As in his novels, Patricia Highsmith ended up wrapped in a halo of mystery. As she achieved her success, the writer became more distant and sullen. Only the periodic publication of her books gave readers back the echo of her name. Its characters, plots and solid arguments alluded to an intellect of extreme complexity, assailed by disturbing feelings stemming from his reflection on guilt, responsibility, death, passion, sexuality or his own identity. Ideas that populate and dot his work.
A few weeks before her death occurred, the novelist revealed to her editors that in her residence in Switzerland, known as the bunker for its meditated austerity and where she spent the last fifteen years of her life, she left a bulky legacy: an unexpected collection of eighteen diaries and thirty-eight notebooks. An eloquent testimony of almost eight thousand pages written in fluent English interspersed with expressions, phrases or original words from French, Spanish or German. “It was a surprising confession for us,” says Anna Von Planta, the writer’s editor at the time. She always separated the person from the character, and nothing was known about the person… After that, we went for this formidable legacy and started searching her house, but we couldn’t find it. We felt like real detectives trying to find out where she was. When we were on the verge of despair, I wondered where, if it were her, I would hide my most precious treasure. I told myself that she would be in a cool place, within reach and inconspicuous in daylight. With that idea I I went to the clothes closet and, right behind some sheets, these 56 volumes appeared, along with a ton of stories from young women.
Anagrama publishes a selection of these passages in «Diaries and notebooks. 1941-1995», an extensive volume of 1,262 pages that collects the essentials of this valuable set that until now had not reached the public. The edition, made by Anna Von Planta herself, and which she presented together with the editors Jorge Herralde and Silvia Sesé, and the author’s rights representative, Susanne Bauknecht, represents a kind of literary self-portrait in which Patricia Highsmith does not evade or hide anything, not even her marked prejudices towards Jews or her reticence towards life in the United States. Joined. The work throws a powerful light on her impenetrable character, which was as famous as her literature. “I can easily bear cold, loneliness, hunger, and toothache, but I cannot bear noise, heat, interruptions, or others.”
The book appears divided into five periods that correspond to the places where he lived, starting with the United States and ending with his last residence, in Switzerland. She draws with extreme neatness, which is easily elucidated by the care that the writer put into her elaboration, the evolution of her emotions and thoughts from 1941 until almost her death. Highsmith recorded everything from her first nocturnal adventures in New York to her early obsession with literary work, which she never abandoned, to the point of becoming almost pathological (“I’m depressed because I’m not active working, writing, much less drawing”). . Her impression that “a day without work is a day wasted” is a constant.
Those first years of independence in Manhattan were decisive for his formation. They randomly articulated their frenetic reading of the classics (Joyce, Homer, Poe, Shakespeare…), fun in bars and nightclubs, work (in the comic industry, a barely known facet) and dedication to their first and initial texts. “It tells us about his life,” Von Planta insists. At that time what he did was wake up, eat breakfast, curl up in bed again, daydream, surround himself with drunks at night, write about superheroes. It is here that he learned the economy of language and to draw characters with only a few features. She felt like a prostitute, in the sense that during the day she wrote texts for others and at night she wrote for herself».
The diaries are peppered with memorable phrases that give us a close-up x-ray of his psychology: “The most intense of all emotions is the sense of injustice,” he writes at one point. Later, he writes: “Man is more intelligent than the gods and he knows it unconsciously, so he feels guilty about his superiority, so he denies it.” This entry, in fact, could serve to define some of the characters, full of pride, that mark his works. Like this other quote where he says: “I am more interested in the morality of a person stripped of conventions.” A conclusion that she puts her in communion with Tom Ripley, a character who appeared to her for the first time in Italy and with whom the writer would identify so much.
In these diaries there is room for his relationships with women and lovers or openly or tangentially unravel his frustrations, reflect his hidden weaknesses and also his great contradictions. At the beginning of these diaries he comments with self-confidence: «Sex, in my opinion, should be a religion. I have no other. I feel no other urge, of devotion, to anything, and we all need a devotion to something other than ourselves, apart from even our noblest ambitions.’ Towards the end of his existence, however, he has changed his mind and subscribes to an entirely opposite thought.: «Sex and alcohol I refute them like this: alcohol is not worth its price, as a habitual source of pleasure and inspiration. And sex is a delusion. As big a hoax as one of those middling Coney Island rides. And more overrated than a trip to Pike’s Peak.” Life left her peculiar invoice in this author who even goes so far as to include some rules for survival.
The thorniest issue is the clear anti-Semitism he showed. Towards the last third of his existence, he unabashedly attacked Catholicism, the French (especially their tax system), and the Jews. “Anti-Semitism was present, although it manifests itself differently in each phase of his life,” says Von Planta. In the forties it was more present because it was more common. They are there charles lindberg, or Henry Ford. In the 1950s and 1960s he did not appear, but he returned in the 1970s and 1980s where he clearly positioned himself. She speaks against Israel… she became very bitter towards everything. It is hard to believe that an optimistic person would shut himself up so much and that only the memory of his youth remained, which was what kept him alive».