Wednesday, 30 September 2009

José Agustín Goytisolo

The Goytisolo brothers have been key figures on the Spanish literary scene these last fifty years. Luis and Juan are best known as novelists, while José Agustín mainly concentrated on poetry (he died in 1999 after falling from the balcony of his flat).

José Agustín Goytisolo cut an unusual figure on the Spanish literary scene. A Catalan who wrote in Spanish, his poetry unashamedly sits on the boundary betweeen popular and populist. Politically aware, often veering from irony to lyricism, before stopping off at sarcasm and ending up at love, his poems still achieve a unity of voice that shows just how unique he was.

I once attended one of his readings in Zafra. His schedule involved a workshop in the morning with local schoolchildren, followed by a reading for adults in the evening. The problem was the extremely liquid lunch that took place in between both events. Suffice to say, he put on quite a show that night!

Continuing with my theme of the close relationship between poetry and music that so many people sniff at in the U.K., here's one of the most famous examples of this fusion, a renowned version (in Spain, at least) by Paco Ibañez of one of Goytisolo's most famous poems, Palabras Para Julia, dedicated to his daughter but with a nod towards his mother, who died in a Francoist bombing raid during the Civil War:

One of the best qualities of this track is its wonderful intrinsic value as a piece of music. At the same time, however, Ibañez manages to capture and reinterpret the original poem, giving the verse a new life.

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