Poetry and dialog in Spain’s crisis

Upon waking one morning from uneasy dreams, Luis García Montero found himself transformed into a wine glass. He’s immobile, trapped, an object of derision by the dishware around him, the last of his kind (the last piece from his grandparents’ crystal set). His wife doesn’t recognize him and shoves him into the dishwasher with other dirty dishes.

Like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa in the classic “Metamorphosis”, the character Luis García Montero is transformed overnight and plunged into a world of alienation and confusion; he’s a thing not a person and he’s lost forever his connection to history, community, values and dialogue. He’s a forgotten thing. He is Spain.

“Bankers count their profits, politicians their votes, poets their things,” Luis García Montero the Spanish poet writes in his introduction to this lovely volume of poetry in prose, “A form of resistance (Reasons for not throwing things away).” In it, he captures the mood of Spain in its deepest crisis since return to democracy: confused, alienated, fearful and sometimes bemused by the debt, joblessness, foreclosures, and political uncertainty that seemingly overnight transformed the nation that was so recently flush with success.

Just under a quarter of Spaniards today are jobless, the highest rate since the years of Franco dictatorship. A government austerity plan doesn’t seem to be helping economic recovery and increases the pain for many citizens who are losing benefits.

There are those who worry about the strength of institutions in Spain’s still young democracy amid this crisis. It is important to be able to openly discuss and debate the issues and actions of the powerful whether they are banks, government or media. Fortunately Spain has a long history of great poets and novelists who capture and communicate the Spanish experience.

Federico García Lorca and Miguel Hernandez were among the voices recording Civil War Spain. The singer/song-writer Joan Manuel Serrat has been consistently one of the voices of Spain’s transition to democracy. Poet, professor and columnist Luis García Montero is another.

Chapter by chapter In “Una forma de resistencia,” García Montero uses delicious irony, humor and humanity to detail the life and meaning in “the things” that constitute his life, his happiness, his history.

His chapters are titled simply but dig deep into complex feelings and connections. “Mirrors” “ Pens” “Glasses” “Refrigerator” are charming glimpses into the poet’s own life and thought processes but also thread through themes on history, politics, popular culture, and day to day life. The personal vignettes reflect the larger mood of a people facing national crisis and trying to understand how they got there and how to get out, making personal connections to the past in order to understand the future.

In “The glass” the Kafkaesque character Luis García Montero, who has become a wine glass, struggles to adapt to his new status and is about to chat with his fellow dirty dishes on the table on the morning after the dinner party. But the effort abruptly ends when his wife’s sleepy morning cleanup sweeps him into the dishwasher. The poem ends with “In Luis’s head, there tumbling the intuition of a conversation silenced.”

That would be the worst fate for Spain, silencing the debates and the conversations, the struggle to understand what has happened and to agree how to fix it.

This book is published in Spanish only. You can buy it online here: http://www.casadellibro.com/libro-una-forma-de-resistencia/9788420400365/1986333


About Katie King

Literary Translator, Journalist, Media Professional, Professor. Currently working toward PhD in Hispanic Studies at the University of Washington.
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One Response to Poetry and dialog in Spain’s crisis

  1. Pingback: My experiment in eBooks and self-publishing | The Doolittle Project

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