Merce Ibartz portrays Merce Rodoreda: “He was a punk and a violent writer who was accused of being a jerk.”

is the question that Merce Ibartz asks in her book, which combines a still image of Merce Rodoreda in the late 70s, when she finally returned from exile and built a house in Romania de la Selva to write, grow dahlias and wisteria; And for impending death: “Who was that lady with gray hair, with changeable moods, with a calm countenance, with a shy smile that widened in person until it shone, that lady with thin skin, slightly uneven violet eyes, who sometimes “At the age of seventy she built a house in the middle of the forest And completely estranged from his family for over ten years?”

So who was the lady who was so enigmatic, so Catalan, so cosmopolitan, so gifted and self-sufficient, who wrote from Geneva like no one else about the moral plight of post-war Spain?

Merce Ibartz’s answer to this question is his Honey Furious Bee (anagram), a book that is not a typical biography, but a first-person study of the work, the places and events that define the character Merce Rodoreda; An essayistic portrait that reads in the fluidity of a novel, in the Chekhovian style of a sadly inexhaustible reading, Janet Malcolm (Alba, 2004) or James Joyce, Edna O’Brien (Mondadori, 2001).

Merce Rodoreda died in Girona on April 13, 1983. Two weeks later, García Márquez published an article in El País entitled: Do you know who Merce Rodoreda was? where, in addition to complaining about the scant journalistic coverage of his farewell, he defined La Plaza del Diamante as “the most beautiful novel published in Spain since the Civil War”.

However, today Rodoreda is no longer an invisible woman and there is a growing desire to know more about her and, most importantly, to read. His books are reprinted in Spanish and Catalan (Club Editor, Edhasa, Alianza), but also in Icelandic and Chinese; Do they take their novels to the theater and then Garden or Hell? Mika Tot. Segons d’on blows the wind [Tú ¿qué tienes adentro? ¿Jardín o infierno? Un poco de todo. Según sople el viento]- Has more than 38,000 followers.

The Furious Bee of Her Honey (which previously appeared in Catalan under the title Retrat de Mercè Rodoreda) is not Ibarz’s first biographical approach to the author, as he has made her his temporary object of study since 1991. But what is the connection that unites this unique journalist and writer with the creator of Colometa? “Rodoreda was the first author in Catalan that I read,” admits Ibartz. “They gave us his stories in university class and I didn’t understand anything, or half of it, but I was fascinated by them. Ten years later, everything was different. As a result of the success of his work, he was already more famous, but at least there was something that caught my attention after his death. I was then working for the conservative Avui, which was the first Catalan newspaper in democracy, and they decided to call his obituary strangely: “A life full of success and family secrets.” And the inevitable question I asked myself was: Why? What are you talking about?”.

These expressions of the mysteries considered sinful – expanded and distorted by the conservative and patriarchal view of the time, which still exists – were popular among the Catalan elite: Rodoreda was the only daughter of a family of “literally wounded artisans”. ”, as Ibarz defines them; Educated at home – steeped in Catalan poetry, romanticism and horticulture – in the Tower of San Gervase, he only attended school until the age of eight; At the age of 20, she married her uncle, her mother’s brother, 16 years older than her; At the age of 21, she gave birth to a son, and at the age of 22, she already knew that this marriage was a sham.

During the years of the Republic, he officially separated and became a journalist; She published novels with scandalous titles such as Am I an Honest Woman?, which she later repudiated; He flirts, he seduces, he lives his life, he wears his pants; And after the war – a period that Rodoreda always calls “the revolution” – he emigrated with a group of Catalan writers and intellectuals.

The war in Europe catches up with him (he spends more than a month running from the bombing on foot between the German advance and the French retreat); In this context, without a partner or family – because the son stayed with his grandmother in Barcelona – he begins a love affair with the writer Armand Obiols (pseudonym of Joan Pratt), who left his wife and children in Catalonia. And he was never divorced, but she was his partner until his death in 1971. They lived together in Bordeaux, Paris, Vienna, Geneva, where Rodoreda was known as Madame Pratt… However, in Merce Rodoreda’s biography on Wikipedia (in Catalan and Spanish), they continue to refer to Obioles as “lover”.

“She was considered a femme fatale, an archetype that she had to endure in life and continue after,” Ibarz explains. There is a shadow that haunts Rodoreda for several reasons, but the main charge is the abandonment of her son, who did not have an easy life. I know it’s obvious, but no one has ever told Obiols for abandoning his daughter or any other writer who went into exile,” laments the author with some weariness.

“On the other hand, what if you don’t feel like a mother? What does it mean to be a bad mother? Very cruel comments have been made and are being made towards Merce Rodoreda, both in public and in private. Rage. Follow her,” the essayist asks.

Merce Ibartz does not fail to emphasize that Merce Rodoreda wrote or began to write all the novels, except for Cuánta, quéquanta guerra and the posthumous Death and Spring, when he was already 50 years old – between 1959 and 1966. A decade of creative fruitfulness and a “sustained burst” that led him to complete The Diamond Square in just eight months.

Rodoreda submits La plaza del Diamante for the Sant Jordi award and does not win it, but the Catalan readership (still scarce) makes it an editorial success – “because if Rodoreda never lacked something, it was readers”, Ibarz confirms – . However, there is an environment in which Colometa’s character does not fit. The writer and critic Balthasar Porcelli accuses him of being bad and “bad” (and it is not clear whether it is the character, the novel or the author he is accusing).

And it won’t be the only one. Merce Ibarz explains that the exiles are concerned about the lack of heroism of the characters. “At the beginning of post-Francoism, the black and symbolic echoes of the war did not concern either those who stayed or those who left. Diamond Square is about survivors. Colometa/Natalia is the poetic and pathetic voice of those who lost the war and did not go into exile, whose political and collective consciousness was destroyed – continues Ibarz -. No, Rodoreda was more cruel than stubborn, but with the kind of cruelty necessary to make things happen. “He always struck me as a punk writer.”

Annoyed by the critical response to La Plaza del Diamante, with his next novel he ups the ante and makes a prostitute named Cecilia Che the protagonist of a new bedchamber. “He loved to scandalize Barcelona’s terrible cultural scene. On Camellia Street, there are four abortions and a gang rape, “The Herd,” involving a tailor and a historian. In addition, it is a novel that is irreconcilable with the Barcelona of appearance; With the rich who go to the lyceum, which is a nest of vital and collective misery for those who supported the victors in the war with fun and money.” Despite the challenge, this time he won all the Catalan literature awards of the time. “They give it to the lover, which they rejected with the shopkeeper,” emphasizes Ibarz.

Merce Rodoreda has repeatedly denied being a feminist. “Feminism is like measles,” she answers in an interview with La Vanguardia, but Ibartz makes it clear that what she says is one thing and what she writes is another, completely different thing. “Most writers of her generation didn’t have access to feminist theory, so it couldn’t have been emancipatory for them. But this does not mean that his literature is not like that. First of all, because the author cannot control its reading, and in recent years feminism has made it its own, which finds encouragement both in her books and in many of her phrases and poems, such as the beginning of my book: “Even defeated. I want to be myself,/The angry bee of his honey’. And not just feminisms, today Rodoreda claims and is read by a new audience that can enter her latest work, her most transgressive.”

For example, in The New York Times, in 2018 they asked different writers which books they were most afraid of in their lives, and a young North American of Vietnamese origin, Vi Khie Nao from Rodoreda, chose Death and Spring as the most. Terrifying. Reason? “Because it’s a book that makes any dystopian or horror novel written today look like a walk on a calm and peaceful beach.”

And it is that Death and Spring, “a universal anthropological allegory where neither writing, nor alphabet, nor religion, and even wisteria is threatened, opposes with fire and blood the image of the flowery and flowery Rhodoreda,” writes Ibarz in Bee Furiosa. De su honey.

The “rare” books of symbolic condensation and fantastic breath that he wrote at the end of his life in Romanya de la Selva barely attracted critical attention when they were published, “although they left me fascinated and amazed,” Merce Ybartz recalls. – These were difficult works, demanding readers, black and visible, that took time to find an audience, but eventually they did.”

Source: El Diario

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