Sunday, June 7, 2015

Typewriters in Madrid (2)

I'm back from an eventful and interesting trip to Spain. In addition to the typewriter sightings I shared in my previous post, I had a few more adventures pertinent to this blog.

In the central Retiro park, the yearly book fair was underway, with hundreds of publishers' stalls.

One publisher specializing in classic works of Spanish literature with rather dull covers spiced up the display with a creatively adorned Underwood.

At the fair I bought a copy of a little 1,342-page novel by Javier Marías, Tu rostro mañana (Your Face Tomorrow). Yes, that's a typewriter he's proudly using. It's an Olympia Carrera De Luxe.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Marías:

Q: Why do you keep using your old typewriter? Is it a phobia of new technologies? Superstition?

A: No, I just like writing on paper, taking out the sheet, correcting it by hand, crossing things out, drawing arrows, typing it over again, and doing so as many times as I have to. I’m not in a hurry, I don’t have to “save time” when I’m writing. To the contrary: In part, I write in order to lose time.

Some passages from the novel suggest why Marías would avoid a digital-heavy life:

"Then the majority forget how, or through whom, they came to find out what they know, and there are even people who think that they brought it to light—whatever it is, a story, an idea, an opinion, gossip, a play on words, a maxim, a title, a history, an aphorism, a slogan, a discourse, a quotation or a whole text, which they proudly appropriate, convinced that they are its progenitors. Or maybe they do know that they're stealing, but they distance this from their thought and hide it from themselves that way. It happens ever more in our time, as if there were a hurry for everything to pass into the public domain and there were no authorships anymore—or said less prosaically, a hurry to turn everything into mere rumor and refrain and legend that run from mouth to mouth and from pen to pen and from screen to screen, everything uncontrolled without fixity or origin or attachment or owner, everything spurred on, running away without a brake."

"An idea occurs to someone, and normally that's enough for him—the idea. He stops complacently at the first reasoning or discovery and doesn't keep thinking anymore, or writing more deeply if he writes, or challenging himself to go farther; he's satisfied with the first crack, or not even that: with the first cut, with penetrating a single layer of people and facts, of intentions and suspicions, of truths and deceits; our age is the enemy of intimate dissatisfaction, and of course of constancy, everything is organized so that everything should get tired right away, and attention should turn restless and erratic, distracted by the buzzing of a fly, sustained investigation and perseverance aren't tolerated—really sticking with something in order to find out about it. And the long look isn't permitted, the look that Tupra had, the look that ends up affecting what is looked at. The eyes that linger offend today, and that's why they have to hide behind curtains and binoculars and telephoto lenses and remote cameras, and spy behind their thousand screens."

My next expedition was to the Calle Hernán Cortés:

Tucked away among the fashionable clothing stores and pop-culture outlets of the Malasaña neighborhood is the García typewriter shop.


It was closed, and it looked pretty disheveled as I peeked through the window.

The sign reads: 

Well, I certainly would have come in, very gladly, if someone had been there. It looked to me like the shop was out of business, but my collector friend Javier Romano assured me that it's not; the owner just doesn't show up very often.

I had no more luck at the other Madrid shop I'm aware of that fixes typewriters, Calcu-Regist.

A peek through the window of the closed shop did not create much confidence:

They maintain a Facebook page here.

Pretty soon I hope to show you one of Javier Romano's wonderful typewriters from his collection.


  1. Looks like a very interesting city. Thanks for the translation of the book excerpts. I thought I could remember enough Spanish to read the original text. Took about 2 seconds for me to learn I forgot how to read Spanish.
    Too bad the typewriter shops were not open. Neither look like they are in business. Calcu-Regist would look like my garage if the things were a just bit better organized and stacked to the ceiling.

  2. Very interesting! Those narrow streets remind me of Paris. Did you happen to see any historical sites dedicated to the civil war of 1936? I'd like to see where Hemingway spent a bit of his time.

    1. I did not. My collector friend Javier is very interested in the history of the Civil War and showed me some books about remaining signs of it, but most of them were old concrete bunkers located in the outskirts of the city. Of course Franco imposed his own version of history, and then when he finally died, the Spaniards set about eliminating the most obviously franquista institutions, names, etc. It now feels like a long time ago ... of course, when you scratch the surface, "the past isn't even past," as Faulkner said.

  3. Oh good gravy.. I look at those piles of boxes in those shops and think about how much I'd like to dig around in there for sales and inventory records from a Spanish shop... O: