Writer’s (cell) block

The never ending, but always friendly, rivalry between Sevilla and Granada seems to keep insinuating itself somehow into a wide variety of issues. Over the years, the two centers of Andalusian culture have stared off over questions small (Alhambra versus Cruz Campo beer?), medium (Who wears their entombment better, Ferdinad & Isabella or Columbus?), and world-sized (where did Flamenco begin?).

I have been here long enough that I unabashedly side with my fellow Granadinos. When tourist friends lavish praise on Sevilla, I usually agree, but also feel the “But what about…?” gurgling up in my throat. 

I recently discovered another competition, however, that touches me to the core: Which city inspires better writing?

The deafening roar you hear from Granadinos is “Lorca!”, the great 20th century poet, playwright, bon-vivant intimate friend of Salvador Dali who helped lead the Spanish “Generation of ‘27” into a literary Renaissance. He gave his life (though probably at the hands of fellow Granadinos) for using his works to protest social injustice and the rising tide of Fascism at home. Lorca was born and lived in Granada and the small surrounding villages; his voice was Granadino.

Surely, such a champion would be acknowledged as formidable even by the Sevillans. Then again, they would no doubt counter in calm confidence with the ultimate Spanish literary giant…Cervantes.

Miguel de Cervantes was not born in Sevilla (his family was originally from Cordoba, and may have even been Morisco converts during the Inquisition), but there is no doubt that Sevilla was Cervantes’ home for the greater (and greatest) part of his writing career.  From there, Cervantes not only became an accomplished writer of both stories and plays, but in Don Quixote he created the modern novel, modern satire, and a book that is second only to the Bible in translations and is often listed as the greatest novel ever written.

Such a true literary giant should make even Lorca bend a knee, and I was willing to concede Sevilla’s superior contribution to the world…until I learned something recently.

Cervantes, like most writers then (and now!) had a hard time getting by on just the profits from his writings, so he took other jobs, including at one point being a tax collector in the Granada area. In those days, a King’s tax collector did not collect from individuals so much as municipalities and banks. Cervantes, a man of letters, was apparently better with a quill in hand than a ledger, and unfortunately was duped and deceived by both local Granadinos and a bank as to the sufficiency of the money collected or the solvency of the bank involved.  Having a shortfall of money due to the crown, Cervantes was held responsible and did a stint in prison in Sevilla. It was during that incarceration that Cervantes came up with the idea of an incorruptible man out of sync with a corrupt world, which became the basis for Don Quixote!

So, while Sevilla may have provided Cervantes with quill and parchment, room and board, it was the (not so) good people of Granada that may have supplied the models of self-interested simplicity that was Sancho Panza, the true natural ladyship of Dulcinea, and perhaps even the stately animal character that was Rocinante.

On behalf of the sharps and scoundrels of Granada, we say to the world, “De nada.” 

Don Quixote by some guy named Picasso (He was born in Málaga so it’s unimportant)

2 thoughts on “Writer’s (cell) block”

  1. Oh, scoundrels! What I see from your findings is that Cervantes was earning his money in Granada, not so in Seville… Yeah, living artists seldom have a decent remuneration from their creations while alive and later their work gets rocketed in value.


Leave a Reply to Emilio Cancel reply