Winter in Mallorca

In Palma de Mallorca I usually stay at Hostal Pons in the heart of the old town, in Carrer del Vi, Wine Street. It is a small hotel converted from an old aristocratic palace, with an Arab-Renaisance columned patio, so characteristic of the city. The owners – a young brother and sister – also live here, in the back. It offers beautiful views, especially in the morning and early afternoon, as sunlight passes through and breaks in a thousand different ways in the columned courtyard, the windows of the hall and the small rooms. The only problem is that the rooms have no heating. Of course, it is not needed for most of the year, as it is mostly hot, and fortunately the tourist season also falls on that period. But Palma can also be cold, especially in January. Most other hotels are therefore not open either, since there are no visitors. I am also alone in Pons. The owners don’t show up very often, so I feel like the last bachelor descendant of a baronial family in his mountain mansion, as described by Llorenç Villalonga in his Bearn, or a mansion in Mallorca. Fortunately, the brothers were attentive enough to set up a mobile gas convector in the hall for the evening, so I can work at one of the tables without the risk of freezing. I remember when living in Rome, where, in early March, central heating is already switched off but the heat of the sun is not yet turned on, so that cold radiates profusely from the damp walls, my landlord consoled me that a Swede lived there before me, who complained that he had never had a cold in all his life as he did here in Rome.

The windows of the bathrooms overlook the courtyard of the St. Alfonso Liguori School. The sound of children chirping wakes me in the morning. As I slowly get up, the second-stage wake-up call comes on, the bells of the medieval Church of the Holy Cross behind the block of the hotel. It is one of the best preserved medieval churches in Palma, but its beautiful interior can only be seen once a week, at eleven on Sundays, when a Mass is held in German. I once mingled with the priest after Mass, and it turned out that not only was he from Berlin, but we even had a common regular pub on Yorckstraße. Of course, it is understandable that I never see him there, since he spends all his time in Mallorca.

Leaving the hotel, I head to the beach for the first coffee at Plaçe Drassana, the place of the former shipyard. In January, most of the bars, restaurants and shops in Palma are closed, which is now also justified by covid. The Drassana, usually throbbing from the crowds in the bars around it, is now completely abandoned. Only two places are open, a curry eatery and the Bar Arenas 1951, the area’s popular pub. I sit in there. While working on my laptop, I am listening to the girl at the bar serving guests. Altough I said there were no tourists, nevertheless occasionally some English and Italian slips in: probably expats living here. She speaks in excellent English and Italian with them, besides Spanish and Catalan, obvious here. “Enhorabuena, how many languages you speak and how well,” I congratulate her when I pay. “Oh, I also speak German and French”, she adds modestly. “Where did you learn so many languages? Here, in the bar?” “No, at home.” It turns out that she was born in Verona, in an Italian family, but her grandmother was Romanian, and her grandfather German, apparently a Saxon from Transylvania, and then she worked in many bars all over Europe. “Here in Mallorca is the best”, she says, “the freedom is great, and the guests are relaxed. This is better than anything else. But it’s very important that you work,” she underlines seriously.

If they opened a window on the place of the giant poster, you would see more or less the same as on the poster: the Gothic cathedral of Mallorca:

On the way back, the “old gallery” almost opposite the hotel is also closed. Although I do not remember of having ever seen it open in the twenty years since I have been coming to Mallorca.

Its being a gallery is only confirmed by the ad hoc exhibition on the façade. To the left of the gate, a “found poem”, written in chalk:

I want to sleep a while. A while, a minute, a century. But all must know that I have not died, Federico is alive.

Federico García Lorca: Gacela de la muerte oscura (The ghazal of the dark death)

Quiero dormir el sueño de las manzanas
Alejarme del tumulto de los cementerios.
Quiero dormir el sueño de aquel niño
Que quería cortarse el corazón en alta mar.

No quiero que me repitan que los muertos no pierden la sangre;
Que la boca podrida sigue pidiendo agua.
No quiero enterarme de los martirios que da la hierba,
Ni de la luna con boca de serpiente
Que trabaja antes del amanecer.

Quiero dormir un rato,
Un rato, un minuto, un siglo;
Pero que todos sepan que no he muerto;
Que haya un establo de oro en mis labios;
Que soy un pequeño amigo del viento Oeste;
Que soy la sombra inmensa de mis lágrimas.

Cúbreme por la aurora con un velo,
Porque me arrojará puñados de hormigas,
Y moja con agua dura mis zapatos
Para que resbale la pinza de su alacrán.

Porque quiero dormir el sueño de las manzanas
Para aprender un llanto que me limpie de tierra;
Porque quiero vivir con aquel niño oscuro
Que quería cortarse el corazón en alta mar.

I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to withdraw from the tumult of the cemeteries.
I want to sleep the dream of that child, who
wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

I don't want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood
That the putrid mouth goes on asking for water
I don't want to learn of the tortures of the grass
Nor of the moon with the serpent's mouth that labors before dawn

I want to sleep a while
A while, a minute, a century
But all must know that I have not died
That there is a stable of gold in my lips
That I am the small friend of the west wind
That I am the immense shadow of my tears

Cover me at dawn with a veil
Because dawn will throw fistsful of ants at me
And wet with hard water my shoes
So that the pincers of the scorpion slide

For I want to sleep the dream of the apples
To learn a lament that will cleanse me of the earth
For I want to live with that dark child
Who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

English version by Joan Baez

There are two small niches in the wall on each side. The installation arranged in them completes the experience. To the right is a distorted photograph of a child and a half-eaten apple, as if to hint at the poet’s dream.

And to the left, a peculiar association, the image of the philosopher and mystic Simone Weil, who fought on the side of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, although she was only allowed to shoot once, because she was nearsighted, and her target unsure.

In the evening, as I am coming home, a candle burns in front of the photo. I stop, but I don’t have a camera, I cannot take pictures. At the gate opposite, two boys are just saying goodbye. The one who stays turns to him: “Do you like it? I have put there the photo, because it fits so well. And I light the candle in front of it.” Then it turns out he does not even know who Simone Weil was. The absurd genius of Spain continues to work. Federico is alive.

1 comentario:

Douglas Kretzmann dijo...

thank you, beautiful.

I had to go and read a lot of Lorca exegesis after this. It was clear to me there was a lot more in the poem than I was understanding.. much like everything else in my life come to think of it.

In the Western tradition, Yeats' Love and Death,