My friend Francisco Perez Navarro, who has died aged 96, was a writer and teacher who loved lively conversation, especially when he could share his passion for art and culture over a glass of beer or wine. He wrote the first introduction to Samuel Beckett’s novels and plays for a Spanish audience, and translated the Irish writer’s challenging narrative How It Is into Castilian.
Francisco was born in Madrid, to Saturnino Pérez González, a doctor, and Dolores Navarro de la Torre, who ran a dry cleaning shop. When Spain’s civil war broke out, he was sent, aged 11, to stay with his grandparents in Valsain, near Segovia. Unfortunately the area quickly became the scene of fierce fighting, and it would remain a frontline until the end of the war.
Foreshadowing his future career, Francisco became a teacher to younger children in the village. In quieter spells he would also earn a few pesetas by writing letters for illiterate soldiers.
After the war he attended the Instituto de Cervantes school in Madrid, and then studied philosophy and literature at Complutense University of Madrid, graduating in 1949. In common with many of his young compatriots, he felt stifled in Franco’s Spain. In 1949 he met a British woman, Jean Atkinson; they married in 1950 and moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, where Francisco picked up work as a teacher of Spanish in various private schools.
After the couple divorced, he taught for eight years from 1955 at St James’s school in Malvern, Worcestershire, and then at Clarendon college, Nottingham, from 1963 until his retirement in 1990. Meanwhile, in 1976, he published Galeria de Moribundos, introducing the work of Samuel Beckett to Spanish readers. His translation of How It Is in Castilian was published in 1978.
Travel was life-enhancing for Francisco. Together with his long-time partner, Françoise (nee Gaeur), whom he married in 1987, as soon as the school holidays began he would leave his book-filled home in Nottingham for Europe’s galleries and cultural festivals. For many years he was London correspondent of the Spanish art magazine Indice, for which, under the nom de plume John Hathaway, he wrote about art exhibitions in London and articles under the heading Crónicas de Inglaterra (Chronicles from England).
Despite living in England for more than 70 years, Francisco spoke English with a heavy accent. With his trademark beret and beard he was unmistakably Spanish but regarded himself as a citizen of the world.
Francisco remained in Nottingham after retirement, visiting galleries, theatres and cinemas and eating out in restaurants and pubs, where he would always be chatting to people he had just met. He had many friends in Paris and Madrid, and regularly stayed in Tübingen in Germany, where he was researching the writer Friedrich Hölderlin.
Françoise died in 2002. Francisco is survived by their son, Pedro, and by Rafael, Maria, Gabriel and Miguel, the children from his first marriage. Another daughter, Teresa, died in 1995.