When dreaming was a crime

Summer readings: 'Ava in the night' by Manuel Vicent
Manuel Vicent

 -   Manuel Vicent

Between the Fort of Denia and the summit of El Montgó there is an airstrip called Carrer de Diana; it is not the widest, nor the main street of the Levantine city, but it is the most graceful, and moreover it does honour to the mythical origin of this port settlement that always saw in the summit of El Montgó the body of a goddess to whom the sea wants to take away her haughty position.

These winds of Diana are the ones that move the words of a mature group, but with a joviality of spirit and verb that others would already like. I went there in search of the Manuel Vicent who feels his summer kingdom far from the chairs of Gijón to meet the winds of the Mediterranean and to celebrate friends with lively and solar words. The still recent memory of the confinement is fading away, and we search in the distance for that encounter with Ava near Barquillo, in the nights whose smell and light he remembers with a mixture of melancholy and exaltation.  He finally saw her that night in Oliver, and that is why his last installment, his 'Ava in the night' can be read as a novel or as the memory of the boy from Valencia who went to Madrid to be a notary of the night and its inhabitants. Not only did he see her, or all of them, as a tale obscured by Franco's regime, but he felt them and made them part of a present that now becomes a memory and can be told to the narrator's liking.

Manuel Vicent
Manuel Vicent

Under the thick night of Francoism, even dreaming was a crime. Some dreamed of freedom, others of getting laid by Ava Gardner. All were in the same boat that only when it sailed at night could it find a port. Whoever lived the world of the serene, knows that the moon had its very limited lights over Madrid. It only lit up in chunks. And it was more what I dreamed than what it illuminated.

Like a good reporter of the time, Manuel Vicent opens the night of that Madrid that had its opposite poles in the bad guy named Jarabo and in the unreachable star known as Ava.

A boy from Valencia comes to the capital who wants to invent reality, that is, make a film, so that the harsh reality of the time is sweetened or takes on a heavenly body. Berlanga is the goalkeeper of his dream, and an unequal troop of intellectuals who crawl from Chicote to Gijón and back are in attendance as a heavenly chorus. With these wicks Vicent weaves a plot of film noir, with cats that splash in pools of blood and flamingos that assault the sheets of the Hollywood man-eater.

Manuel Vicent
Manuel Vicent

The author knows in his flesh that only sleep could save you from the prevailing grey modorrhea of the time. That's why Ava is not only the most beautiful woman in the world who walked the streets of the dullest city in the West; it was above all the desire to possess her, even if it was in a photo, to save himself from a life that had already been annulled at birth.

Vicent uses, in his usual caustic and insolent way, a mechanism of good and evil, of the crude and the chewed, of the beast and the beautiful, as a game of opposites to make a novel in spiral development, which puts us in its shroud, stuck in the dream that can be reality. Turning the general nightmare into a particular dream. A metaphor of a rotten world that is so real that it is almost implausible. And that was the world they lived in, the world that others will later hear, written here in the words that most accurately describe it, spun like an embroidery that is a fine needlework art that Manolo Vicent controls like no other. Vincent does not write, but rather embroiders with the dictionary of the moment. And he sprinkles the scents of time so that the memory is impregnated without remedy.

It's up to experts in star anatomy, if the protagonist really did have a scar on her appendix and a freckle on her tit. Our protagonist dreamt it so many times that he surely had to make it real. Like the author himself, who certifies his encounter with the beautiful woman in a Madrid nightclub populated by novelists; passers-by in the darkness of cold, wasted time if you didn't have a dream to dream.