Fernández Arias, César

There was no chance César Fernández Arias (Caracas, 1952) would not cross paths with Ramón Gomez de la Serna at some point, beyond the barriers of chronology and history. Fascinated by the old vanguards since long ago, this Caracas native, who now lives in Madrid, is somewhat of a modern minstrel. A great portion of his inspiration comes from the streets, the life that goes by, the historical events, something that became especially clear when he responded to Seville’s splendour in 1992 with a red cover plaquette titled Expolio (Plunder; 1993). César likes the immediacy of mass media, and particularly that of newspapers; in that sense, we must remember the illustrations he published for years in El País de las Tentaciones (The Country of Temptations) or his current comic strips for a certain ministerial campaign. He also feels content with more secret publications that in a way are reminiscent of the editorial practices of the old vanguards, such as Media Vaca by Vicente Ferrer in Valencia, whom he has been collaborating with for years, and his good friend Ángel Guache, whose humour is also rather Ramón-esque.

The hundred visual greguerías by César Fernández Arias compose a perfect co-narration to the hundred greguerías written by Ramón Gomez de la Serna, carefully selected by the unlikely Herrín Hidalgo. Like Ramón, César is passionate about manufactured objects, whether new or used. Like Ramón, he is an attentive observer of life around him. Like Ramón, who always had one foot in Puerta del Sol and the other in Montparnasse, is a vanguardist who does not reject, quite the contrary, what is traditional or popular. Like Ramón, who influenced Tono, Edgar Neville, Jardiel Poncela, Miguel Mihura, and company, has plenty of humour. Like Ramón, without ceasing to be a poet, he also knows how to be effective when expressing his astonishment before the world, an effectiveness that in both cases can be reminiscent of Fernand Léger, a very present painter in Ismos. Together, Ramón and César talk to us about caterpillars, circus tigers, and train station clocks; about cacti, a modern plant by excellence, as they well knew in Germany in Ramón’s time; about how dangerous a trumpet is as a weapon; about ‘bus stop relatives’; and other things so trivial like the difficulty of fishing a bar of soap in a bathtub, or taking out a key from a keyring, which, by the way, César has done in a Léger style. Irreverent, they would be delighted if the equestrian statue would kick whomever reads the speech. Civic, they are outraged that Spanish people, after having a picnic, leave rubbish on the grass. Dark comedians, they talk and talk about death, which is very Mexican of César. Social, they decree that ‘the fly is the ring of the poor’. Magical realists, they notice the hidden photographer in the back of the mirror, or realise that ‘the crocodile is a suitcase that travels on its own’, or that ‘the lamp of the nightstand leaves a stain of light on our clothes’.

Thanks must be given to Vicente Ferrer for having propitiated this enlightening encounter, this fruitful dialogue between César Fernández Arias and Ramón Gomez de la Serna, a greguerian dialogue that begins on the very cover: a beautiful and glittering portrait, in red, yellow, and black, of the figurehead of all vanguards; a portrait followed by an overcrowded but equally formidable guard. I am certain this unique book will occupy a place of honour in the libraries of both avant-garde and Ramonian children.

Juan Manuel Bonet

Self-portrait of the author