, will be on display until May 20.

Professor Lucía Megías explains that these three exhibitions are very different both in terms of the writers to whom they are dedicated and the conception of each one of them. Only the one starring José Hierro can be considered bibliographical as such, being the copies of his works the guiding thread of the exhibition. That of Cristina Peri Rossi can even be considered an installation, while the one dedicated to Almudena Grandes combines the author’s biography and bibliography, her links with the Complutense and, above all, the context of the social struggle of post-Franco Spain, so present in Almudena Grandes.

The exhibition dedicated to Almudena Grandes – “The Struggle for Freedom. Texts and images for a tribute to Complutense” – is also curated by actress Lucía Álvarez, a close friend of the writer, who has contributed photographs from her personal archive and numerous memories. It also has the collaboration of photographer Daniel Mordzinski, who has lent a spectacular report he took of Grandes, as well as the Historical Library and the General Archive of the UCM, which have provided the originals of the political propaganda of the time contained in the exhibition.

As Professor Lucía Megías explains, the exhibition on Almudena Grandes has three plot threads. The first is the acceptance speech for the honorary doctorate given to her on January 23, 2020, at the UNED, entitled “Theory of Shipwrecks”, which, divided into fragments, occupies the lower part of each of the panels that make up the exhibition. The second is the voice of the writer talking about the most diverse topics, which through QR links can be heard by visitors. The third axis is the social context in which Almudena Grandes moved. It begins with the plans of the Faculty of Geography and History, which inaugurated in 1966 still distinguished in its spaces between those intended for students and those reserved for young ladies, or with the student protests that, just when Grandes began her studies, protested the lack of security in the facilities. And it continues with the student struggle of the 1970s, without which it would be impossible to enjoy freedom today. In between, the exhibition stops to remember the presence of the author in the Complutense, first as a student in the Faculty of Geography and History and then as a regular lecturer either in her own center, in the Faculty of Philology -which she visited for the last time in 2019 to present a literary magazine made by students- or in the Summer Courses, where in the early 90s she fell in love with the man who would later become her husband, Luis García Montero.

Just across the street, in the lobby of the María Zambrano Library, is the exhibition “In the centenary of José Hierro: books and complutenses looks”, which is included in the official program of events dedicated to the centenary of the birth of the poet at the state level. “The intention -explains professor Lucía Megías- is to remember the great José Hierro, who is one of our great poets, who had an enormous importance in the 40s and 50s, then he left almost 20 years without publishing anything and then he was recovered in the 80s and 90s and already in the 21st century”. The exhibition contains first editions of many of his works preserved in the Library of the Faculty of Philology and the Historical Library. There are also copies donated by individuals, mostly teachers from Complutense, which have the particularity of being dedicated by the author himself. “José Hierro was a painter; he loved to paint and did wonderful things in the dedications of the books, with wine, coffee…”, says the curator of the exhibition, while highlighting the collaboration of the José Hierro Poetry Center Foundation, which has also provided some works, photographs, and manuscripts of the author. Among these, the one that shows the corrections he made to the sonnet he dedicated to Joaquín Sabina until it reached its final version stands out. “It is impressive to see how much work there is behind the simplicity and naturalness of his poems,” says Lucía Megías.

The exhibition follows the poet’s work chronologically, from Alegría, with which he won the Adonais Prize in 1947, or Cuanto sé de mí, to his Cuaderno de Nueva York, the last work he published and possibly the culmination of his poetics. The exhibition combines his books with his drawings and with those made by others to illustrate his poems also. Among these is a collection of 10 engravings dedicated to him by Luis García-Ochoa, on loan from his daughter María Luisa, former director of the Economics Library. The exhibition concludes by showing some copies of his works translated into Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

For years it has been a tradition -in fact, it is included in the official program of events of the Cervantes Prize- to receive the winner of the most prestigious award for literature in the Spanish language in the Auditorium of the Faculties of Philology and Philosophy. This year the health of Cristina Peri Rossi has not allowed the event to be held -she has not been able to travel to Spain to collect the award-, but “we did want her to be present in our halls, through a literary intervention,” explains Professor Lucía Megías.

Un verso da nombre a la exposición: “¿Existió alguna vez una ciudad llamada Montevideo?”. La frase escrita en grandes letras preside la entrada al edificio de las Facultades de Filología y Filosofía. Del cartel salen dos cuerdas, una hacia cada pasillo lateral. Hacia la derecha, según se entra, se da a conocer la vida de la última Premio Cervantes, con el exilio como protagonista y con su estrecha relación con Cortázar como trasfondo. Los códigos QR permiten también al visitante escuchar la voz de la autora y las fotografías de reconocerla. En el pasillo izquierdo está presente su obra y su posicionamiento social, su feminismo militante en tiempos en los que no era tan fácil serlo. Su condición lésbica está presente de manera valiente en sus obras. Como concluye el profesor Lucía Megías, “hoy en día escribir un poema erótico no es algo raro; hace unos años que una mujer hablara del goce de su cuerpo, sí llamaba la atención”.

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