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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.


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.


The Lorca Centre Posted on Sat, September 21, 2019 05:42:16

The Christopher Maurer Exhibition has at last opened at the Lorca Centre in Granada. Originally titled Amor (con alas y flechas) – Love (with Wings and Arrows), I notice Jardín deshecho has been added to the title: “The Derelict Garden” perhaps. It focuses on the Andalusian poet’s passionate love – and consequently, sex – life.

Maurer’s ambitious exhibition had been scheduled to launch the Centre’s programme of events to mark the arrival from Madrid of the poet’s legacy (the collection of thousands of documents and manuscripts as well as literary, critical, and artistic works that bear direct witness to the poet’s life, times and work) in October last year, but evidently some hitch led to it being removed silently from the calendar and replaced at the last minute by Desde el Centro: Federico García Lorca y Granada, which focused on the ambiguous relationship that existed between the city and its greatest son. I posted about this on 15 October 2018, #92. (See also my “saga” about the Lorca Centre’s missing millions. Many of the exhibits in the “Derelict Garden” Exhibition will be on display to the public for the first time and they will include items from private collections, such as personal correspondence from the poet which has been kept stored away down the years.

Lorca’s intense love-life, Maurer’s thesis goes, was inextricably tied up with his incessantly creative and varied literary production. His sex drive, as I understand it, was in a way “just another” creative form of self-realisation, and possibly the most powerful. All his most intimate and passionate relationships, let it be noted, were with men: the love that still did not dare to speak its name freely. Of these relationships, the one that stands out above all others was the one based on that remarkable and powerful mutual spiritual and physical attraction that existed between him and Salvador Dalí. For a short but intense period in the 1920s, this attraction was a powerful stimulus in the creative production of both artists.  

 “It was an honour for me to know that Lorca was in love with me. What Lorca felt for me was more than friendship, it was a very strong erotic passion.” These are words that Dalí, virtually on his death bed, insisted on passing on to literary historian Ian Gibson (El País, 26 January 1986). This statement was made to clarify a rather startling revelation the Catalan artist had made some twenty years earlier in an interview with Alain Bosquet (Entretiens avec Salvador Dalí. Paris 1966), when he had spoken of the overwhelming passion the poet showed for him, a passion that he felt compelled to express in a physical sexual relationship. Dalí was flattered but at the same time alarmed by his friend’s advances. With characteristic semi-ironic self-aggrandisement he said to Bosquet that he “owed” the great poet “a bit of the Divine Dalí’s arsehole” and he went on to refer to the Margarita Manso episode, in which, with Dalí as voyeur, Lorca is supposed to have made love to a young woman for the only time in his life, to compensate for missing out on the delights of the painter’s anus. “Federico was excited knowing that I was watching,” he said. “He transferred his passion from me to the girl.” The incident, which Gibson places in May 1926, is narrated fully in his biography of the painter (La vida desaforada de (The Shameful Life of) Salvador Dalí. 189). Shortly before his untimely death, Lorca confided to a friend that he had never slept with a woman, so either he suppressed the memory of that incident, refused to acknowledge it to that friend, or it never took place. 

Be that as it may, in April 1927, Lorca’s poem “Remansos” (Still Waters) was published on the cover of the literary magazine Verso y Prosa, with the enigmatic line “Margarita, ¿quién soy yo?” (Margarita, who am I?) It was accompanied by a drawing of the fused heads of Lorca and Dalí on the beach at Es Llané. (Gibson. ..vida desaforada…. 191). Meanwhile, in April 1926, Lorca’s “Oda (didáctica) a Salvador Dalí”, in which Lorca had sung in praise of the sure aim of the painter’s arrows, had appeared in the Revista de Occidente.


The arrows referred to by Maurer in his exhibition title, and by Lorca in his ode, are the symbolically phallic arrows shot into the body of Saint Sebastian, associated for Lorca with the suffering and agony of love and consequently with poetic creativity. For Dalí, by way of contrast, they were anything but that. For him, Saint Sebastian was the incarnation of the objectivity that he believed art should aspire to. The absence of emotion, the serenity, the aloofness of the saint as the arrows pierce his flesh are qualities that the painter aspired to in his art and in his life. Thus, Saint Sebastian became a symbolic point of reference for Dalí and Lorca with respect to their conflicting, practically diametrically opposed, views on life, emotional commitment, and art.

Dalí’s poem Sant Sebastià, published on 31 July 1927 and dedicated to the poet, is clearly a rejoinder to Lorca’s Ode of the previous year. The poem reiterates Dalí’s standpoint vis-à-vis Lorca with regard to aesthetic differences, which became more and more defined in the course of the 1920s. Whereas the tone of Lorca’s Ode was full of affection and admiration, there is a distancing coolness in the work of the painter.

In spite of the fact that the two men’s outlooks were becoming more and more incompatible, Lorca greeted Dalí’s poem with enthusiasm, giving it a prime position in the first edition of gallo, a literary magazine he was working on in Granada at that time. The creative stimulus that arose out of their mutual admiration continued to work for some years. Dalí’s “Lorca Period” is identified as starting with Composición con tres figuras/“Academia neocubista” in which a sort of Saint Sebastian figure in the guise of a sailor-cum-Greek youth, maybe a self-portrait, emerges meekly triumphant from the suffering that has presumably been inflicted upon him. (Rafael Santos Torroella. Dalí. Epoca de Madrid. Publicaciones de la Residencia de Estudiantes. 1994. Pp 69-74.) It lasted until Gala replaced Lorca as Dalí’s muse and by 1941 she took his place in a re-working of La miel es más dulce que la sangre (Honey is sweeter than Blood), originally painted in 1927.

The powerful attraction that stimulated both men in the end terrified Dalí. 1927 marked the zenith of their relationship, with Dalí, already recognised as a budding genius, working on the sets and decoration for the Barcelona production of Lorca’s Mariana Pineda. The faithfulness of Dalí’s interpretation of the playwright’s intentions was deemed to be absolutely spot-on.

Yet immediately afterwards, the Catalan painter launched a heartless and withering criticism of The Gypsy Ballad Book, which finally came out in 1928, saying it failed to break with conventional and traditional notions of what poetry is, its imagery was stereotyped and conformist, and it was not as daring or radical as Lorca had been led to believe by the “putrefied” literary establishment.

That criticism might have poisoned any joy the poet should have justifiably felt at the literary and popular success of the work, but what was worse was Dalí’s alignment with the homophobic Luis Buñuel, himself devoured by envy arising from the special relationship that he saw existed between the poet and the painter. This development contributed to bringing about Lorca`s deep spiritual crisis, his flight to New York, and the radical change of artistic direction that then emerged in his creative production. Lorca left for America in June 1929 feeling rejected and betrayed, less by the criticism of his Ballad Book than by the film Dalí made with Luis Buñuel: Le chien andalou: The Andalusian Dog. The Andalusian dog, he knew, was him.

His unhappiness was compounded by his failure to find compensation for his estrangement from Dalí through the unfortunate relationship with the sculptor Emilio Aladrén which he maintained from 1927 to 1928, when the sculptor, supposedly bisexual, abandoned Lorca for an Elizabeth Arden, the cosmetics firm, agent.

So, in 1928, just as his literary breakthrough arrived in the form of the successes of Mariana Pineda and the Gypsy Ballad Book, he began talking more and more frequently of his emotional crisis, which led to family friend Fernando de los Ríos accompanying him on the trip to New York. Stateside, in August 1929 he spent ten days in Eden Mills, Vermont, staying with Philip Cummings, like Aladrén eight years his junior, who he had met in Madrid the previous year. Cummings claims to have destroyed on the poet’s death, in accordance with instructions given, material left him which gave vent to his feelings of rejection and betrayal vis-à-vis Dalí’s collusion with Buñuel.

Lorca’s literary production in these years, from the late 20s to the early 30s, developed in step with the highs and lows – wings and arrows – of his powerfully emotional response to his homosexual relationships. 


Historic Granada Posted on Sat, August 17, 2019 16:54:43

The shaping of our waterways goes hand in hand with the shaping of our cities is the argument of John Vidal`s Guardian article referred to in the previous blog. According to this account, many waterways (rivers, streams, canals) were condemned to neglect and oblivion and buried underground, so the business of overground traffic could flow better through the city. But in more recent times, the hegemony of the motor car has come to an end, and there is a trend to recover – to ‘daylight’ subterranean waterways as part of a gentrifying process which prioritises a greener and more human-friendly, car-free and pedestrianised environment. The Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul is a classic example of this trend. (

Here, let’s place our own River Darro within this process. The river goes underground by the church San Gil y Santa Ana and it remains underground all the way until it joins the Genil, following the entire course of the roads Reyes Católicos and Acera de Darro, a stretch of well over one kilometre.

The Darro disappears underground. Agencia Albaicín Granada.
The Darro Underground

However, we cannot directly blame the demise of the River Darro on the rise of the motorcar. It was buried long before the popularising of the automobile, in the 1880s, and the reasons given for it were environmental and hygienic rather than anything else. From Arabic times (prior to 1492), the Zacatín and the Alcaicería, on the left bank of the river, had been home to a number of small workshops for a variety of craftsmen. The Revés del Zacatín, the Back of the Zacatin, looked onto the part of the river that now runs under the street Reyes Católicos,  and all the waste from these small workshops was dumped from here directly into the river. A similar situation can still be seen today in Fez, Morocco. 

So it seems to keep the river clean, they buried it!

A secondary reason for covering the river was to try to control the problem of flooding and this involved extending it beyond Puerta Real. There the river swings quite sharply left and this gave rise to the clumsy solution of the Embovedado, or Vaulted Way, because, in order to span the width of the river here, the surface of the road had to be vaulted, to such an extent that they say you could only see the heads of the people walking on the other side of the road.

The Darro, Puerta Real, 19th Century
Work on the Vaulting, between Puerta Real and the River Genil

The covering up of the river was ridiculed and criticised in powerful terms by Angel Ganivet (1865 – 1898), such an important influence on the thinking and attitudes of the forward-looking sectors of subsequent generations, though not influential enough, or well enough understood, to affect the decision-making of local politicians and town planners.

Ganivet argued strongly against the project of the Embovedado. If this part of the river was covered over, he said, it would cause a lot of harm without bringing about any real improvement. The width of the river here made up for the lack of trees to give shade, because it created a kind of mini-climate, cooler and fresher than in the street. The covering of the river would give rise to a wide street, sacrificing the freshness and charm of the river. The street would be nothing more than a prolongation of the Reyes Católicos, vulgar in itself and out-of-character in the context of the shady and narrow streets that lead off it.

[Si para facilitar la circulación se continuara la boveda hasta el extremo de la Carrera se causarían muchos daños sin ninguna seria compensación. El río suple allí con ventaja la falta de árboles y siendo grande la distancia entre las casas el efecto es si la calle fuera estrecha. Con el Embovedado la calle sería más ancha, perdida su frescura y su gracia, vendría a ser como una prolongación de la calle Méndez Núñez (Reyes Católicos), vulgar en sí y ridícula en relación con las calles tortuosas, obscuras que hasta ella descienden. Yo conozco muchas ciudades … Granada la bella.]

 And this criticism was followed by his famous observation that there were many famous cities with rivers running through them, but only in Granada had they hit upon the perverse idea of covering theirs over. The idea, he mocks, could only have been conceived at the depths of the darkest night. Ganivet was not entirely right, though, for, as we have seen, covering over waterways was part of a trend that prioritised overground motorised traffic, which only in the last couple of decades is being reversed.

It wasn’t really until the 1940s that the definitive re-shaping of Granada’s city centre took place, during which time the mayor’s office was occupied by Antonio Gallego Burín. Possibly Gallego Burín’s greatest achievement in his tenure was the provision of safe drinking tap water for the city, but what we want to focus on here is the re-modelling of the area around Puerta Real.

While claiming to be working in the spirit of Angel Ganivet, his urban development plans set about demolishing the crooked, narrow, shady streets emblematic of the old Granada, whose values Ganivet espoused, with the main intention of getting rid once and for all of the low-life Manigua neighbourhood with its brothels and street-corner prostitution, and incidentally erasing part of the old Jewish Quarter, making way instead for the imposing and modern calle Ángel Ganivet (!), inaugurated in 1943 by General Francisco Franco himself.

Calle Ángel Ganivet. Today. Granada Hoy.

Gallego Burín’s Ángel Ganivet Street is uncompromisingly broad and straight, demonstrating little of the old Granada values, though in all fairness it must be said that the project did tackle the problem of the intense summer heat by means of the covered arcaded walkways flanking the street, somewhat in the Italian city portico style. Nevertheless, in spite of its name, the street is more in the spirit of the fin de siècle Gran Vía – that smashes its way through the network of medieval streets that characterised the old Granada – than in the spirit of Ganivet’s urbanistic manifesto (Granada la bella, 1896). Nor did the mayor heed Ganivet’s fierce criticism of the Embovedado,for although its excessive vaulting was now flattened, the widening of the paved area would inevitably diminish any respite from the scorching high summer sun. The street here did indeed become little more than a prolongation of the ‘vulgar’ Reyes Católicos.

With the implementation of Gallego Burín’s reform project, any attempt at recuperating the freshness and charm of the river was abandoned forever. Or at least until today. And the ground was laid for the urban planners’ abject deference to the motor car whose rise and rise would remain unresisted until, by the end of the century, Granada was virtually choked by the uncontrolled access of private traffic. Now, happily, this tendency is being rolled back and as it is we see a chance emerging that the Darro will itself one day be daylighted, returned to the surface, not only in its Reyes Católicos stretch, but all the way from Santa Ana to the River Genil.

Puerta Real. No room for a river here?

Daylighting waterways – a global movement?

Uncategorised Posted on Tue, August 06, 2019 18:26:59

It is not only rivers and streams that are being salvaged from their underworldly existence (, dated 19/7); canals, too, are being resuscitated and regenerated, nowhere more so than in fair England, where they have given rise to a popular slow-pace leisure industry: barge holidays, gliding along predictable rural waterways at a leisurely 4kph.

The Guardian chooses to report in particular (25/7/2019) on the achievements of the Lapal Canal project. Here a three-mile stretch of the 200-year-old Dudley No 2 canal (West Midlands) is being converted from what was a derelict and abandoned industrial waterway into a desirable upmarket urban living and leisure space. It is one of at least 80 canal renaissance projects being undertaken in the UK at the present moment. The project, enthuses the Guardian’s reporter, John Vidal, which will link the suburbs of California and Selly Oak, could be a catalyst for the economic and ecological renaissance of a large area of south Birmingham.

 We know that this depicted transformation of canals in the UK is part of a worldwide phenomenon. We know that in Seoul, for example, the renovation of the Cheonggyecheon Stream (see blog ?p=110 op cit) transformed what was effectively an old sewerage ditch covered by a gigantic elevated highway into a pleasant urban environment with clean water, plants, wildlife and attractive landscaping. The regeneration of such waterways was unimaginable, say, 50 years ago, when the car economy still reigned supreme.

But just as decisions about the use or non-use of waterways shaped the way our cities developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, they are now shaping urban renewal today.

So, returning to our River Darro: Why should it not be released from its gloomy underground passage under Reyes Católicos Street to which it was condemned at the end of the 19th century? And, come to that, why shouldn’t it be further ‘daylighted’  all the way from Puerta Royal to the Plaza del Humilladero, where it joins the mainstream of the River Genil (that flows down from the snow to the wheat), in front of the Mercadona that once was Electrodomésticos (household appliances) Sánchez?

The restoration of the canals in the 1950s and 60s in England, let’s take note, was the result of a consistent and principled act of defiance by a small number of people in the face of authorities which were fully compliant with the demands of the car industry and had no time or money to bother with quaint old-fashioned waterways.

This was the way it was for Granada until well into the 21st century. The motor car decisively shaped the city centre as it is today, in spite of counter-measures undertaken over the last couple of decades. So, what will it take to open up the course of the River Darro, from Plaza Santa Ana all the way down to where it joins the River Genil? – A similarly consistent act of defiance in the face of reluctant authorities, for sure.

In challenging the until-now unquestioned and unquestionable city-centre status quo, the urban development of Granada could take a decisive turn from the traffic-choked and air polluted nucleus that we know today to a green and pedestrian-friendly urban environment that could notably improve the quality of city life.

It is a development that, if allowed, property developers will not be slow to take full advantage of, as average citizens like you and me are banished to the outer suburbs and dormitory towns that surround the provincial capital, and the gentrified city centre will be the stalking grounds of the well-off, following the pattern of other urban restoration schemes.

the renovation of the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul (TwilightShow/Getty Images)
Below the asphalt, the River Darro flows down to the River Genil
The Acera del Darro in the 1930s
the unromantic rendez-vous of the rivers Darro and Genil
the River Darro, 19th Century, as it approaches the Genil (the cypress trees belonged to the Colegio Escalapios on the other side of the Genil)


Contemporary Granada Posted on Fri, July 19, 2019 19:03:04

Athens has
not one, but three buried rivers, the Kifisos, the Iridanos, and the Ilissos:
“a crime against the city” the daily newspaper Kathimerini calls them. [This I
read in the Guardian Weekly of 14 June 2019; a report by Yiannis Babqulias.]
There, in Athens, the question of reburying or unburying the Ilissos has taken on some urgency
because its walls are crumbling and the tramlines that pass overhead have
become unsafe. Rather than rebuild the walls, wouldn’t it be better to re-route
the trams, and recover – that is, UNcover – the river? That is the current line
of Greek thought on the matter.

It is a
line of thought that can be identified as part of the ‘Daylighting Urban
Waterways’ movement, which and has had successes from Seoul in 2005, where and when the
Cheonggyecheon stream was resurrected from its urban death bed, to Sheffield in
2017, where the River Sheaf was opened up and incorporated into a pocket of
parkland. (GW again.)

So moves to
rescue our River Darro from under the Reyes
Street (see blog post 109, dated 2/6/2019)
are part of a global movement, something that improves their chances of realisation,

The idea of
burying the River Darro underground was conceived, according to Angel Ganivet (see blog post 109),
at the depths of a dark, dark night towards the end of the 19th century.
Is it not now time for it to be daylighted, in tune with the urban regeneration tendencies of the 21st?

1, The River Ilissos in classical times. 2, The Ilissos today. 3, The River Darro where it goes underground at Plaza Santa Ana. 4, The River Darro in the 19th century.

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