[Reigian Studies.] [On behalf of the baroness.]


Reig the awful impostor, Puig the hidden hero

Reig the awful impostor, Puig the hidden hero.

This morning when I woke up, I looked for the hour on the timepiece atop the record-player on the opposite wall. There were no hours there. The hours had eloped, disappeared. What a bizarre feeling... That’s it, then! No hours anymore, no time left to count on!

Of course, soon I discovered that I wasn’t really looking at the accustomed clock but at its impostor, id est, at its shadow. Somebody had displaced the standing timepiece, and the morning light from the window threw its shadow on the wall, just at the place where the clock used to be situated all those months. No; the hours were still there, time wasn’t exhausted, wasn’t yet dead.

But even before getting up, I felt a nagging prickling in my mind; I had the antsy sense, the bothersome apprehensiveness, that another impostor, much bigger than the shadowy non-clock loomed in my mental purview. At last, I got it. Reig the impostor! Man, here is where the stinking hare lay!

Though it wasn’t impossible (actually even quite habitual) for a writer never to manage to achieve the quality of his first work, with Reig it had happened twice. His youngish first novel and first play both far outshining those that followed – and, till the very end, there were a handy few of both sorts.

Were we here in front of a case much as the one that Clive Thurston went through? As later the great Chase were to document so imaginatively, so it happened that Thurston appropriated the play of his dying neighbor, the tuberculous John Coulson, thus initiating a profitable writing career – except that also with him none of his subsequent works went very far.

Knowing that Reig in his little notebooks not only penned anecdotes and ideas, but occasionally included also remembrances and confessions, we started searching among the little diaries, till late today finally we found what we were looking for.

In 1964, first days of September, the seventeen years old Reig used to retire to rest for the night in a crowded flophouse not far from the Faculty of Medicine, the same Faculty where each morning he tried to arrive in time, before they closed shut the doors to the chockablock audience-hall (the absurd name for the big amphitheatrical chamber in Catalan is paranymph) where the classes for the mob of first year students were imparted by a stuttering fool.

There, at the flophouse, one night he happened to have as a neighbor on the ropes – for this is how they had to try to sleep all of them hapless costumers, standing and leaning on thick ropes that ran across the room, where twelve or more other smelly workers, and poor students, and derelicts, also leant.

As they were awakened by the anguished utterances of a drunkard that was immediately evicted not too nicely from the premises, the two flopping companions, Reig and the neighbor, in commenting in passing the incident, realized by their mutual accent that they were actually coming from the same lurid patch of far western Catalonia. That was enough in foreign Barcelona to open for them a current of sympathy.

Next morning the new friends kept on talking. Soon they saw that pooling their resources they could afford something much better than the pathetic flophouse where they, as clueless newly arrived, had been trapped these last nights. By midday they’d found, far into the suburbs, a tiny room to rent, furnished with two narrow beds.

A few days of happy partnership followed. Reig trying to make the Faculty in time – and failing four mornings out of five at best every week; the friend sedulously working at his mounting collection of blank and already written-on leaves.

As a witching detail, it seems that Reig’s buddy used to douse the plants in the flower-pots that joyfully speckled their room with his dick always sticking out of its fly – “to encourage the plants to believe that he was watering them with his own warm bodily saps” – this, according to him, or rather according to his biographer – “as a sign of endearing and even enlightening familiarity.”

And yet, happiness didn’t last. A month went by and Reig’s companion started to shockingly deteriorate. Looking up and collating at the library the symptoms presented in the texts and drawings of many dusty volumes, Reig found – so he says in this fragment we found among his diaries – that his friend was afflicted with a strange, incurable, very cruel, disease. Progeria.

He deemed him doomed, as ephemeral and with less time to live than a struggling mayfly. An awful phantasmal mayfly, horrifically transformed into a small ancient fungal mummified dinosaur.

The body of the progeric Puig was briskly accelerating toward death. By the way, that’s the first we heard about the name of the dark hidden author. The veils of the secret were starting to be pulled apart.

Threshing through the paragraphs that followed that first revelation, that’s the gist of what we learned. Carles Puig i Torell was born near Lleida, in a charming old village called Cuquet.

Before Barcelona – the Mecca then for all Catalan youngsters with some ambition (literary or otherwise) – el Gaió, el Torricó, Tamarit and, above all, Lleida, were the stepping-stones Puig had to tread in rapid succession.

He was three years older than Reig. Only twenty when he arrived in Barcelona, where he died three month after his arrival. For, after being so diagnosed, he didn’t last another month. His deadly, disgusting, violently galloping sickness – a sort of progeria still stranger and more exceptional than plain progeria itself – called the Alacony syndrome – so named perhaps (coincidentally?) because first discovered in Alacony (also known as Alacunt, or -cant) – a bustling town in southern Catalonia, not far from picturesque Elx – or else due to the fact that all the surface, the whole of the skin of the progeric thus stricken, overpoweringly fills with what Reig described as “winged old cunts.”

The image of the smelly old dinosaur recurs. “A primitive dinosaur somewhat reborn to waveringly last for a few pitiful days. Only that instead of feathers his body covers with cunts; withered, smegmatous, moldy, lichenaceous cunts. Every day passing adds about five years and several cunts to the tormented body. A month represents that the unfortunate fellow’s lived figuratively for a century and a half. And if you tried to pick up the shriveled tacky tiny light pussy-crammed creamed dinosaur with your hands, your fingers unavoidably went deep into old flatulent cunt, got stuck into sticky tingling twat.”

At the very end, he counted fifty-four cunts on Puig’s body.

“First the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the navel, the asshole, the privates, and the sixteen interstices between toes and fingers, turn into winged old cunts; then gradually, erratically, the rest of the entire surface of the body brims with them. You are perennially lost in all too busy Cuntville.”

[By the way, we hope that all the biographical tasty morsels that we’ve manage to ascertain about Carles Puig get incorporated sooner rather than later into the already extremely informative, and bright and foreshadowing article in the Catalan Encyclopedia (of which more later.)]

Here’s a sidedish bonus; commenting the amazing apparition of so many useless old cunts, there’s a delightful distich affixed by Reig in the relevant diary. “Pin the tail on his twitching itching twat? / No sweat, his body’s got fifty-four at that!” [In the original, Cada parruf, i en té quatre i cinquanta / De boja menjaó tot me’l desplanta.]

Anyway, here was Reig still deeply mourning the dreadful passing of his poor unlucky mate, when as he was about to dispose of the few miserable appurtenances of his late friend, in order to make room for a new roommate, clearing his papers and all, he realized that two of his things were almost finished, a novel and a play.

Reig kept the two manuscripts and toyed and fiddled with them during ten years or so. Then, tempted by the dubious prospect of elusive success, he decided to send them, as “amended” by himself, to the affable consideration of some jury or other soon due to adjudicate some of the several literary prizes at the time offered by the banking bourgeoisie in cahoots with the inimical occupying regime, and by other more or less entangled corporative bodies, to try and prop up the tottering hidebound side of the Catalan culture (for the progressive side never needed the treacherous help of the damned collaborative forces.)

The double imposture paid mighty big. Reig’s rigmarolic compositions won each a prize. The novel, especially, earned the Pla prize of literature for the year 1976. Thanks to this prize, as for his own confession, not only got he properly remunerated just perhaps for his inability to immerd enough the fine writing of somebody else, but, then sure of himself, wallowing in financial exaltation, for a while he was still able to bilk many “patriotic” bourgeois out of some wonderful meal or out of a lovely monetary or transiently positional emolument or other, plus also helped him to “bed innumerable ripe and less ripe lletraferides, impressionable bluestocking ladies of all sorts.”

And, just as Clive Thurston erst did, so did Carles Reig now – spasmodically trying to endorse with sundry plays and novels the witless packsaddles of this and that sorrowfully wronged little publisher – with afterward nary the flimsiest of successes, it goes without saying.

[Note that never one loth to take advantage of all the material at hand, and to copy nature at its most grotesque, Reig at the time wrote another insignificant play whose main and almost only subject was, wouldn’t you know, progeria. (A sample of which later.)]

Only the distinguished, utterly perspicacious, or at any rate clairvoyant enough, team that works for the most eminent of Encyclopedias, namely the Catalan one, were able to straighten out the imbroglio and attain the naked truth. Somehow, triumphally, they were able to discover who was the real author of the most notable of soi-disant Reig’s books.

Also an odd out-of-this-world luminary, a supreme genius called Estanislau Torres, known as E.T. by his blessed friends, and as far as we are able to determine, perhaps even the hallowed subject, or at any rate, he, the great magnificent never-erring Estanislau, never failing to leave the director’s (a Silverberg? a Stransberg? a Spielberg?), the director’s mind, while filming such an illustrious film, naturally called, as well he might, “E.T.” Also him, then, E.T., saw that Contraataquen, as tinkered and fussed over with by the cheating Reig, such a grossly incompetent silly meddler, is “an indigestible little shit of a pile of twaddle; never a novel.”

[About all that, vide please herewith the appendant pertinent documents.]

Well, and thus here we are.

Lest there be somebody still as confused as we were about this tricky question, we believe we’ve done our duty by further elucidating a small point that certainly needed clarifying.

L’oli, l’ala i l’olor – leaf the fifth – about progeria

Estanislau Torres – supreme genius

Carles Puig i Torell (1944-1964)

Enciclopèdia Catalana – Carles Puig

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