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Don Cristóbal’s library

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He said Borges that he was incapable of imagining a world without books. But that world is coming. Soon everything will be in the cloud and so will we. It is likely that an enormous amount of vast knowledge is accessible to us, but it is equally so that a simple blackout can nullify it. Borges, who is essential when it comes to books, tells us a memory, like today, in his fantastic Library of Babel: “When it was proclaimed that the Library included all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness.” Similar to the one we now have when browsing the Internet. “To the unbridled hope, there was, of course, an excessive depression,” adds the writer, after noting the fruitless search for a rational meaning for our existence. The paper or digital library will always be an arcane, where we will go around in search of what cannot be found. There is no doubt that doing it between the old wooden shelves has something special, an aroma, a physical adventure that the dazzling but cold screen of a computer will always lack. That is why public libraries still subsist, as a work of art rather than culture, although both meanings mean the same thing. In a very short time we will not be able to touch a book, but we will see it, in the best of cases. Books will soon be an object of whim and will be available to the few, as in the Middle Ages.

The private library has always been a luxury. A luxury of exquisite. Those who have possessed it is because they have loved it. It is not about having money, but about knowing how to spend it. And the money can be spent on homes, on travel, on stocks, on revelries, and even on books. The private library differs from the public one in that it is usually shorter, more read and more heartfelt. A private library obeys a personal or family effort, but never a political decision. The private library is, has been, the will of each individual who pursues his direct training, beyond the indoctrination provided by the administration on duty. Gathering books is gathering knowledge, vanities and discoveries, inventions and poetry, finally gathering freedom. The man who collects books is a man free Or, at least, it wants to be.

I am referring today to one of these men who collected books and made a wonderful private library, which is still maintained thanks to the almost Benedictine care of his son Jorge. It is in a house in the Brillante, overlooking a garden. Trees and books agree perhaps by reason of origin. It was called José Cristóbal Sánchez Mayendía, he was an industrial engineer, he looked like Edward G. RobinsonAnd I am not saying that, for this reason, he was a strict director of the Cenemesa, which was an advanced company in industrial technology, and of the Westinghouse that succeeded it. There is no doubt, in any case, that he was one of the great leaders of that Cordoba, now forgotten, in which it was produced.

Don Cristóbal, moreover, was an educated engineer, as Cashew he was an educated doctor. Good science is never at odds with letters. From caste it came to him. He was the son of Comfort Mayendía, glory of the national and Hispanic American lyric genre, and of Cristobal Sanchez del Pino, a comic tenor who was not lagging behind, or who, by leaving, got her for marriage and the illustrious offspring. Consuelo can still be heard on YouTube the wonderful first version of Flor de Té, perhaps the most beautiful cuplé of the many that have been composed. Arniches and the Alvarez Quintero Perhaps they owe it to this lady of the theater that their names remain so powerful.

Cristóbal necessarily had to be a cosmopolitan man. And in that time that only restless people know how to take advantage of, he was gathering those books, never the same, never repeated, that obey the insatiable curiosity of the intelligent man. That is why, at the same time, he wrote. No one who reads should do without writing. The bad thing is that many people who writes without reading. I have in my hands a splendid article on Juanelo Turriano, Lombard watchmaker at the service of Carlos v and of Philip II, in which, with impeccable prose and precise erudition, his participation in the reform of the Julian Calendar is attested. These are things that Don Cristóbal did not know by chance, but rather based on the vast library that he assembled. Ten thousand volumes, of which more than a thousand are of history and of them, six hundred of the history of Spain. Five hundred of the Civil War. Perhaps they would be useful to the demiurges of historical memory. About 1,400 novels and hundreds or thousands of science books are also ordered. First editions, from the seventeenth century, accentuate the prosapia of this library.

I pay a simple tribute to this adoptive Cordovan, who did so much for the economic development of the city, leaving him a unique cultural mark.

By the way, on this Sunday when the time is changed, I am going to take advantage of the gift to reread a Borges book in my library, which is much smaller, but no less welcoming.

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