Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

Casablanca also speaks Spanish | Culture

Casablanca also speaks Spanish | Culture


The pavilion of the International Fair of Casablanca, an imposing protected building erected in 1949 in the capital economic and commercial of Morocco, is a hotbed of people during these days. The huge vaulted nave, 200 meters long by 90 meters wide and without columns supporting a roof full of circular skylights, hosts until Sunday the 25th edition of the International Book and Book Fair (SIEL). And if French and Arabic are traditionally the most listened to languages ​​of the contest, this year Spanish feels strongly.

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The Spanish poet Antonio Gamoneda (Oviedo, 1931), Cervantes prize in 2006, He participated last Tuesday at his 87 years in one of the events scheduled in the Spanish pavilion of the 25th edition of the Casablanca SIEL. And there, before an international audience, he gave clues to his work: "I have said in some line of my writing that I put all reality and all my acts in the mirror of death. What does this mean? That the poet Antonio Gamoneda, when he writes, does not forget that he is progressively approaching death and that all his communications are also in that same perspective, "said the writer, who also explained what defines for him the genre that moves him to write each day: "Poetry has three characteristics: it has a rhythmic birth, since poetic thought arises in rhythmic impulses; it is an act of creation, something that nobody has said before; and it is an act of revelation, communicates something that was unknown. "

The writer, who sticks to his stick and does not renounce tobacco, was very forceful with his ideas: "The language of poetry is not exactly the same as the language of normal communication, be it conversation or even written language of literature itself, of high literature. Sometimes I get excessively radical and I say that poetry is not literature; literature uses the language with which we communicate with an aesthetic function, creating a work of art, but poetry is not naming the outside world, but is an emanation of one's own life. "

Partial view of the Casablanca Book Fair. On the left, the flag of Spain.
Partial view of the Casablanca Book Fair. On the left, the flag of Spain.

In a meeting with the Moroccan poet Khalid Raissouni (Casablanca, 1965), translator of the work of Gamoneda into Arabic, both read poems -each in their language- of the Spanish author, who also explained some keys to his work: "When I they ask what are the themes of poetry, I say: 'look, the subject of poetry is me' ", explained the author of Description of the lie, Castilian Blues or Age, awarded with the 1988 National Poetry Prize. And he explained more: "The theme of poetry is myself, as a man who contemplates all possible reality, tangible or intangible, objective and subjective." At his side, Raissouni, who has proposed to translate all his work, defined Gamoneda as "a great poet from the other shore" to which "we must read very slowly, to enjoy it because there is the essence of the word". When Raissouni finished reading one of his poems in Arabic, Gamoneda exclaimed: "I am excited; the words, which I do not understand, have that harmonious musculature that provides the rhythm ".

The translators, in value

Another focus of attention of the activities of Spain is concentrated in some actors of the world of books that usually go unnoticed. "Translators are the true ambassadors of the soul of the people. Those who put in contact the languages ​​and the cultures are the translators, assured on Monday García Valdés in one of the acts dedicated to these professionals. In the round table Translation, the journey of languages, participated the Barcelona-born Margarida Castells, who translates from Arabic into Catalan, and the Segovian Maria Luz Comendador, who does it in Spanish. In a very pleasant meeting, both told anecdotes, they talked about the problems they face every day according to classical or contemporary texts, and they agreed that in the academic world their work as translators is not valued. "The translation has to produce in which you read the same as it produces in the original", summarized Comendador, "but a translation is not a beauty contest, you write with very strong guidelines that you can not skip".

The presence of Gamoneda in the Casablanca International Exhibition is due to the fact that this edition has as guest country of honor to Spain. For this reason, and under the motto The journey of languages, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, through the General Directorate of Books and the Promotion of Reading and the Spanish society Acción Cultural Española, has designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Instituto Cervantes de Casablanca and the Embassy of Spain in Morocco, a program of activities that includes the participation of around 40 Spanish and Moroccan authors.

Among the scheduled activities include the tributes to the writer Juan Goytisolo (Barcelona, ​​1931-Marrakech, 2017) and the poet José-Miguel Ullán (Villarino de los Aires, Salamanca, 1944-Madrid, 2009). And also the cycle Two great writers and their translators, that in addition to the meeting between Gamoneda and Raissouni, included the one scheduled for this Wednesday between Mohammed Bennis (Fez, 1948) and his translator to the Spanish Luis Miguel Pérez Cañada (Alhucemas, 1964). Names like Andrés Ibáñez, Sara Mesa, Andrés Barba, Najat El Hachmi, Frederic Amat and José Luis Gómez, also appear in the program of activities.

More than boast of editorial muscle, the Spanish stand tries to strengthen ties. "The fundamental thing is the enormous proximity between the two countries, the links that exist ... What does not imply a deep knowledge between Spaniards and Moroccans," says Olvido García Valdés, the general director of the Book. "We try to enhance that knowledge," he adds. In principle, the policy of the Ministry of Culture is that at most Spain is the only guest country of an international book fair per year, and by 2019 it had already been accepted as the Lisbon one. But when Minister José Guirao visited Rabat in September, Morocco managed to get him to accept it from the SIEL as well. Despite the short time to prepare the event, Spain has managed to finalize a special pavilion, which stands out in the center of the huge fairground together to the Ministry of Culture of Morocco.


One of the positions with offers at the Casablanca Book Fair.enlarge photo
One of the positions with offers at the Casablanca Book Fair.

In addition to the conferences, round tables and meetings with writers it hosts, the Spanish pavilion features two small exhibitions, one that displays reproductions of ancient Andalusian manuscripts preserved in Spanish libraries and another that includes the photos taken by Vicente Aranda during the trip he made by car in the fifties by lands of Almería with Goytisolo, which served to illustrate the book of this Campos de Níjar. "Those towns of Almeria in the sixties, that architecture, those characters, those landscapes, you can find 300 kilometers to the south", explains García Valdés, "we are all moriscos".

Children play in Spanish

In the morning, the sky partially covered by clouds laden with water from the Atlantic gives a ghostly appearance to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the second largest in the world after that of Mecca and endowed with an imposing minaret of 172 meters. But the main claim for the curious is these days just 300 meters in a straight line, where thousands of children enter with great bustle but in order in the SIEL enclosure. Between publishing positions with texts specialized in law or economics, kiosks with balances of up to 10 dirhams per volume (0.1 euros), and bookstores specializing in religious books run by bearded men in traditional costumes, children walk the pavilion with their teachers and they are especially interested in the multicolored stalls of children's books, which stand out for the profane because of the beautiful Arabic calligraphy.


The Chilean Alejandra Hurtado, with a group of children from the Spanish School of Casablanca.enlarge photo
The Chilean Alejandra Hurtado, with a group of children from the Spanish School of Casablanca.

The screams of the children are heard in the Spanish pavilion, which in this case mix both languages. 28 students of about eight years of the Spanish School of White House Juan Ramón Jiménez, among them two children of Spaniards, they pay attention hypnotized to the story that the Chilean Alejandra Hurtado provides, the actress, dancer and theater director who entertains them with their Tales of pure love. The artist seeks at all times the participation of children: "And the little chivón goat, who has the horns ...". And all the children shout in unison: "Pequeños". Before the stories and riddles of Hurtado, the kids surprised by their understanding of Spanish and their vocabulary. "And how can the ogre be?" Asks the artist. "Big", "ugly", "hairy", children yell with their hands up.


A group of children enters the book fair. In the background, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.enlarge photo
A group of children enters the book fair. In the background, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.

"This work in the mornings is wonderful, and it's from Cervantes," explains Olvido García Valdés. It refers to the activities of storytelling programmed in the pavilion in several sessions every morning throughout this week are organized by the Cervantes Institute of Casablanca, which aims to maintain the link of the institution under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with civil society of the largest city in Morocco. María Jesús García, director of the Cervantes Institute in the city, explains that many of those children who study in Spanish at school then become students of their institution. It also highlights the qualitative leap that this edition has meant for the Institute, since in previous years the space they had was much smaller. In addition, in future editions they will be able to adapt the pavilion and have a more prominent presence. And everything, with the aim that in Casablanca, Spanish sounds more and more strongly.

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