'My world is what you see'
L'emperuer des morts bporcel]
Los argonautas porcel
Bporcel la novella de la vida1
Springs and autumns bporcel111
When summer comes, Baltasar Porcel can be found at home in Andratx, Majorca near the isle of La Dragonera. When it's the hottest, he takes to the house that he built himself on the primitive rock of Can Bolei. Porcel lives in Barcelona and travels widely, but his creativity derives from his Majorcan origins. We talk beneath the sparse pines, the cicadas droning angrily.

Baltasar Porcel speaks with Oriol Pi de Cabanyes, director of the Catalan Academy of Letters.

This island, Majorca, has been your real foundation.

Yes, I feel linked to the land. My world is what you see: the valley of Can Bolei, the almond trees, the sea in the background with all of its history.

It seems that yours is a world of sensations and not of ideas.

The fact is whenever I've had ideas I've been wrong. On the other hand, when I let myself be guided by my instincts I've gotten on better.... Look, I've come to a conclusion: all the ideas that I know work, with perfect logic, in the same way as their opposites. And so nothing happens.... They're just as good. It seems to me that to busy yourself with ideas is a gratuitous exercise. Geometry, yes, because it responds in some part to the laws of nature. The perfection of the form of a crystal hidden for hundreds of centuries in a piece of coal. Decidedly, yes, I'm with Heraclitus.

Doesn't the charm lie in understanding that Parmenides was also right? The world of physics and chemistry, in all of its many facets, must be both eternal and changing, depending on how you look at it.

Yes, I observe that there are forces that are at the same time diverse and unified.... Look, everybody talks about ecology. What does that mean? It's the system of that world which really counts in the end. The clouds which ride the wind; water, which gives life; your state of mind, esthetics... everything influences, everything.

Does Porcel place himself in the cave of our time, but not through a system of thought which imagines an exterior objectivity in the Platonic manner?

No, Porcel sharpens his senses in order to attune himself to every moment in accord with its changes. It is enough for him to refine his attention through his senses. And he goes through the world with all the security that his well-placed antennae give him. In spite of what he says, however, our writer is a man of ideas. But careful! This does not mean fixed ideas.

As a creator of opinion, through a newspaper as important as La Vanguardia of Barcelona, you still have a taste for the polemic, to go against the crowd, that is to say, against mental routines.

I had the luck of having an education in hope. Thanks to my mother, who is an abominable product of my poor, intractable world of Andratx. And furthermore, I lived one stage of my life, from fourteen to eighteen or nineteen, given over to a faith, taking as my dwelling the Catholic tradition. This gave me a great ascetic sense of life. Praying, not sinning. This has served me well, very well, in life.

I'd like to mention the rich contradictions in the personality of the father in The Golden Apples (Les pomes d 'or). And in Summertime and Autumn (Les primaveres i les tardors), Baltasar's mother surprises us with a leg of lamb garnished with recently-picked string beans. We eat it under the pergola. Ah! The delights of tradition!

I feel very connected to a family tradition, to a family. Not as a rhetorical fact, but dialectically, because I loved it and I hated it at the same time. My tradition is what made me, and at the same time something against which I've had to rebel.

The honor of not betraying yourself demands these fidelities, but it must also demand rebellion, ruptures.

Honor has to do with education and the law. And here we could never have it. We have been very poor people. We haven't been conventionally educated. And when the law was present it was always against us. The same weakness has kept us from developing our own code. We are a proud people, I suppose, like all the ignorant. We are proud of being something really absurd.

I'd like to ask you about your experience of the Law with a capital letter.

I think it's valid for others, but not when it's against you. And I see it that way because I can't be any other way. Everything is coincidence, nothing is law. They haven't educated you for anything, no important mission; they've educated you for anonymity. And when you don't have anything, you rebel, because the law is against you. Or if you conform, you're the cow tied up in the manger, with music, so you'll give more milk.

Manuel Ibánez Escofet said recently: 'A country is like a big family, and you have to accept it as your own family, including the crazy aunt, the deaf grandfather, the stingy father, the inept cousin. . .'

Not at all! I don't accept any of that. Let them die! The family made me, yes, but I am what I am, and that fact makes me rebel against it. No more assuming the weight of the past! Let them die! You are a world which comes from a certain environment, yes, but you can choose your destiny and achieve it.

And to choose this destiny and make it yours you have to fight....

Exactly. It's the least one can ask: not to sit still with your arms folded.

You're a man of passions. You are moved, in a deeply-rooted way, by the restlessness of the struggle for survival.

Yes, I haven't found any other way to live other than fighting. Nobody has ever given me anything without a struggle. Yes, you fight to get ahead, to break out of your limitations, to complete your work....

Baltasar Porcel has always been determined to achieve his own individuality, to make his own life, to triumph, act by act. He reacted rather against the attitudes of the people who have inhabited these confines through the centuries. Against their routines, their fears, their shortness of vision.

It leaves me a little bewildered when I see man's terrible struggle to survive. Yes, even here at Can Bolei, where we are now. Look, I built a house. When night falls you can see dozens of lights here, where before everything was dark. The darkness smothers the bright possession of the world. And I have defeated it by painting dozens of meters of wall white. And I'm happy, because this is also part of my work.

You've made this land yours, not only rhetorically.

Yes. See these almond trees? They have suffered a cosmic thirst. But I dug a well and now I draw as much water as I want. It won't run out. You too can make your own land, your own family. Here I started my first novel, my first play.... Everything speaks to me here. And at the same time, it's a testimony to my struggle against the species.

Vicens Vives said that one of the characteristics of the Catalans is that they have a tenacious "will to be". But what if this "will to be" is no more than the manifestation of the consciousness of "not being" that against which one rebels? Seen like this, the "will to be" is no longer the simple 'will to live," but to "feel oneself live" freely, with plenty, and without external impositions.

To me everything seems more simple than that. There is a very strong drive toward well-being; well-being understood as the desire of every person to feel himself a member of the 'primordial part of history." Yes, the aspiration of the majority is very simple: to live well, have social benefits, have the problems of life solved for them. But these facilities do no more than whet your inner nerve. It's better depersonalize, it's more comfortable. And everybody wants to be spoon fed; they think that things drop from heaven, just because they should.

You say that everybody has only one life to live and that things don't get done by themselves, but that doesn't seem very reasonable, does it?

Reason? What good is it? Applied to everyday life, perhaps to make a traffic code so there are fewer accidents...or to learn to add and subtract. But reason, as a way to understand life: what does it have to do with the great questions of the planet? What does it have to do with space, for example? This very night, if y ou pay attention, you'll see a star that went out millions of years ago. And tomrrow you might be dead....

You are very interested in history

Yes. I'm reading Michelet at the moment. I've read a lot of history. The Greek classics, beginning with Homer, the Roman historians.... Ah! And I mustn't forget the history of my people, which that Joanillo left us. It's a history of pirates and smugglers, a history of subsistence--ours--without greater events than the conquest of King Jaume I. He landed on that beach.

You explain this in your book By the Sea (Arran de mar), and also in A Trip to the Smaller Balearics (Viatge a les Balears menors), works about these Balearic Islands which you later collected under the title The Enchanted Isles (Les illas encantadas).

Yes, it's my world. The Mediterranean has a lot of important things: the climate, the light, the aridity, the sea which shines in the sun. But for many centuries this has been a world in decadence. Until now the dominant model has been a society directed by the "objective - reason of science and technology. There is no doubt that this more Nordic vision of the cosmos has played an important role. But I think this stage is over now. It has accomplished its task. And now we're in better condition than before to move forward to other visions. And it's the Mediterranean we have to discover, although it seems obvious: to live well, in accord with nature.

Once humanity believes itself to be on the road to solving forever the most elemental questions of physical subsistence, we'll have to work for improvement in the quality of life.

I would say the idea of paradise on earth is coming back. And in a more concrete way than in all the theories known up till now. Man is beginning to use well-being to return to nature. And for this, where better can you find yourself than in the Mediterranean? The greatest concentration of art in the world is here, in the Mediterranean and in China, probably.

Until now, the history of western thought has been full of dogmas, but now it seems that an interest in the pre-Socratics is returning.

The Mediterranean signifies the opening of the spirit, communication with a nature which is not hostile, but of which you and I are a part. And it also means the positive value of fragmentation. Until now, diversity has been considered a symptom of decadence. It wasn't interested in the logic of mass production, which puts first the quantity and not the quality of products, of experiences. Today diversity seems rather a great wealth which we must preserve and stimulate.

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