Isabel Vigiola, the woman with the notebook

Isabel Vigiola, the woman with the notebook

Rodrigo Cortes

Updated:05/29/2022 18:47h


i met Isabel Vigiola on a visit to his house for which he gave me no choice, after his nephew Óscar – production director and partner in some adventures – told him a little about me and passed him my books: «You’re going to like this, Isa, read it; it will remind you of things.” She read them to her and immediately arranged for my presence at her house, in the neighborhood of La Estrella. In reality, Isabel never forced you to do anything, she always gave you a choice: for me, for example, she let me arrive at two or ten past two, whenever I wanted.

Isabel told me many things (rarely have I spoken less, or been silent more at ease).

She had been secretary of Edgar Nevilleand he knew a thousand stories, from Spain and from California, and from Conchita Monteshis muse, and Chaplin, who didn’t speak Spanish, but Neville understood. And of the Madrid of the fifties in general, between the postwar period and López Rodó. And of boy later. And of Berlanga. And from all over the world.

Isabel spent her childhood locked in a doorway, eating potato peels during the war. She told me that her father, a bullfighter, used rouge on her cheeks so that her fear would not show. That she, hungry for education, she decided to train herself. That when she was seventeen she went to work for Neville, who dictated the works to her in one go, without chops, while she was astonished to write them in shorthand.

Isabel, I haven’t said it yet, was Mingote’s widow, his eternal bride, just as Mingote was hers and hers. With what pride she spoke of him. He was very sorry, she told me, that we hadn’t met, but I always thought I did a little, because of him and Óscar. One day he let me mess around in his office for hours. Isabel was the one who spoke on the phone so that Antonio (“Totón”, Óscar called him as a child with half a tongue, and the whole family later) could dedicate himself to his things. She was the one who negotiated, the one who made the agenda. The one that took the obstacles out of the way. At ninety-two of hers, she was still a wife, never a widow. “Without my wife,” Mingote wrote, “I would dissipate like smoke.”

Isabel was a woman of character, very funny, who wrote everything down so that no one would forget. With German precision, he attended to his diary every day, which were actually many: dozens of little books kept in a box, scribbled with his personal and meticulous shorthand, in which he made sure to tattoo forever what was important: if someone committed the temerity of argue with her, she would rummage in the box and brandish the little book triumphantly.

Isabel told the most delirious anecdotes in the world. In one of them someone ended up calling the technician because the computer leaked water, and another got caught with the zipper that part of the body that nobody wants to get caught. It was the same story. She also exercised walking up and down the corridor, with military music, which was the one that suited her (she experimented with other genres, but only the marches gave her the exact rhythm). She had measured the time it took her to do two lengths, and she multiplied from there; and the Military Band of Madrid, or the Navy, or the Auxiliary Military Academy, did –chunda, chunda– the part of it. She cooked with the same system, noting how long it took her to touch the doorknob and return to the fire, thus anticipating boiling or shaping her pastry recipes, for her secret formulas of alchemical precision.

Isabel sent me WhatsApps with very long audio messages that I save like children save marbles. With the same seriousness. Sharp and impatient, affectionate, sagacious reflections, in which she was always scolding someone and apologizing later, very smart and funny (she didn’t say anyone was smart, she said they were very smart). I never fully understood why she gave me her friendship, why so much affection, why she was always so generous with me. But I loved her very much and never argued with her. Just in case.

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