Editor, scholar, traveler, reader, devoted friend

by Harriet Turner, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

When David Gies, editor The Cambridge History of Spanish Literature (2004), sent an invitation to contribute to the volume, already I had taken his own scholarship to heart, “apechugándome con las novedades” (as Galdós writes in Fortunata y Jacinta).  Now I see him not only as an editor and as a scholar essential to the field but indeed as a traveler, a reader, and a devoted friend.

As David recounts in his recent autobiographical essay (2014), one starting point was travel to Perú; travel to Spain soon followed. David  criss-crossed the country in trains, reading novels, learning the registers of Spanish,  and settling into exchanges with fellow travelers, shaking hands, giving abrazos.  At professional meetings he began gathering new and old friends—graduate students, visiting scholars, diplomats.  David would set up each occasion and soon everyone was mixing and sharing stories.

Similarly, through his teaching and writing, discussions in committee, the challenges of directing a department, of creating new programs of international exchange, on land and sea—David Gies continuously offers stories of travel and of books, of conversations and adventures. In 2009, as Spain celebrated on April 23rd  “el día de Cervantes, día del Libro y de la concesión del Premio Cervantes a Juan Marsé”—I caught sight of a note in El País: “En medio de la gran borrasca económica, hablaba del libro que seguía imperturbable, del libro que estaba allí . . .  para recordarnos, que ‘la literatura habla un lenguaje distinto, no opresor, muy diferente al resto de los lenguajes perversos que nos esclavizan con sus tiranías cotidianas: el lenguaje económico, político, religioso familiar, televisivo.”  David’s love of books and of adventure brings these words to mind, as they do Don Quijote and Sancho, those quintessential travelers who started out as master and squire but who ended in the precious reciprocity of friendship.  Like them, David is a fellow traveler with a genius for adventure and for friendship.

Across his long career two distinctions come to mind: there is, on the one hand, a panoply of honors and awards; of these, particularly spectacular was the ceremony, which took place at the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C., in which he received by dispensation of King don Juan Carlos a Knighthood in 2007.  A few photos of David, his dear Janna, and of his colleagues, attached here, depict that marvelous event.  On the other hand, we may confide in David, knowing that we will receive comfort and encouragement.  David’s genius for friendship, the inspiring range and depth of his scholarship, and of his creative, educational programs, indeed have done wondrous things within the broad, tumultuous field of Hispanic Studies.

So let me close with some “palabras sespirianas” that David himself has lived so fully:

“Those friends thou hast,

and their adoption tried,

Grapple them unto thy soul

With hoops of steel.”

Hamlet