Thursday, 11 May 2017

Sinera: Arenys de Mar and the literary myth of Salvador Espriu

ACN / Laura Blancafort Benguerel

Barcelona (ACN).- Salvador Espriu was one of Catalonia’s most significant writers of the 20th century. He was proposed as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in 1971 and 1983, and won the highest award of Catalan Literature in 1972. His works, of universal interest, have been translated into more than twenty languages. The literary myth of Sinera is one of the keys to Espriu’s work. The geographic and human substance to Sinera is inspired in the town of Arenys de Mar, just north of Barcelona. In his book Cementiri de Sinera Espriu recalls his childhood in a paradise destroyed by the construction industry and war.

Espriu was born in 1913 in Santa Coloma de Farners but spent his childhood summers in Arenys de Mar, a village on the Maresme coast, 40 km from his hometown. Espriu felt very emotionally bound to Arenys because his parents and their ancestors were from there. “I felt, I feel and I will always feel, until my death, that I am from Arenys” –with these words, Espriu emphatically expressed his link to the town. With the name Sinera –Arenys spelled backwards– he turned the village into a literary myth. Sinera is the symbol of a lost paradise and a happy world devastated by war, demographic expansion and death.

Arenys de Mar, a refuge

Cementiri de Sinera was the first volume of poems Salvador Espriu wrote in 1944 and was published secretly in 1946. Despite Francoist restrictions, poetry allowed Espriu to continue publishing in Catalan at a time when the dictatorship controlled all literature through censorship and imposed the exclusivity of Spanish language, prohibiting the other languages spoken in the Spanish state. In consequence, Sinera is created as a refuge from the Franco regime, like an island of freedom. “It is a world apart from war, unreal and idealized” –explains Montserrat Caba, director of the Salvador Espriu Studies and Documentation Center. The book is a very personal and individualistic work; it is the artist's inner world. The lyrical subject and Sinera merge joining the inner and the external world in an imaginary one.

The poet’s beloved homeland

As an adult, Espriu went back to the thrill and fantasy of his childhood experience in Arenys de Mar and brought Sinera to life thus creating the literary myth. He associates his childhood world with Sinera and turns it into something that he would have liked it to be but was not.

In most of his work, Sinera is almost geographically and historically a copy of the Arenys of his childhood but, by focusing on the reality that destroyed it, he makes it Sinera. He steals Arenys to build Sinera’s fiction. “Espriu is the master of manipulation” –explains Pep Quintana, TV presenter and specialist in the diffusion of Salvador Espriu’s work through itineraries in Arenys de Mar.

Espriu: The poet of death                                                               

Espriu cultivated all fields of literature, but when he wrote poetry, he became the poet of death. “Death inspired him and he did not see her as an enemy” adds Quintana. Espriu thought that if he became friends with death she would treat him better. So friends did they become that he devoted a poem to her and turned death into a source of inspiration. The omniscient death is, therefore, a very recurrent theme in his literature. To introduce it, he uses the cypress, known as the tree of death that surrounds all cemeteries. Espriu is Sinera’s father and its center is the cemetery converted into the palace of poetry.

'Cementiri de Sinera' is a poetic transcription of the environment in which he grew up: a glorious landscape, and the pleasant memories of his childhood that never came back. Once all illusions were lost, he waited for death.

Salvador Espriu died in Barcelona on February 22nd 1985. Just as he wished, he was buried in the cemetery of Arenys de Mar, where his memories are still alive. Since 1987 the town houses the Salvador Espriu Center of Documentation and Studies.

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  • The coastal village of Arenys de Mar, which inspired the myth of Sinera (by ACN)