University of Zaragoza, Spain | Published: 15 March, 2014
ISSUE 9 | Pages: 154-177 | PDF | DOAJ | https://doi.org/10.24162/EI2014-4569
2014 by Constanza del Río-Álvaro | This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.
The scene opens with a long shot of Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, addressing an audience of EU delegates from a platform. The camera tracks slowly to a close-up of Rajoy’s face beaming with self-satisfaction while he recites the exceptional macroeconomic data in Spain. Cut to a crane shot of a busy commercial street in the centre of any Spanish city. The camera descends and focuses on a young man, kneeling on the floor, hands crossed in prayer, begging for money and food. Then it pans to another beggar, then another, then another, then another…. All the while, Rajoy’s voice-over is heard, now spelling out the wonders of the Spanish government’s economic measures: labour market reforms, cuts on education, health, social services, funds for culture, etc… Cut to extreme close-up of newspaper headline: “The breach between the rich and the poor has widened enormously from 2007 to 2012: 13 million people are neighbouring the poverty line in Spain”. Cut to medium close-up of a woman working at her computer, absorbed in her keyboard and screen while she writes a paper on the use of the definite article in San Juan de la Cruz’s poetry or on a deconstructive reading of Harry Potter novels, for that matter. Fade out.
As every year since its foundation (2001), in 2013 the Spanish Association for Irish Studies (AEDEI) celebrated its International Conference (University of Cáceres, 30 May-1 June) under the heading “Voice and Discourse in the Irish Context”. Scholars from European and American Universities participated in this successful academic and social event, very effectively organised by Carolina Amador and her team. Three are the conference happenings that I would like to highlight here. First, Nuala NíChonchúir’s talk on her first novel, You (2010). As suggested by its title, the novel opts for second person narration, a rare choice that may sound awkward to the reader and is difficult to sustain convincingly for a whole narrative (authors like Edna O’Brien – A Pagan Place (1970) – and Joseph O’Connor – Ghost Light (2010) – have tried this narrative option as well, with better results, in my view, in the case of O’Connor). NíConchúir’s “experiment” seems to have connected with readers, as proved by the excellent reviews of the novel. In the second place, His and Hers (2009), a film by director Ken Wardrop, inspired in his mother’s life which explores how we share life’s journey with the opposite sex; after watching the film the conference participants and attendants had the opportunity of discussing it with the director in a public interview. Finally, famous Irish actor Denis Rafter performed his new one-man show based on the miserable last days of Oscar Wilde’s life, entitled “Beloved Sinner”. As part of the social programme of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies (AEDEAN) 37th International Conference, Rafter performed as well the play The Irish Bululú in the University of Oviedo, 13 November 2013. In this piece, Rafter traces Irish cultural and literary influences on his work as actor by interpreting Shakespeare’s songs, soliloquies and sonnets interspersed with Irish songs, stories and dance. In November as well, the University of Granada hosted a two-hour seminar, “Women and Literature in Ireland: Two Irish Poets in Conversation”, where poets Gerry Murphy and Liz O’Donoghue read some of their most representative poems and discussed their work: main themes and literary influences, relationship between nationalism and gender, and the surfacing of female writes on the Irish literary scene.
The recent vitality of Irish theatre and performance arts reached Spain last year with the staging of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan (1997) (El cojo de Inishmaan), the first play in McDonagh’s The Aran Islands Trilogy. The Spanish production was directed by Gerardo Vera, a prestigious figure on the Spanish scene. The play ran first for six weeks (18 Dec. – 26 Jan.) in the Teatro Español (Madrid) and is now being shown in the Teatro Infanta Isabel (Madrid, 12 March – 20 April, 2014) to both audience and critical acclaim. When asked about possible connections between the world of the play and Spanish society, Vera mentioned that certain characters and stereotypes could be linked to rural areas in the North of Spain and to Valle Inclan’s poetic world (El Cultural, 13 Dec. 2013). José Luis Collado, author of the Spanish version and translation, elaborates on these connections referring to a similar vital and optimistic attitude to life which he links to the classical carpe diem. Collado has made a great effort to remain faithful to the play’s Hiberno-English, impossible to translate literally, by trying to find likely equivalences for every phrase or paragraph while preserving the formal richness that such a celebrated author as McDonagh deserves. A cast of first-rate Spanish actors and actresses, an excellent text and a spare mise-en-scene guarantee the play’s success. A production of Samuel Backett’s Waiting for Godot (1953) (Esperando a Godot), by now a classical play if there is one, was staged in the Centro Dramático Nacional (Madrid) in April 2013 by actor and director Alfredo Sanzol. He has always vindicated the common sense and coherence of Beckett’s theatre and affirms that “there is nothing more absurd than to say that this play is absurd” (El País, 18 April 2013, my translation). Sanzol also condemns the common-place vision of Waiting for Godot as a static work where nothing happens, and refers to the constant physical activity that the actors have to display. For him, Beckett’s play is particularly meaningful in our present juncture since, in it, Beckett laughs at people who would rather wait than live, and reminds us that life is what is going on and not what we are waiting for. Sanzol’s version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) (La importancia de llamarse Ernesto) was running at the same time in the Teatro Fernán Gómez (Madrid). On the 29th of January 2014 a production of Brian Friel’s Translations, translated into Catalan, opened at the Biblioteca de Catalunya (Barcelona); though scheduled to run until the 9th of March, its relative boxoffice success led to its being extended for another week. Next years’ section on Irish Studies in Spain will carry a review of this interesting production.
Somewhere in between literature and the plastic arts, the work of Oliver Jeffers, a transnational artist who was born in Australia, then lived in Belfast (he graduated from the University of Ulster in 2001) and now lives and works in Brooklyn, was shown in the Valladolid IlustraTour festival with a workshop entitled “Mostrar y contar: palabras e imágenes con diferentes sabores” (“Showing and Telling: multi-flavoured words and images”, my translation). Jeffers is well-known for his illustrated children’s stories, most of them translated into Spanish (Cómo atrapar una estrella y Perdido y encontrado
- I would like to thank David Pierce for informing me on the original location and meaning of the word. [↩]
Walter Starkie: An Odyssey by Jacqueline Hurtley
Literary Visions of Multicultural Ireland. The Immigrant in Contemporary Irish Literature, PilarVillar-Argáiz (ed.)
Mercier y Camier de Samuel Beckett
Las chicas de campo de Edna O’Brien