The termites of death had been working on him inside for a long time and he was 91 years old.
It has been an expected death of a man with a long life full of vicissitudes and achievements.
Even so, his departure has shaken me much more than I expected.
During these days I have had Ximena and Jorge Jr. present at every moment, and Pilar, his intelligent and delicate wife, whom, I know, he truly loved.
He loved them, sometimes, his way.
But he loved them with unquestionable depth and constancy.
As he also loved, and very much, his sisters.
Jorge had a lot of sense of family.
I am not going to say, as is customary, that Jorge as a writer survives in his vast and valuable literary work.
Jorge was a great storyteller.
And it is true —I have written it myself— that Jorge achieved in his best novels a tone that was his own, that of his spontaneous conversation.
But books don't replace the person who wrote them.
What hurts, what will leave a long shadow, is the absence of his person, just as he was, with all his defects and virtues.
The Chilean writer Jorge Edwards dies at the age of 91, one of the last exponents of the great Latin American literature of the 20th century
In the novel
The Magic Mountain,
by Thomas Mann, Claudia Chauchat, the attractive Claudia who opens and closes the dining room French door with a characteristic bang and walks with a "gracefully slippery" step, and whom everyone gazes at, Claudia, whose the protagonist, Hans Castorp, falls in love, unexpectedly marries an older gentleman and it is not very clear why.
But what this man has is “personality”, Hans Castorp feels.
And it is his personality that steals Claudia's heart.
Jorge had that indefinable thing, but that one immediately recognizes: personality.
It is not just about your intelligence, talent, sensitivity, culture and ability to work.
It's not just about his poise and people skills.
Nor just his gourmet palate, his unusual sense of humor (and boy did he have it), his sense of friendship or his natural gift for endless revelry.
All of that was there, in him, of course.
But the essential thing is that it was a personality and it is that personality that we began to miss.
There are conversations that we can no longer have.
There are moments of humor and pure joy that will no longer return.
There are anecdotes that we will never hear again flowing from his lips, his eyes, his hands.
Speaking of endless partying, I remember one night in the middle of a summer course in El Escorial where we were with Óscar Hahn and Gonzalo Contreras and various Spanish writers.
Jorge organized an outing to eat and we went for tapas and more tapas and we probably continued going from one place to another, talking, laughing and drinking like Cossacks.
I went back to bed after four in the morning.
Jorge and several others continued to hit it until the sun came up.
But at 8:30 sharp, Jorge entered the course room and with serene intelligence intervened to develop a literary matter.
I attest that it was.
Jorge was a legitimate heir to that old tradition of the bohemian writer.
What he combined, however, with an order of life and discipline to work as a diplomat and as a writer.
I remember when he won the Cervantes Prize.
As the King walks, the red carpet with railings on each side reaches the street and people squeeze to see him go by.
That morning, the radio and television announced the ceremony early.
The auditorium —that is the pompous term used— of the Alcalá de Henares University is solemn, ancient, imposing with a coffered ceiling that causes admiration.
It is the King who awards the prize and delivers a speech from a podium located a little higher, but on the same level as the audience.
The winner, unlike the King, to make his speech, goes up a small staircase and suddenly appears on a podium of carved and gilded wood, at the height of a second floor.
Jorge Edwards, at the Cervantes Award ceremony in 1999, with King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia.MIGUEL GENER
The day before, Jorge asked me to accompany him to explore the famous little staircase.
The old wooden steps were very narrow.
More than one winner had stumbled on those dark and treacherous tables and reached the top scared and with their tongues hanging out.
Jorge, disciplined as he was, wanted to rehearse that climb to Olympus well.
The day of the ceremony, then, Jorge climbed to those heights at a leisurely pace and was located on the podium.
He wasn't flying a fly.
It is known that more than one writer has broken in that moment of emotion.
Jorge, on the other hand, calmly looked around the room as if he recognized each one, with the same happy smile with which he approached our table at Mulato Gil or with which he opened the door of his apartment facing the Santa Lucía hill.
It was the same Jorge as always.
And he began to read his way, as always.
Jorge had a tougher life than it seems at first glance.
It is not easy in Chile to be a writer and call yourself "Edwards".
Uncle Edwards Bello, for some reason he never got away from Bello.
Nor was it easy to disappoint his parents and his environment, after so many academic successes —at the San Ignacio school and at the University of Chile— and so many social successes —Jorge was always surrounded by friends— it was not easy, I say , giving up being the great lawyer, the great businessman, the great politician that he was called to be and daring, instead, to embark on the adventure of being a writer.
When he published
Persona non grata,
a book critical of the Cuban revolution, it was canceled by a large part of the world of culture.
It seemed that he had put a tombstone on his future as a writer.
Time, however, proved him right and that courageous testimony, alive then and alive today, opened many doors for him.
I would say that Jorge endured the sufferings with sobriety and stoic containment.
Nothing more alien to him than the sentimentality and self-flagellation of the victim.
Resentment and complaining were alien to him.
Jorge said that when he was considered "persona non grata" there was a previous antecedent.
At that time —we are talking about Jorge as a teenager— his family spent the summer in Viña del Mar. A friend invited him to spend a few days in Zapallar.
One night he found himself at a big Zapallarina party, full of liberties and a lot of alcohol.
At some point, Jorge felt an urgent need to pee.
He didn't know the house and he was well placed and his head turned and the desire to piss was horrible.
A naughty friend—I suspect it was his great friend Manolo Montt—led him over, opened a door for him and said: “Here is the bathroom.
George did so.
The next day Troy burned.
Jorge should have left Zapallar immediately and returned to Viña with his tail between his legs as "persona non grata."
He had pissed in the lady of the house's clothes closet.
Perhaps his most personal novel is
The Death of Montaigne.
If someone asked me what book to read or reread to get closer to Jorge, I would recommend that book.
If someone asked me which novel of his I recommend and I had to recommend only one, I would recommend
The Origin of the World.
His greatest success, and from where his particular seduction starts, is the voice of the narrator, a conjectural, tentative, provisional narrator who tries to find out what happened, while he is telling it.
In his later novels, Jorge explores that conjectural narrative voice that will be his own unmistakable voice as a writer.
Jorge lived his 91 years to the full.
He was not stingy with life.
Not even with the countless friends of his.
We can all attest to his generosity and loyalty as his friend.
Carlos Franz, who was at the wake in Madrid, recounted that they had a drink in his honor while Jorge was present.
And that if it hadn't been for "the small inconvenience of death," says Carlos, he would have raised a glass too.
I believe that, indeed, invisible, Jorge got up to raise that glass full of spirits with his friends.
May Jorge's life infect us with his spirits, with his joy of living, that he give us his energy to live to the fullest, even though the circumstances are tough, that he give us his courage to be who we are and with a sense of humor.
I invite you to applaud the great work and life of Jorge Edwards on this earth.
May our applause be heard by Saint Peter in Heaven.
Arturo Fontaine is a Chilean writer.
His latest novel is
La vida doble