The cana in the air by Camilo José Cela

I maintain that Camilo José Cela, instead of a Nobel Prize, should have been given two: one on each cheek. The one on the right, for Pascual Duarte’s family and the one on the left, for Viaje a la Alcarria.

Months ago, I made a journey through the Alcarreña region. I know that seventy years is a long time for memories of Cela’s mythical journey to last, but I was surprised to find so few references to the writer and the book that gave universal fame to the area; just a few worn plaques on a chipped wall. Apparently, the locals do not keep a special memory of the traveler who traveled the region on foot, by mule or by bus for weeks; nor do they forget that Don Camilo, a man of brusque and even rude ways, had to leave the confines of more than one town on his legs.

Perhaps it is part of the legend and the catalog of rudeness that fill the biography of the best Spanish writer of the 20th century, but they say that, years later, in 1973, Cela was in Molina de Segura to give the proclamation of the patron saint festivities. They told the gossip that the City Council had to pay, in addition to the fees for the opening speech offered, the services provided to the novelist by a company lady at the Parador del Niño, the only hotel that the city had at the time.

Since in La Alcarria no compliments were lavished, in 2016, the centenary year of the birth of our Nobel Prize, a group of friends were about to pay him an original tribute: the idea was to go one morning to the door of El Niño and place a plaque to remember the visit he made to our municipality. A text in line with his famous outbursts, which surely would have enjoyed the writer’s delight.

On September 17, 1973, in this hotel,

Don Camilo José Cela, Nobel Prize for Literature,

had a memorable powder,

being mayor Fulanito de Tal.

But we gave up the idea when the then Councilor for Culture told us how the events unfolded. The already famous writer gladly accepted the invitation to offer the proclamation of parties. He did not charge anything for it, and only requested two plane tickets from Mallorca, where he lived, and two nights in a hotel in a well-known establishment in Murcia.

The mayor and his wife came to receive Don Camilo at the Alicante airport, accompanied by a large representation of local authorities, including the priest and the Chief of the Municipal Police. As he was descending the plane stairs, the mayor’s wife went ahead of the procession to deliver a showy bouquet of flowers to the writer’s wife. But immediately everyone realized that Cela was not accompanied by his legitime, but by a little friend who would assist him during his stay in Murcia.

So, without knowing it or intending it, that rancid municipal corporation sinned by financing a cana aire of who, a few decades later, would be Nobel Prize for Literature.

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The cana in the air by Camilo José Cela