Catalan anger and British reporting

It’s interesting to read British broadsheets whilst in the midst of the Catalan-Spanish political crisis about next week’s referendum. In particular, it seems to me that The Guardian is reflecting from the perspective of the Spanish government.

Recording the sound in the street next to mine last night, 20 Sept, 10:15pm

Here in Barcelona, people were in the streets last night, either at the main protest or banging pots and pans on balconies (‘cacerolada’, or ‘saucepanning’), and shouting about freedom. All peaceful, but angry – walking home was quite moving and rather deafening. The outpouring of anger was triggered by the Spanish government’s ordering of its Guardia Civil (national police force that reminds many here of Franco-era repression) to arrest 12 Catalan officials and raid printing premises yesterday morning, resulting in the confiscation of the 10 million ballot papers.

This situation is the culmination of the past few months of planning for the Catalan referendum. The referendum itself is illegal under Spanish law, but the Catalans I have spoken to (whether or not they agree with its taking place) describe it as a last resort. The Spanish government under Rajoy has, they feel, not been interested in taking seriously their claim to independence, or their concerns about the ways that Spain capitalises on the income from Catalonia without reinvesting in it to an adequate degree.

Rajoy’s attitude is seen by many Catalans as the latest blot in a centuries-long series of campaigns by Spanish governments to repress Catalan language and culture and ‘homogenise’ Spain. Rajoy went on television last night to tell the Catalan separatists to stop their ‘fracturing’ and ‘radicalisation’ of their people, and that their activities were illegal. What stunned me – since it’s the first time I have really listened to one of his speeches – was that there was not much attempt to highlight common ground, to acknowledge the feelings beneath the actions, to suggest a way forward for a common future, taking everyone into account. There was just a ‘stop this, and we’ll talk’.

Reading the British newspapers, I’m struck by The Guardian’s focus on the Spanish government’s perspective. An article entitled ‘Is Madrid in danger of playing into Catalan separatist hands?’ says it all. To compare with other broadsheet article titles: The Guardian’s ‘Catalonia divided’ is The Telegraph’s ‘Anger in Barcelona’. The Guardian’s ‘Pro-independence protesters rally’ is The Independent’s ‘Tens of thousands hit Barcelona streets’. (The Times has a pay wall and it’s a Murdoch paper so it can take a walk.) All of these statements are broadly truthful, but with a very different emphasis and level of appreciation of the historical context.

For the moment, the protesting here is a masterclass in peaceful but noisy expression of extreme anger and hurt. It remains to be seen how the crisis will play out next week in advance of the referendum date, Sunday 1 October. Since websites etc. are forbidden to advertise the referendum, there are pages/communities you can sign up to that are entitled ‘1 October: That thing’, or similar. Protests are organised via WhatsApp groups of political activist organisations. All are appealing for activities to be peaceful.

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Pigeon Pie, a poem

Since I regularly wade through the ocean of chaff that is The Blogosphere to search for fresh and moving poetry, I thought it would be a nice idea to share some of what I find.

THE POET BY DAY


Lives built on pigeon dreams
structured by Madison Avenue
calculated by Wall Street
beribboned  by Hollywood
We take them: these manufactured dreams,
one-size-fits-all, straight off the rack . . .
And damn cheap too!
Mad, cannibal pigeon dreams
turn good minds and whole hearts into mince
We pray to false economies,
seek deliverance from Cheap Jack
We buy one, get one free –
And fetch and fetish youth eternal
from face-lifts, Botox™, and boob-jobs –
Exit here:
drugs, alcohol
sex-a-PEAL
en-ter-TAIN-ment.
Get a house, a car, a jewel –
Be the first on your block.
Buy now. Pay later.
Filling the empty with nothing more,
something less . . .
and warehousing our souls, they
gather dust in public storage . . .
the first month free.
Poems unwritten. Songs unsung.
Chumped. Stumped. Petrified.
A gullible human Pigeon Pie,
neatly boxed
and wrapped to go.

© 2017, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit – Lars…

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The Glade – poem

Today a weeping willow caressed my feet
While I weathered a storm in my mind.
A shrouded breeze flew around me, and I
Lost my axe to the shuffling leaves.

In this garden of rustling blankets,
Our bodies bend: our roots go deep.
Come to the glade, where sunshine and tree
Dance through the tempest
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO – Disarming me.

Poem: ‘Eaux errantes’

Here’s another poem from my French ‘Slam dit bien’ poetry group. I’ve done a rough translation to English, which is below!

Eaux errantes

Eaux errantes
D’où
Emanez-vous?

De goutte à goutte
Vous picotez
La surface
Sur laquelle vous atterrissez

Vous prenez le chemin
de la moindre résistance
Avec le plus de gravité

Par sagesse
Ou par simple paresse ?
On ne saura jamais

Mais dans le procédé
Vous nous rendez
Mouillés, trempés

Et puis, ça y est !
Vous vous en allez
En vous évaporant

Finalement,
Quand l’humeur vous prend,
Vous recommencez.

English version:

Wandering Waters

Wandering waters,
where do you
come from?

Drop by drop, you
peck the surface
you land on

Taking the path of
least resistance
with the most
gravity

Wisdom, or
laziness?
We’ll never know.

But – in the process –
you dampen and
soak us

And that’s it!
You depart by
evaporating

Eventually, when the
mood takes you,
you start again.

SLAM'DIT BIEN

de Siobhan Tebbs

Eaux errantes
D’où
Emanez-vous?

De goutte à goutte
Vous picotez
La surface
Sur laquelle vous atterrissez

Vous prenez le chemin
de la moindre résistance
Avec le plus de gravité

Par sagesse
Ou par simple paresse ?
On ne saura jamais

Mais dans le procédé
Vous nous rendez
Mouillés, trempés

Et puis, ça y est !
Vous vous en allez
En vous évaporant

Finalement,
Quand l’humeur vous prend,
Vous recommencez.

https://siobhantebbs.wordpress.com

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Review of ‘Frantz’

Frantz, France & Germany, 2017, directed by François Ozon

Post-war romantic saga or clunky assertion of our common humanity? You can almost taste pre-twenties Europe in this well-styled film that could do with lopping off the last few twists in its plot. (And Anna’s hats are quite something.)

Frantz opens with a puzzling occurrence in a German town in the year after the First World War’s end. Anna, who is visiting the grave of her fallen-soldier fiancé, Frantz, gleans that an unknown Frenchman has been placing flowers on the grave too. He tries to visit the home of her former in-laws-to-be, where she is staying, and is kicked out by Frantz’s father for being French. There is some back-and-forth as Anna seeks him out, and eventually introductions are made. The visitor, Adrien, whom it turns out had some form of connection with Frantz, brings new life to the home and we even get the sense that there could be some romance between him and Anna.

Tension cultivated, denouements are tossed at us with gusto for the rest of the film. Halfway through the 113 minutes there is a Big Reveal, a this-man-isn’t-who-you-thought-he-was. This would probably have been enough, but then we are treated to a number of other untie-the-knots, namely: deceit from the protagonist, Anna; an attempted suicide; a you-thought-he’d-died moment; and even a surprise fiancée. (Incidentally, the surprise fiancée is one of the most compelling characters in the movie, despite only having a few minutes’ screen time to show it.) By the end, it feels like the energy you’ve put into suspending your disbelief is being exploited somewhat.

suicide

Édouard Manet, Le Suicidé

Though artistic tropes are rather over-used (poetry-sharing, violin-playing, appreciating paintings, and dancing all feature in both the burgeoning relationship and the lost one), the use of the Manet painting Le Suicidé is surely one of the best things about the film. Appearing repeatedly (in disguise at first) to tie together the different turns of the storyline, the painting depicts a man who has committed suicide lying on a bed. Unfortunately, as Anna stares at it in the ending of the endings, we are lacking in knowledge about what her hopes and dreams might be. Perhaps they lie in the young man next to her in the museum: the one she has a brief conversation with. God forbid she has any hopes and dreams that do not involve marrying fragile young artists. (True, we do see her playing piano a few times; but always as accompaniment to Adrien.)

Pascaline Chavanne’s styling is sumptuous and full of glorious details that feed you that pre-flapper-and-suffragette moment like a plain-looking but surprisingly tasty hors d’oeuvres. Adrien’s hair is always falling in his face, and not in a suave way. His moustache looks like it has just landed and perched on his upper lip: a precarious arrangement, fitting for a sensitive person. Anna spends every second looking immaculate, with earrings glistening out from under carefully tilted pinned-brimmed hats.

Anna’s styling being quite glorious for its own sake, the characterisation doesn’t match it, though Paula Beer’s acting is outstanding. I am left wishing I had a clearer idea of what aspect of her personality her style has been designed to represent. This is surprising in a film from the director of 8 Mujeres. Still, wishy-washy character design doesn’t stop Beer from playing every scene with consistent, sparkling subtlety of movement and expression. Pierre Niney (Adrien), too, holds up a very effective sensitive young artist with a secret. I feel that I type the same comments too often about films: that the script didn’t warrant the outstanding quality of the acting.

If the protagonist could have been more three-dimensional, the theme of common humanity across borders is successfully brought to the front of our minds. Working out how best to take it in (French-German audio; Catalan subtitles) was a labour of love for me. That we can one minute be learning each other’s languages and the next minute killing each other is a point explicitly made by Adrien. Here the sharing of language – the epitome of connection – is contrasted with killing each other: the epitome of disconnection. Multilingualism in films often adds to their universality; here it was effective, if not subtle, in doing so.