Author José María Sánchez-Silva´s Last Interview

Creator of “Marcelino, Bread and Wine” Dies in Madrid

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MADRID, Spain, JAN. 17, 2002 ( Writer José María Sánchez-Silva, author of the story “Marcelino, Bread and Wine,” which inspired a popular film, died Sunday in Madrid. He was 90.

In 1968 Sánchez-Silva received the Andersen Award, tantamount to the Nobel Prize for children´s literature. Among his 40 novels, the most famous is “Marcelino Pan y Vino” (Marcelino, Bread and Wine), the story of an orphan boy (as was the author), who found Christ in an attic. The book was written in 1953, and made into a film by Ladislao Vajda in 1955.

The following is the last interview Sánchez-Silva gave before his death.

Q: The characters in your novels have a great need for God, to communicate with him, to feel close to him.

Sánchez-Silva: But this is something that happens to all of us, to those of us who believe in him and those who don´t. There are many proofs of God´s presence in time, but if it weren´t like this, man would need to invent him.

These novels attempt to be inserted in the immense field of Christianity in the world. It is absolutely necessary to speak with God; it could be that there is an attempt to flee from this out of modesty or respect. Someone might say: “How can I call God ´you´ [the familiar “tu” in Spanish] as we do in the Our Father?” I answer them: How can I speak to God formally when he is within me?

Q: Is there a need for God again in our time?

Sánchez-Silva: I think that there is always need for him. Now, one is noting young people coming closer [to him], future men and women who are pure and healthy. But man needs God. He feels the presence of a higher Being, who represents the summit of justice, beauty and love of all that man wishes to be. From here, I believe, stems the search for God.

Q: In your stories, God always appears to simple characters — children, the town fool, Adam in his nakedness.

Sánchez-Silva: It is simple to believe, although it might be difficult when it comes to living the faith. When he came into this world, Christ surrounded himself with a “clientele” of the poor, sick, unfortunate and crippled.

He first gave himself to them. I think we should be as simple as children and, in a certain sense, we are so. What happens is that there is a certain grotesque concept of man, when every man is a child deep down.

Q: What does it mean to you that so much is written on them, on the figure of children?

Sánchez-Silva: I have written much for them and on them, always trying to remember that we come from the child, that to a certain degree the phrase that states that “man is the son of the child” is true.

In a certain sense, it is this way: Your childhood has formed you, you acquired good and not-so-good things in it that continue in you. Moreover, the child is very awake; in no way is he the little fool that we have been led to believe; we only need to know how to listen to them.

We never stop being children: Man dresses up as a serious being, judge, executioner, captain general — but deep down he knows he is a little child.

Q: Do you also imagine Jesus as a child?

Sánchez-Silva: Yes, in a certain sense. In any case, when I think of Jesus I imagine a simple, affable, good man but not at all insipid or affected. A man as some of those we know and see, admirable in his simplicity and serene courage. A Jesus who is within us.

Q: What is the future of Christianity?

Sánchez-Silva: I think that it will weaken, but it will all happen very slowly. And the more it is abandoned, the more it is derided and forgotten, the better will Christians be. They will not be so many as now, when we all call ourselves Christians, although perhaps even half of us are not, even though we would like to be.

Q: What do you want from life?

Sánchez-Silva: Life is pretty well made. I ask little for myself. I only want a painless death, but knowing that I am asking for a contradiction, not because all deaths are painful, but because death imposes.

As a Christian, I believe that we will appear no less than before Christ. Imagine what the first contact will be like, what is called the first judgment, with the figure of Christ. What can we say to him — to begin with, “forgive me.” I cannot think of anything else.

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