Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Friday, July 25, 2014
Pyrenees Journal I: Homage to Catalonia
photograph by Hallie Cohen
There is square in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona named after George Orwell.
Orwell famously fought in the Spanish Civil War and out of his experience wrote
Homage to Catalonia. In November the Catalan
people who occupy that part of Spain that is closest to the Pyrenees (Cerdanya is the name of a part of the Eastern Pyrenees that is shared by France
and Spain) vote in a referendum on the subject of
independence. Catalan is still a vital language that is spoken and taught in
schools in Barcelona and Valencia where there are large Catalan populations. The desire for
independence might be thought to emanate from the Spanish Civil War in which
Catalonia supported the Loyalist cause and suffered reprisals during the years
of Franco’s rule. But the provenance of Catalan nationalism is even deeper and
might be said to go back as far as the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, in which,
as a result of the Thirty Years War, Spain’s Phillip IV ceded parts of
Catalonia to France. The town of Llivia remains today as an island of Catalan
and Spanish culture in what is French territory and if you visit the Cergagne Museum--the Cal Mateu Farm,
the restored estate of Francois Sicard, a French official appointed by Louis XIV, who governed in the
area, you can further understand the roots of the region’s historical conflicts. Catalans are
true irredentists to the extent that they want to return the integrity of
civilization that existed before it was divided up by diplomats. So climbing
toward Font- Romeu-Odiello-Via on the Eastern or Oriental Pyrenees as it’s called (which is also a route used by bikers training for the Tour de France) you will
find Catalan graffiti on a wall below a French car wash called Le Lavage
reading, “Som paisos Catalans” which translates “we are a Catalan country.”
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.