Soap and Water
Agua y jabón
Cecil Beaton was asked, “What is elegance?” and he replied, “Soap and water.” Which is the same as saying: elegance is what is simple, useful, the things that last a lifetime. Involuntary elegance is associated with generous gestures, discrete happiness, people who contribute and appease.
This book is divided into three parts: “Temperaments,” “Objects,” and “Places.” A personal canon built not as a refuge from vulgarity—vulgarity can be marvelous—but rather from substitutes. The text is completed with additional affinities in the form of a dictionary. The world of this book is fragmented, slow, easy to live with. All the names can be read at random. No strong emotions are expected. Opening it up on any page can provide a moment of companionship—an opportunity to discover, to take a stroll. That would be ideal.
Agua y jabón talks about the love for public libraries, cheap humor, maps, the Cirlot family, Paul Léautaud, the unbeatable charm of little birds, wandering walks, suspicious hippies, old pastry shops, trains and zeppelins, Bruno Munari, Fleur Cowles, trips our parents took while dating, Wagner’s Venice, storytelling dogs, eating fruit directly from the tree, the cheesy and the camp, The Rastro, Josep Pla, manias, tricornes, blankets, Snoopy, sweeping our bit of sidewalk, Giorgio Morandi, Carlos Barral, Ricardo Bofil, surfing, yarn, cheese, gardens.
What is collected within Agua y jabón is the result of an intuitive and disorganized journey. There are some old loyalties, some new. There is, above all, silence, admiration, patience, and a predilection for the nearest reality.
“Mysteries she tackles in her book Agua y jabón: Why does one thing—and not another—awaken our interest? What does another person summon from us? Where do our expressions tend to go with age?” —Juan Cruz, El Periódico de España
“Agua y jabón, reedited by Anagrama, was first published by Terranova with a limited print run. It sold out quickly, resales on Wallapop reached 400 euros, and her following continued to grow on Instagram. What kind of people is she calling to? People who are exhausted with the present and banality…It’s likely that her success is due to all of us needing an adult to tell us what to do. Maybe we’re simply still looking for that professor who marked us at school with their enthusiasm. Marta lives in that permanent state of travel.” —Dídac Peyret, El Periódico, Abril
“Some books are more like a constellation than a book—like this one, Agua y jabón by the journalist Marta D. Riezu. It was first published by Terranova with a limited print run that quickly sold out and wasn’t reprinted, which turned the book into a highly desired item that people bid on for up to 400 euros. And now, luckily for us, the miracle that is Agua y jabón has been reedited by Editorial Anagrama. And I call it a miracle because it is an unclassifiable book that evades any attempt of categorization, just like its author.” —Laura Ferrero, El País, Babelia
“The essay written by the Catalan writer is once again finding success in bookstore with her defense of traditions and the things that are “antiquated.” —Cristian Segura, El País
MARTA D. RIEZU was born in a Terrassa that was still industrial. Her income streams include cinema, music, fashion, and television, because she doesn’t expect much from literature. She has written articles on culture for El País, El Mundo, La Vanguardia, Telva, Vogue, Purple, Apartamento, and Vanity Fair. She resides in Barcelona, living the calm, antiquated life she always dreamed of.