Agatha Christie in Mallorca

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, DBE (née Miller) was born 122 years ago today (September 15th, 1890). You may be interested to know that there is a link between Agatha Christie and Mallorca and not an unimportant one.

In March 1932, Agatha Christie came to Mallorca for the first time, on the last leg of a long journey that had taken her to the Middle East (Luxor, Cairo and Jerusalem) and beyond. In February 1927, the popular British writer had already resided in the Canary Islands, in the town of Puerto de la Cruz.

When she arrived in Palma, she was surprised by the large number of English and American tourists who were in the capital of the Balearic island, making it impossible for her to find a room in any of the three best-known hotels. Everything was packed. She contemplated staying in Formentor instead where hotel prices were considered exorbitant even at that time. Eventually, she passed through Port de Pollença on her taxi ride to Formentor and was immediately fascinated by the view from the bay; she is said to have exclaimed “… this was the site I was looking for…”. Her fascination for the pine trees in Port de Pollença are believed to have inspired her character of Parker Pyne.

Agatha Christie reputedly enjoyed going for long walks from the Hotel Illa d’Or to the lighthouse at Port de Pollença, stopping occasionally at Hotel Mar i Cel for tea. Both hotels, converted to Pino d’Or and Mariposa for literary reasons, became central to the development of the plot of her Mallorcan story, Problems at Pollensa Bay. Agatha Christie probably returned to the hotel in 1935. One of the current owners recalls how his mother repeatedly referred to her as “the writer“. The lighthouse in Port de Pollença was expropriated in 1937 by a certain Generalissimo to build a military base whose first tenants were the German Legion Condor who had earlier treacherously bombed Guernica in Northern Spain, in the Basque Land.

The writer seems to have returned to Mallorca after the Guerra Civil (Civil War). The photo (centre) shows a copy of ‘The Golden Fleece’ by Robert Graves, dedicated to ‘Agatha and Max, love from Robert 1944’, and a letter to Agatha & Max from Robert in Mallorca in 1946 in which he says ‘How nice to send us your blood! Blood donor Agatha! We had already ordered a copy…’. Both items plus Agatha Christie’s telephone directory were auctioned in Cambridge, UK, in 2009.

The photos were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of sensitivehomeschool.comcheffins.co.uk and accommodationnear.com.

Thank you very much.

Agatha Christie in Mallorca

The Truth in Literature

Literature has always been about the conflict between fiction and reality, the clash between the real and the surreal, the relation between the mind and the written word. Some of these arguments will be explored in Formentor from next week on Friday, during the annual Converses Literàries de Formentor 2012 which will take place at the Hotel Formentor from September 14th to 16th.

Ulysses, Hamlet, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina and other important personalities in Literature are the topics of this year’s literary colloquium.

Authors participating in this year’s Literary summit are expected to be Pau Faner, Cristina Fernández Cubas, Jesús Ferrero, Carlos García Gual, Eduardo Gil Bera, Irene Gracia, Leila Guerriero, Gabriel Janer Manila, José María Lassalle, Olga Merino, Ana Maria Moix, Javier Montes, Maria Antònia Oliver, José María Ridao, Carme Riera, Manuel Rodríguez Rivero, Marta Sanz, Fernando Savater, Manuel Vicent, Dario Villanueva. The event will be chaired by Basilio Baltasar.

In 1959, the Spanish author Camilo José Cela gathered a group of literary colleagues at the Conversaciones Poéticas de Formentor in the island’s northern-most mountain range. In 1961, this event led to the Premios Formentor competition, which was held again in Formentor the following year, although it would travel to other places in the world after that. In 2008, a revival of these international literary gatherings returned to Mallorca, and has been held in Formentor ever since.

The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken near Port de Pollença, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 14th, 2009. The time was 14:28:35. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of elpais.com. It had in turn been taken from the book Historia de la literatura española. Derrota y restitución de la modernidad: 1939-2010. The authors in that photo are (from left to right) Juan Goytisolo (National Prize for Spanish Literature, 2009), Víctor Seix, Camilo José Cela (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1989), Josep Maria Castellet and Juan García Hortelano. Behind, to the left, Joan Fuster and to the right, Josep M. Espinàs.

Muchas gracias.

The Truth in Literature

Fra Juníper Serra, the Mallorcan Missionary

Fra Juníper Serra was born in the village of Petra on November 24th, 1713. Padre Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25th, 1988.

Mallorca is currently busy preparing commemorative acts for his tricentennial birthday, next year. Padre Serra left his natal Mallorca age 36 as a Franciscan missionary for the “New Spain” in Mexico and never returned to his native island. In the Americas, he founded missions in Alta California such as San Diego de Alcalá, San Gabriel Arcángel, San Francisco de Asís, and San Juan Capistrano, which eventually would become the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.

Amongst a number of projects, a cinema film is presently in a phase of preproduction, launched by the Mallorca Film Commission, in collaboration with the Cluster Audiovisual de Baleares and the Mallorcan IB3 television channel, aiming to portray on-screen the life and vocation of the Mallorcan missionary. Let’s hope they can raise the finance. Michael Douglas once said, years ago, that he would be interested in bringing Juníper Serra’s biography to the screen.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 7th, 2012. The time was 15:11:01. The photo (bottom) was added as a postscript. It was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 22nd, 2012. The time was 12:40:00.

Fra Juníper Serra, the Mallorcan Missionary

The Sounds of Silence

Every now and then, you will come to understand that there is a handful of people, at most, that have shaped your life. Most often, such people are your parents, or certainly one of the two. Sometimes it is a benefactor, or a friend, or perhaps a lover. Sometimes it is someone who you have never even met in person, but whose ideas have impressed you and shaped you and whose ideas you might have adopted, such as an artist, a writer, a philosopher, a thinker, whatever.

I like to think that my life would have turned out differently without John Cage. He was an American avantgarde composer and artist whose unorthodox ideas and inventive compositions profoundly influenced mid-20th-century music, and art, and myself.

John Milton Cage Jr. was born on September 5th, 1912, in Los Angeles, California. Next September will be the centenary of his birth. He died August 12th, 1992, twenty years ago today.

What’s interesting for us here in Mallorca is that John Cage travelled to Europe in 1930-31, spending some months in Paris and visiting various places in France, Germany and Spain, as well as Capri and, most importantly, Mallorca.

“I left Paris and began both painting and writing music, first in Mallorca. The music I wrote was composed in some mathematical way I no longer recall. It didn’t seem like music to me so that when I left Mallorca I left it behind to lighten the weight of my baggage. In Sevilla on a street corner I noticed the multiplicity of simultaneous visual and audible events all going together in one’s experience and producing enjoyment. It was the beginning for me of theater and circus” (quoted from johncage.org).

For those of you who might wish to know more about the man and his ideas, I would recommend some of his writing, such as Silence, or perhaps his Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse). A 8-CD Box Set is available, recorded with Mr. Cage’s own voice.

If you happen to like some of John Cage’s sound compositions, the Diary will only confirm a suspicion that you probably have entertained already: It takes a great mind to create some great work, be that music, art, writing or indeed, anything.

Cage once stated “until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music”.

The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of marcellopedrolo.blogspot.com.es.

Thank you very much.

The Sounds of Silence

The Other Half

The other day, a commemorative act was held in Portocolom to mark the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Spain’s first civil school for amphibian planes, the Escuela de Hidroaviación Civil. The occasion was reason enough for the President of the Consell de Mallorca, Maria Salom Coll, to descend upon this Eastern harbour town together with a few mandarins in her entourage. The festive act with self-important speeches by the political class was marred by a cacophony of ear-piercing whistles, shouting and booing by up to a hundred mostly young protesters. The audience attending was clearly divided into two groups of pretty equal numbers. The scene was a fair mirror image of today’s society in Spain and more to the point, Mallorca. La Crisis in Spain and here on the island seems to be affecting one half of the population whilst the other half happily pursues a routine of daily life as if everything were normal. I was shocked to see how seemingly far removed the political class present in Portocolom appeared from half their populace. They were all smiling and irritatingly cheerful, totally ignorant of the motives of the protesters who appeared to belong to the 21.3 % (24.6 % in all of Spain) of unemployed, or rather, 48 % in the case of youngsters under the age of 35, which seemed about the age range of the whistlers.

Massive protests have been seen frequently over the last six months wherever the president of the Govern Balear or his counterpart at the Consell de Mallorca made public appearances, either in Sa Pobla, Inca, Felanitx, Sóller, Andratx or Muro. Political decisions effecting cuts and changes in education, language, the health system, paired with effects of inflation, unemployment, taxation and dispossession have caused a lot of ill will amongst many citizens that the ruling body shrugs off without any further discussion. The argument goes like this ‘We have been elected with a majority and will now do as we please‘. A pity though that half the adult citizens did not vote Conservative and seem to feel utterly misrepresented.

It appears only fitting that just two days earlier, the government in Madrid had set up a new Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (Ministry of Homeland Security). I think that sooner or later the street protests in Spain will not be restricted to mere whistling.

The photo was taken in Portocolom, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 25th, 2012. The time was 19:27:48.

The Other Half

Jaume el Conquistador

Jaime I de Aragón el Conquistador died 736 years ago today (July 27th, 1276). He led the Catalan conquest in 1229 when he was only 21 years old, taking Mallorca from the hands of Arabs or rather, the Berbers. He conquered Menorca in 1232 and Ibiza in 1235). I can’t tell you much more about him. Please allow me to quote from Wikipedia:

James I the Conqueror (Catalan: Jaume el Conqueridor, Aragonese: Chaime lo Conqueridor, Spanish: Jaime el Conquistador, Occitan: Jacme lo Conquistaire; 1208 – 1276) was the King of Aragón, Mallorca and Valencia, Count of Barcelona and Urgell, and Lord of Montpellier from 1213 to 1276. His long reign saw the expansion of the Crown of Aragón on all sides: into Valencia to the south, Languedoc to the north, and the Balearic Islands to the east. By a treaty with Louis IX of France, he wrested the county of Barcelona from nominal French suzerainty and integrated it into his crown. His part in the Reconquista was similar in Mediterranean Spain to that of his contemporary Ferdinand III of Castile in Andalusia.

The most beloved king of Mallorca was father of eight male children from his second wife Violante of Hungary, daughter of King Andreas II of the Árpád dynasty.

As a legislator and organiser, he occupies a high place among the Spanish kings. James compiled the Llibre del Consulat de Mar, which governed maritime trade and helped establish Catalan-Aragonese supremacy in the western Mediterranean. He was an important figure in the development of Catalan, sponsoring Catalan literature and writing a quasi-autobiographical chronicle of his reign: the Llibre dels fets.

I don’t think any official celebration will mark the occasion in Palma today. Jaume I is rather commemorated on September 12th with the Diada de Mallorca (Mallorca Day) and on December 31st with the Festa de l’Estendard (Festivity of the Ensign).

The photos were taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 23rd, 2012 and May 17th, 2012. The time was 11:31:13 and 13:13:33, respectively.

Jaume el Conquistador

The Capella de Sant Bernat

The Catedral de Mallorca, in Palma, is well worth a visit, not least for the splendour of some of its 15 lateral chapels (there are four more chapels which are not normally accessible, and closed to the public).

I particularly like the altarpiece sculpted by Tòmas Vila in 1921 in the Capella de Sant Bernat, to the right of the Portal del Mirador. Previously, there had been a Baroque altarpiece adorning this chapel by the hand of Francisco de Herrera, but that one was destroyed by a blaze in 1912. The genius of Modernisme, Antoni Gaudí was working on an overhaul of the Cathedral’s interior at the time, and he commissioned a redesign of the Chapel of Saint Bernard. Gaudí abandoned the Cathedral project in 1914, though, due to disagreements with the Cathedral chapter and it was his disciple and assistant, Joan Rubió i Bellver who oversaw and directed the new artistic design of the Capella de Sant Bernat. Behind Tòmas Vila’s altarpiece (photo top) we can admire two stained glass windows designed by Antoni Gaudí in 1903.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 10th, 2012. The time was 12:35:10.

The Capella de Sant Bernat