Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Notes on Spain

Bea always believed in the power of literature. When I moved to France, she suggested French classics and sent a book on French civilization. “What are you reading now?” my mother would always ask. Not reading was simply unacceptable.

In the late seventies, Bea and Paul spent a few months of winter in a rented house on the Spanish Riviera. They had stayed the previous year in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. Proximity to grandchildren was the primary motivation, and each trip included a stop in Paris. Then work on my dad’s book began. Research was easier in the university town of Gainesville, so they started going to Florida for the winter. Bea quickly made a coterie of new friends, all retired folks who shared her love of culture.

While in Spain, Bea wrote this note:

“Better to understand Spain, I am reading George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. I had not realized before how shamefully the USSR destroyed the Socialist movement in the civil war.

I wish we had the opportunity to meet more Spanish people. In Madrid we shall see remarkable Carmen Aldecoa, who went with us to Granada. We also have met the Spanish wife of a Russian. She is a friend of Salvatore Dali and has some exceptional examples of his work – sketches for paintings – on the wall. Contemporary to Dali and to us, she now seems more a monument to her own past beauty than a currently responsive product of Spain.

I like the men who deliver the firewood and work on the grounds. They are open and friendly and have a quality of endurance. I like them better than the brittle shop girls in Marbella, some of whom have a feckless quality. Not that I blame them, for one must preserve one’s own inner space in this shifting period we are now going through.

We feel here in Spain the years of repression by a totalitarian regime. In this respect Spain must bear some similarities to the USSR. I think there has been the attitude in the government of ‘The people be damned’ and the people must know it.

Still, there has been some progress, fortunately, within the Church – an element lacking in the USSR. A leading protestor in Barcelona is a priest.

And yet the reactionary element in the Church is still strong and organized.

When the trouble comes, it will come in Catalonia.

We have yet to see Madrid and Barcelona – next month.”

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