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News and comments and events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible, Granada, 'la bella y la bestia, and Federico Garcia Lorca's complicated love-hate relationship with the city, etc

Leonard, Lorca, and the Little Viennese Walz

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Sat, December 09, 2017 14:57:13


Leonard Cohen was a poet and some of his greatest inspiration he says he found in the works of Federico García Lorca. So great was his admiration, he actually called his daughter Lorca. But, as he said in his Fundación Principe de Asturias prize acceptance speech1, he developed his own voice; he knew he could never copy Lorca: he wouldn’t dare, so he never tried. On another occasion, he describes how he stumbled on Lorca’s universe of imagery- dawn throwing fistfuls of ants in his face, or thighs that slipped away like shoals of silver minnows’. He did not simply copy these images, he explains2; rather, they made it possible for him to find his own voice, which he defines as a sort of unique poetic ‘self’.

Cohen visited Lorca's birthplace in 1986

‘Take this Walz’ is, everybody knows, a homage to Lorca, and if it is a translation of ‘Pequeño vals vienés, it is quite a free one, where Leonard’s voice deviates significantly from Federico’s. To compare the works of the two poets, I will turn to a set of schemata that contrasts a classical approach to art with a baroque one, not in any historical sense, but as a general tendency applicable at any point of time. Here, ‘classical’ is used to talk about a style that is simpler and more restrained, aspiring to formal harmony and clarity via the balanced proportions of its parts. A baroque approach, by way of contrast, is formally less straightforward, with a more elaborate provision of detail, allowing a greater degree of emotional expression and conveying a richer sense of drama and movement. Within the framework of these schemata, which is explained in the Encyclopaedia Britannica3, I find Lorca’s poetry as more classically inclined, Cohen’s as more baroque.

To demonstrate my point, let’s compare the first stanza and refrain from the Spanish poem and the Canadian song (see below). Revealingly, Lorca uses 46 words to cover this ground; Cohen 67, half as many again. Cohen’s style is wordier, then: Cohen spells things out for us, in more detail, whereas Lorca is less condescending to his reader/listener. There are more discourse devices in Cohen, to help us follow his argument. ‘There’s’ occurs five times, with obvious, almost laboured parallel repetitiveness. In this repetitiveness we also hear the insistent rhythm of the walz in Cohen’s song, unrestrained, almost exuberant. The Canadian draws us in with ‘Now...’, making it sound more confidential (this is between you and me). Lorca itches straight in with ‘En Viena ...’ and ‘hay’ occurs just three times, to indicate (with one minor exception) a new simple sentence, and while his ‘y’ is used to link three noun phrases in one of the sentences, Cohen uses ‘and’ to link two clauses. So, in the six lines of the first stanza, Cohen uses as many as nine clauses to Lorca’s four: the three ‘hay’s plus ‘donde solloza la muerte’. Clauses, built round a verb, are necessarily more dynamic than noun phrases.

In Lorca, there is in fact only one action verb: ‘solloza’; whereas Cohen gives us six: ‘comes to cry/ goes to die/ was torn/ hangs’. There is much more movement, more drama, more telling here; Lorca’s walz is static by comparison. It is restrained and relies on a simpler, barely embellished structure. Cohen’s version more deliberately tugs on the emotions.

For Lorca ‘En Viena hay diez muchachas’ and he doesn’t tell us if they are ‘pretty women’ or not. Cohen’s song is more poetic in conventional terms. He gives us more detail, fills things in for us, is more visual. ‘A tree where doves go to die’ is easier to see than ‘un bosque de palomas disecadas’. Even 900 (windows) comes across as more precise, concrete than 1000 (ventanas), which appears to be more of a neat rough estimate than verifiable tangible fact. Finally, in the refrain, Cohen gives us the unexpected and visually powerful ‘with a clamp on its jaw’ for Lorca’s simple ‘con la boca cerrada’. Clamp = ‘abrazadera’, ‘grapa’, or ‘cepo’, something restricting by force and not simply closed. This is bold poetic translator’s license and lays bare a relationship that is not revealed in Lorca.

The great Leonard with the great Enrique Morente.

In the end, both poem and song offer us the same five images, rather startling in their juxtaposition; only in Lorca’s version, stripped down to the essentials, they make more of an impact: 1) ten girls, 2) a shoulder where Death sobs, 3) a wood of desiccated doves, 4) a fragment of the morning in the gallery of frost, and 5) a hall with a thousand windows. What are we to make of this? Fistfuls of ants thrown in our face! Lorca offers us little help.

So even in this little homage, Cohen takes care to maintain his own distinct voice. He knows that to copy would be fatal. Lorca’s verse, and his startling imagery, is rather a catalyst for Cohen. Cohen is giving us his view, while Lorca leaves more work for his reader/listener to do: his ‘self’ is harder to locate. And this observation is, I believe, generally valid for the poetic works of the two men.

But I may be wrong.

The official photographer at the casa museo in Fuente Vaqueros told me that Cohen asked him to leave the room where Lorca was born while he meditated in the youga lotus position. This photo is not in the room where Lorca was born and it is not the lotus position, though it is clearly in Fuente Vaqueros.





These are the lyrics I refer to:

Now in Vienna there’s ten pretty women
There's a shoulder where Death comes to cry
There's a lobby with nine hundred windows
There's a tree where the doves go to die
There's a piece that was torn from the morning
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Take this waltz, take this walz
Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws

En Viena hay diez muchachas,
un hombro donde solloza la muerte
y un bosque de palomas disecadas.
Hay un fragmento de la mañana
en el museo de la escarcha.
Hay un salón con mil ventanas.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals con la boca cerrada.

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Lorca's breakthrough

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Fri, June 09, 2017 19:10:27

Lorca fought with some determination to establish himself as a poet and found himself frustrated in his mid-twenties when his play Mariana Pineda ran into trouble with Primo de Rivero’s censorship. The end of the summer 1926 finds Lorca at an impasse. His father is angry with him for what he sees as the lack of direction in his son’s life, with little apparent promise of any artistic success. He threatens to put an end to his idle versifying. “Summer is coming to an end and I’m left stranded without the least sign of any start to my work as a dramatic poet in which I have so much faith and which would bring me such happiness,” he writes to the theatre empresario Eduardo Marquina in the hope that this man might yet rescue Mariana Pineda for him.

Such is his desperation that he begins to toy with the idea of getting a proper job. At the beginning of September, he writes to his friend Jorge Guillén that he has decided to do the exams for the Chair of Literature. He tries hard to convince himself that he has a vocation for the academic life. "Tell me what I have to do,” he asks Guillén, who has just been appointed to the Chair of Literature in Murcia. “Remember I'm neither intelligent nor hard-working. A lazy-bones!"

Guillén’s good humoured and humorous reply seems to be designed to put the aspiring poet off from embarking on any academic career. “First, you must read a lot”, he says. “Not only poetry and prose, but also all the books that have been written about those poetry and prose works. And you must make notes of what you have read.” “But that’s not half so bad,” he continues, “for then you need to keep a file so that you can find all the notes that you have written. As a first step, buy a box to file your notes. That will impress your father no end and show him you are serious about your new academic bent.”

Salvador Dalí, for his part, is equally scathing about his friend’s new-found academic ambition. “Dear Federico, you’re not going to do exams for anything,” (he wrote laconically). “Persuade your father to leave you in peace to publish your books, that is what will make you famous ... “

“If Mariana were to be performed, I would win over my father once and for all,” Lorca predicted. And indeed he was right. The success of Mariana Pineda, when it was performed in Barcelona in June 1927, combined with the publication of Canciones also in 1927, and then followed by the extraordinary success of the First Gypsy Ballad Book, published in 1928, marked the literary break-through Lorca was seeking and after that parental pressure let up. Lorca’s father came to accept his son's literary vocation, and the poet was spared further traumas of having to look for a proper job.

Final note: As with other books published in his lifetime, Lorca gave all his friends and family copies of The Gypsy Ballad Book with a dedication inside the front cover. In the copy he gave to his parents, and only in theirs, he added in brackets after his signature the word “poet”, a telling gesture, asserting his finally achieved independence as a creative writer.

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Patti Smith pays tribute to Lorca - again

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Sun, February 17, 2013 23:58:14

Joe Strummer is not the only lorquista on the progressive music scene. Patti Smith will take part in this year’s anniversary celebrations of Lorca’s birth (5 June 1898) once again – but this time in New York.

Patti Smith sang at the centenary celebrations at the Huerta de San Vicente in 1998 and she performed there again in 2008. But this time her tribute will be in New York as part of the great international Lorca event being put on by Columbia University.

When she was in Granada for the 2008 gig, Patti checked out on the progress of the Lorca Centre in La Romanilla, where in happier circumstances she might even have been performing and the completion of which she said then she considered important for contemporary and future contact between artists and the dead poet’s work.

Mindful, no doubt, of the deadlock that has prevented the opening of the Lorca Centre for so many years, Laura García-Lorca set about arranging the singer’s participation in the 5 June memorial in New York this year. She no longer puts her faith in a programme of activities at the Centre in La Romanilla after the fracas of 2011, when a great inauguration programme was planned and then had to be scrapped when the money dried up.

In addition to Patti Smiths’s New York performance, there will be an exhibition with the original manuscript of Poeta en Nueva York, acquired by the Lorca Foundation by auction at Christie's in 2003, a theatrical work based on the book starring Will King of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a bilingual puppet show, all of them originally supposed to have been put on at the ill-fated inauguration of the Centro Lorca in 2011. Laura Garcia-Lorca will not be drawn on when she thinks the inauguration of the centre will finally go ahead.

The saga of the Lorca Centre has been previously been blogged in #post4, #post16, and #post18.

Dreams dreamed in Granada, city of dreams par excellence. Realisation in New York, city of action and enterprise.

Based on G. Cappa granada 13.02.2013

More on the frustrating delays to the opening of the Lorca Centre in Spanish by Jose A. Cano

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Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Wed, February 13, 2013 09:55:21


Lorca’s birthplace in Fuente Vaqueros on the Vega. On 5 June 1898. Links to the casa museo in Spanish:

and in English:

The future poet, one year old:


The Huerta de San Vicente - summer residence of the family from 1926 – 1936. Lorca returned here from Madrid in July 1936.

Spanish link:

Link in English:

A visit to the Huerta de San Vicente was ranked by Lonely Planet travellers as #145 of 146 things to do in Granada. Poor sods.


The nearby Huerta del Tamarit, which belonged to the poet’s uncle Francisco García Rodríguez from 1923. I took this photo some ywars ago.


Acera del Darro, 46. The family lived there while Lorca was still a teenager. Incorporated into today’s Hotel Monte Carlo.

The Acera del Darro at the turn of the twentieth century. Number 46 is at the level of the bridge. By Lorca's day the river was covered over as far as the bridge.


The family home in Valderrubio (then Asquerosa). Where they lived until they moved to Granada in 1909 and spent the summers until his father bought the Huerta de San Vicente.


The Cortijo de Daimuz Alto on the Vega. Another family property.


The house that belonged to Frasquita Alba La casa de Bernarda Alba – round the corner from the Lorca family home in Valderrubio. I took this photo some years ago.


Fuente de la Teja, the source on the banks of the River Cubillas, across the fields from Valderrubio/Asquerosa, where Lorca went to escape the heat of summer afternoons


The Camino de Fuente Grande, that road that runs between Víznar and Alfacar, from the Palacio de Cuzco to the Fuente Grande itself, running alongside the Moorish channel (acequia), past Las Colonias, the Barranco de Viznar, and the Parque García Lorca. Where Lorca spent his last hours after his disappearance from the Gobierno Civil on 17 August 1936.Lorca memorial monolith in the Lorca Park at Alfacar.


Last but not least, but a further off, el Cortijo del Fraile in Níjar (Almería), scene of the crime that inspired Bodas de sangre. Picture from Granada Hoy 12.1.13

The idea is for the Dirección General de Bienes Culturales (General Management of Cultural Assets) to declare these sites officially Lugares Lorquianos and so offer them better protection against further deterioration and in the end disappearance, which would be an incalculable cultural loss. For example, the Huerta del Tamarit was threatened by road construction not so long ago (see blog post19), as indeed was the Huerta de San Vicente in the 1970s. In Almería, the Cortijo del Fraile is in a very poor way after years of neglect and abandonment.

If you're not convinced the Dirección General de Bienes Culturales has the power to protect them, come and see them now, before they’re gone.

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Huerta del Tamarit - under threat?

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Sun, June 12, 2011 00:17:44

Back in the 1970s, almost before Franco’s corpse had grown cold, the good people of Granada woke up to the fact that the Huerta de San Vicente, that had been the Lorca family summer residence from the mid-1920s until the start of the Spanish Civil War, was under threat from an Urban Development Plan which drew a city access road right through the middle of the property. Practically at the last minute, this plan was redrawn or withdrawn and the Huerta was saved, so that it could become the cultural tourist attraction it is today.

Today, 35 years later, the Huerta del Tamarit faces a similar threat from a city access road that is supposed to link the centre of Granada with the Outer Ring Road, which in turn will link the Motril motorway with the Seville-Murcia A92. This access road is planned to pass through the grounds and within 30 metres of the finca, the country house, before linking up with the Neptuno exit to the circunvalacion (ring road).

The Huerta del Tamarit belonged to an uncle of the poet’s, Francisco García Rodríguez, and is situated nearby on the Vega, closer to the River Genil, just behind the Inmaculada Clinic, which is opposite the Science Museum. [I took the photo above myself a few years ago.] Francisco bought his huerta just a couple of years before his brother, Federico, Lorca’s father, bought his. It was a favourite haunt of Lorca’s and lent its name to the remarkable poetry collection Diván del Tamarit, a worthy successor to the more accessible ‘Gypsy Ballad Book’. His cousin, Clotilde García Picossi, lived there. Among other things she inspired the green dress episode in La Casa de Bernarda Alba. She was also a model for Doña Rosita la soltera. Her fiancé was Máximo Delgado García, another (second?) cousin, who emigrated to Argentina and let the relationship slide into oblivion, at least from his point of view.

The Huerta is also one of the few remaining examples of the classical huerta granadina, whose roots go back to Moorish times: a more or less self-sufficient living unit comprising a family house, with a garden or patio to enjoy leisure and pleasure time, at the centre, surrounded by orchards and vegetable gardens, and beyond that more extensive areas of land for the cultivation of cereals and other staples.

It would be a crime to let it disappear.

But it won’t, of that I am confident. Partly because initiatives such as the Platform in Defence of the Vega de Granada are mobilising against such a calamity. Secondly, because even right-wing politicians are aware of the value of the Lorca Legacy – even if he was a homo, a leftie, and a lover of Moors and gypsies: all things despised by the right, in Granada as elsewhere. And thirdly, for ‘economic reasons’. The nineteenth century local writer, Angel Ganivet, whose legacy Lorca and his like-minded contemporaries inherited, had observed long ago that many potential aberrations in the history of the city’s development were avoided thanks to the unhappy refrain ‘ay, que no hay dinero’ (there’s no money for it). Worse, commented Ganivet, was when there was money!

In today’s economic climate, work on the Outer Ring is already at a standstill and I trust that this project is already dead in the water.

Sources: Europa Press and Radio Granada, June 2011.

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Orson Welles and Charlton Heston in Granada

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Sun, December 19, 2010 00:55:30

When Orson Welles and Charlton Heston met in Granada to make a film about the death of Lorca...

It’s true. Orson Welles was in Granada in September 1960 researching a film he was working on about the death of Federico García Lorca. With a 16 mm camera he filmed in the Huerta de San Vicente, in Víznar, and in the caves in Guadix. You can see the footage he shot in Guadix for his unfinished film Don Quixote on You Tube (

On 17 September that year Charlton Heston arrived in Granada to pursue the project with the acclaimed avant-garde filmmaker. The two of them discussed Lorca with Lord Mayor of Granada, Manuel Sola Rodríguez-Bolívar.

One thing they needed was a good script. Rodríguez-Bolívar apparently put them in touch with an Austrian who at that time was supposed to be writing Lorca’s biography. (I don’t know who’s being referred to here. Ian Gibson of course didn’t come on the scene till a few years later.)

Then Heston left for Madrid to start filming El Cid. Welles stayed in Granada to work on his Lorca project. What happened to the project is not known. Welles unorthodox way of working involved a number of such unfinished projects. And I guess the Austrian did not deliver a decent script.

The Granada visit of the two Hollywood heavyweights was of course recorded in the papers. There was an article in Ideal with photos, and Patria published an interview in which Heston spoke of his admiration for Lorca’s theatre, which was at the time highly regarded in the USA.

All the information for this blog is taken from Gabriel Pozo Felguera in Granada Hoy, 17 August 2010.

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lorca memorial concert

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Sun, August 15, 2010 18:23:33

This year’s annual Memorial Concert, held at the Garcia Lorca Park between Viznar and Alfacar to commemorate the poet’s disappearance at the hands of right wing thugs, will feature a reading of Poet in New York by the local poet Luis García Montero and the popular actress Blanca Portillo (Volver and Abrazos Rotos). The concert will take place on Friday 17 August, starting at 9.30.

Appropriate to Lorca’s New York opus, which, following The Gypsy Ballad Book, represents a departure from his typical Andalusian themes, a jazz quintet will provide the musical accompaniment to this year’s recital.

Earlier this year, an unsuccessful search for Lorca’s remains was carried out, revealing only that the poet was not and never had been buried in the spot indicated. Manolo el Comunista’s very credible testimony had misled us all.

In the Fable of the Three Friends in the Poet in New York collection Lorca wrote:


I realised they had murdered me.
They searched through the cafés, the cemeteries, and the churches,
they opened barrels and cupboards,
they destroyed three skeletons to tear out their gold teeth.
But they didn't find me.
They didn't find me?
No. They didn't find me.

That Lorca spent his last hours in Viznar is surely beyond dispute. The search will go on.


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