Michael Jacobs missed a party last night — a party to launch the book he was writing when he died in January of last year. He’d have enjoyed it, maybe as much as those of us lucky enough to have attended his last couple of launches enjoyed them. They were at Moro, the London restaurant run by his friends Sam and Samantha Clark in Exmouth Market, and sent out into the world his books on the Andes and Colombia. You turned up to find Michael not hovering by the door but behind the counter in chef’s whites helping to prepare your lunch. And lunch, among the convivial company he always attracted, could last all afternoon and into the evening.
Last night’s party, at the Spanish embassy, was for Everything is Happening: Journey into a Painting (Granta), a book in which Michael set out to unlock the secrets of Velázquez’s greatest picture: Las Meninas. He’d written half of it at the time of his death, but not arranged it in any order. It was his wife, Jackie Rae, who collated it, his friend Ed Vulliamy who wrote an introduction and a coda.
It’s a book, says Ed, “that is indeed about Velázquez and his picture, but is also, as importantly, a heartfelt manifesto for the liberation of how we look at a painting”. I’m mentioning it here because I’m sure it will be read with pleasure by anyone who has enjoyed Michael’s travel writing or who has any interest in Spain and the Spanish. It has already drawn praise from reviewers including Simon Schama, who in the Financial Times described Michael as “one of the great non-fiction writers of this and the last century”.
In Michael’s absence, Ed was called upon last night by family and friends to write dedications. How should he do it? With the words “Viva Michael!”