MEMORIAL FOR PROFESSOR DAVID VILASECA
Picture Gallery, Royal Holloway, March 24th 2010, 6 p.m.
David Vilaseca Pérez was born on 6 February 1964 in Barcelona, where he grew up with his parents, Marina and Jaume, and sister Marta. As a child and teenager he spent summers with his family in Caldetas (Caldes d’Estrac in David’s native Catalan), a small coastal village outside Barcelona. The family also regularly visited Marina’s family’s house in Pallars in Lleida. Marta recalls that when David was eighteen he discovered, while out walking in the area with a friend after Christmas, a small spruce tree planted next to a rubbish heap. Moved by the tree’s fate, David rushed home, borrowed the family car, and made a 200 kilometre trip to rescue the spruce and replant it in Pallars. Today it stands a magnificent 10 metres outside the family home.
David’s love of walking and nature was life-long. Whether in his first home, Cataluña, the Pyrenees, or in and around London, where he lived for twenty years, David sought out quiet contemplation surrounded by trees, sea, mountain, river and sky. He often enjoyed these spaces alone, but he also shared his passion for the outdoors with loved ones, like the summer evening he stood by the Thames and showed a lover how the colour of the sky changed from a pure, yet vivid blue, to lighter gray, and then still paler for a spell, till sun-down with dazzling red.
His endless curiosity and desire to know the world took David to the corners of the earth, and his yearning to travel started in his youth. As a teenager he was captured on film with Marta overlooking the canals of Venice. As an adult, David shared with his friends his photos and stories of adventures in Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Cairo and, most recently, Palermo, where he travelled in January 2010 and knocked on the door of the house used for the film version of The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s classic Sicilian novel.
Literature was at the centre of David’s life. He was also an aficionado of opera, classical music and film, but books were the focus of his intellectual career, and his study of Catalan and Hispanic literature made him a world-class scholar. After doing an undergraduate degree in Barcelona, David completed a Masters in the US and later a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. He acted as a mentor for hundreds of students during his two decades as a teacher in Barcelona, Southampton and London, most recently at Royal Holloway where he was appointed Professor of Hispanic Studies and Critical Theory in 2003. His academic books, The Apocryphal Subject (1995) (on Salvador Dalí), Hindsight and the Real (2003) and Negotiating the Event (forthcoming, 2010) established his international standing as a literary critic and queer theorist whose readings of gay male autobiographical texts were subtle and sophisticated. In 2007 he published his own novel, L’Aprenentatge de la Soledat (The Apprenticeship of Solitude), which was awarded the 2007 Octubre prize for Catalan literature.
David’s success as an academic and novelist was the result of his intense commitment and discipline, and he brought this fierce dedication to all his activities, whether writing, playing the piano for hours on end, or going regularly to the gym to help him stay clear-headed and focused. He was also totally committed and extravagantly generous to his friends, who will remember him not only for his brilliant mind and quick wit, but also for his warmth and loyalty. For example, following a date or dinner at a friend’s house he would often send a carefully chosen card expressing his love and thanks. Other times he invited friends to share an evening in his Tooley Street flat, where at parties he would float small candles in his bathtub, play Chopin on his piano in the kitchen, or cook a favourite dish, such as the Catalan specialty escalivada. And no-one who ever visited Tooley Street will forget the small statue of la menina that graced the end of his hallway, one of countless examples of David’s attention to detail and beauty.
Like many of the exiled writers he wrote about, David had at least two homes: one in London, where he has left behind friends, former lovers, students, colleagues, and other admirers, and another in Barcelona, where Marina, Marta, and his extended family live. He is remembered with great affection and admiration in both places, and far beyond
Dr Carrie Hamilton (Roehampton University)
Richard Pym (Head of School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures)
eulogies and readings:
Bill Marshall (Professor of French, University of Stirling)
Abigail Wild (final-year Spanish undergraduate, SMLCC)
Abigail Lee Six (Professor of Spanish, RHUL)
Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor, Op.55 No.1., played by Julie Aherne (final-year undergraduate, Dept of Music, RHUL)
Judith Meddick (PhD candidate, SMLLC)
Paul Julian Smith (Professor of Spanish, University of Cambridge)
Helen Graham (Professor of History, RHUL)
Alba Chaparro (Senior Language Coordinator, SMLCC)
Special thanks from the organisers (Prof James S. Williams, Dr Sarah Wright, Dr Miriam Haddu, Dr Arantza Mayo) to: Marta Vilaseca Pérez; The Principal; Prof Katie Normington, Dean of Arts; Dr Richard Pym, SMLLC; Patrick Fleming, AVS; Dace Clarke, Sales and Marketing; Catherine Thorin, Senior Administrator, SMLLC; Dr. René Wolf, Backdoor Broadcasting Company.