Online since
Nov 21 1997.


The pianist

Who is
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán


Manuel Vázquez Montalbán in 1998
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (Barcelona, 1939) is a world famous Spanish writer, thanks mainly to his series of Pepe Carvalho detective novels. It doesn't matter that Pepe Carvalho is so palpably a native of Barcelona: he still manages to be appreciated all round the globe, and is even known in places as distant as China. But the 20-book Carvalho series is only one of the highly prolific Vazquez Montalban's many achievements, since he is also famous for an extraordinary quantity of literary production including poetry, sociology, essays, political and current affairs pieces, literature, and several unforgettable novels outwith the aforementioned Carvalho cycle: and then there are also his plays and numerous articles for various Spanish and foreign publications. He's a frequent visitor to conferences, into the bargain, and often contributes introductions to the work of other writers.
As if this weren't enough, Manuel Vazquez Montalban is also an extremely open person, ready to talk about anything and with everyone. He is one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met.

His big shiny bald pate surrounded by short black hair gives way to lively bright eyes, whose vivacity is barely evident in his photographs. A pair of perennially unfashionable 70s' glasses perch amiably on the end of a nose which, until 1996, projected forth above an untidy black moustache: but this he shaved off in honour of Marcello Mastroianni, who died that year. No longer, therefore, is a mouth hidden that is itself rare to laugh, though so frequent is the laughter he provokes in others, with the writing produced via the small, plumpish hands whose insubstantial nails show signs of being thoughtfully chewed in private moments of worry. He usually wears wool polo shirts in subdued colours such as grey or beige. The black or brown leather jackets which he tended to wear in the 70s and the white sport jackets he favoured in the 80s have given way to suede jackets, worn open, with little apparent care about the considerable paunch that goes amply before him. He does, however, make a gesture towards weight-watching by drinking Diet Coke, though he rarely bothers to correct the errors of waiters who appear with the original version. His unhurried gait may give him a tentative air, but an attentive eye will notice a definite decisiveness rather than timidity. As he walks, he is constantly screwing up his eyes to observe something in the distance, or, lips moving, searching busily in his jacket pockets. He is one of those fidgety people who, when seated, invariably twitches his leg, and who loves to take off his glasses and knead his face generously with both hands. His warm handshake inspires confidence, conveying a certainty and calm that is able to put at ease anyone who meets him.

I am happy to thank Mr. Stuart Wilson for this english translation.