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The Fundación Tres Culturas mourns the loss of and pays tribute to author Antonio Lozano

11/02/19

The Foundation joins others in expressing its condolences regarding the death of novelist and playwright Antonio Lozano, who dedicated his work to learning about others, overcoming barriers and cultural encounters.

Coinciding with the presence at this institution of crime novel writers Carlos Zanón and Jesús Lens, tomorrow we will be paying tribute to Lozano, whose loss leaves a gaping hole in the Spanish literary world and in this foundation, which he had been closely linked to through our reading club since 2009.

During those 10 years, the Tres con libros (Three with books) club addressed three of his works (Las cenizas de BagdadHarraga and Un largo sueño en Tánger) and he even took part in the reading club experience Tres Culturas (Three Cultures) launched at Seville 2 Penitentiary Centre.

Lozano was also the precursor and director of the Festival del Sur-Encuentro teatral Tres Continentes (Three Continents Southern Festival-Theatrical Encounter) held in Agüimes in the Canary Islands, with which the Foundation collaborated enthusiastically.

One of his last appearances at Foundation activities was during the second edition of the Tres Festival in April 2018, when he shared the stage with Alicia Giménez Bartlett and Jesús Lens, who will coincidentally be attending Carlos Zanón’s presentation tomorrow.

As a humble expression of our sorrow at his loss, today we recall the words Antonio Lozano dedicated to the Tres con libros (Three with books) reading club:

For a writer, to have the chance to share the experience of reading one of their books with a group of readers is an extraordinary thing. But of all the times I have had the chance to enjoy this experience, the time at the Fundación Tres Culturas del Mediterráneo (Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation) was undoubtedly one of the most gratifying and moving I have experienced for a number of reasons.

            Firstly, because the people in charge of the library that organises the reading club are some of that rare breed of people who live for the love of literature, who exercise encouraging others to read as their life mission, who profess a huge respect – in equal measures – for writers and readers. Who, in essence, make their workplace a temple and the work they do there a ceremony.

            It’s also true that during my first visit I was charmed by the place I had been invited to: the former Moroccan Pavilion from the 1992 Universal Exposition of Seville. I had not had the chance to visit the event at the time. Therefore, I knew nothing of the place I had been invited to.  It is one of the few buildings built for the Expo which have been preserved, and is probably the one that has been put to the best use following the end of the event: that of becoming a meeting place for the three Mediterranean cultures that once lived together in our country. I was enthralled by the beauty of the place. When I crossed the threshold, I felt that I was returning to my birthplace in Morocco, the country of which, although I do not have a passport, I feel as much a citizen as I do of that which has issued me an identity document. I felt that I was a member of that community the citizenship of which my colleagues defined perfectly at the last edition of the Festival of African Cinema of Tarifa: that of ‘Straitsians’. We could say that the Fundación Tres Culturas del Mediterráneo (Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation) is the home of all ‘Straitsians’…

            At least that’s what I felt when I entered for the first time, when I was received there by the main custodian of all the bibliographic treasures guarded by the shelves of its library, the beloved and admired (and not just by me, but by everyone who knows her) Olga Cuadrado.

            On that first visit I wasn’t going to talk about one of my novels, I was there to talk about a great Senegalese writer, Fatou Diome, who was launching activities at the Reading Club with her book The Belly of the Atlantic. On that occasion I presented the author and moderated the debate following her intervention before a large, very interested audience – with the sensation of having had an extraordinary experience in an out of the ordinary place – the first activity of a reading club which was undoubtedly set to do great things – and with a desire to return there as soon as possible.

            Destiny wished to fulfil my desires with little delay, as over time no more and no fewer than three of my works were read by the members of this exceptional reading community. The first of them, The Ashes of Baghdad, is accompanied by a unique memory. The author – I – was accompanied by the novel’s main character, Waleed Saleh. The novel, in fact, is based on the life of a professor of Iraqi origins – today a member of the Department of Arabian and Islamic Studies of the Autonomous University of Madrid – and his adventures in the years he spent in Baghdad as a member of an illegal Communist Party. He was pursued until he was eventually forced to travel to Spain, after spending some years in Morocco. His life portrays the struggle against adversities imposed by governments and States, always overcome with freedom and dignity as the indisputable principles. The presence of the main character of the novel at the reading club gave the encounter an unusual flavour before an audience accustomed to hearing the authors of novels they had read but who had never before also had the main character of the story before them at the same time. I hold the touching hours of that encounter, accompanied by a tea consisting of the sweetmeats of the Middle East, that region which Waleed loved so much and knew so well, as an unforgettable memory.

            I also had the honour of launching, together with the star of The Ashes of Baghdad and Olga Cuadrado, the reading club the Foundation set up at Seville Prison. I must say that the experience, with a full house, was one of the most moving and enriching of the many this wonderful profession of writer has provided me with.

            The next activity at the Foundation reading club came under the institution’s itinerant modality. I had the chance to make a very pleasant bus trip to Jerez with the readers who had, on that occasion, read my novel Harraga. I was presented there by the renowned Juan José Téllez. We held a long discussion with the audience from Jerez and with those who were coming back to Seville with us.

            A Long Sleep in Tangiers was the third novel of mine that the Reading Club at the Fundación Tres Culturas (Three Cultures Foundation) read. On that occasion I was unable, for a number of reasons, to attend the accustomed encounter with the readers, however I did get to exchange opinions via videoconference. However, I soon intend to follow that virtual encounter up with one in person and promise to bring some couscous with me to help us mentally evoke the lovely Mediterranean city of the book.

            To return to the Fundación Tres Culturas del Mediterráneo (Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation) will for me, once again, be an occasion of celebration, joy and friendship.

 

Antonio Lozano

 

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