Hay libros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque todo se ha dicho ya. Y hay otros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque lo único que puedes hacer es citarlos. Impresiones y paisajes por Federico García Lorca es uno de esos últimos.
La noche tiene brillantez mágica de sonidos desde este torreón. Si hay luna, es un marco vago de sensualidad abismática lo que invade los acordes. Si no hay luna…, es una melodía fantástica y única lo que canta el río…, pero la modulación original y sentida en que el color revela las expresiones musicales más perdidas y esfumadas, es el crepúsculo… Ya se ha estado preparando el ambiente desde que la tarde media. Las sombras han ido cubriendo la hoguera alhambrina… La vega está aplanada y silenciosa. El sol se oculta y del monte nacen cascadas infinitas de colores musicales que se precipitan aterciopeladamente sobre la ciudad y la sierra y se funde el color musical con las ondas sonoras… Todo suena a melodía, a tristeza antigua, a llanto.
Last Sunday we had an overcast picture of the Alhambra, so today we’ll follow it up with a poem set in Granada. Although reading Spanish poetry in the original is, by and large, beyond me at the moment (Arturo Pérez-Reverte generally drives me to despair with his quotes of Francisco de Quevedo), there is the odd poem that I have no problem understanding (Spanish learners, take note). I was afraid I might have to provide a prose translation myself, but Lord Byron obliged! The Spanish original is below the English translation for those of you who can enjoy it…
I only visited Granada once but hope to go back there someday. And when I go back, I’ll make sure I pack a jumper.
We were staying in Seville for a week and we took the train for a day trip to Granada. It was the end of October but it was warm and sunny, and we had been wandering around Seville in summer clothes, eating a lot of ice-cream. On the train, the ticket inspector took one look at us, in t-shirts, shorts and summer dresses, and exclaimed, “It’s very cold in Granada!” Assuming that we didn’t understand Spanish, she proceeded to illustrate what she meant by treating us to an excellent pantomime: she hugged herself, gave a huge shiver, stomped her feet, then rubbed her hands together, repeating, “Mucho frío…” (Very cold.) After she moved on, we laughingly agreed among ourselves that the Spanish obviously considered anything below 20 degrees as cold… but naturally, as ‘hardy northerners’, we’d be fine. Well, we should have taken her more seriously, although it was too late to do anything about it by then of course. Because what we didn’t realise was that Seville is down on the plains and Granada is up in the mountains. It was cold, windy and it was raining on and off all day. The kind of weather you get in London at the end of October, in fact.
And so my picture of the Alhambra is suitably overcast.
I read this marvellous article in the Spanish cultural magazine JotDown recently (it’s been written a couple of years ago, but that’s the beauty of the internet): Si van a Granada y solo pueden ver una cosa, visiten el Palacio de Carlos V en la Alhambra (If You Go to Granada And Can Only See One Thing, Visit the Palace of Charles V in the Alhambra) by Pedro Torrijos. Even if you can’t speak a word of Castilian, I would encourage you to click through to the article to enjoy the photos accompanying it – far better than mine above.
There are books of which there’s nothing to write because all has been said before. There are others of which there’s nothing to write because the only thing to do is to quote. This is one of the latter ones.
“Seen from this tower, the night is an array of wonderful, magical sounds. If moonlit, a vague, deeply sensual mood invades the chords, if there is no moon… the river sings a unique, dreamy melody… but it is twilight that generates the most original, intense variations where colour assumes the haziest musical expressions. The ground has been prepared from mid-afternoon… Shadows slip over the bonfire that is the Alhambra… The Vega lies flat and silent. The sun hides and infinite waterfalls of musical colour burst from the hillsides and hasten soft and velvety over city and mountains, and the music of colour melts into the waves of sound… invoking melody, ancient sadness and lamentation.”
A rich and rewarding book for those who love Spain… & poetry.