Núvol, January 30, 2023

My name is Xavier Rubert de Ventós and I cannot pronounce the letter r. This is how my first course at the University of Barcelona began in 1966. I remember it with absolute clarity, perhaps because, as a child, my own name was unpronounceable for me. The letters u and l in a row turned into a very long u that made Eulalia an elusive, unreachable target. In fact, throughout my life I have encountered many people who get tongue-tied when pronouncing it. Luckily, Lali, the family nickname that abandons the u and its difficult ululation, saved me from this rocky fate.

This initial affinity was soon transformed into a growing surprise. Xavier Rubert's classes were access ramps to an ever more intriguing, ever more attractive labyrinth and, when Franco's repression shut the university down, fortunately his classes always found new places to land.

Perhaps it was precisely this very irregular situation that allowed a group of students to consolidate around Xavier and, little by little, transform our initial admiration into a friendship that became permanent and referential for many of us.

The reading of El arte ensimismado and La teoría de la sensibilidad, which we savored word for word over and over again, was followed by the discovery of Empúries, where we felt we were continuing the Greek tradition of incorporating thinking as an integral part of walking around.

Then came the College of Philosophy, the Institute of Humanities, the Chair of Aesthetics in the Faculty of Architecture, the incorporation into political life and, very specially for me, the creation of the Càtedra Barcelona-Nova York, which definitively broke the strict boundaries that, as a product of a catholic school first and then of a disrupted university, still had a significant effect on my education.

I will not try to establish the order in which all these stages occurred in the life of Xavier Rubert because my memory has never worked like a road between two points. It always manifests itself as a game of mirrors where certain reflections reveal others, and when an unpredictable moment arrives everything turns at the same time defying any kind of clock.

This kind of memory today seems very appropriate to the frenzy and passion that have always accompanied the changing of gears in the different vehicles that Xavier created and drove. The accelerator always, the clutch at the ready, the brakes... only occasionally.

In his brief book, Ofici de Setmana Santa, which he wrote in Empúries on those rainy days that seem to be obligatory every year when the liturgy is cloaked first in mourning and then in glory, Xavier Rubert spoke of the importance of always having paper and pencil close by to be able to catch those ideas that shine for a few seconds in an extraordinary way but fade away just as quickly, often without a trace.

Tonight, a cloud of ideas, tangled like a ball of wool between a cat's paws, caught me with a paper and a pencil on the bedside table and I started writing scattered expressions that drew me to Xavier Rubert's shadow looking for an order that has not yet arrived: his penetrating gaze coming from the past and the future at the same time, his tiny handwriting in the corner of any scrap of paper, his constant flight towards what could become —in case it melts in the nothingness—, always in search of a quote that when it arrives will resonate in the entire space, his meticulous enjoyment of any form that chocolate can take, his admiration for the ancestral gestures of domestic life so unknown to him, which often found him begging for gloves, socks or a scarf to cope with too brazen cold, joking about the conceptual severity or elevating the anecdote to category, again and again with the recurring consciousness of trying again...

... and always dragging the r that I don't pronounce either when I read his books and in doing so allows me to close them with a smile that takes me directly to that day when I started university life knowing that even wisdom has some pitfalls to overcome: My name is xavierrubert and I cannot pronounce the letter r.

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