We went to Seville for semana santa. I was filming the first segment of a Channel Four series about gods and remembered the fervently pious parades of the early 1960s. We were living in Fuengirola when it was a dusty little village with 600 inhabitants (today, during the summer, it has a quarter of a million). Semana santa in Malaga was an intimidating celebration. The tronos on which the images of the Virgin and of Jesus were lurchingly carried by their unseen crews were preceded by the moustachioed guardia civil, carrying reversed arms; they might have been at a king’s funeral. Drums beat as if for an auto-da-f?. The hooded celebrants were black with menace and even the flagellants-an elite troop scourging blood from their own backs-seemed to be establishing a capacity for ruthlessness which they might soon visit on others. Franco’s authority was dyarchic with that of the church.
The resurrection was also a vindication of tyranny; “Arriba Espa?a” was, after all, the trademark of the Falange. “Viva la muerte” had been the macabre slogan which so scandalised Unamuno when the old philosopher realised what a vile fraternity he had, until then, endorsed. Even today, in Malaga, the right-wing pietists sing an anthem which proclaims them the “novios de la muerte.” It seems (and I have to hope) that there will never be a single spiritual currency in Europe.
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we lived well, on ?10 a week, in fascist Spain. If we felt a certain defiant shame in being there at all, the old insular vanities-we observe the follies of others, but do not participate in them-kept us insolently aloof. Our black-clad, widowed maid, Salvadora (Ptas 300 a month, and all the food she could tote home), rejoiced that Franco had brought “tranquilidad”; if we knew better, we did not insist on educating her. The then revered Jean-Paul Sartre may have said of Franco that he had the “grosse gueule d’un salaud Latin,” but fundador was Ptas 15 a litre and our children played on empty playas. The myth of Bohemia was still intact; like Lawrence and Hemingway (who had recently fought a journalistic mano-a-mano with an aficionado called Kenneth Tynan), young writers slid off to observe the ageless rituals of the Mediterranean and sentimentalised the dirt that spawned them.
For me, Seville comes third among the cities of El-Andalus. In the Alhambra, Granada has the…