Terenci Moix

Catalan writer with a passion for Egypt

Monday 07 April 2003 00:00 BST

Ramon Moix Messeguer (Terenci Moix), writer: born Barcelona, Spain 5 January 1942; died Barcelona 2 April 2003.

The Catalan writer Terenci Moix was an unclassifiable literary artist, whose novels and other prose works sold by the millions in Spain, though he was virtually unknown in the rest of Europe.

He was an open-minded intellectual who appealed to all tastes, to all classes of readers. In particular, his later evocations of ancient Egypt, in El sueño de Alejandria ("The Dream of Alexandria", 1988), and El amargo don de la Bellezza ("The Bitter Gift of Beauty", 1996), attracted thousands who began to take a serious interest in Egyptology.

Moix knew Egypt well. He loved the Nile and the ancient city of Alexandria. Though he was born in Barcelona, such was his sense of belonging to ancient Egypt that he playfully proclaimed that he was born in Alexandria. It was a passion he shared with his idol, the poet Constantin Cavafy, a line from one of whose poems, "No digas que fue un sueño" ("Say not that it was a dream"), became the title of a novel of Moix's in 1986, for which he won the Premio Planeta prize.

Moix was well-travelled, with a command of several languages. His books contain quotes from Byron (Childe Harold), Shakespeare (Antony and Cleopatra), Akhenaton ("Hymn to the Sun") and of course E.M. Forster's Alexandria. Moix's mature style was enamelled by inspired neologisms borrowed from foreign tongues. He wrote deeply personal travel books including the 1964 Picaros de Chelsea ("Chelsea Rascals)" in which we find him sporting a Beatles mop, looking seductively "period" and diabolically decadent. In 1983 he published the cheekily titled Terenci del Nilo, a title that expresses his profound sense of self-identification with ancient Nilotic culture.

Moix was a passionate cinephile whose writing on the cinema I first encountered in the Seventies in the supremely cultivated pages of the newspaper La Vanguardia. The cinema also influenced his style of narrative, in which he uses flashbacks, zooms, fade-outs and tracking shots, with sudden riveting close-ups.

At the close of the Franco regime, he was already advocating personal liberation on every front – he was atheist, homosexual, anti-bourgeois and a leading figure of the early "Movida" led by artists and film-makers with provocative zest typical of what became called "the divine left-wing". His second novel, El dia que murió Marilyn ("The Day Marilyn Died"), 1970, was a hymn to sexually and artistically liberated Barcelona. Before he died, Moix had finished a new illustrated book on Sixties' cinema.

His ashes are to be dispersed at Alexandria and at Deir-el-Medina on the Nile.

James Kirkup

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