«Learning to read is one of the most magical moments in a person’s life. It is a before and after that marks forever our relationship with others, with ourselves, and makes us feel and experience unforgettable things. In the following, I will explain my relationship with reading and, to do so, as if it were a book, I will start at the beginning. That is to say, the first page.».
Mario, how did you start reading?
When I was 6 or 7 years old, I got my hands on some Mortadelo y Filemón and Zipi y Zape comics. At that age, I was particularly attracted by the colourful design and the short, snappy dialogue. During the lunch break, I would come home eager to pick up one of those comics and read it with the typical excitement of a child when he discovers an unstoppable passion. I remember spending hours and hours sitting in an armchair, reading the wildest adventures of characters that made me smile and transported me to different worlds.
As well as giving me life, I thank my mother for her patience in explaining to me the meaning of every word and expression I didn’t understand. Who would have thought that decades later I would do the same with my students!
What kind of reading do you prefer?
My preferences have changed with the times. As a child, as I said, I loved comic books. I also devoured Tintin books, with his inseparable Snowy, and I was an unyielding follower of Asterix and Obelix. I didn’t need any magic potion to string together minutes of enjoyment. Later, as a teenager, I started reading novels. As an adult, I like to read a bit of everything: from crime novels and detective novels to biographies and books about self-improvement. I also read, for work and for the love of art, on the computer screen. But whenever I want to enjoy a book in my hands, I always do so in the sunlight and knowing that I have time to savour its contents. I never read a book in a hurry, as I understand that this moment should be something pleasurable.
About books written in Spanish…tell us one that has had an impact on you…
One I especially remember is Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez. There’s something hypnotic about his prose, which doesn’t let the reader escape and takes them on a fascinating journey through the richness and variety of his characters, the magic of Macondo and its bewitching charm. Undoubtedly, one of the messages that stayed with me is how, through the Buendía family, it becomes clear that human beings are, to a large extent, responsible for their joys and miseries.
Any that you have not been able to finish reading?
Honestly, I can’t remember ever leaving a book half-finished. Before buying a book, I try to find out about the author and the subject matter. Once I’ve started, I may like it more or less, but I always finish it. I have to admit that, on occasions, there are books that I have been on the verge of closing after the first few pages, but I have given them a chance and, once finished, they have left a good taste in my mouth. As with people, at the beginning you have to have a little patience and give them a vote of confidence, as an initial bad impression can turn into a pleasant surprise.
Which one or ones would you recommend?
I would recommend any by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, my favourite writer. I remember, for example, Fútbol, una religión en busca de un Dios. From his always lucid and scathing vision, Montalbán analyses and reviews the evolution of the so-called king of sports. I also suggest reading any of the books in which his famous private detective Pepe Carvalho appears, through which he demonstrates his masterful and ironic portrayal of the events of the second half of the 20th century.
Another recommended option is Reinventarse, by Dr. Mario Alonso Puig. It is a delight to listen to some of his numerous conferences, as well as to read the different books he has written. He touches on several tremendously interesting subjects, but I particularly like when he deals with brain plasticity and what our brain, one of the best and most fantastic machines in the universe, is capable of doing. I always keep in mind a phrase he often mentions: “What the heart wants to feel, the mind ends up showing it”.
And speaking precisely about the importance of brain power, another recommended book would be George Orwell’s 1984. It may or may not be considered a science fiction or dystopian novel. Depending on your own kaleidoscope, there are those who see certain parallels with today’s society and examples of how a population is indoctrinated by repressive states, with the indispensable collaboration of technology and mass media.
And finally, what book have you given and what have you given as a present this Sant Jordi?
23 April is the day of the book and also the day of the rose. One of my students, from Japan, gave me an origami rose he made himself. I was thrilled because it was a nice and unexpected gift and because of the beauty of the rose itself.
I gave him Los mares del sur, by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Published in 1979, it is one of his most famous works and is considered one of the best Spanish novels of the last century.