BOOK EXCERPTS

*EXTRACT FROM BETWEEN TWO FIRES

It was one of those winter days the citizens of Granada take for granted, cold but bathed in dazzling light. A day to bring to mind the sentiments of the 20th-century’s most famous granadino, the poet García Lorca, who once noted: “The hours are longer and sweeter there than in any other Spanish town.” Lorca met his death  in the madness of the Spanish Civil War and on this brilliant morning members of another firing squad were preparing their weapons. The first rays of the sun were gilding the snows of the Sierra Nevada that towers above the city when, at 7am, with the temperature close to freezing point, they escorted a prisoner to the municipal cemetery.

The ritual was brief and brutal. The shots rang out and the condemned man, blindfolded and erect but almost certainly destroyed by months of interrogation, slumped to the ground, where an officer applied the coup de grace. The inhabitants of Granada went about their business, unaware of the death of a legend in their city. Peace had descended on southern Spain, the peace of death. The years of struggle were over. The execution of José Muñoz Lozano, nom de guerre El Roberto, removed one of the most troublesome thorns nagging the Franco regime…
For more excerpts from Between Two Fires, click on “Between Two Fires text” in the Blogroll.

*EXCERPT FROM DON’T MISS THE FIESTA!

Despite himself, Scully experienced a chill chasing along his spine. These were just village people playing games, but the pagan aspect of this ritual, the darkened street and guttering candles, the strangeness of those black-garbed figures, the eyes peering from a secret world, the whole effect, was disturbing.

Finally, the Virgin herself appeared. She was enthroned in splendour beneath a canopy. Glass tears ran down her cold, pink cheeks. Behind came more hooded figures. At least two trod barefoot on the cold paving. Nearer came the resonating drum. Its slow, deliberate beat was accompanied by the solid crash of staffs on the cobbles. Flame and smoke from raised torches filled the street.

“Viva las Animas! Viva!”

Some 40 marchers, distinguished by their disciplined aspect and their conical hoods, moved in solemn unison, in step and in total silence. Only the eye-holes betrayed a human presence behind those black Inquisition hoods. The onlookers pressed back against the walls to give Las Animas free passage and Scully felt the heat of the torches as they drew level.

Bruno, standing next to Scully, was suddenly rigid. He stared fixedly down the street.

“What is it, Bruno?”

Bruno raised an unsteady finger and pointed.

“The cross, for god’s sake. They’ve brought out the cross!”

“The cross! The cross!”

The word rustled from mouth to mouth, from balcony to balcony. A fearful presentiment was borne on the wind that whipped along the street. It was as tangible as cold sweat, as chilling as death itself…

*EXCERPT FROM SUNNY SIDE UP

Pueblo life was fixed, immutable. Hoofbeats were our alarm-clock. They started even before dawn. Men came pacing down the street with their mules, urging them on to the fields.

The hooves clashed and echoed on the rough cobbles so that they seemed to be thumping right through our living room. In fact, seeing a mule walk out of one of our neighbour’s front doors was nothing out of the ordinary. Many were lodged in stables at the back of the dwellings and each morning an esparto mat would be laid across the living room tiles so that they could walk through to the street.

The daily routine was one of the most reassuring features of village life. A weathered old man from the remote sierras would halt his mule and produce fresh, creamy goat cheeses from his baskets. The cries of an itinerant cobbler or the whitewash vendor offering newly-fired blocks of lime regularly echoed over the cobbles. Occasionally a plump gypsy woman with jet-black hair and golden earrings knocked at the door, selling flowers, shawls, or trinkets.

From our terrace we looked down on a patchwork of ridiculously tiny fields. They were a triumph of human tenacity, created out of rocky infertile slopes by years of labour. First stone walls were built and then tons of earth carted in to construct the “bancal”, a terraced plot where sugar cane, sweet potatoes, beans and tomatoes flourished.

Crop succeeded crop year-round for there was no real winter here at the southern edge of Europe. Irrigation channels traced glittering slivers of light between the fields, bringing water from the mountains as they had since Moorish times.

Beyond the fields, a thousand or so feet below us, lay the Mediterranean, shining like an ingot of beaten silver.

Here, one felt, nothing would ever change.

And then the 21st century arrived…

*FRAGMENTO DE HISTORIA DE LOS MAQUIS

En junio de 1944, un hombre bajo de estatura, que llevaba gafas y bigote, vestido en el estilo de un ejecutivo de negocios, salió de Buenos Aires, pasó por Montevideo y llegó a Lisboa. Hipólito López de Asís llevaba un pasaporte uruguayo y dijo que estudiaba la organización de la industria conservera de pescados. Pero dentro de poco voló a Casablanca donde cogió otro vuelo, esta vez en un avión militar de los Estados Unidos, que le entregó en el puerto de Orán en Argelia francés.

De hecho, aquel Hipólito era Santiago Carrillo, uno de los hombres más buscados por el Régimen de Franco. Astuto e implacable, al principio de la Guerra Civil había sido el jefe de las Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas y en noviembre de 1936 fue designado Consejero de Orden Público de la Junta de Defensa de Madrid. Era una época cuando centenares de personas sufrieron la justicia sumaria en circunstancias bastante oscuras. Carrillo había escapado de España por los pelos y desde la guerra llevaba una vida clandestina, haciendo uso de una variedad de disfraces e identidades falsas mientras saltaba de un país a otro.

Una vez en Argelia se quedó estupefacto cuando descubrió que 30, por lo menos, miembros del Partido Comunista recibían instrucción en la guerrilla en un campamento secreto de los yanquis. Los líderes locales del Partido habían ignorado las órdenes promulgadas por los jefes en  México de no tener nada que ver con los americanos. Entre ellos estaba Argüelles (seudónimo de Ricardo Beneyto Sapena) que más tarde llegó a ser el guerrillero supremo de toda Andalucía.

Según su propia cuenta, Carrillo cortó en seco la colaboración con los capitalistas. Bajo su mando se acumularon toneladas de comestibles, medicamentos y armas, como preparación para el levantamiento contra Franco. Unos 60 ex-combatientes de la Guerra Civil fueron elegidos para el desembarco en la costa malagueña. Recibieron instrucción en la política y la guerrilla…

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One Response to BOOK EXCERPTS

  1. bill yim says:

    The writer certainly has a beautiful way with words which vidvidly shows in the above extracts. It’s so descriptive that reading it almost makes me believe that David Baird was actually standing there at the municipal cemetery reporting live the horrible last hour and executiion of Jose Munoz lozano.
    I seriously look forward to reading this masterpiece.

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