Cry, mother Spain by Lydie Salvayre (Maclehose)


“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A ceremonial ring on his venerable hand, the Most Reverend Archbishop of Palma pointed at the chests of the ‘guilty poor’, singling them out to the vigilante firing squads.”


NATIONALISM. Fascism. Communism. The Motherland…the epithets seem eerily 20th century now, although timely maybe with events in Europe and elsewhere. Salvayre’s text invokes them in primary colours. Her stage is the now often perhaps forgotten Spanish civil war. The year is 1936. Her inspiration is an overlooked, conflicted contemporary account and her own mother who has dementia but recalls euphoric episodes of her childhood as she is moved around in a wheelchair dying in exile in France. She not so much speaks French as ‘cripples it’. Why don’t you pour us an anisette, ma cherie?

The opening paragraph above illustrates well the purpose of the writing, the venerable hand, the capital letters, the duplicity of the church, not just pointing but at the chests…

We start in the village where already adolescent brother and sister are a part of new political rumblings, oppressed peasants, over-reaching landowner, rumours of far away Mussolini stashing guns for monarchists, young ideals of anarchy…a young general called Franco rising up in the colonies of Morocco and the Canary Islands to topple a weak democracy. The church complicit in sustaining the status quo. The book won the Prix Goncourt and little surprise in that. It is a tour de force, a family saga set against a larger real politic, a sort of coming of age book except perhaps we have not in larger terms as yet arrived…

All our factions and frictions reach a crescendo as they assemble for an almost ghoulish wedding feast, the stiletto of old euro politics twists in the guts of the nation, a newsreel of tragedies, ghosts just half a page of history behind us.

The end is abrupt, too abrupt really, but, like other memories, there may sadly be a reason for that..





About drewsmith28

Words, words, words...
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