Ever since I read Jorge Manrique as a kid in high school, it has always seemed to me an indisputable fact that when we’re no longer here, what’s left is a life of fame. This is what Héctor Abad Faciolince does in El olvido que seremos (2006; Alfaguara 2017): he places on the stage of immortality Héctor Abad Gómez, a public health doctor who was killed in his hometown of Colombia for his ideas: «[…] The only possibility of forgetting and forgiving was to tell what happened, nothing more” (p. 212); “This book is an attempt to abandon the testimony of that suffering, a testimony that is both unnecessary and necessary” (p. 220).
I stumbled upon this novel a short while ago at a delightful dinner in a square in Malaga, among the participants of a course we all teach. Talking about current events, movies and books in it, one of them referred to this novel. He described it not as a mistake, but simply and too emotionally, with lots of social condemnation. I mean, I was already reading it on the way back to Elda the next day. I enjoyed it very much and it made me more emotional; because as I read, I replaced the double identification with what is sometimes described as my father’s son and sometimes as the father of my children. This duality heightened my feelings. So I knew right away that I had a great novel in my hands.
Of course, she had to write many pages of her diary (What was present, Alfaguara, 2022) in order to construct this wonderful portrait of her father and his relationship with him in life and after death. In both works, the winding path to reach a serene story of a serene love for his father and his own forgiveness is predictable: “The chronology of childhood is not composed of lines, but shocks” (p. 129), but “El amor” refers to life and joy (to us). is much stronger than his tendency towards death” (p. 242).
Héctor Abad Gómez leads a polyhedral literary life according to his relationships with other characters. It conveys confidence and patience, as well as a high commitment to public health: «For my father, the doctor needed to research, understand the relationship between economic status and health, stop being a witch to become a social activist and scientist. (p. 42). He has devoted many efforts to the happiness, hope, optimism, and security in viable progress of his family and all those lucky enough to live in this world. And this is how he educated his children: “My father allowed me to do whatever I wanted” (p. 11). Although for others[…] the most well-established Marxist in town and a dangerous leftist whose wings must be clipped so that he does not fly” (p. 44).
It is structured in fourteen chapters with unlisted thematic headings. They contain 42 short chapters with a simple style, easy look of logical expressions with brushstrokes of certain poems, which became the measure of his prose. Thus, with the contradictory, respectful and loving complementarity between her father and mother, we get to know her family, the real core of the novel; father’s work as a doctor and social activist; the catholic religion that dominates the opinion of the majority; his work in the world health organization; Struggle, human rights, years of poverty in Medellin; and by the way, the death of a loved one: […] for life, after such circumstances, is nothing but an absurd, senseless tragedy worth no consolation” (p. 159).
And why should you read this novel? Because it has become an obligatory and successful reference of the Spanish novel at the beginning of the 21st century, both with its subject and its very simple and sweet narrative style. And lives told with truth from the heart help us to value our experiences and incorporate terrible events into our own being. And this power should always be appreciated.