The Second Spanish Republic and the Crucifixion of Goodness

Second Spanish Republic 1

The 14th April 1931 saw the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic, and a real sense of optimism and hope for the future spread across Spain, a country which had suffered from a dictatorship, the insidious growth of right-wing extremism, ongoing civil unrest, a fervently oppressive Catholic Church, and the unsparing brutality meted out by the infamous Civil Guard.

The Second Spanish Republic was grounded in a constitution created by thinkers and intellectuals, people attempting to use logic, reason and notions of equality in order to bring into being a fairer better world. The Spanish philosopher, Ortega y Gasset, was instrumental in this and his words have a powerful resonance today:

To have an idea means believing one is in possession of the reasons for having it, and consequently means believing that there is such a thing as reason, a world of intelligible truths. To have ideas, to form opinions, is identical with such an authority, submitting oneself to it, accepting its code, and its decisions, and therefore believing that the highest form of intercommunication is the dialogue in which the reasons for our ideas are discussed.

Despite some of the Republic’s achievements – granting votes to women, legalising divorce, the reduction of church powers in relation to the state  – within a year, the idealism enshrined in its values had effectively come apart. Ortega y Gasset washed his hands of the new government whose actions became as oppressive and corrupt as those they sought to overturn.  As one character asserts in my novel Duende:

The Republic was founded on ideologies. It was inspired and created by the thinking people. The intellectuals. But it was Azaña who implemented the Law for the defence of the Republic, for Christ’s sake. A deliberate attempt to ensure that the order enshrined in Republican values was maintained, a move which went against everything that the Republic was supposedly about. We defend our liberty – no, we enforce it – through repression and oppression. They shot us down when we were crying out for the very freedom we were promised.

Duende Take 2

Duende by Lizzie Eldridge

The ultimate failure of the Second Spanish Republic paved the way for General Franco and his fascist forces to begin their assault on Spain in July 1936. Shortly after, the Spanish writer, Federico García Lorca, was shot dead by fascist soldiers in his home town of Granada.

Lorca photo

Lorca was a writer who spoke of love and he spoke of love above all else. Lorca was also a homosexual whose sexuality was outlawed by the society in which he lived and worked. Lorca is a man who still lives and breathes through his words, through their everlasting beauty, and as a symbol – but never simply just a symbol – of the consequences of the forces of evil when they are wantonly unleashed upon the world.

It seems deeply pertinent that today is not only the anniversary of the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic but also marks Good Friday, a shameful remembrance of the crucifixion of goodness, however its significance is personally understood. It is the crucifixion of goodness that we remember and sadly, we remember this in a context which seems bitterly devoid of good.

The random absurdity of Donald Trump has now become a daily reality, his latest arbitrary action occurring only yesterday when the ‘mother of all bombs’ was released over Afghanistan. This is coupled with the news of the beating and torture of homosexual men in Chechnya. Just as Lorca was rounded up with other prisoners and taken to be shot, so, too, gay men in Chechnya are being treated in a similar way, with reports that some of these men may later have been killed.

All of this comes hard on the heels of Sean Spicer’s incredulous assertion that ‘someone as despicable as Hitler…didn’t even sink to…using chemical weapons’, deftly erasing the gas chambers and the Holocaust in one outrageous sweep.

So today, on Good Friday, we remember what for some is considered the greatest sin committed by so-called humanity: us. We atone for a crime that was committed in our name. The hope for resurrection has to wait and it seems that two thousand years later, we wait, and still we wait.

But I want neither world nor dream, divine voice,

I want my liberty, my human love

in the darkest corner of the breeze no one wants.

My human love!

Federico García Lorca

Crucifixion
Oil on board
1946Crucifixion by Graham Sutherland

Vandalism and Duende: The Poetry of All Things

This is a small performance piece I gave at Maori in Valletta on Wednesday 24th August 2016, organised by Inizjamed as part of the Mediterranean Literature Festival:

Say No to Vandalism (Damian)

My name’s Lizzie Eldridge and I originally come from Glasgow in Scotland. Some of you may have heard of Scotland. Some of you may even have been there. But just to jog your memory. We’re the ones who voted to say ‘Yes! We want to stay in the European Union’ during that recently surreal, absurd and bleakly comic but not-so-very-funny-at-all-when-you-stop-to-think-about it – that political shenanigans known as Brexit!

Anyway. Leaving politics aside for one evening…(as if you ever can…) My city Glasgow, well, we’re very very friendly, very welcoming (…particularly if you come from Europe) We really are very friendly, as you can probably tell from my general demeanour, appearance and overall genial interaction with you tonight.

But we do have our own wee ways of doing things, our own particularities, our own idiosyncracies, which may seem a bit strange if you don’t actually come from this city. If you’re barrani – as you Maltese like to say! For example, if we like you, we can come across, well, as almost unpleasant…So if we give you a compliment, that’s when you know you’ve got a problem, pal…

Now, this word ‘unpleasant’ and all its different meanings, permutations and connotations. It’s actually an epithet I could easily attach to my own ‘Oh so recently published novel’ Vandalism. Now, please – don’t think that I am merely here to promote my own work! Far be it for me to do such a thing (although why else I’d be here on a Wednesday night in the middle of the working week is beyond me…)

Lizzie Maori

Now why, you must be wondering, would a writer (i.e. me) describe her obviously brilliantly written piece of fiction – nay, literature no less – as ‘unpleasant’? Let me explain…

Vandalism deals with the big issues. It deals with all the things – good and bad, ugly and beautiful, heartbreaking and deeply joyful – that confront us all as we meander along this so-called journey of life. And it deals with these in a very direct way. It doesn’t shy away from the conflicts and contradictions which inevitably occur when emotions and events come together, crash and collide, in all sorts of messy and unpredictable ways.

But at the heart of all this carnage, this brutality, there is poetry because poetry is, for me, the fundamental essence of life. Poetry is the texture, the shape, the feel, the movement, the pulse, the energy…Poetry is the essence of our existence.

And this reflects the influence of a particular writer on my life, my thinking, my ideas, my work: Federico García Lorca. Lorca was a Spanish writer murdered by the fascists at the very start of the Spanish Civil War. And Lorca says this:

Poetry exists in all things, in the ugly, in the beautiful, in the repugnant. The difficult thing is to know how to discover it, how to awaken the deep wells of the soul.  Lorca photo

In Vandalism, the central character, Moira, is watching her best friend dying of breast cancer when Ewan, a man she loved many years ago, reappears in her life. When they originally met, nine years previously, their love affair had limits, parameters. Seven weeks to be exact. You see, when they met, Ewan was already planning to move to Toronto to start a new life, a new job, and the likelihood of him ever returning to Scotland was pretty remote.

In one chapter, there is the recollection of a night nine years before when Moira and Ewan set off into the Glasgow evening to try and catch sight of the full moon. They don’t succeed in their quest but when Ewan leaves, Moira writes this poem:

                        we searched for the moon that night

futile for the clouds

and we were in the city

where lights smother stars

we found the swing park though

kissing beneath out blanket sky

that hid our goal

the moon was full that night

 

and now you’re gone

a journey beyond my world

beyond this city

where lights reflect tears

you left before the moon

could swell to its full strength

and fading stars

seem bright beside my hope

 

but last night something strange

the moon was clear

so gold and round

but not quite full

one small corner shuddered

a head just slightly bowed

a silent soft respect

for the moon we never found

The moon has a fundamental and significant role throughout all of the work of Federico García Lorca. And Lorca appears as a character in my other novel, Duende. Set in Spain during the period leading up to the Spanish Civil War, Duende focuses on the lives of two men, two homosexual men: Nayo, an artist, and José, a philosopher. The story focuses on their love, their life together, the development of their ideas and thinking – all against the brutal and terrible backdrop of escalating violence, political and social divisiveness that culminated in civil war.

At various points during the story, José writes a poem for Nayo and this, as it happens, is his final one:

if Paradise was ever lost completely

if light grew dead

and darkness embraced my mind

if the curve of your body

became a shadow

and the sky collapsed within the sea

I, sleepless, would forever search for you

 

the truth I seek,

desire, delight and dreams

the honesty of angels

whose wings

unfurl to the pulse of our existence

 

windows watching strangers

lighting shipwrecked passers-by

church bells

toll against a weary world

spinning ceaselessly around

 

if the shoe fits

chains may break

and blindness turn to sight

 

the sea baptized us

the water and the wind

gave us a name

 

a sheltered cove

was our creation

our beginning

and our end

 

wine and stars

white moon and snow

sharp russet rose

 

perhaps no home

or country

but still a memory

a whispered touch

a long held sigh

 

you are all I want

all I could need

it’s you I find

infinite and dancing

in the pathways of my soul

The soul, and Lorca’s desire ‘to awaken the deep wells of the soul.’ This, ultimately, is the search for duende. And duende is that need, that impulse, that compulsion, to connect with the deepest parts of ourselves and, in doing so, to make contact with the overarching and vast forces of the universe in which we live and breathe. Frightening, dangerous but vital and imperative, I want to finish with a description of duende taken from the novel itself:

Duende. Mysterious and inexplicable like Goethe’s notion of the Demonic. Duende, that mischievous spirit in myth and folklore. Duende. Something primal, living, shuddering and vibrant. Duende which evokes tears through its music and its poetry. Duende which comes from the depths of the body through the roots of the earth and shakes the entire universe.

Duende Take 2

Please support this Duende ‘thunderclap’ campaign

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/42645-duende-is-the-true-struggle

If you click on this link, then click on the FB/Twitter/Tumbir button, you kindly add your support to a sort of ‘flash mob’ joint message on 14th June 2016. The message? THE TRUE STRUGGLE IS WITH THE DUENDE (Federico García Lorca)

Thank you Thank you Thank you

Duende Take 2

Duende: a novel about art, philosophy and love

Duende Take 2

Duende by Lizzie Eldridge

‘The true struggle is with the Duende.‘  Federico García Lorca

Ignacio Ramirez Rivera quickly became Nayo thanks to his older sister who deliberately simplified his name in response to his arrival in her world. Although this diminutive form was unusual, soon Nayo’s parents were fondly referring to their baby in this way, pleased a bond had already developed between their two young children. Angelita, the little girl responsible for her brother’s title, herself had a name with a lot to live up to.

Duende, a novel set in Spain in the period leading up to the Spanish Civil War, begins in 1900 with the birth of Nayo in Barcelona. In 1914, he falls in love with a boy called José who becomes his life-long partner at a time when homosexuality was outlawed. The illicit nature of their relationship becomes a means of exploring the nature of love per se and how it is possible to co-exist in a hostile environment.

The Spain in which the two men live and breathe is deeply antagonistic, riven by religious, political and social tensions. In contrast, and reflecting wider European trends, Spain was also characterised by a vibrant artistic and cultural scene, and Dalí, Ortega y Gasset and, most significantly, Federico García Lorca are real-life figures who appear as characters within this book. 

Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) was a homosexual writer and poet murdered by fascists at the start of the Spanish Civil War. He becomes a friend to the two main characters in my novel as their professional and personal interests coincide. Nayo is an artist and José a philosopher, and thus art, philosophy and literature become overarching themes.

However, they become more than simply themes as they permeate every single aspect of the story, being integral to plot, structure as well as characterisation. In conjunction with the tumultuous landscape in which the action occurs, these elements form the momentum and impulse driving the narrative forward. And these elements combine in the title of the novel which, deriving from Spanish folklore and mythology, defies any adequate translation into English. Here’s some descriptions taken from the novel itself:

Duende. Something primal, living, shuddering and vibrant. Duende which evokes tears through its music and its poetry. Duende which comes from the depths of the body through the roots of the earth and shakes the entire universe. The aspiration to perfection is a struggle with the duende and José thought of Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch as the ongoing quest to overcome the limitations of the self. Like Nietzsche’s Will to Power, duende encompasses the the death wish as the duende swoons and dances in its arms.’

Duende, which only appears when there’s the possibility of death. Duende. That most vital struggle, when touching death is knowing, and truly knowing, life. The fucking wrenching ache, the agony of living, loving, dying at the same time.’

José thought of Federico’s premise that all that has dark sounds has duende and knew from his own experience that art, in each and every medium, stemmed from the need to express not only the inexpressible but those emotions which cut so deep that in the act of articulation, the artist writhes in pain. Release has its aftermath in resolution or destruction or, perhaps, in both.’

In the context of 1930s Spain, resolution of longstanding conflicts came through destruction in the form of the Spanish Civil War.Spanish Civil War 3

My own story, which chronicles the lives of two men in their ongoing journey to make sense of their experiences, comes to an end as the civil war begins. For me, as the author, this was a momentous journey as I, too, struggled to comprehend the seemingly irreversible sequence of events that resulted in such widespread and barbaric devastation. However, in the process of writing Duende, I became intensely aware that it was the forces of love that propelled the narrative forward. It was the forces of resistance to increasing brutality. It was the voices of humanity which allowed me to keep writing even when all hope seemed irrevocably lost.

The fact that the precise love at the heart of my story was of itself a form of resistance to prevailing morality served to reinforce its humanity and its universal implications. At this point, it’s pertinent to let the characters speak for themselves:

‘It’s always been about connecting thought and feeling,’ said José. ‘For me, that’s what it’s always been about. And at its finest, philosophy does this. At its best, philosophy becomes poetry and vice versa. Take Nietzsche, for example. When we were talking tonight, a phrase from Nietzsche kept going round and round in my head. I know he’s Rubén’s favourite so maybe that triggered it but I couldn’t get the words out of my mind. Nietzsche said that whatever’s done for love always occurs beyond good and evil. Whatever’s done for love transcends these fundamental dichotomies.’

‘What Nietzsche’s referring to,’ said Nayo, ‘me and you have found that place so many times. We’ve been there and back again. Forget politics. Forget philosophy. We’ve stood there, we’ve tasted it and we know what it feels like.’

José looked at Nayo and nodded.

‘But we also know the ground we walk on can shift,’ he said. ‘For us, it has to. Many times, we’ve been forced to put up barriers in order to defend the very territory we wanted to sustain. That’s how it’s been and that’s how it is. We’ve inhabited a space that’s never been permanent. It can’t be. Because it’s simply not allowed.’

‘But the fact is that we’ve found it,’ persisted Nayo. ‘Even when its truth can only be revealed when we’re as certain as we can be that no threats can interfere, the fact we know of its existence, that we’ve lived and breathed within this is what matters. The fact we’ve been there and can go back there any time we need to, that’s what counts.’

Duende by Lizzie Eldridge: Available on Amazon

Duende by Lizzie Eldridge: A Reflection by Giuliana Fenech

 

Duende by Lizzie Eldridge

A Reflection by Giuliana Fenech

Book Launch of Duende: 23rd April 2015 National Museum of Fine Arts Valletta

Giuliana at Duende launchDuende is about the darkness that haunts every creative soul. It is about the negotiation between illusion and delusion. It is also about art and life and the ways in which human beings negotiate the two on a quest to understand more about each. In Lizzie Eldridge’s Duende it is also about art as one way in which humans compose themselves in encounters with other bodies and materials to produce a more powerful body by asking the question, ‘What if?’

What if our thoughts are nothing but ephemeral, flighty and meaningless? What if men are all brutes and politicians all corrupt? What if a man loving another man is tempting fate too much and will lead to doom for both? But what if art could teach the lessons of history so that no more people would die in war? What if poetry could capture the depths of consciousness so that those who are lost could find themselves again? What if the emotional connection of love could overcome shame, grief and desolation?

if Paradise was ever lost completely

if light grew dead

and darkness embraced my mind

if the curve of your body

became a shadow

and the sky collapsed within the sea

I, sleepless, would forever search for you

 

the truth I seek,

desire, delight and dreams

the honesty of angels

whose wings unfurl to the pulse of our existence

 

windows watching strangers

lighting shipwrecked passers-by

church bells

toll against a weary world

spinning ceaselessly around

 

if the shoe fits

chains may break

and blindness turn to sight

 

the sea baptised us

the water and the wind

gave us a name

 

a sheltered cove

was our creation

our beginning

and our end

 

wine and stars

white moon and snow

sharp russet rose

 

perhaps no home

or country

but still a memory

a whispered touch

a long held sigh

 

you are all i want

all i could need

it’s you I find

infinite and dancing

in the pathways of my soul

(Eldridge, 2015)

In this novel, art becomes a driving force for a lifetime of change and creativity but also a platform for contemplation and action. Loosely interpreted Duende means – having soul – or being in a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. In this novel, Duende remains faithful to its broader meaning whilst honing in on a particular time and place. Set in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War, it cleverly combines an attention to detail and history that keeps us grounded in life whilst also allowing us to follow the journey of the two protagonists, Nayo and José. The growing love between two boys who mature into men as the story progresses is only rendered even more intriguing by the fact that one, Nayo, is an artist and the other, José, a philosopher and poet.

Their story unfolds in the magical and mysterious cities of Europe including Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and others as they are surrounded by those we now recognise as icons; Salvador Dalí, Pepin Bello, Pablo Picasso, Luis Buñuel, Federico García Lorca. Through these characters we ‘perform what we read in the theatre of our minds’ (Gerrig, 1993). We engage in aesthetic illusion as we would in a game of make-believe. We know that this is only a story – an illusion – so that we are in-lusio, meaning in play and yet we are also immersed. Amidst the turmoil and changes that the boys experience, whilst eager to absorb all that they can from the world and people around them, they form a strong connection that carries them through the rest of their lives. ‘I’ve found you, Nayo, I’ve fucking found you’, José exhorts as he catches sight of his friend after having lost him in the crowd.

Nayo is not simply José’s companion but also his soul mate. Lizzie has chosen her title carefully, not only are their emotions constantly pushed to dizzying heights and desperate lows, but their quest for expression and authenticity constantly challenged creatively. Their art embodies the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside recalling a physical/emotional response to life. It represents what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive. Lizzie, drawing on Federico García Lorca’s own reflections on Duende, writes:

Duende. Mysterious and inexplicable like Goethe’s notion of the Demonic. Duende, that mischievous spirit in myth and folklore. Duende. Something primal, living, shuddering and vibrant. Duende which evokes tears through its music and its poetry. Duende which comes from the depths of the body through the roots of the earth and shakes the entire universe.

(Eldridge, 2015)

And we, as readers, are reminded, that whilst this may be just a story it is also a journey, the journey of a character who falls in love, an artist who discovers his talent, a country that fights for ideals it believes in and a reader, who curious to know more ventures to ask, ‘What if?’Duende Take 2

The Precipice of Non-Existence: A reflection about Duende, a novel by Lizzie Eldridge [Mario Gerada]

Duende Take 2

Duende by Lizzie Eldridge

The Precipice of Non-Existence
By Mario Gerada
23 April 2015
The struggle for life, with death and darkness emerge as powerful themes, both in Duende as a concept, and in Lizzie Eldridge’s novel. Duende is dangerous, and the novel depicts that danger in all of its nakedness. It is within that stark nakedness, that Lizzie Eldridge points towards that which is essential, Love. For Eldrigde, it is Love that is at the core of the meaning of life and the meaning behind the struggle. Even though this struggle can leave us deeply scared, and some may lose their way, or so it seems. It is a struggle which all humans share, yet artists and mystics seem to be more in tune with, and aware of the Duende, they seem to experience it more intensely, or maybe, they simply can articulate that experience better.

The search for the meaning of life, and the struggle with darkness, both with those internal and external forces, seem to be the journey for mortals, and Duende the novel promises us that “If you look hard enough, you always find what you need”, but the price for that is high. Duende asks the reader: are you ready to embark on this journey?

Lorca writes that “The magic power of a poem consists in it always being filled with duende, in its baptising all who gaze at it with dark water, since with duende it is easier to love, to understand, and be certain of being loved, and being understood, and this struggle for expression and the communication of that expression in poetry sometimes acquires a fatal character.”

Nayo, one of the two main characters in the novel, expresses his struggle with Duende through his art. He escorts those who view his paintings to walk on the precipice, but as Jose, Nayo’s lover tells him, he never lets the onlooker fall. Later on in the novel we read:

“‘Maybe La Sinfonia poetica was my attempt to preserve you and me,’ said Nayo. ‘To safeguard what we’ve found and share this. To allow for this and celebrate it. Or perhaps it was my escape from things I didn’t want to accept. After all, the sketches were the things that kept me going through it all. But it never felt like a retreat because without them, that exhibition would never have happened. The drawings were the balance I need to counteract the darkness.’”

For Jose, the other main character in the novel, it is philosophy that helps him grapple with Duende. For both Jose and Nayo, it is love that keeps them from falling down the edge, and who knows if Nayo painted discreet, warm rays of light in his paintings, to protect both viewers and himself, from the dark struggle which at times threatens to swallow us into oblivion.

“‘I want neither world nor dream, divine voice,
I want my liberty, my human love,
In the darkest corner of the breeze no-one wants.
My human love!’ [Lorca writes.]

‘The freedom and the right to love. Not an ideal but a basic and fundamental necessity. That which makes us human and through which humanity finds its name’ Jose’ begins his lecture…”

Jose and Nayo love one another, and are in an intimate relationship with each other, within a brutal and oppressive society, which is spiraling down the vortex of violence.

Violence demands the annihilation of the other, or sometimes of oneself, desiring the nonexistence of the other, or of the self, or of both; that other or the self, struggle for life and for existence. It is love that welcomes us into existence. To some degree or another, all human beings experience the tension between living – being fully present within existence, and the danger of fading away, cast out into the dark emptiness of nonexistence, rejection. It is rejection which seems to be the fundamental fear of the human person, by a loved one, or by life itself, and Duende dances, plays on and invites us to struggle and keep moving forward.

The socio-political context of Jose and Nayo accentuate this struggle for existence; the conservatives want to eliminate those who are on the left and liberal, while the left and the liberals want to eliminate the conservatives, and sometimes each other as well, because they are unable to figure out an alternative working model for a functioning political system. All of them desiring the ‘Utopia Society’, yet unable to figure out, the way to found such a civilization, without rejecting the other, murder. Yet again, the butterfly and the cockroach fail to acknowledge their common roots, and for both sides these roots seem to be drinking from that same murderous desire out of which Cain drank, that of establishing one’s own kingdom through the elimination of the rival other, failing to understand, that it is in loving inclusion and not murderous exclusion, that the blessing is found.

“Jose’ also thought of the cockroach’s love for the butterfly and how the pretty butterfly could never see any possibility of beauty in her suitor, vainly oblivious to the similarity of their roots.”

Isn’t this the foolishness that lies at the root of all human murder? Could this be the reason why Lorca’s El Maleficio de la Mariposa, was so forcefully rejected, because it exposed that which is so basic and primal, hidden within our collective denial?

Maybe, it is because I myself am gay, but it seems to me that the experience of Duende is intensified for the gay person, especially for those living in oppressive societies, like we ourselves did a few years back, where existence was not a guarantee within such a context and structures. Being allowed to go through the motions of life yes, but living? fully present in the ‘I AM’ existence? That is only for the chosen few. Being welcomed into life, that is; to be loved and invited to love others, had to remain hidden in darkness, and that big part of you had to remain repressed and tucked away. You are not a child invited to play in the garden, but a creature that has to survive somewhere in the sub terrain, or somewhere in-between. And yet, the roots are the same, those of a shared humanity, and as a number of us recognize today, what was presented as sacred exclusion, was merely a deadly game of shadow projections, and violent scapegoat mechanisms, devoid of anything of the real sacred, as Rene’ Girard and James Alison helped us understand over the years. Duende is not an exclusive experience of the gay person, but gay people articulate this experience often, or at least at an earlier age, and we struggled to get out of that deadly bind, many are still struggling. In some countries this has been achieved, at least at the civil-legislative level, but is the struggle truly over? In reality, this is the condition of anyone fighting with one form of oppression or another, brought about by external or internal forces. The struggle, not only reveals our shared frail humanity, but also our commonly flawed nature, bent towards violence, as Rene’ Girard terms as, “things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Jose and Nayo, like others similar to them, find a way how to live in-between genuine existence and hiding, in-between the light of love and the shadows of invisibility. However, while they partially hide and partially expose themselves as a couple, they fully expose their radical ideas, their belief in another kind of world, their struggle with duende, through their philosophy and art. They both know that there is something inherently wrong with violence, not matter which camp it’s coming from.

“Nayo began to think about what extinction meant to him and came up with two ideas. Firstly, from what Jose’ had said, dead forms retain some existence in the living forces which subsume them. He tried to understand this from a political point of view and in the context of the turbulence all around him. Did this mean that when one political regime usurps another, the new power structure inescapably constrains traces of that which it opposed?”

It is love that beckons us to life, but if that love you have to give is rejected, pushed back into the formless world of darkness, how does one exist?

I was not surprised to find ‘Form’ as another strong theme within this novel. Form is linked to both existence and oppression, and the LGBTI communities struggled and struggle with both. Today we call these forms civil unions, civil partnerships, or marriage equality, but it is form that we are talking about, it is existence, it is witness. It is a form, for a love between two people that asks to be witnessed and invites the community to share in that love, as other forms of love do, for existence, because existence is always relational. Maybe, one day, these ‘new’ forms will no longer be helpful for the gay community, and yet, it was form that was required and needed, to assert existence over oblivion, light over darkness.

Nothingness is a scary place to be in, though ironically, it is there that Love leads us towards anyway, as a Spanish mystic Juan de la Cruz tells us. However, this other nothingness is a nothingness filled with the fullness of selfless love, in contrast to the nothingness of nonexistence, void of warmth and the result of hiding and the refusal of life. Maybe Lorca, Jose and Nayo, desired this form, to reassure them that yes, their love exists, and like others they are called to live and love. I wonder if Lorca dreamed of these possibilities, or if it was a too far removed possibility within the context he lived in.

“If Life is still true and poetry exists,
If someone knocks your door and you are sad, please open it.
It is love calling, my dearest friend,” he writes…

Irrespective of form, at the end of the day, Duende seems to be pointing in one direction, that the struggle is one; it is between love and the forces that oppose love. Though the forces of darkness may appear to be more powerful, it is always love that wins the struggle in the end, but the price for that can be life itself.

Duende tells us that nonexistence is void of substance. Violence is empty and death itself can be filled with life. Even that same violent death, which aims at eliminating the physical existence of the other, does not succeed to achieve its goal, because Love knows no boundaries, and Love plays the game of life using different rules, and not according to the petty ones used by violent human beings. While violence appears to be all-powerful and threatening, and it does bring about fragmentation, immense suffering and chaos, it is Love that has the final word, and says, Yes I exist, I AM, and I call you to love others and yourself.

Through her novel, Lizzie Eldridge tells us that desire is a dangerous force, it can become the means of our own destruction if not properly channeled, but isn’t it desire itself that initiates us into the Duende? Desire is that primal force that can lead us into loving relationships, or destructive ones. Isn’t this Duende?; the forces of desire, the forces of love, and the forces for destruction, struggling within us, and outside of us? And isn’t Love trying to teach desire to let go of the finite, to be able to glimpse something of the infinite, something of that greater desire, that is not in rivalry with human desires, and where human beings can finally find their own fulfillment?

For Lizzie Eldridge, desire is not the only powerful and dangerous force for the human person to struggle with, but so are ideas, which can also be either life giving or dangerously violent, especially when these become ideology. Aren’t ideas expressing something of that same desire? For Lizzie Eldridge, like Ortega, ideas and life are inseparable, because they transmit emotions and life itself – maybe ideas give form to desire?

“’The thing I love about him most,’ Jose said to Nayo, [referring to Ortega], ‘is his insistence that ideas can’t be separated from life and life can’t survive without ideas.’”

Eldridge tells us that words have the ability to transform the mundane into something mystical, because words can carry us from this life to the next, in a way as the novel Duende itself does. A beautiful insight which again reminds me of the experiences of Juan de la Cruz, words which might have carried him through his own very difficult life circumstances, and struggle with love. Poetry, becoming for him an important compass for navigation through the various layers of darkness, and isn’t this similar to the experience of Lorca and other poets?

“When I am away from you
What life can I have
Except to endure
The bitterest death known?
I pity myself,
For I go on and on living,
Dying because I do not die’” Juan de la Cruz writes.

For Jose and Nayo, for Lorca, and for so many others who have struggled and are struggling for life and existence, words can also be a form of ‘exorcism’, to face the demons which we encounter on our journey while searching for that place we can call home. While the demons of destruction taunt us; it does not exist, you are rejected from paradise, you are exiled.

“Being a fugitive living in the woods at the time, I had to write before it got dark. Now darkness was approaching again, only more insidiously. It was the dark night of death. I really had to finish my memoirs before nightfall. I took it as a challenge.” Reinaldo Arenas

Jose knew the power of the word, to the point that he knew that every word he spoke in defense of freedom could put his life on the line, and yet for him silence seemed equally dangerous. For Lorca and others, this was their human fate. However, these lives become immortal within human memory, reminding us that it is better to live dangerously, than not to live at all, because even one small gesture of pure love, resounds eternity, because love, truth and perfection are not separate but one and the same.

And Duende, possibly in the form of a jester in the square, whispers a song about a little bit of wind, carrying a little word that is stronger than all the power of the world, than all the forces of death and all the violence these contain. Duende, similar to that little wind, carrying that little word, can never be tamed, but only released, listened to, and followed, or maybe planted, because maybe, and just maybe, Paradise is not far after all, maybe, we have been there all along.

“if Paradise was ever lost completely
if light grew dead
and darkness embraced my mind
if the curve of your body
became a shadow
and the sky collapsed within the sea
I, sleepless, would forever search for you…

…you are all I want
all I could need
it’s you I find
infinite and dancing
in the pathways of my soul.” Lizzie Eldridge

Mario Gerada

For those who wish to read the novel, you can log on:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Duende-Lizzie-Eldridge/dp/1502857227/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429441205&sr=8-1&keywords=lizzie+eldridge+duende