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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.

NATURAL INSTINCTS

Uncategorised 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. 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.



LOVE (WITH WINGS AND ARROWS)

Uncategorised 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. http://granadalabella.eu/lorca-s-granada/life-times-and-works/saga1.html) 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.

ARROWS

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.