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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.

MIGUEL HERNANDEZ: CENTENARY OF A SOCIALIST POET

poetry Posted on Sun, November 07, 2010 20:24:33

70 years after the event, and in time for his centenary on 30 October this year, the Spanish Government have ruled that socialist poet Miguel Hernandez’ death sentence, issued by a military court in the first year of Franco’s forty-year dictatorship, was unjust. Wow! What insight! And ‘only’ 30-odd years after establishing democracy in modern post-Franco Spain. The Government has duly offered an official apology to his family and its belated recognition of his innocence.

In January 1940 Hernandez was charged with being a traitor to the regime (Franco’s) and a poet of the people. Hernandez certainly was not innocent of either of these charges. Indeed, in his declaration to the court, he proudly admitted that he was an antifascist poet who wrote to serve the people of Spain, calling on them defiantly to resist Franco’s nationalist uprising.

Hernandez, born 1910, left school at 14 and worked as a shepherd before realising his vocation as a poet. It was his closeness to the beauty of the natural world that soon inspired him to start writing poetry. His instinctive solidarity with the oppressed was radicalised during the period of the Republic in the 1930s and on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he joined the Republican Army to fight against Franco’s rebellion on several Fronts, finding, nevertheless, some time to dedicate himself to cultural-political issues as a creative writer. ‘While other poets wrote without conviction and paraded their left politics through Madrid in their carefully-ironed boiler suits, Hernandez was the only one who fought and wrote on the battlefield.’ This was the harsh but fair judgement of Juan Ramón Jiménez, alter ego and father figure of the brilliant contemporary generation of Spanish poets.

At the time of his trial, unsuccessful attempts were made to get Hernandez to renounce his political ideas in exchange for his life and make a public confession that he had been led astray by ‘the enemies of Spain’. Then, prompted no doubt by the international repercussions that had followed the disappearing of the more widely acclaimed Republican poet Garcia Lorca some years before, Franco commuted Hernandez’ death sentence to 30 years in prison. The regime did not want another martyr. But the condemned poet held out for little more than two years of his prison spell before succumbing to the effects of an untreated lung infection in March 1942.



GIBSON’S DESPERATION

Lorca disappearing and death Posted on Sun, November 07, 2010 19:40:33

Ian Gibson, the
outstanding Lorca specialist, is showing signs of desperation at the dead end
that attempts to locate the poet’s disappeared corpse have reached. He can’t
understand why the Spanish Government does not intervene, like the Chilean authorities
did in the case of murdered singer-songwriter Víctor Jara, victim of Pinochet’s viscious
repression of 1973.

With the
failure of the Association for the Recovery of the Historic Memory, which has
done so much to locate and honour the victims of the Civil War, to discover
Lorca’s remains, Gibson considers it now to be the duty of the state to bring
this work to fruition. He criticises the governing party PSOE (socialist party)
for having neglected to incorporate a more decisive role for the state in its law
dealing with such unresolved cases, left over from the Civil War. He stops
little short of accusing them of cowardice.

Gibson
does not refrain from hitting out, either, at the family of the poet and heirs
to his estate. Their firm refusal to support the search for and exhumation of Lorca’s
remains has aroused suspicions that a deal was done with the Franco
Dictatorship and Gibson links this suspicion to the regime’s agreement to allow
a censured version of the poet’s complete works in the 1950s, suggesting there might
be a causal relationship between the two.

It cannot
be a coincidence, Gibson argues, that there is not a single voice in the family
that challenges their consensus not to co-operate in the search for Lorca’s
body and he accuses them of contributing to the very ‘media circus’ that they
claim they were trying to avoid by sticking to their intransigent position.

Laura
Garcia-Lorca, the poet’s niece, in an interview with the BBC in February 2009,
vehemently denied that the family had any undisclosed knowledge of the whereabouts
of the elusive cadaver.

“I’m not here. Keep looking!”



book burning

la bestia Posted on Sun, November 07, 2010 18:25:05

BOOK BURNING

The news
about the Florida pastor, Terry Jones, threatening to burn copies of the Qur’an
outside his church on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the
World Trade Centre bodes ill for the future, even if in the end he did not go through
with it. The threat to burn the Qur’an in Florida was just the most extreme
example of growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the USA and around the western
world. Across the US there were
reports of attacks on Muslim targets and the FBI had to investigate crimes in
four different states ranging from windows being smashed at an Islamic
centre in California to a fire being set at one in Texas. Sadly, President
Obama reacted to this by arguing that the actions of the fanatical pastor would
lead to the death of more American soldiers in Afghanistan; and it was playing
into the hands of Al Quaida. Would the book burning be acceptable, then, if it
did not lead to such retaliation from the Islam world?

This book
burning threat has an ugly precedent in the history of Granada. In 1499
Cardinal Cisneros at the head of the Spanish Inquisition ordered the burning of
all Arabic manuscripts in Granada (except those dealing with medicine, I
suppose for pragmatic reasons). At the end of that year the contents of the
city’s university library went up in flames on a bonfire in Plaza Bib Rambla. Seven years earlier
the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, had conquered the city from the
Moslem Moors, with the promise that its religion and culture would be
respected. At first, the new Catholic rulers tried to convert the Moslems
through a process of argument and persuasive indoctrination. When this was seen
to be ineffective, Cisneros turned to more direct methods to remove any
possible subversive elements within Spain. Enforced conversion through
compulsory mass baptisms backed up with threats and imprisonment for the more
reluctant provoked three years of guerrilla warfare throughout the former
kingdom of Granada. The revolt was suppressed and Moslems resistance went
underground, one last rebellion being put down in 1568. The Moors (the Islamic
inhabitants of Spain), who now were not allowed to practice their religion,
wear their normal everyday dress, speak their own language in public, or
practice any of their traditional customs, were finally expelled from the
country in 1609. In modern terms: the failure to win the hearts and minds of
the Moslems by Cisneros led to a long sustained ‘war on terror’.

Book burning, of course, also played a part of the notorious “Reichskristallnacht” in Nazi Germany on
the night of 9 November 1938.

On this occasion state sanctioned thugs went on
the rampage smashing the shop windows of Jewish businesses, ransacking Jewish
homes, and setting fire to synagogues. This date and these events mark the
beginning of the holocaust. Unable to expel the Jews in sufficient numbers, the
Nazis sought other means to achieve the final solution to their ‘Jewish
problem’. In this case, the burning of books and buildings ended in attempted
genocide – the burning of human beings.

Granada 1499. Germany 1938. (Almost) Florida 2010. There is something
very sinister about book burning, a fact Ray Bradbury skilfully exploited in
his sci fi novel Fahrenheit 451.