Trencadís from the Catalan trencar, to break or shatter
I awoke this morning with a feeling of discontent. At first I couldn’t place it, then I remembered: the row with Rafa, and my subsequent decision to abduct my grandson for a day trip to Parc Güell. With Rafa and Isabel locked in a pre-divorce dispute over assets and custody, mentally circling each other like wrestlers in a ring, their household exudes a toxic air, no environment for an eight-year old with neither brother nor sister to share in the misery. The boy needs a diversion. Thus the choice of Parc Güell, a place as detached from reality as a champagne dream. Also, I want to see it myself. I haven’t been there in years, and I have an enduring attachment to the place.
My plans for the day ought to have popped me out of bed, but instead I lay there like an arthritic old hound, my head as heavy as a keg of nails, the sheets damp from some fright I'd pushed aside in the middle of the night. A function of age, I suppose, or a result of those brandies I drank. Probably both. I lifted my head from the pillow and herded my old bones out of the tangled bed and into the shower.
An hour long telephone argument with Rafa last night drove me to drink, despite Doctor March’s warnings about brandy. Men my age ought to limit themselves to a single glass of red a day, according to the good doc. But I needed a snifter or two to calm my nerves. Or maybe it was three. I was in a state and didn’t keep track.
I hate these arguments with my son. I hate that I can’t make him see the value of things, mainly his marriage. I hate that he has no sense of history, cannot see how much suffering lies entombed in the foundation of this cushy world he enjoys. I hate that he is no longer the little boy who swallowed my words like water.
The shower is too hot, and I have to step out and adjust the knobs. Every once in a while I remember that I was almost thirty before I ever saw a shower. In l’Esquerda we bathed in a round galvanized tub, or in the sea, and later, in Cani’s dingy flat in Poble Sec, in a laundry basin.
I force myself through the morning routine, the rituals we perform to make ourselves acceptable to public scrutiny. The body must be hosed down, with special attention to the hair to smooth out the spiky look shaped by unknown apparitions in the night. The face de-whiskered and the teeth brushed, such as they are.
The city fathers have performed a similar ritual on our metropolis to brighten it up for the onslaught of tourists expected this summer. Power-washed a hundred and fifty years of accumulated soot from the buildings, painted all the wrought iron a glossy black and flowered up the plaçes. They’ve even scrubbed the pigeon shit from all the statues. All this to make the city presentable to a throng of strangers. And all because a clique of other strangers huddled in a room somewhere far from our cozy enclave by the sea decided to grace Barcelona with the Summer Olympics.
But from the looks of things their efforts have already begun to reap rewards. I took a stroll down to the Barri Gòtic the other day, and the swarm of bodies was so thick you couldn’t get through. I got jostled black and blue. Oh, excusez-moi, Pardon me, Entschuldigung. Je suis désolé, Oh, did I step on your foot? Foreigners from every country on earth converging on the city, crawling all over its history. And with The Games still two months away. Well, at least they were polite.
Everyone’s all in a dither over the attention. A TV personality said The Games would really put the city on the map. And all this time I thought we already were on the map. Maybe he meant they’d mark us with a gold star. The newspapers churn out article after article on this or that concern. Will the roads accommodate the traffic, are the arenas large enough, what about security, should somebody build another twenty hotels? And what if the Spanish football team doesn’t make it into the second round?
Scrubbed, brushed and scraped clean, I feel reasonably restored. I dress in my usual clothes, khaki pants, a pullover and loafers. In my retirement, I’ve developed an aversion to buttons, and I never wear anything on my feet that requires laces. I calculate about an hour before I ought to be at Rafa’s to pick up Pau. Both Rafa and Isabel will be at work by then. I know because they told me they have busy schedules this week. I went there for dinner last night, self-invited, to appraise the marital landscape. We ate at a long, dark table made of some exotic wood, teak or ebony or some such thing, under an enormous, artsy-looking chandelier. Neither Rafa nor Isabel was in a mood to cook, so they’d ordered rack of lamb from a caterer. They had compiled such dossiers of resentment on each other that holding their tongues rendered them unable to string three words together before lapsing into a silence so acute you could hear yourself eat, the actual sound of your teeth against the food. Little Pau sat staring at his plate the whole meal, pushing his asparagus around with his fork, before finally asking to be excused. We watched him plop off his chair and trudge into his room. Afterwards the three of us sat looking at each other, a tension hanging over the table taut enough to snap on a sigh.
When I got home, Rafa called to apologize, and we argued. I said, “Think of your son,” and he said, “I am thinking of him. We both are.” I said, “That house is not a healthy environment for an eight-year old,” and he said, “Goodnight, Papà.”
That’s when I decided on the abduction. I could have asked, but I would have had to call Rafa back, and given his mood, there was always the possibility he’d say no. Not likely, but possible.
I stop for breakfast, a croissant and coffee, at a café on the corner. They know me there. The owner calls me by my first name, Jordi. To the staff I’m Senyor Ripoll. Funny how we’re stuck on protocol. For a few years, when I was young, the whole world was on a first name basis. And the pronouns usted and vostè stricken from the lexicon, replaced by the more egalitarian tu, or sometimes comrade.
I plop myself down at a little pedestal table by the window, and Filip comes over and hands me a copy of el Periódico. He doesn’t have to take my order. He knows I’d tell him if I wanted anything other than the usual. I only breakfast here about once a week – otherwise I eat at home – but once a week for five years is enough to ingrain your habits into the memories of the staff.
El Periódico flaunts headlines declaring the end of the world: there aren’t enough restaurants to accommodate the expected glut of visitors. End of the world? I think I remember it. It started in 1937 and culminated in ’39. There’s a secondary article about the horrors in Yugoslavia, more atrocities in Sarajevo, and snipers shooting the grieving relatives of funeral processions. But el Periódico deemed those events less earth-shaking than Barcelona’s restaurant shortage and gave them a smaller headline. And no photos. Everything is a matter of priorities.
I step out of the café and appraise the day. It’s such a balmy morning I consider walking. But then my brain kicks into gear and reminds me it’s uphill all the way to Rafa’s, and really uphill after that – Güell Park sits high atop Mont Pelat. So I take the metro.
As expected, Rafa and Isabel are at work, and the housekeeper, Pilar, admits me. Pilar is a mystery to me. She’s tall and thin, short dark hair flecked with gray, which is about all I know about her. Except I think she’s married – I think I remember Rafa mentioning a husband, but my memory’s not always to be trusted these days. She doesn’t understand Catalan, so we speak to her in Spanish. Her accent is Andaluz, tempered by x number of years in Barcelona. She makes a vague gesture in the direction of Pau’s room, entirely unnecessary since I know perfectly well where it is.
I find Pau still in his pajamas, morosely fiddling with his shell collection. The shells are scattered over a shelf in his bookcase, a motley array of twisted exoskeletons below his schoolbooks and above a hodgepodge of video games, CDs and a number of electronic gadgets I have no idea the function of. Most of these shells came from me. I pick up a helix-shaped thing I don’t recognize and tell him to get dressed. He looks up at me with large, wondrous eyes, and without so much as asking where or why, grabs a pair of blue jeans from the back of a chair. The helix-shaped shell in my hand is not Mediterranean, probably ordered through some catalogue. They sell everything in catalogues these days. I know about shells; I grew up in a place where they came in on the tide, like driftwood. Pau tugs on his jeans and a red polo shirt sporting a Barça crest. He’s in a hurry to get out of the house.
In the elevator he’s quick to push the button before I can get to it. He throws me a gloat of a smile, containing just a hint of sheepishness. The elevator sports a marble floor, polished wood paneling and brass side rails, plushier than most people’s houses. But Pau has no clue about most people. No one, including me, has ever told him that the majority of our fellow citizens live in dingy walk-ups with wobbly banisters. I make a note to myself to correct this oversight. But not today. Today is not the day to apprise him of his privileged place in the social hierarchy.
Outside, Pau points to an enormous poster plastered to the side of a building across the street. Posters of Olympic athletes have been going up on walls and billboards all over the city, some promoting the Games, others soft drinks and tennis shoes. This one features a smiling black man raising a Coke. “That’s Michael Jordan,” Pau says.
I say who’s Michael Jordan, and he says, “Grandpa, don’t you know Michael Jordan? He’s only the best basketball player in the world.”
“Oh,” I say. “Okay. Glad you told me.”
Because of the horde of tourists, we have to wait in a long, shuffling line for ten minutes to get into the park, young Pau tugging at my hand and punching the toes of his Reeboks against the concrete walk. But I reason the bustle of the crowd, the flutter and cackle of foreign voices and the clamor of children will be a healthy distraction for the boy.
Half way up the steps to the second level, Pau stops to examine Gaudí’s water dragon in the fountain, frozen in midslide down a ramp of rough stone, its fountain-grin watering a bed of tired flowers, a bit of whimsy that makes it hard to believe, despite the insistence of art historians, that the old eccentric wasn’t hooked on some hallucinogen. I leave Pau to explore the dragon and haul myself the rest of the way up the steps to the serpentine bench that winds around the perimeter of the upper level. I plant my butt on a section of the bench where I can keep Pau within eyesight. The bench, as well as the dragon and the walls, is surfaced in a kaleidoscopic mosaic called trencadís, a collage of tiny, various-colored fragments of broken tiles and plates. On another curl of the bench, a young man sits playing a saxophone, a baseball cap at his feet sprouting a tuft of paper money, deutsche marks, francs and dollar bills. The tune wafting from the saxophone is nothing I recognize – might be American jazz – but it provides a mellow backdrop to the rustle of bodies and voices in the park.
The park has undergone a number of modifications since the passing of the old Caudillo, the city fathers ever adept at thinking up new ways to modernize the place. I come so seldom anymore, that each visit delivers a little shock. Long gone are the dirt paths and scrubby shrubs, initially replaced by winding links of flagstone and leafy, mulched-up plants, but now completely paved over, so that, except for the gardens, barely an inch of bare earth remains. But I keep coming back. I share a history with this place, a few hours in time that may have saved my life. I’ll never know for sure.
As Pau runs up and down the stairs beside the dragon, trailing his fingers over its mosaic hide, I lean back on the bench, listening to the mournful notes floating from the saxophone, close my eyes and let the park wrap around me.
When I open my eyes again, I spot a girl, slightly plump with a round face, on a bench across the plaça, a tattered brown knapsack resting at her feet. She wears a faded blue dress and lace up shoes, like brogans, crossed at the ankles. Her head is bent to the side, as she runs the fingers of one hand over the surface of the bench, examining the mosaic. The dress, the shoes and the delicate touch of her chubby fingers on the tiles remind me of Julieta. She stands, hoists her knapsack to her shoulder, turns her round smiling face toward me, and I am sure it’s her. Julieta! Then I realize that Julieta would be over seventy now. No, it isn’t Julieta.
There were no cars in the village. No trucks, no motorbikes. Only horse-drawn carts for the purpose of forays into the outside world for whatever we needed but couldn’t produce ourselves, mainly flour for bread and hemp for repairing the nets. The cooperative owned a two-wheeled cart and an old gray that went by the name of Mula (because it behaved more like a mule than a horse), and the cooperative stabled both at the granja, which was not a real granja, but only about an acre and half of beans and fruit trees. Both the horse and the granja were tended by old Ignasi, a half-blind octogenarian who’d lost an arm in a storm off Cape Bagur when he’d got tangled up in the nets, and wasn’t much help on a fishing boat anymore.
On July 23 of 1936, Quimet harnessed Mula to the cart and met me in the plaça for the trip to the train station in Figueres. I carry a picture of that day in my mind: the old gray, head hanging to within inches of the ground, pulling us up the dusty road to the top of the hill where we turned onto the paved highway that led to Figueres. From here, looking over my shoulder, I could see all of l’Esquerda, the entire hamlet, from the church in the plaça to the boats plopped haphazardly along the beach, nets dripping from their sides, to the fishermen’s white-washed hovels beneath the cliffs.
“Remember, steer clear of the commotion,” Quimet said, not looking at me, but gazing straight ahead, down the empty road. To the right, a field of hay stretched out flat and golden, still as a painting in the summer heat. If you listened carefully you could hear the whirr and crackle of insects in the stalks. The fields were empty now, but soon the farmers would be out with their wagons and scythes harvesting the hay. In the last few days the land all around here, we’d heard, had been confiscated from absentee owners by the peasant farmers.
Quimet sat with his forearms on his thighs, the reins resting weightless in his fingers, the cart creaking beneath us. “There’s a lot of craziness these days in Barcelona,” he said. “And now we’ve had this uprising, or whatever they call it, and they say everybody’s celebrating the capture of that General what’s-his-name.”
“Goded,” I said. “General Goded.” Word of Franco’s pronunciamiento and the insurrections all across the country had swept through Catalunya, reaching even our remote hamlet by the sea. In Barcelona and Madrid, the rebellion had been put down in a matter of days, not by the government, according to news reports, but by the city residents who poured out of their houses to confront the rebels in the streets. Men in their work clothes and women in house dresses rushed to the battle, grabbing rifles from militia men handing them out at the barricades. At least that’s what people said.
The rebellion came like the last domino in a long succession of events that had begun with the overthrow of the dictator in 1930, when I was only twelve. Most people in l’Esquerda didn’t know what to think about the great upheaval that had been taking place since then. Nothing had really changed for us. The village still had its cooperative, and the men still rowed out to sea every morning to drop their nets, and the women still cooked the fish and swept away the sand the men had tracked in on the floors.
Well, nothing had changed for most of us. I was going to the university. Not in anyone’s memory had a resident of l’Esquerda gone to the university.
I tugged at my collar, loosening my tie for a measure of relief from the summer heat. My jacket lay folded across my lap, and the tattered old valise my grandfather had given me for the trip sat behind in the wooden bed of the cart. Despite the heat, my mother had insisted I wear the suit, a heavy woolen garment handed down from my brother, the cuffs falling two inches short of my ankles. She said it was her kin I’d be staying with, and I had to look my best. She’d dug up an old photograph and handed it to me. “That’s Cani,” she’d said. It was a hazy picture of a young man in a loose-fitting shirt and a Catalan beret leaning against a tree, his arms folded across his chest in a jaunty manner. A white streak from where the photo had been crinkled cut the man in half.
My mother straightened my tie, smoothed out the jacket’s lapels, kissed me on the cheek and hobbled inside on her arthritic feet, and I went out into the sweltering day. The wool itched, and by the time I met up with Quimet in the plaça, I’d removed the jacket which had already provoked the slight prickling of a rash on the back of my neck.
“And stay away from the political people,” Quimet was saying. He’d been talking non-stop since the plaça, shoveling out advice on how to get by in Barcelona, although to my knowledge, he’d only been there once. Quimet liked to give advice, but I never took his views very seriously on anything other than fishing. Everyone in the village knew about fish, but Quimet could tell you what a sea bass had eaten for breakfast from the scent of it. He’d inherited his nose for fish from his father, who – it’d been said – could smell a school of flounder from a kilometer away. At any rate, because of Quimet and his father, the cooperative had been able to purchase a power boat, a trawler, the only trawler between l’Escala and Cadaques.
“There are people of every persuasion in Barcelona,” Quimet said. “Communists, fascists, even homosexuals.” He smiled, flashing the chipped front tooth he’d obtained racing me over the rocks when we were little. “I suppose all the foreigners are gone though. Those who came for Games.” The government had voted to hold a People’s Olympics in Barcelona as a protest against the regular Olympics being held in Nazi Germany. According to news reports, more than six thousand athletes from twenty-two countries had registered to compete. Unfortunately, the Games had been scheduled to commence on July, 19, the very day of the coup.
“And don’t listen to the organizers,” Quimet said. “In Spain politics is always just bait on a hook. The trickster and the tricked. Don’t be tricked.”
Since the school in l’Esquerda provided only six years of education, I’d had to take the bus to Roses each morning, which until my twelfth year, when the new government reduced the cost of public transportation, had cost thirty centimos each way, and I arrived home too late to help my father and brother clean and repair the nets. The bus didn’t come into l’Esquerda, so I had to walk four kilometers up the hill to the main road and flag it down.
I went to the Escola Publica in Roses, one of the schools established after the overthrow of the dictator, when the newly-elected government created a Department of Education to supplant the Catholic system that had been extorting tuition from the working class for centuries. The school, in reality a converted old convent of a few squat, ramshackle buildings around a weedy courtyard, intimidated me at first. The walls rose before my juvenile eyes as a veritable cathedral, stately and immutable, and the other students appeared more worldly and better-dressed than I. Some of them wore calico, and even neck scarves. In retrospect, with the advantage of sixty years hindsight, I seem to remember that the calico was usually frayed and the neck scarves torn and faded; that in reality we were all of a type: gawky, unkempt kids in hand-me-down clothes and canvas rope-soled shoes.
We had math and science in what had been the nuns’ dormitory and history in the old chapel, stripped of crosses and all religious symbols but with three high stained-glass windows that threw a prismatic light over the room, casting faces in various shades of red, yellow and blue. In my first days in that room, sitting in a pew near one of the windows, I would move my hand a little to the left or right to see my skin turn from blue to green, or red to yellow. I can still remember the indigo blue cheek of Senyora Estrada and the lurid pink of her white blouse, buttoned all the way to her throat, as she stood before the class with an open textbook held before her.
Senyora Estrada taught us about Spain’s tradition of cooperative communities, not only the fishing cooperatives, but the farming ones as well. This was of special interest to me, because I had never thought our way of life had any particular significance. Although Senyora Estrada did not explicitly mention l’Esquerda, it gave me a sense of pride to know we were part of a tradition important enough to be taught in the schools.
Senyora Estrada told us that the cooperatives dated back to the Middle Ages when villagers had to band together to survive against a greedy lord or a harsh environment. She said that in the eighteenth century hundreds of towns and villages in the mountain kingdoms and the highlands functioned as cooperatives, owning most or all of the land in their vicinity. These towns divided the fields into equal portions every ten years and distributed them among the residents by lottery. There was a town called Caso, a town of 15,000 people in the Asturian highlands, that owned 20,000 head of cattle in common. She said that the municipalities of these communities took in the profits and provided a blacksmith, a veterinarian, an apothecary, medical care, crop seeds and even papal indulgences.
When she talked about the founding of our Republic, her expression turned solemn and her voice took on a reverent tone, and we understood we had to pay special attention, and if I happened to be playing with the light, I immediately stopped and folded my hands in my lap. Senyora Estrada taught us that the elections of 1931 paved the way for the new constitution, which restored Catalan autonomy and proclaimed Catalunya an independent state once again, with its own government, the Generalitat. Senyora Estrada said the name Generalitat dated back to the 13th century, when Peter III, King of Aragon and Catalunya, granted certain rights to the Catalans. She said that of course the constitution of the Generalitat had recently been rewritten to reflect a modern democracy.
Lluis Companys was the president of the Generalitat, and Manuel Azaña was president of the Republic.
I liked all the teachers at the Escola Publica, but my favorite was Senyor Roig, a tall, rangy man with a slight stutter who taught algebra and geometry. I don’t remember him ever once raising his voice, no matter how poorly we performed or how badly we behaved. Once two boys got in a pushing match in the corridor, and Senyor Roig separated them, a firm hand on each chest, and said, “If you m-m-must fight, please t-t-take it outside.”
At first I thought his stuttering a kind of nervous affliction, but after a while I realized that if you listened carefully and watched his eyes and his hands, you could tell he was quite composed. He had a quick mind, and I think that sometimes it just ran ahead of his tongue.
Whenever I missed a question on a test or solved a problem incorrectly, he would approach me after class and say, “J-J-Jordi, you are too smart to make these mistakes.” Then he would tap me on the forehead and say, “J-j-just focus. Focus.”
One day, as I was leaving the classroom, Senyor Roig called me to his desk and asked if I’d given any thought to what I would do when I finished my batxillerat. I was standing near the door with my books tucked under my arm, and his figure was framed by a large window with a black iron grate behind him, which gave him a regal appearance, like those pictures you see of famous men at their desks. It was late afternoon, the school day over, and through the window I could see the trees in the courtyard and the shadows cast by the trees and our building. The near half of the courtyard was shaded, the far half in bright sunlight streaked with the shadows of the tree trunks.
Senyor Roig said I had an aptitude for math and science and ought to think about becoming an engineer. I thought he meant the kind of engineer that operates a train, and I said I didn’t know you had to go to university to do that. He stood up then and said that was not the kind of engineer he was talking about but the kind that designs the trains and makes them better.
Outside, he lit a cigarette and said engineers design all kinds of things, not only machines, but buildings and bridges and power plants. When he mentioned bridges, I thought of the rickety wooden bridge over the river Muga which once every few years got washed away by the spring rains. I was sure I could design a better bridge than that.
That day he drove me to my bus stop, granting me my first ride in an auto car, a rattly old machine with loose door handles and a crack in the windshield. A long metal lever came out of the floor with a polished wooden knob that matched the wood on the steering wheel, and when he drove, he kept one hand on the knob and shifted the gears to speed up and slow down. The car had cushioned seats that he said were made of felt. I told him I’d never sat on anything so cushiony, and he gave me a look that seemed caught between surprise and sorrow. “Well, it’s ju-ju-just the sp-sp-sp-springs,” he said, “like in a r-regular sofa.” Which made me feel foolish because I didn’t know anything about sofas. No one I knew in l’Esquerda had one. We all sat on wooden benches and hardback chairs.
I asked about the lever, how it worked, and he said it changed the gear ratio. “Think of-of it l-l-like changing the o-o-oars of a boat,” he said. If you had two sets of oars, he said, you could use the shorter oars to push away from the pier and gather some speed and then you could shift to the longer ones for more torque. He pointed to a pedal on the floor and said the pedal disengaged the gears, allowing him to shift from one gear ratio to another. I thought this an ingenious idea, and he said that was the sort of thing engineers came up with to make life better for people.
From that day whenever Senyor Roig saw me walking toward the bus stop, he would pull his car to the side of the road and offer me a ride. Sometimes, on balmy days, I would actually have preferred to walk, but to avoid being rude I invariably accepted. He always had a crumpled pack of cigarettes in his jacket pocket, and he would smoke as he drove, his nicotine-stained fingers gripping the knob on the gear lever. Once, in the final year of my batxillerat, he asked me if I’d given any more thought to what I would do after I graduated, which made me wonder if he’d been reading my mind. The notion of becoming an engineer and inventing things like the gearbox in the car appealed to me, but I hadn’t yet drummed up the courage to approach my parents about it.
Senyor Roig pulled a bent cigarette out of the pack he carried and straightened it out with his fingers. He blew a cloud of blue smoke out the open window and said if I wanted he would speak to my parents. He said he was sure they wanted the best for me, and maybe he could convince them the best for me would be to go to university.
He drove me home that day, and along the way we talked. I remember the flags fluttering from the balconies above the streets in Roses: the new red, yellow and purple flag of the Republic, strung up by residents who could not contain their pride in our fledgling democracy, but also a few other flags I didn’t recognize. Senyor Roig informed me that the red flag with the white star was the communist flag and the red and black flag was the anarchist flag. He said we lived in difficult times but also in wondrous times. Difficult because of the worldwide depression and the uncertainty of the future, but wondrous because now in Spain the citizens could fly whatever flags they wanted. He said it was a great time to be Spanish because the future was in our own hands now, not in the hands of just the rich and powerful.
This was before the uprising, before Franco’s pronunciamiento.
What sticks in my mind about that ride, what I remember most distinctly, was the uncanny feeling that everything was all of a piece, the world as it should be. We were going to my house to talk to my parents about me attending the university, and I didn’t know how that would turn out, but it didn’t worry me. The flags fluttering from the balconies, the sunlight glancing off the shop windows, the puttering sound of the car and the softness of its seats, everything seemed to combine to lay a mantle of tranquility on the world.
Senyor Roig told my mother it would be a shame to waste my intelligence on a fishing boat. The university was eager to admit intelligent young men like me, and since the new government had abolished tuition, I would only have to pay for my books. My mother sat at the table staring at Senyor Roig, her mouth hanging open like a fish in a net. He might as well have told her he had a plan to shoot me to the moon. He said he knew several families in Barcelona, and surely one of them would take me in. My mother had said nothing the entire time until he broached the subject of some family taking me in, then she looked him straight in the eye and said that wouldn’t be necessary; she had a cousin in Barcelona. My father spent most afternoons with the other fishermen mending the nets on the beach – they always found tears in the nets where large fish or a few sharp fins cut through weakened strands of hemp – so he was not home at the time, but I knew there would be an argument when he returned.
After Senyor Roig left, my mother looked at me with an expression I’d never seen before. As if she weren’t sure I was her son. Then she went into the room she shared with my father and prayed. A small table with a sort of shrine – some candles and a picture of the Madonna and Child, which my father only tolerated for my mother’s sake – stood against the wall on the far side of their bed, and I could hear her praying for guidance.
My mother decided I should follow Senyor Roig’s advice and go to the university, but the idea did not sit well with my father, who thought every able-bodied man was needed on the boats. But my mother insisted that an education would pay off in the end. It would take years for me to see that my mother had been right in this argument, for more than once in the chaos of the ensuing years, I would question my decision to leave l’Esquerda, as the world went crazy and provoked a longing for the simple life of the sea, to be with my father, rowing out to find a school of lenguado or, if we were lucky, sardinas.
In the end the cooperative settled the argument, contending it would be a point of pride to have one of their own go to university. The cooperative even gave me ten pesetas to buy a pair of leather shoes to replace my old rope-soled, canvas ones, and Senyor Roig drove me to the sapateria in Roses and helped me pick them out.
After we bought the shoes and climbed back in the car, Senyor Roig opened the glove box, withdrew a book and handed it to me. Differential and Integral Calculus by Clyde E. B. Love, translated by Feliciano Paredes y Rivera.
“The en-engin-eering cur-cur-riculum includes a c-course in calculus,” he said. The Escola Publica didn’t offer calculus, but since I had three months before classes started in September, he thought the book might give me a head start on the calculus class.
“You should always carry your money in your front pocket,” Quimet said. “There are a lot of pickpockets in Barcelona, and you don’t want to make it easy for them.”
This was the first piece of advice Quimet had given so far that seemed worth heeding, so I furtively shifted my wallet from my hip pocket to my front one.
“If you run into trouble, you can go to my uncle Arnau in Badalona,” Quimet said. “It’s the first stop on the train from Barcelona.”
Then Quimet quit talking, and there was only the sound of Mula’s hooves on the road. A fly came from nowhere to buzz in a wobbly orbit around the horse’s head, and it twitched its ears.
Strange that I remember that fly, because I didn’t think about it at all at the time. My head was too full of possibilities, of all the things I might do as an engineer. I might design new auto cars, or power plants or even airplanes. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks with me, and I don’t actually remember the fly; perhaps my imagination inserted it sometime in the years that followed as a necessary omen.
Approaching the plaça in Vilatenim on the outskirts of Figueres, we heard shouts and spotted a group of men with rifles herding several other men, whose hands were bound behind them, into the back of a truck. The sun had begun its torrid descent by this time, and the glare off the windows of the shops made it difficult to see, but I noticed several of the men with rifles wore the red and black cap of the anarchists, and I took them to be soldiers in one of the militias we had heard so much about. You could tell from the shirts and trousers of the men being loaded into the truck that they were men of means. They crouched into the back of the truck, their faces gaunt with terror, some of them displaying cuts and bruises. I wondered what they had done. A crowd of people with shocked faces had gathered – some being restrained by others. A woman stood in the doorway of a panaderia with her hand over her mouth. As the truck pulled away with the men inside, the crowd trickled into the street to follow it with their stares, and we had to wait for it to disperse in order to pass.
“What do you suppose that was about?” Quimet said.
“I imagine it has something to do with the insurrection,” I said.
There came a piercing whistle and the engine screeched into the station hissing steam from its brakes. I lifted my grandfather’s valise from the cart, embraced Quimet for what felt like the last time and climbed aboard. The car was packed with people, many of them soldiers brandishing rifles, and I had to stand in the aisle. The train jerked forward, knocking me off balance, and I fell into the man behind me. “Perdoname,” I said, but the man only smiled and answered in some foreign tongue.
As we pulled out of the station, a voice rose above the clamor, a man breaking into song, a strange song, neither Spanish nor Catalan, and all the other passengers fell silent. It was odd – the only sound being the man’s song and the clatter of the wheels of the train on the rails. Within a few seconds, more passengers took up the song, first three or four then a chorus that resounded through the car and smothered the sound of the train.
I turned to the man behind me, and before I could ask, the man said, in broken Spanish, “It’s the Internationale.”
Cani and Marta
The sonorous purr of the sax makes me drowsy, or maybe it’s the sun on my face, so I stand up and look around for Pau. He’s met two other boys and they’re huddled together at the bottom of the stairs locked in a gesticulating conversation, one of them examining the Barça crest on Pau’s polo shirt. This surprises me as Pau is not a gregarious child, not exactly introverted, but a little unsure of himself. And a bit on the cautious side, as if he’s always listening for something in the distance. Unlike his father, who, at about Pau’s age, once spotted a scorpion crawling across the patio table and swatted it away with a flick of his hand. We were having breakfast at the time and it would have landed in my lap had I not leapt out of my chair. He laughed, and Lidia said, “Rafa!”
Pau’s new friends are blond and blue eyed, both taller and heftier than Pau, who had emerged from the last of his baby fat slight of build. The blond boys look foreign, probably German or Scandinavian, but somehow the three of them communicate, lending credence to the theory that the language of children shatters all barriers. Maybe because they keep it simple. One of the boys turns from the other two and takes a running leap at the stairs, clears about three steps and goes sprawling into the legs of a couple coming down. Pau and the other boy laugh. Now it’s Pau’s turn. He clears the same three steps but manages to keep his balance. He doesn’t know what an important feat he’s accomplished, how crucial that balance is. What a long, hard fall can result when you lose it. Pau catches me looking and proffers a sheepish grin. I wave, and he scuttles back down the steps.
From where I stand, a small turn of the head affords a panorama of the city, sprawled out in all its glory from Mont Tibidabo to the sea. A few of the buildings sport enormous Olympic posters, one on the side of Banc de Catalunya has Barcelona ’92 printed in bold black letters beneath the interlocking Olympic rings and swatches of bright red and blue in a weak imitation of Miró. The titans of commerce expect to make a killing this summer. I wish them better luck than last time.
The old fortress atop Montjuic looms over the old town, an imposing stack of stones and tiled rooftops, more stately-looking from here than it really is. What you can’t see from this distance are the pockmarks on the walls left by Franco’s firing squads and the blood beneath the ground. Below Montjuic, runs a long river of trees from Plaça de Catalunya to the harbor, an elongated, leafy canopy for La Rambla, and to the left of that the gothic section, a maze of winding narrow streets and medieval stone buildings recently converted to trendy shops and restaurants. Further to the left, quite a bit further, just north of Barceloneta, I can see the shiny domed roofs of the newly-renovated Estació de França, an ostensible marvel of modern architecture whose interior boasts a gleaming marble lobby trimmed in bronze and flooded with light, a far cry from the dingy station that greeted me in 1936. They say the express will whisk you to Paris in ten hours. It took me that long to get here from Figueres. So long ago now, it feels like someone else, that young bumpkin in his hand-me-down suit.
Climbing down from the train in the Estació de França, I felt as if I’d stumbled into a carnival, or what I imagined a carnival to be. The busiest place I’d ever seen was the market in Figueres, and even on a Friday before Christmas, it didn’t have a tenth of the people that swarmed through the station. Everyone rushed about or clustered in groups, all bumping into each other, families embracing, young girls shouting to soldiers boarding trains, militia men waving neck scarves in the air.
I made my way off the platform amidst clouds of steam rising from the tracks and bells signaling boardings for distant places, and, jostled to and fro by passing strangers, scanned the station for my mother’s cousin, Cani, from time to time glancing down at the old photo she had given me. I didn’t see how I’d never be able to pick him out among so many people. I longed to remove my shoes. I’d had to stand the full five hours from Figueres, as the train stopped at every one-horse hamlet along the route, and the new shoes were taking a toll on my feet. Then a voice called my name, “Jordi!”, and about twenty heads swiveled and looked. A man with a limp came threading through the crowd toward me, a woman following. The man clamped a hand on my shoulder and took my valise. The weight of the valise had seemed to exacerbate the pain in my feet, so I was glad to be free of it.
“Cani?” I said.
“None other,” the man said, “and this is Marta.”
Marta threw both arms around me and kissed my cheeks. She smelled of rosemary and lavender.
“How did you recognize me?” I asked.
“How could I not recognize you,” the man said. “In that old country get-up, looking completely lost.” His eyes fixed on my tie. “Get rid of that,” he said. “You don’t want to be mistaken for a bourgeois.”
I removed the tie and stuffed it in my pocket. Lugging my valise with a lopsided gait, Cani guided me through the crowd, his free hand on my shoulder. “This is ours, you know?” He took his hand off my shoulder long enough to make a sweeping gesture at the station.
"What?” I said. I had no idea what he meant.
“I’ll explain it,” he said
Outside, the sidewalks were crammed with pedestrians laughing and singing, and motor cars rolled over the streets with armed men on the running boards pumping rifles in the air. The walls of the city constituted a gallery of anti-fascist posters and graffiti, and everyone under forty seemed to have a rifle slung over his shoulder, including many of the women, who dressed like the men. Everyone seemed in the grip of some great expectation.
Cani pointed out a motor car waiting for us across the street, the driver’s elbow poking out the window, a cigarette dangling from his lips. One of the union members, Cani explained. The letters CNT were painted in crude white strokes on the side of the car.
I didn’t know anything about Cani, so the CNT car surprised me. My mother had said that he had gone to Barcelona as a teenager to work in the factories, but that was about all she knew, except that he lived in a working class barri called Poble Sec.
I sat in the back with Marta, and Cani sat in the front and turned half around to face us, his forearm slung over the backrest. It was only the second motor car I’d ever ridden in, but the smell was familiar, the odor of felt bathed in cigarette smoke.
I learned that Cani was a welder for the Barcelona Tram Company, but he also served on the CNT Regional Committee and the Poble Sec neighborhood defense committee, and the CNT allowed him to take time off to work on union issues. The limp, I later learned, came from a gunshot wound he’d suffered during a work stoppage in 1928, in the years before the Republic when companies routinely hired gunmen to break up strikes.
In the car he told me the CNT had captured the train station in the Rising and now held it by government decree, along with the telephone exchange and the tram and metro systems. He said the CNT had over a million members nationwide. “Over a million members,” he said, “and do you know what our payroll is?” Marta slapped his elbow. “Shh,” she said. “Let him catch his breath. He just got off the train.” Cani raised his hand and formed a zero with his thumb and forefinger. “Nada. Not one peseta. We are all volunteers.”
It was well past sundown, the city bathed in the summer’s late light, the sky, between the tall buildings, the color of strained milk. We drove through a scatter of noises. A streetcar clattered by, a few peddlers shouted, the occasional honk of car horn. I spotted a number of burned out buildings, including two churches, and here and there bits of clothing, a scarf, a hat, dangled from the trees. From almost every balcony fluttered either the red flag of the communists or the red and black of the anarchists, the flag of the Republic nowhere in sight.
A streetcar painted in the same red and black pattern as the anarchist flag rattled past us, the letters CNT emblazoned across its front, and Cani said, “That’s my union, the Transit Workers. We’ve collectivized the trams. Tranvia de Barcelona. After the uprising, we barged into the executive offices and found everyone gone. They’d flown the coup. Now we run it ourselves.”
We turned onto a street that skirted the harbor, and Cani pointed out a huge stone building with shattered windows and great gouges in the walls. “That’s the military headquarters where Goded was holed up,” he said. He stabbed a cigarette in his mouth and extended the pack toward me, but I shook my head. My grandfather had died of emphysema, and my mother had forbidden my brother and me to smoke. “We had to shell him out with artillery,” Cani said, lighting the cigarette with his hands cupped around the flame as he talked. “Even though he was surrounded by thousands of workers, he wouldn’t surrender. We had captured most of the rebels’ big guns and put them to good use.” He offered a conspiratorial grin and blew a cloud of smoke at the ceiling.
As we circled the Columbus monument at the base of the Rambla (which, at the time, I did not know was called the Columbus monument, nor that it stood at the base of the Rambla), he pointed to another building, or a group of buildings butted up against each other, it was difficult to tell which, surrounded by a ramshackle circle of militia. Part of the structure’s parapet had been blown away, and two jagged cracks, like lighting bolts, ran through the wall from the roof to the sidewalk. “That’s the Atarazanas compound. The last place to fall. It held out for thirty-six hours. It was the old medieval shipyards and has walls a meter thick. Durruti and his group finally stormed the place.”
“Who’s Durruti?” I said.
The driver let out a snort-like laugh, and Cani switched from Catalan to Spanish. “Tell him who Durruti is, Paco.”
The driver lifted his head, directing his voice over his shoulder, and spoke in a gravelly dialect, dense enough to sink in mud. “Durruti’s the reason we’re in this car and not behind bars waiting for the firing squad.”
Cani said Durruti and some of his FAI comrades had formed a group called Nosotros, which had organized and directed the resistance, Durruti personally leading the attacks on the Telefónica building and the Atarazanas compound. “You’ll never meet a man less afraid of death. He’s always at the front of the charge, the first one through the door.” He said back in the twenties he and Durruti had collaborated on a few escapades he’d tell me about later.
I wasn’t sure what the FAI was, but I would learn soon enough, as the letters were plastered all over Barcelona, from posters to street cars to anarchist caps sold by peddlers on the Rambla. But before that day, the only mention of it I’d seen, usually in connection to the CNT, was in La Vanguardia, the solitary newspaper that came to l’Esquerda, and that only sporadically. After its run through Empordá and Roses, the delivery truck would drop off whatever left-over copies it had at the fishermen’s café.
Cani said they lost a lot of good men in those thirty-six hours, including Durruti’s best friend, Francisco Ascaso. But that was the essence of a revolution, he said, people willing to die for the cause. If people were not willing to die for it, it didn’t have a Chinaman’s chance.
I followed Cousin Cani and Marta up a dark wooden staircase, the risers creaking under our feet. The corridor smelled of garlic and cigarettes, and Cani held a key ring up to the feeble light of a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling and thumbed through the keys until he found the one for the door.
Inside, the apartment was a library of anarchist literature. Tomes by authors with unfamiliar names, Bakunin, Stirner, Kropotkin, Finelli, Puente, crowded the selves – The Path to Liberty, Principles of Anarcho-Socialism, The Elimination of the State – and pamphlets and flyers littered every horizontal surface. Solidaridad. Workers Unite! Smash the State!
“Welcome to the new world order,” Cani said. “Soon the whole of Europe will copy us.” He caught me looking at a stack of newspapers on a table in the corner, and limped over, snatched one up and handed it to me. “Have one,” he said. “They’re free.”
Solidaridad Obrera was printed across the top in large bold letters.
“It’s our daily. Got a circulation of over 30,000. We’ve got our own radio station too, Radio CNT-FAI, one of the strongest signals in Catalunya.”
Cani paused, marshalling his thoughts, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “You understand why you’re here, right?”
“Yes, because of the new revolutionary government.”
“Nooo.” Cani waved his hand in front of his face as if he were swatting away a swarm of gnats. “There’s nothing revolutionary about the government. That’s all propaganda. The revolution is in the streets, with the workers. You’re here because the government is trying to curry favor with smart, young people from working class families lest they join the anarchists. They’re scared to death of us. We’ve got seventy percent of the workers. And we’re going to have more as soon we get the collectives going.”
We sat in the kitchen, the table a clutter of newsletters and pamphlets, the visible patches of wood marred with cigarette burns and half circles from wet glasses, and Cani explained why the working class would soon rule the world. An anarchist flag hung from a wooden rod in the doorway, separating the kitchen from the parlor. A wooden ice box of the type I’d seen in magazines I’d borrowed from Senyor Roig stood against the wall next to the sink, stacked high with old newspapers, and water dripped from the bottom of the box into a rusty drain pan. I wondered how long the ice would last in the July heat.
It was night now, and the façades of the buildings across the street had sunk into darkness, the light from their open windows revealing the inside of other homes, fragments of unkown lives. Here a table, there a ragged sofa and a leaning floor lamp. I wondered about the people who lived in these homes, what they were like. If I ignored the furniture, the view reminded me of the way the shore looked at night from the sea when we came in with a late catch, the houses all aglow, the women waiting with a warm meal.
The night air seemed to amplify the sounds seeping up through the open window, the trolley bells, the sputter of motor cars, the clatter of horses and the creak of wagon wheels. I found the noise distracting, although it didn’t seem to bother Cani and Pilar.
I ached to remove my shoes but didn’t want to be rude, so I didn’t ask.
Cani talked of the progress they’d made since the birth of the Republic, the access to health care, the establishment of soup kitchens and hundreds of rationalist schools to educate not only the children, but adults as well. And now they were collectivizing thousands of farms and factories. And those elected to manage the collectives earned no more than the lowest worker. “Soon we will eliminate currency,” he said. “We are setting an example for the entire world.”
Pilar set out plates of olives and a sausage and half a bar of bread, the plates competing with the pamphlets for table space. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but I waited until Cani broke off a hunk of bread, then I lifted my knife and sawed into the sausage. It was spicier than I was used to, but I gobbled it down as if it were prime veal.
Cani said the CNT had received reports that the Falange had gone berserk in the areas won by the fascists, in Andalusia and Extremadura, murdering anyone suspected of sympathizing with the Republic. He said anyone with a union card was as good as dead. School teachers had also become favorite targets ever since the government had created a Department of Education to wrest the schooling of the nation’s youth from the Church. Death squads had killed over four thousand teachers in Andalusia alone.
I hadn’t heard this and wondered if it were true. Not that I didn’t believe Cani, but I had no idea where his information came from. It made sense that the fascists would resent the public schools for taking over the education of the young, but it seemed a bit extreme to murder the teachers. I couldn’t see how my teachers at the Escola Publica posed a threat to anyone. I doubted that Senyor Roig or Senyora Estrada even knew how to fire a gun. But, of course, I held my tongue. I would be living with these people for the next several years, and I didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot.
While he talked I sneaked glances at some of the flyers on the table. I couldn’t help myself. They exhibited such peculiar language. The Inherent Contradictions of Capitalism. Sever the Shackles, Abolish the State! The essence of exploitation: profiting from the labor of others. The New World Order is at hand. I had never read or heard anything like this. A wiser man would have recognized this odd rhetoric for what it was: propaganda. But wisdom was not available to me then. I didn’t even know what propaganda was. I knew what the word meant, but I didn’t know what it was.
“Durruti used to say that Companys felt caught between a wildfire and a cliff,” Cani said, “because as much as he feared us, he knew he couldn’t defeat the generals without us.”
We’d finished off the sausage and bread, and Pilar got up and cleaned the table. She fished around in her dress pocket until she came up with a crumpled package of cigarettes, stabbed one in her mouth and lit it, igniting the match with her thumbnail. This was an unfamiliar sight to me, a woman smoking. In l’Esquerda, smoking was a strictly masculine practice.
Cani launched into a blow-by-blow account of the uprising, especially the exploits of this man, Durruti, whom he obviously idolized. From time to time, as he talked, the crack of a rifle could be heard in the distance, from one part of the city or another, sometimes a single shot, sometimes what sounded like an exchange. Cani and Pilar ignored them, as if they were as normal as trolley bells.
Cani stubbed out his cigarette in a large ceramic ashtray that sat in the center of the table. In one of the windows across the street, a burly man in a gray undershirt moved through a room, disappeared briefly, then reappeared, sat down in an armchair and lit a cigarette. Two days earlier he might have been one of those crouched behind a barricade with Cani, taking aim at a rebel soldier.
Cani said what really put the CNT in the driver’s seat was the seizure of the arsenal at the Sant Andreu army post northwest of the city. They’d been begging Companys for rifles for months, and it had always been one day yes, the next day no, while the little snake had been handing out guns left and right to the other unions. “Hell, two days after he told us he didn’t have any more weapons, he gave a thousand rifles to the UGT.”
Everybody knew about the arsenal at Sant Andreu, so it boiled down to a race among the anarchists, the communists and the Generalitat. Fortunately, the CNT got there first. “What a trove!” Cani said. “Thirty-five thousand rifles and hundreds of machine guns.”
Although I’d read the news reports of the rebellion in La Vanguardia, it was more interesting to hear it first-hand from Cani. Especially the exploits of this man Durruti, who had begun to pique my curiosity to the point that I almost forgot about my sore feet.
Cani said that when Companys saw the CNT had taken control of the city, he immediately asked for a meeting with their leaders, which caused a degree of derision among the workers, as the CNT did not have leaders in the traditional sense. In the end they elected four men to represent them to the Generalitat, including Durruti and Garcia Oliver. In less than an hour they were back with the news that Companys had offered to resign and subordinate the Generalitat to the CNT.
“I still think we should have taken him up on that,” Pilar said. She had finished washing the dishes and stood wiping her hands on a dish towel. “That’s one decision we may live to regret.”
Cani glanced up at Pilar and raised his eyebrows in the facial equivalent of a shrug. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We have our own weapons now. We control the city. No, not just the city, the whole of Catalunya.” With every worker in Barcelona now armed to the teeth, no one, not the army nor the assault guards dared confront the CNT.
I asked if I might get to meet this man, Durruti, and Cani said, “Not anytime soon, I’m afraid. He left this morning for the front with three thousand troops.”
Cani reached over and shook a cigarette out of Pilar’s crumpled pack. The man in the building across the street rose from the armchair and walked to the window where he stood staring out with his hands on the ledge. Tufts of black hair curled from the top of his undershirt. I wondered what he was looking at. Perhaps at the three of us sitting around the kitchen table. Or perhaps at nothing at all. Perhaps he was thinking, still trying to fathom everything that had happened.
Cani lit his cigarette and lapsed into a thoughtful pause, smoke seeping from his nostrils. Then he said that the officers they’d captured, to a man, were shocked that they’d been beaten by a bunch of rabble. “That’s what they called us, rabble.”
Pilar poured coffee, and Cani went to the cupboard and withdrew a bottle of brandy. He spiked his coffee then tipped the brandy bottle toward my cup, but I shook my head. I’d never drunk brandy before and thought it best not to experiment on my first night in this strange place. Besides, as much as I had enjoyed Cani’s account of the uprising, my aching feet began to reassert themselves. I was tired and longed to kick off my shoes, get out of my trousers and lay my head on a pillow.
Cani said the failed rebellion was the best thing that ever happened to Spain. “It riled up the people and sparked the revolution. But more importantly it showed them they don’t need a government. They’re learning the true meaning of anarchism.”
Pilar put her hand on Cani’s knee and said, “Why don’t we let Jordi go to bed now? He’s had a long day.”
But Cani wasn’t finished. He drained his coffee and launched into a commentary on the politics of the day, inundating me in an avalanche of acronyms: the PSOE, the ERC, the POUM, the CEDA, the PCE, the PSUC. Then he said something about the chicanery of the rival UGT, led by the “power grabbing weasel” Largo Caballero, which I didn’t quite catch because my brain had stopped working by this time.
Pilar turned to me and said, “Let me show you to your room,” and I hauled myself out of my chair. But Cani started talking again, so I stood with one hand on the back of the chair and waited for him to finish.
“The PCE thought that if they got control of the government, they’d have control of the country. Well, they got control of government alright, and now they don’t have squat. In a few weeks the war will be over, and no one will remember there ever was a PCE.”
Pilar opened a door to a small room that contained a toilet and a metal laundry basin that stood about three feet off the floor, pressed to the wall on four stout iron legs. Above the basin, a shelf protruded from the wall containing a box of detergent, a cake of general purpose soap and a sponge. “I do the clothes here, but we also use it for washing up and bathing once a week.” She hooked her shoe under the rung of a footstool and slid it out from beneath the basin. “You can step on this to climb inside.” She measured me with her eyes. “You may not need it, but I’m short, and Cani has his bum leg, so the stool helps. There’s no hot water, of course, so we have to heat a cauldron on the stove.”
Then she showed me to my room, a small cubicle with a window presenting a view of the back of another building that looked close enough to reach out and touch. A cot, made up with clean sheets and a pillow, stood against one wall and a rickety armoire against another. Next to the armoire was a small table with a wooden chair. I placed my valise on the table and went over to the window. Most of the windows in the neighboring building had the blinds drawn, but a few gave a peek of other people’s bedrooms, which struck me as brazenly indiscreet. Below, between the two buildings, ran a narrow alley, not wide enough for a car, littered with bottles and scraps of paper. A scrawny cat prowled among the refuse.
“I know it’s not much,” Marta said, “but it’s more than most people have.”
“It’s better than I’m used to,” I said, which was true. In l’Esquerda I’d had to share a room about the same size with my brother Emili.
“Don’t pay too much attention to Cani,” Marta said. “He’s a good man with a big heart, but his head is full of grand ideas. He’s devoted to the movement and convinced it’s changing the world.” She paused, weighing her words. “I hope he’s right.”
I kicked off my shoes, stripped down to my shorts and sat on the bed for awhile. Then I opened the valise and lifted out my belongings, item by item, and put them in the armoire. I laid the calculus book on the table and sat down in the chair. Differential and Integral Calculus by Clyde E. B. Love. On the inside flap, Senyor Roig had written: To Jordi, best of luck in your new life. If I’d had some paper I would have written Senyor Roig. And Quimet too, and my mother and my brother Emili. All of whom seemed so far away, in an altogether other world. I would have told them how different Barcelona was from what I’d expected, how crowded and busy and noisy it was, and how confused the world looked from here.
A novel set in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War