Character

If you had, by Sebastián Roa
5 July, 2017 / ,

Suggestions

Born in Teruel in 1968 to a Valencian mother, Sebastián Roa is one of the best Historical Novel writers from Spain. With six published titles, several prizes and the admiration he awakens in other recognised authors endorse it. Roa, however, downplays it: “I do not believe it!” He exclaims. “The thing is that I have very good friends,” he maintains with such a sincerity that disarms you.

He is not lying. Although he looks away when talking about it, his timidity and humility are what speak. His pen, on the other hand, displays a somewhat different image from that which Sebastian Roa projects being au naturel. It is in past epochs where Roa finds the conflict that Literature demands of him. He feels comfortable with it, even translating it to the answers in the current interview.

Valencia, the city where he has lived since 2002 and where he plans to stay, is present in almost all his novels. In it, Sebastián Roa has spent long hours researching, reading, writing and making the most of the advantages that the capital
of Turia offers him: “Valencia is a perfect city because it is not too big, but its size is sufficient to have everything. The weather is perfect, too. And it’s also very close to Teruel, where I have my family”.

If you had to choose a corner of Valencia for a novel?

The current Public Library. Apart from its cultural content, it provides some hints to a fantastic and disturbing history. The edifice was built at the beginning of the 15th century and became the first psychiatric hospital in the world. Let us imagine the moment, in the middle of the Valencian Golden Age, with the city full of go-getters, artists and bohemians, bringing together the best of the Mediterranean and pointing to the transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It is worth visiting the Library, which still retains the original layout, and evokes the atmosphere of six hundred years ago, so far from the current silence and calm.

If you had to relive an episode of your years here?

When I discovered the L’Iber museum in 2009. I attended a literary workshop and, without a clue of what I was getting myself into. I was surrounded by antiques in a medieval mansion, the largest lead soldiers’ museum in Europe and a multicultural centre.

If you had to place a scene at a Valencian festivity?

To set the “Mascletà” a little bit aside, I would place that scene in the middle of San Juan night, between fire and salt water. A passionate crime in the bonfires’ lights and all summer to investigate it. In fact I already used its medieval precedent, the Al-Andalusian Mihrayán, to set a scene for a novel.

If you had to recommend a typical dish to one of your characters?

My best character who is an eater is Pedro II from Aragón, hero from the “Navas de Tolosa”, womaniser and drinker. Knowing him, I would remove him from the thirteenth century and I would invite him to All i Pebre as a starter and a duck paella in El Palmar. With La Albufera in sight and a good Utiel-Requena wine.

If you had to write about a Valencian character?

I waver between two Andalusians before Jaime I. The poet and diplomat Ibn al-Abbar appeals to me, a sensitive and intelligent man, because of the era of radical changes in which he lived and for how he was able to adapt to them. And I have always liked Muhammad ibn Mardanish, the famous King Wolf from the twelfth century. A friend of the Christians and a tireless fighter against the Almohad fundamentalism. It is said that he built a beautiful palace for his daughter Zayda in the suburb of Marchalenes. In time it became a Christian convent and today it no longer exists, but the place is still known as “Llano de la Zaydía”.

If you had to describe Valencia with adjectives?

Luminous, thunderous, shameless, even sensual, and above all surprising.

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez on the conquest of Hollywood
5 June, 2017 /

From paper to celluloid

The Valencian Vicente Blasco produced two films, directed one, wrote a dozen original scripts and adapted two of his novels

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s life is a cinematographic script,an action movie. The boy who was born in the plaza del Mercado (Market Square) of Valencia, son of Aragonese emigres, opens the eyes when the 1868revolution dawns and its rattle is composed of the bullets from the federal uprising in 1869, the cantonal in 1873, and the 1874 coup d’etat. He soon became interested in literature, and more than studying, he wanted to read, read everything, but especially the Romantics, Dumas, Dickens, Poe, Hugo. And soon, to write. He made progress in his studies, but always preferred the teachers of life over those of the university. Constantí Llombart and his friends, republican writers who cultivate literature in Valencian, because they want to build a popular vehicle for the mobilisation and resurrection of the “living dead” (“morta-viva”), from Valencian, they become their greatest formative influence.

The cinema arrived for him in its twilight stage. He was already everything, hehad already done everything: he had edited and directed newspapers, written pamphlets and novels, led political parties and mass movements,founded colonies, given conferences and rallies. He said that a conversation with Gabriele D’Annunzio made him enthusiastic about the Lumière brothers’ invention. A man of action as he was, passion soon summoned his talent. Cinema, on the other hand, had already visited him: in 1914, the cinematographic version of “Entre naranjos” (Between orange trees) was released and shortly after that “La Barraca” (The hut), with the title “El tonto de la huerta” (The orchard’s fool).

During the Great War, Blasco, an allied sympathiser to the hilt, and as a good admirer of the Third French Republic, conceived the idea of overturning “Los cuatro jinetes del apocalipsis” (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) to the cinema. It was made with French money and was directed by André Heuzé. The tape has been lost.

He soon teamed up with Max André and, in that year of 1916, founded a film company, whose first fruit was “Sangre y arena”/“Arènes sanglantes” (Blood and sand). Directed by Blasco himself, the tape was the first of Premetheus Films, the film transcription of the Prometeo Publishing House, that Blasco, his brother-in-law Francisco Sempere and his friend Fernando Llorca, had created in 1914.

The company went bankrupt, but not Vicente Blasco’s faith in artistic media and expression. When the American film studios saw “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,”they quickly summoned his screenwriter. At that time, he states: “Cinema is as important to me as literature”. His bet is decisive.

Hollywood wanted to adapt his works. In 1919, he signed with Metro Pictures for the adaptation of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and in 1921 of “Los enemigos de la mujer” (The enemies of the woman). In 1922,he gives the rights of “Blood and sand” to Famous Players and then those of “La maja desnuda” (Nude Maja) to International Film.He sold his first original screenplay in 1923 to Famous Players with the title of “Andalusian Love”. That same year he signed with the Metro for the transfer of rights of “Los muertos mandan” (The dead rule); the following year he will yield the ones of “Mare Nostrum”.

Blasco is the reason why Metro-Goldwin-Mayer was incorporated, since his films produced great benefits, of which he participated, and so did his producers. The great actors and actresses, Valentino, Mae Murray, Alice Terry, Greta Garbo, embodied the roles that Blasco created.

But the biggest movie, that of his life, is still to be shot.

Text by: Francesc A. Martínez Gallego (UV) and Antoni Laguna Platero (UCLM).

Mariano Benlliure, the artist who sculpted before speaking
30 March, 2017 /

Painters’ son and brother

Born in Valencia in 1862, the internationally renowned artist Mariano Benlliure was passionate about sculpture since childhood

Mariano Benlliure Gil was born in Valencia in 1862, into the heart of an artists’ family. His father, Juan Antonio Benlliure Tomas, who did not want to be a sailor like his predecessors, was a painter decorator; and his brothers Blas, José and Juan Antonio would become prestigious painters. Mariano, on the other hand, opted for sculpture since he was a young child, even before he started to speak at the late age of seven. Sculpture would be his way of expression, his passion. Already in 1868, he presented one of his works to an exhibition organised by The Society of Friends of the Country, in Valencia.

In 1881, before turning 20, Benlliure left for Rome where he opened a studio that he maintained for almost two decades. There in contact with the Crescenzi house, he would learn to master the process of lost wax casting, that would later allow him to take maximum advantage of the different materials on its various phases: the clay model, its casting in plaster, wax and finally, bronze. During the 80’s of the nineteenth century he would be garlanded in Madrid, Paris, Berlin, Munich and Vienna.

Specifically, in 1887, he received the first medal at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Madrid, with the Statue of the painter Jose Ribera for his monument in Valencia, which can be visited at Poeta Llorente Square.

Other works of Benlliure not to be missed during a stay in this city are: the Monument to the Marquis of Campo, in Cánovas del Castillo Square and the sculptures at the Benlliure House-Museum (Casa Museo). This was the family home of his brother Jose Benlliure Gil, which also houses paintings by José himself, his son José Benlliure Ortiz (Peppino) and other Valencian artists of the time such as the great Joaquin Sorolla, an intimate friend of Mariano Benlliure.

The Valencian sculptor died in Madrid in 1947, but his remains were transferred to the cemetery of Cabañal, in his native and beloved Valencia, where he was buried with full honors.

Itinerary: from Casa-Museo Benlliure (Blanquerías Street, 23) up to Cánovas Square, passing through Poeta Llorente Square; it takes about 20 minutes, walking along the River Turia’s south bank. And if you had more time or were in the vicinity, come to see the Monument to Sorolla (in Armada Española Square, near the port) and the Monument to Cervantes (in Guillem de Castro’s street gardens) or enjoy the Valencian coat of arms and the allegorical figures (Administration, Justice, Arts and Letters) on the Town Hall’s facade. (+09)