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granada la bella blog

About this blog

Here you will find my personal view about selected events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible', Granada, 'la bella y la bestia', and particularly about the city's uneasy relationship with its greatest son, Federico Garcia Lorca, who alternatively loved and loathed it.

Wow! What a line-up!

Contemporary Granada, Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Mon, June 29, 2020 11:40:04

Every summer for the last eighteen years the Agencia Andaluza de Instituciones Culturales in collaboration with the Patronato de la Alhambra has organised the outdoor summer concert cycle ‘Lorca y Granada’ in the Gardens of the Generalife. This year, the nineteenth, is a pretty impressive line-up, representing la crême de la crême of contemporary flamenco. The consejera de Cultura y Patrimonio Histórico (Counselor of Culture and Histroic Patrimony), Patricia del Pozo, is not wrong when she says “this year’s programme is absolutely exceptional” bringing us four productions involving some of the best-known bailaores/-as and cantaores/-as of today.

1. Estrella Morente

Estrella brings her new show Tesela to the Generalife on 30 and 31 July, with the special collaboration of her brother Enrique Morente Carbonell and Moroccan violin virtuoso Jalal Chekara, and supported by an ensemble of 14 outstanding musicians, including the Israeli jazz guitarist Dan Ben Lior. “A fusion of Gypsy, Arab, and Jewish cultural values and meant as a modest contribution to an anti-racist dialogue in which music is our only weapon against the madness and meanness of racial prejudice.” (Very free translation.).

Morente’s two performances will be followed by

2. Manuel Liñán

From 3 to 12 August, with a break on the 9th, Granada’s celebrated bailaor, director y choreographer presents ¡Viva!, a dance spectacle in which six bailaores-bailarines celebrate women’s creativity in the world of flamenco, challenging and breaking down gender stereotypes and clichés.

3.Carmen Linares, Marina Heredia y Arcángel

The 14 and 15 August is the turn of these three brilliant exponents of cante jondo in a production called Tempo de luz (Speed of Light) directed by Isidro Muñoz and with the collaboration of bailaoras Ana Morales and Patricia Guerrero.

4. Eva Yerbabuena

From 20 to 29 August, with a break on the 23rd, Eva Yerbabuena and her company will present Carne y hueso (Flesh and Bone/Flesh and Blood). Five bailaores, voice, percussion, and guitar will lend a five-star backing to this leading performer of flamenco dance.

In announcing this absolutely exceptional summer programme, the fact is not lost on the city’s Counselor of Culture and Historic Patrimony that a top-quality cultural offer that includes Lorca means good business for Granada.

Tickets go on sale on 1 July, next Wednesday, and are available from, in the Corral del Carbón, the Generalife and at the Post Office.

Prices are 35 euros for Tesela and Tempo de luz and 34 euros for ¡Viva! y Carne y hueso. Furthermore, these two dance spectacles offer discounts for the unemployed, youth, students, and pensioners as well as 2×1 on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Strict health safety norms will be in place to ensure the public, participating artists, and workers will not be put at risk. The maximum permitted capacity has been reduced to 1000, representing 65% of the actual possible physical capacity, and this will ensure the 2m distancing rule can be maintained.

Source: Isabel Vargas, Granada Hoy, 26 June 2020

NO2 + COVID19 = A deadly formula.

Contemporary Granada Posted on Sat, April 25, 2020 12:12:30

An analysis reported on by the Guardian’s Environmental editor, Damian Carrington, 20 Apr 2020, says high levels of air pollution seem to be a major long-term contributor to deaths from Covid-19. The deadly factors are NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) emissions combined with weather conditions that hold polluted air stationery over a city for long periods of time.

It found that the case fatality rate (CFR) in Europe, the number of deaths per diagnosed cases, were concentrated in four regions along the Po Valley in northern Italy and one around Madrid in Spain. What these regions have in common is that they are surrounded by mountains, which helps trap pollution. This is also the case of Hubei province in China, where the pandemic began.

And it is also the case, as we first reported in post #109 of 22 January 12019, of the city of Granada. So it hardly comes as any surprise that Granada is the place in Andalucia with by far the highest number of COVID19 infected, 389 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to an average of just 145 for the rest of the autonomous region.

The analysis shows a strong correlation between NO2 and COVID19, not a proven direct causal link. Other factors cannot be ruled out. Indeed, other factors affecting the CFR are known to be the underlying poor health of the smitten individual. Another condemning piece of evidence is a study which suggests the virus can cling to particles of air pollution, helping to keep it airborn for longer.

A noticeable reduction in air pollution has certainly been a welcome and unexpected blessing of the lockdown. Yet let us not be lulled into a false sense of security. Long-term exposure to dirty air that goes back to before the pandemic is undoubtedly a key factor in creating the long-term underlying health conditions that have led to an increased vulnerability to the virus. The virus finishes off what the decline in air quality has started. But the conditions that create poor health will not go away by themselves.

Let’s repeat: We want no return to ‘normality’.

Granada vista … THEN
Granada vista … NOW

Damian Carrington, Guardian Environment editor, Mon 20 Apr 2020

Bike lanes

Contemporary Granada Posted on Thu, April 23, 2020 15:48:22

Yesterday, I posted about the beneficial effects the coronavirus lockdown was having on air quality in Granada. I concluded there was no way we could or should return to what had been normal before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Today I was encouraged to read the headline in the local Ideal newspaper proposing bike lanes to prevent a return to the widespread use of the private car after the lockdown.

But on second look, it turned out to be a proposed temporary measure. Bike lanes are to be introduced to minimalise the effect of people switching from public to private transport to avoid the risk of contagion. If, on returning to work, people switch from bus and metro to their private car for safety reasons, there will be a huge increase in air pollution. The scheme aims to facilitate “sustainable individual transport” [uso del transporte individual sostenible] – in the place of anti-social individual transport (= the motorcar).

If we look at the diagram, we note the provision of temporary bollards between car lanes and bike lanes, which can be easily removed when things return to ‘normal’ (ie heavy traffic) [Balizas provisionales que se podrían retirar cuando el transporte público vuelva a la normalidad]. Very disappointing. The diagram also indicates a speed limit of 30kph. But this speed limit was approved by the city council for the whole of the city centre as long ago as March 2019 [post #106, 15 Apr 2019], though as far as I can see nothing has been done since then to implement it.

These proposed temporary measures need to be made permanent. The lockdown has proved that the seemingly impossible is possible, after all. The diagram suggests that these city-centre bike lanes should be linked up with the network of bike lanes that now cover the metropolitan area. [Los carriles se coordinarán con los que unen el área metropolitana.] Hitherto, Granada’s bike lanes have been introduced piecemeal, with no overarching co-ordinated plan. Too many of these bike lanes are “roads to nowhere”. A sensible, co-ordinated network of bike lanes in Granad is possible.


Contemporary Granada Posted on Wed, April 22, 2020 21:44:03

Ah the coronavirus-invoked irony of our times! In my last-but-not-least comment in my review of recent blogs written in early March, I remarked that air pollution was a topic on which the last word has certainly not been said. [] Meaning: in those still pre-coronavirus days, the problem of air pollution was surely going to get worse in the context of uninterrupted climate change and environment abuse. Yet today, 22 April, we can report that Granada, in common with many other cities in Spain and the world, is enjoying its cleanest air for decades, in the case of Granada since reliable records began in 1989,thanks primarily to the reduction in traffic flows due to the coronavirus lockdown. This is not the news I envisaged blogging about back then, in April 2019, when this pandemic outbreak still appeared closer to science fiction than reality.
Yet studies report a reduction of up to 62% in levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and of 31% in PM10 particles, whatever they are, in Granada. Nitrogen dioxide and PM10 particles are by far the major air pollutors, say environmental scientists.
So, “every cloud has a silver lining”. The lockdown has left us without doubt that there is a direct connection between traffic and the emission of these pollutants. This evidence delivers a powerful argument to the council’s department of the environment , which was already in the process of considering what measures to take when the lockdown is over in order to reduce if not eliminate toxic life-threatening emissions.
However, a word of warning: While air quality has improved dramatically over the last weeks, there has not been a corresponding reduction in the emissions of carbon dioxide, principal contributor to global warming. Here the decline has only amounted to 5.4%
If the curve of the pandemic has to be flattened, then so, too, does the carbon dioxide curve, say environmental scientists, but this latter curve is far from being flattened. On thecontrary, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is continuing to increase at an accelerating rhythm. 2019 was the hottest year ever recorded in Europe and eleven of the twelve hottest ever years have all fallen within the last twenty years.
As everyone keeps saying, there is no way we can return to ‘normal’.
Acknowledgement to:
R. G. 21 April, 2020
Manual Planelles Madrid 22 Apr 2020

crisp and cleaan air over Granada, 22.4.2020


The Lorca Centre Posted on Mon, March 02, 2020 10:44:35

There is a very good exhibition on at the Lorca Centre in Granada; it runs until 31 May. It is called Suites and is curated by Melissa Dinverno, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the Indiana University Bloomington. Suites is a work that represents something of a black hole in Lorca’s body of poetry. Its physical contours and content are difficult to identify, although of course André Belamich  did an excellent rescue job, eventually publishing his critical edition, first in France in 1981 and then in Spain in 1983. Otherwise, the presence of this never collected collection has tended to make itself felt by its unoverseeable effect on the rest of Lorca’s poetic works, which would be harder to make sense of without an awareness of the Suites.  Since Bellamich’s great achievement, new evidence and arguments have come in and Dinverno seems to think it’s time for a reappraisal and hence this exhibition, while promising us a new critical edition of this little known but key work in the near future.

Let us then try to define the physical contours of the work. 1921 – 1923 are the dates generally given for the composition of the Suites. That is, they come immediately after Lorca’s first poetry collection, Libro de poemas; before Primer romancero gitano, the first poem of which, Romance de la luna, luna, he started on in the summer of 1923; and they were written at the same time as his Poema del cante jondo, not published till 1931 but mostly composed in November 1921, and his Canciones, dated 1921 – 1924, published in 1927, with an additional collection Primeras canciones, written predominantly in 1922 and published also in 1931. See below.

Just looking at the Miguel García-Posada edition of the complete works (1996) makes us realise the dimensions of the poetic black hole Suites represents and what Belamich was up against when he undertook his mammoth task of reassembling the elusive set of verses it might have consisted of. Until then, the poems that were to make up this reconstructed collection had not been clearly classified. Although his work has been built on since by both Christopher Maurer and García-Posada himself, the astuteness of Belamich’s reconstruction is generally recognised and accepted today. Following Belamich´s lead, García-Posada’s complete works lists 95 pages (191 – 286) of unquestionably ‘finished’ suites, plus a dozen pages of poems that must at least be close to what the poet intended (289 – 300). Then there are around 20 pages (687 – 706) of poems not expressly excluded from the collection by the poet but which display a lower degree of readiness for publication, and which Belamich had already excluded from the definitive collection. Lastly, there are another ten pages categorised as definitely rejected (707 -718). This amounts to a total of around 137 pages.  By way of comparison, in the Complete Works of 1996 Poeta en Nueva York occupies some 65 pages, Primer romancero gitano around 45. It does not seem likely that Lorca had in mind such a diffuse and extensive work.

Because during half a century it was not presented as part of Lorca’s published oeuvre, because of its diffuseness, its apparently unfocused content and ill-defined contours, there has been a tendency to see this work as lightweight: less serious, less finished; a playful, arbitrary, almost whimsical interlude, which includes let it be said some scattered gems,  between the concise Poema del cante jondo and the more weighty and worked-out Romancero, the impact on publication of which put Canciones in the shade, and virtually nullified the still unpublished and unordered Suites.

But this exhibition points to the importance Lorca himself gave to this never quite collected collection of Suites.

Starting in August 1920, we find Lorca writing the following in a letter to Antonio Gallego Burín:

The countryside is magnificent. (…) If you could only see the sunsets so full of unearthly dew, that dew of the evening that seems to descend for the dead and for abandoned lovers, which is the same thing in the end! If you could see the melancholy of the thoughtful irrigation canals or the revolving rosarios of the water wheels. I expect the countryside to prune my lyrical branches this blesséd year with its evenings’ red knives. (My translation.)

Indeed, Viaje, dated November 1920, the first of the poems  considered by Belamich as not quite up to the standard Lorca wanted to set for his new collection, conforms to the expectations raised in the letter to Gallego Burín in the sense of being a melancholy lyrical reflection of the countryside [975*] and at the same time it may be seen as in transition from the more verbose modernist style of the Libro de poemas to the pruned, trimmed down, more succinct style that we might now call lorquiano.   

In the following year, 1921, writing from his familiar summer retreat at his father’s farm in Asquerosa/Valderrubio, Lorca assures the critic Adolfo Salazar, who had written a eulogistic review of Libro de poemas, that he is now working on “the best and most exquisite” poems he had yet produced, and, again, we have to agree that the tighter structure of the Suites certainly represented the pruning of his hitherto profuse lyrical foliage. By the end of the year, he had written more than thirty suites, Dinverno tells us.

The following two years sees the creation of twenty more new suites, as well as revisions and the publication of some as single poems in literary magazines. In May 1923, in a letter home, the poet writes with apparent self-confidence “I have decided to publish a book I have written here in Madrid of extraordinarily new things in the form of suites which i think is the most perfect thing I have created” (quoted from Dinverno’s exhibition). It must be said that Lorca’s letters home generally emphasised in an upbeat fashion the progress he was making as a serious poet and were written to counter his father’s suspicion that his son was up to no good in the capital. This second book, Lorca is insisting, will not be just a repeat of the somewhat less than successful Libro de poemas that Don Federico had not so long ago shelled out for to get published.

Finally, towards the end of July or beginning of August 1923, in a letter addressed to José de Ciria y Escalante and Melchor Fernández Almagro and referring to El jardín de las toronjas de luna, he writes that he is determined to work the whole summer refining the poem so that it comes out exactly as he wants it. “You could say I have been working on it in a state of near ecstasy”, he concludes.

Lorca must have been satisfied with the result, for by September 1923 he considered the period of composition of his Suites to be over and that it was time to find a publisher, says Dinverno.

Even so, in the following two years little seems to be done in this respect. Lorca always had a number of irons in the fire. The summer of 1924 finds him back in Asquerosa/Valderrubio finishing his book of Canciones and working on Romancero gitano. He also completes the first act of La Zapatera prodigiosa. In Madrid, meanwhile, Lorca is heavily involved in his stimulating social and cultural life at the Residencia de Estudiantes. Then, at the start of 1925, Salvador Dalí returns to the Residencia after a year’s absence due to his expulsion from the Escuela de Bellas Artes, and from then on the creative lives of the poet and the painter are closely intertwined for a while. Lorca has now ‘finished’ his play Mariana Pineda, dating it 8 January, and, taking advantage of an invitation to give a poetry recital at El Ateneo de Barcelona on 13 April, he reads it on a visit to Dalí’s family, first in Cadaqués, then in Figueras. Lorca’s stay in Cadaqués that spring is, we know, hugely influential. On his return to Madrid, Lorca starts writing Oda a Salvador Dalí, and in July, once more in Asquerosa/Valderrubio, he writes the short Dalí-inspired dialogue, El paseo de Buster Keaton. That same summer, La Zapatera prodigiosa now finished, he is working on his ‘erotic romance’ Amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín. There is no doubt that Dalí has distracted Lorca’s attention from what the Andalusian poet would come to consider his ‘early works’.

So, January 1926 finds Lorca lamenting in a letter to Fernández Almagro that his three finished works, Suites, Poema del cante jondo, and Canciones are still without a publisher. “I want to publish,” he insists, “If I don’t do it now I never will and that would be a pity. But I want to do it right.”  In February 1926, he declares to his brother Francisco the three works are definitely ready for publication, and by early March, we know, he has made the decision to publish all three with Emilio Prados’ Imprenta Sur. In October, we also know [893], Prados was in Granada to collect the material for their publication. Yet in the end, only Canciones got published, in May 1927, due to an unfortunate series of mishaps and misunderstandings which have been well documented.

It is around this time that Lorca laments to his brother his inability to turn his ambitious poetic projects into reality, arguing the need for a secretary to overcome this personal flaw that led to Prados’ exasperation at the ‘impossible’ state of the drafts he had been presented with by the poet [875].

There are no such setbacks with the publication of the Primer romancero gitano, with only a couple of years passing between its first conceptualisation as a collection in 1926 and its publication in the Revista del occidente in July 1928. The concept of a collection called Suites, on the other hand, arises in the autumn of 1923, and Lorca is still struggling with it at the time of his death. This is one reason why we might be tempted to think that Lorca was less confident about the quality or potential reception of his pre-Romancero works.  

Nevertheless, Lorca has not by any means yet given up on his still unpublished ‘early’ works.

 In October 1930, back in Granada after his American adventure, he offers his finished poetry collections to his editor Ulises. El Poema del Cante jondo gets published, in May 1931, and Suites would surely have been, too, if it had not been for the untimely financial collapse of Ulises’ distributor. One final attempt to publish with the small publishing house run by Manuel Altalaguirre and Concha Méndez ended when the nationalist uprising unleashed the Civil War (July 1936). With this imminent publication in mind, no doubt, Lorca mentions the work in conversations, not published at the time, as a book he has put a great deal of work and love into. It must be added that Suites was just one of six unpublished poetry collections Lorca mentions in the conversations and which he left behind at the time of his death, including Poeta en Nueva York and El Diván del Tamarit, both to be published outside Spain in 1940.

And so an enormous task was left for André Belamich’s critical edition of 1983, and now, in 2020, a hundred years after the seeds of the work were sown, apparently for Dinverno’s new evaluation, based on the latest evidence, research, and scholarship, which had been unavailable for Belamich, some 40 years ago.

Dinverno’s exhibition carries the subtitle Viaje de la percepción and has two rooms, the first of which narrates the chronological vicissitudes of the failed attempts at publication of the projected collection as outlined above, and the second of which deals with Suites as a thematic or methodic conceptual unity, the purpose of which, she says, was to ‘perceive and reveal a reality beyond the conventional’; that is, they are a good deal more than just being a bundle of charming single poems. This aspect is possibly a more interesting one, but one I do not feel competent to comment on in detail.

* numbers refer to pages of notes in Miguel García-Posada’s Obras Completas I Poesía Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores 1996

The following link gives more information about the exhibition:

And this one contains practical information on visiting the Centre, which you should, before the end of May:

Julia Uceda’s poem ‘El tiempo me recuerda’

poetry Posted on Thu, December 19, 2019 07:18:56

Julia Uceda’s poem ‘El tiempo me recuerda’, published in Granada Hoy, 12 December 2019.

Recordar no es siempre regresar a lo que ha sido.
En la memoria hay algas que arrastran extrañas maravillas;
objetos que no nos pertenecen o que nunca flotaron.
La luz que recorre los abismos
ilumina años anteriores a mí, que no he vivido
pero recuerdo como ocurrido ayer.
Hacia mil novecientos
paseé por un parque que está en París -estaba-
envuelto por la bruma.
Mi traje tenía el mismo color de la niebla.
La luz era la misma de hoy
-setenta años después-
cuando la breve tormenta ha pasado
y a través de los cristales veo pasar la gente,
desde esta ventana tan cerca de las nubes.
En mis ojos parece llover
un tiempo que no es mío.

This is my translation:
‘Time remembered’
To remember is not always to go back to what has been.
In the sea of memory we find some unexpected flotsam;
objects that do not belong to us or which never existed.
The light that scours the depths
lights up years previous to mine, ones which I have not lived
but remember as if they were yesterday.
Around the year nineteen hundred
I walked through a park that is in Paris -was-
blanketed in mist.
My dress had the same colour as the fog.
The light was the same as today
-seventy years later-
after the sudden storm has passed
and through the glass I see,
from this window so close to the clouds,
people walking by.
In my eyes it seems to rain down
a time that is foreign to me.

International Poetry Prize City of Granada – Federico Garcia Lorca 2019 winner

The Lorca Prize Posted on Thu, December 19, 2019 07:01:48

The winner of the XVI International Poetry Prize City of Granada – Federico Garcia Lorca is Julia Uceda (Sevilla, 1925).
At the age of 94 she is the oldest winner ever and this bucks the trend of the last two years when the prize went to Dario Jaramillo and Pere Gimferrer, who, at 71 and 72 respectively, were in fact younger than me (2/6/45). This state of affairs will undoubtedly become more and more frequent in the coming years. The 16 winners in the meantime clock up a total of 1300 years between them, which makes the average age of the prize-winners 81.25.
Uceda is only the fifth woman among the 16, four of them coming in the last ten years. And she is the eighth Spaniard, if we count Tomás Segovia as a Mexican, so the prize alternates fairly fairly between Spanish and Hispano-American poets. The same principle has not – at least until recently – been so rigorously applied to men and women poets.
In 1965, at the age of 40, Uceda abandoned Franco’s Spain to occupy the Chair of Spanish literature at Michigan State University until 1973. Although born in Andalusia, she has lived in Ferrol, in Galicia, since 1976 (the year after Franco died). But if we count her as an Andaluza, then she would be the fifth Andalusian poet to win the prize, all of them since 2009, a clear trend. She published poetry collections from 1959 to 2013, but, apart from the National Prize for Poetry (2003), she has not got a large number of prizes in her display cabinet, and this might also be a trend (see my last entry from April this year (#107).
Previous to that, I did say I had come to find the whole issue of the Lorca Poetry Prize a bit boring, implying that neither the selection process, nor the poets themselves, were very exciting. That’s in comparison to Lorca himself, of course.
In the following post, find my translation of one of her poems, published in Granada Hoy, 12 December 2019.


Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Sat, September 21, 2019 06:05:21
Lorca, in his element, in Montevideo 1934

Lorca was evidently deeply troubled by his less-than-successful homosexual relationships prior to his New York visit. We have valuable evidence given by his friend and close confident, Pepe García Carillo, to researcher Agustín Penón in the 1950s regarding Lorca’s position in provincial Granada’s gay scene, and while some of his anecdotes may be taken with a pinch of salt and put down to the bravado of a suppressed minority in the face of a hostile environment, they do throw some light on the poet’s attitudes and behaviour. For example, according to Carillo, Lorca claimed have “slept with all the boys of Valderrubio” (the village that was the centre of his father’s agricultural enterprise throughout much of his childhood and early youth). One supposes that many of the boys of Valderrubio would beg to differ, and not take kindly to the assertion, but it does reveal a certain defiant pride in his sexuality that could never be expressed freely and openly in contemporary society.

Whatever, during the years Lorca spent the summers at his father’s farm in Valderrubio, up until 1925, it is a fact that he liked to spend evenings at the nearby Fuente de la Teja, a spring on the banks of the River Cubillas, in the company of the local youth, the farm workers, who made up a captive audience. There he would read his works, talk about poetry, tell stories. He felt at ease, Carillo suggested, with the simple people of the countryside. He loved the farmworker-type, the more peasant-like, the better; he liked them “dirty and sweaty”: this is according to Carillo’s evidence. This evidence, I hasten to add, is not bolstered by Lorca’s later choice of lovers, who were anything but “dirty and sweaty”.

One of these peasant-types was Frasco, Francisco Santalla Sánchez, who would leave work and go without pay to be with Federico at the Fuente de la Teja. During one of their conversations, Agustín Penón, 20 years after Lorca’s death, notes that goose-pimples suddenly stood out on Frasco’s arms as a result of his memories of the grieved-for poet.

Here, one can’t help sharing the observation of Ian Gibson, who picked out the poem “Madrigal del Verano” from Libro de poemas (1921), to argue that Lorca is describing his own preferences when he asks a fictive “Estrella la gitana”:

  ¿Como no has preferido a mis lamentos
los muslos sudorosos
de un San Cristóbal campesino, lentos    
en el amor y hermosos?
How is it that you didn't prefer to my laments
the sweaty thighs
of a peasant Saint Christopher, so ample,
and slow in love?

After recovering from his depression and after the crucial months spent in New York and Cuba, it does seem that Lorca came to terms with his own sexuality and even came to feel rather comfortable with it: He learnt to stop fighting against his own instincts, as he himself put it.

An indication of this I would suggest is the friendship he maintained with Rafael Rodríguez Rapún which lasted from the time they became acquainted in 1933, with Rapún working as his secretary during his spell as artistic director of La Barraca travelling theatre group, until his death. It coincided with the period of Lorca’s great social, commercial, and artistic successes, which saw the acclaimed performances of the rural tragedies Blood Wedding and Yerma, the whole  Argentinian furore of 1933-4, the completion of Poet in New York, the House of Bernarda Alba, the collection that became known as los Sonetos del amor oscuro, andthe development of numerous other projects cut short by his politically motivated murder. The passionate stage of this relationship may not have lasted beyond the Argentine sojourn, as some suggest, but the friendship does seem to reflect a certain maturity in the life of the great poet. Photographs of the two men show them as relaxed in each other’s company, in contrast to the posing of so many of those showing him together with Dalí, or the one with a smirking Emilio Aladrén.  

with Rafael Rodríguez Rapún
With Emilio Aladrén

Rapún was heterosexual, it is said, but came under his boss’s thrall during the Barraca period. Rapún enlisted in the Republican Army shortly after Lorca’s murder became public knowledge and died as a result of injuries sustained, seemingly fatalistically, on the battlefield a year to the day after Lorca was shot, make of that what you will.

Lorca was notoriously promiscuous, driven by a pervasive and obsessive fear of death and hence an overwhelming need to seize the moment, to live life to the full, to defy death’s menacing proximity, which he seems to have been constantly and painfully aware of. Dalí, Buñuel and other residents of the Student Residence where Lorca resided during much of the 1920s witnessed their friend’s anxiety in this respect; how he would go through a ritualistic performance of his own death before he could fall asleep at night, a purpose of which seems to have been exorcising the horror of physical decay after death.

Sexual fulfilment contributed a means to this end, keeping the horrors of death and physical decay at bay when they most threatened to overwhelm him.

Parallel to his intimate friendship with Rapún, Lorca also maintained an emotional relationship with Eduardo Rodríguez Valdivieso, fifteen years his junior, through much of the 1930s, as secret correspondence between the two would reveal. An aspiring actor, Valdivieso read for Lorca in an audition for a possible role with the Barraca. Lorca’s notes were compassionate and complimentary, without reaching any firm decision as to the suitability for the troupe of his young admirer. On his Saint’s Day, 18 July 1936, the same day as Franco’s nationalist uprising, Valdivieso was guest at the Huerta de San Vicente, now the family’s preferred summer residence on the edge of Granada.  

On the very day he was playing host to Valdivieso at the family summer home, Lorca posted a letter to another young admirer and lover, Juan Ramírez de Lucas, at 19 barely half the poet’s age.  At the age of 38, Lorca was now at the height of his powers and his fame and the target of admiration for many a budding poet, or would-be actor.

Lorca had met Ramírez the year before and had been at once smitten by “that fair-haired boy from Albacete, tall, solitary and friendless.” The letter that he posted on that fateful July day of 1936 reveals to us that the now well-established poet-playwright was harbouring a hare-brained scheme to take this fair-haired teenager with him to Mexico, where he was to promote the Margarita Xirgú Company tour of performances of what were already his classic plays.

Ramírez was in Albacete to seek paternal permission for the trip, a mission that was so clearly doomed to failure that one must wonder if Lorca was not trying to back out of the commitment. In his letter, Lorca urges his young devotee to get his family’s approval for the trip and to persuade them to “accept his ideas”. Yet, we know that Lorca was far from certain of getting his own father’s assent to the Mexico project, and took some care to conceal his own sexual preferences from him.

It has relatively recently been pointed out that the creative process that brought us the Sonetos del amor oscuro corresponded so closely to the poet’s love affair with Juan Ramírez de Lucas that it is reasonable to suppose it was their inspiration. [This is in the Wikipedia entry for Juan Ramírez de Lucas, for example.] Lorca started to compose the sonnet series in Valencia in 1935 in a period of forced separation at the start of their relationship, and we know from Félix Grande that Lorca was working on perfecting them right up to his arrest on 16 August 1936 at the Rosales family home in Granada.

In other words, right up to the last minute of his literary productive life a passionate desire for sexual-emotional fulfilment went hand in hand with the fervour of poetic creation, as it did so often.

The close conjunction between unconquerable sexual attraction, leading to deep spiritual suffering, and ultimately self-realisation and -satisfaction is a repeated facet of the poet’s life experience. It hints at an inability to form deep and sustained long-lasting relationships due to his existential anxiety that had him searching always for new and intense experiences out of fear that life might otherwise somehow pass him by. These short-lived and intensive passions made him suffer, and out of that suffering, that gave him so little respite in his short and artistically fecund life, his poetry and drama took shape.

These observations of mine give us a glimpse into something of what we might expect from the Maurer exhibition. The truth is, argues Maurer, that we have hardly explored this aspect of Lorca.

It’s on till 6 January 2006, open from 10 – 14 Tuesday to Sunday, additionally 17 – 20 Tuesdays to Saturday, closed on Mondays.

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