to the Webpage that uncovers the real Ibiza. For bookworms, that
is. As we live in the age of the sound bite, let’s kick off with a few titles
which have recently caught my eye:
man! A French hippie novel set on Ibiza. It won
the prestigious Prix de Deux Magots in 1972 and was even translated into Spanish
(published in Buenos Aires - not Franco’s Madrid).
a los que no saben y a los que no pueden leer: observaciones y notas en Ibiza
(‘Dedicated to those who don’t know and those who can’t read’, 1987). Written
by someone who doesn’t really know how to write. Published in Valencia.
Fische malen können (‘If Fish Could Paint’, 2000).
A familiar theme this: jilted husband goes to Ibiza to ‘find himself’ and becomes
a porn star instead.
Terrible Door (1964). This has only three
pages about Ibiza (pp. 39-42), partly lifted from the account by Norman Lewis
in his classic travel compilation, The Changing Sky (1959). The story
is rather curious and nicely turned: rare bookdealer is on the trail of the
notorious ‘Ibiza letters’ of sub-Oscar Wilde literary fugitive, who was on the
island at the beginning of the twentieth century. On Ibiza he checks out the
writer’s ‘Castle’, a tower next to a beach beyond Santa Eulalia (shades of Benjamin,
or Robin Maugham, perhaps). The ‘terrible door’ is better known these days as
the ‘terrible closet’.
Knight Has Died. (1963) This is about as literary
as it gets, and also more than a touch self-pitying. The author, Cees Nooteboom,
is one of the great names in Dutch letters, but this is definitely not his Don
Quixote. Not recommended, unless you absolutely have to read everything
ever published about Ibiza.
Are Ruining Ibiza (1998). No, not a long-overdue
UNESCO report, but a novella by a Texan literary academic. Again, it features
a porn starlet, but I won’t say more in case you’re tempted to buy it. Funny
in parts. Could the publishers please, please hire billboards for this title
in front of the Consell Insular, the parliament buildings in Palma, Madrid and
Brussels and the United Nations HQs in New York and Geneva?
(a spiral-bound book, date ca. 2000. The title means ‘C**t’ in Sanskrit). This
is definitely one for bibliomaniacs of the hippie generation. The author,
Bruce C. Stratton, has also written The Last Boat to Barcelona (also
spiral bound) which contains the memorable sentence: “I heard one woman remark
that she had been judged legally insane in New York but since coming to Ibiza
five years ago she hadn’t had any problems.”
Gossip Pines: an Ibiza Country Journal (1994).
Includes excellent recipes for boiled and roasted hedgehog. As for that
title, ‘in our country [Scotland] custom requires that you tell all your family
news to the bees, the Ibizencos tell it to the pines: every birth, every death,
every marriage must be announced to them first … this small island is a storehouse
of Mediterranean history, trapped in the memory of its trees.’ Interesting theory.
Harry on the Boat? (1997). Londoner Colin Butts’
début about holiday reps in Ibiza had the whole island buzzing, not just for
its well-turned plot but just as much for the racy title, which is rhyming slang:
Harry = Harry Monk, and Boat = Boat race. If ‘race’ stands for
‘face’, what on earth could ‘Monk’ stand for? (Clue: it’s the same colour as
the isla blanca.)
At the end of
the first article we took a look at The Island of Fish in the Trees,
a children’s book in which two girls dressed in party frocks wander around Formentera
in search of a GP to mend a broken doll. The author, Eva-Lis Wuorio, moved in
her childhood to Toronto from Viipuri, an ancient walled city in Finland, hence
her unusual surname and perfect command of English. ‘The sound and love of the
sea never left her’ says a biographical note, so when she went to work as a
journalist in Europe, Ibiza became her base, followed at a later stage by Jersey.
LiveIbiza readers who recall José Ribas’s articles (Weekly Editions 051 and
052 of 16th and 23rd February 2002) about barruguets
(local mischief-making imps) will be interested to hear that her second book
is entitled Tal and the Magic Barruget (1965).
Eva-Lis Wuorio with Sandy in El Caballo Negro (Sandy’s Bar)
Santa Eulària (Early 1960s)
Tal is an eight-year-old
boy, born in New York to a Canadian mother and Welsh father, the former now
dead five years. The father is an abstract painter who goes off to make documentary
films in far-flung corners of the globe, recalling the former profession of
long-term resident Rolph Blakstad, better known as an architect and expert on
Ibicencan culture. On this particular occasion the person left in charge is
a sweet old grannie called Bruja Vieja (‘Old Witch’), who dresses in Sabbath
black, has a large beak-like nose and likes to dabble in magic. The first thing
she does is summon a barruguet from the oleanders in the river-bed to
do the household chores. The diligent goblin soon makes it plain that his stomach
is every bit as big as his gigantic pointy ears, so the fat, so to speak, is
in the pan. Without revealing too much of the plot, readers can rest assured
that dramatic tension is balanced with plenty of feel-good detail. In The
Island of Fish in the Trees, the Formenterans were delighted to help the
girls in their quest for the doctor, while in Tal it is the residents
of Wuorio’s home village of Santa Eulalia (in spite of the book’s cover, which
depicts Ibiza Town) who form a sort of protective blanket round the multilingual
boy: even if he has lost his real mother, there are several others ready to
stand in at the drop of a sombrero. In both books locals and foreigners
form one big happy island community. Incidentally, as folklorists may have noticed,
the strange-looking fellow summoned from the riverbed who constantly bellows
‘Work or food!’ is not a barruguet but a fameliar.
Back and front covers of Eva-Lis
Wuorio’s book Tal and the Magic Barruget
In the same
year that Tal and the Magic Barruget was published in Ohio, a third children’s
book about Ibiza saw the light of day in London, Pietro and the Mule
by Helen Cresswell and illustrated by Maureen Eckersley. Helen Cresswell is
known in her native Nottinghamshire and far beyond as a children’s writer of
definite stature, so here’s a small sample of her chiselled prose:
the Mediterranean Sea there is a little island called Ibiza. The sun is hot
there, so the reddish soil is dry and baked to a fine powder, and the only green
is that of the vines and olives on the slopes of the hills. Even this green
is pale and dusty, as if it had been faded by the sun. The peasant folk who
toil in the fields wear long black clothes to shield themselves from the glare,
and when the sun is overhead they drop their tools and lie in the shade, their
straw hats tilted down over their faces.
The book itself
is only eight inches high - perfect for junior laps and hands - and the paper
has a thick, creamy consistency which leaves the letters perfectly defined,
begging to be read. At every stage its production has been in the hands of people
who dream about font sizes and margins, agonize over different shades of ivory
and would sooner be hung, drawn and quartered than allow a misplaced inverted
comma to appear in print. Even the address of the firm’s Edinburgh office (Tweeddale
Court) seems to have been chosen with a bookish attention to detail.
Back to the
story: the protagonist is an Ibicenco boy who lives with his mother and grandfather
in Sa Penya, the fishermen’s quarter below the ramparts of Dalt Vila. When Granddad
is taken to hospital with a back injury, money runs low forcing Pietro to take
responsibility for deliveries of fruit and vegetables by mule-cart. The plot
thickens when Amanda, a wily American who seems to have a lot in common with
Tal’s barruguet, arrives on a cruise-boat. She jumps ship and gives her
unfortunate parents and Chief Policeman Alberto a string of severe panic attacks.
(Her surname, by the way, is Cunnington.) The entire town is eventually mobilized
to run her to ground, but I won’t spoil the ending. There are nine ink drawings,
one of which was based on a photograph which originally appeared in the guidebook
This is Majorca (1964) and more recently in the photographic anthology
edited by your correspondent, Eivissa-Ibiza: A Hundred Years of Light and
Shade (2000). It shows Pietro standing on the quay just as the boat leaves.
There is one serious mistake in the book, a black mark it has to be said for
both Helen Cresswell and Nottinghamshire letters: Pietro is an Italian name.
In nine years on Ibiza, I have never come across it once.
Picture from the Book
This is Majorca
Illustration from the Book
Pietro and the Mule
Next week we
move on to 1966 with Juanito of the Tower, a children’s book without
a single obvious mistake in its title. To sign off, an Arabic proverb, both
because we’re so close to the North African coastline and because bibliomaniacs
there are such highly-respected members of the community.
book in the pocket is a garden in the pocket.