Saturday, 9 May 2015

aclaiir, simón bolívar, instituto cervantes, the waiting room, arturo barea, george orwell, kazan

















Written on the bus home:

Travelled to London earlier for an ACLAIIR committee meeting at the Instituto Cervantes.‎

On my way from the Marble Arch bus stop I passed the statue of Simón Bolívar on the south-east corner of Belgrave Square. I have no idea why the statue is there, although this is what is inscribed round its base:‎

‎Simón Bolívar: liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Panama; founder of Bolivia. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, 24 July 1783, he died in Santa Marta, Colombia, 17 December 1830...

‎Erected in 1974 on behalf of the countries of Latin America liberated and founded by Simón Bolívar...

'I am convinced that England alone is capable of protecting the world's precious rights as she is great, glorious and wise' Simón Bolívar‎

What could have been more appropriate ‎before ACLAIIR? (Advisory Council on Latin American and Iberian Information Resources.)

After the meeting we were given a guided tour of the Instituto's latest exhibition, The Waiting Room: Spanish exile in the United Kingdom, by its curator, Christian Ravina. See: http://londres.cervantes.es/en/culture_spanish/activities_cultural_spanish.shtm.

The exhibition explores the lives of some of the writers who fled Spain after the fall of Barcelona in 1939, including Arturo Barea and Manuel Chaves Nogales. Barea (b. Spain 1897; d. England 1957) arrived in Plymouth and later lived in a cottage on Lord Faringdon's estate in Oxfordshire. (In 2013 a plaque was put up outside Barea's favourite pub in the nearby town of Farindon, The Volunteer, as described in this Oxford Times article by my friend Chris Gray.)

The exhibition includes an early English edition of Barea's autobiographical work, The Forging of a Rebel, and a page from the typescript.

Lord Faringdon and other influential people, including the Duchess of Atholl‎, persuaded the British government to help Spanish evacuees. Faringdon not only provided a cottage for Barea but opened his stately home to Spanish children.

‎As the exhibition mentions, one of the asylum-seekers who came to Britain at this time was Luis Portillo, father of the Conservative minister. (Luis was sponsored by a Labour MP.)

As well as autobiography and journalism, Barea wrote some 900 scripts about British life for the BBC, which wer‎e broadcast to Latin America. Barea and other exiles worked for the Spanish Broadcast Service. The exhibition includes a quotation from George Orwell: 'If the Fascist powers have done no other good, they have at least enriched the English-speaking world by exiling all their best writers.'

The Waiting Room looks at both the lives of the writers and the psychology of exile, drawing on Professor Paul Ilie's book The Semantics of Exile, in which it is defined as 'a territorial break from the homeland which may be either voluntary or forced and is accompanied by a set of feelings and beliefs that isolate the separated group from the majority.'

After the Instituto, we had a wonderful meal at Kazan on Wilton Road to mark the retirement of the committee's former chair. See: http://kazan-restaurant.com.

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