Experiencia y pobreza. Walter Benjamin en Ibiza
PenĂnsula, 2001 - PerifĂ©rica, 2017
FIVE KEYS TO THE BOOK
1.- Popular Mediterranean architecture. Walter Benjaminâs arrival in Ibiza in 1932 coincided with the âdiscoveryâ of rural Ibizan housing by the young GATCPAC architects (Association of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture), under the auspices of Josep LluĂs Sert (who also visited the island in 1932). This secular approach to construction had a major influence on the groupâs own projects and was unveiled to the world at the 9th International Modern Architecture Congress staged in Athens in 1933, leading Le Corbusier to announce âan extraordinarily interesting Mediterranean awakeningâ in search of the common roots of modern architecture. Benjamin lived in one such rural dwelling during his first stay on the island, using it as a springboard for his observations on architecture in general.
2.- The storyteller. In Ibiza, Walter Benjamin thought long and hard on âthe art of storytellingâ, penning a few short pieces on the subject that would later go on to inspire his widely acclaimed essay âThe Storytellerâ. Not only that, he himself became a storyteller. He wrote seven short stories, all set on the island, as well as the lionâs share of his autobiographical novel Berlin Chronicle and several chapters of Berlin Childhood Circa 1900. It could therefore be said that literature took precedence over philosophy during his time in Ibiza. Among the many other brief pieces on a variety of subjects that are analysed in this book, his island period also saw him write literary reviews for the German media, as well as his essays The Present Social Situation of the French Writer, Experience and Poverty and On the Mimetic Faculty.
3.- The Nazi âSecretaryâ. In the summer of 1933, the first Nazi visitors arrived in Ibiza (on holiday), alongside Jews fleeing Germany in search of a place in which to settle. Benjamin struck up a friendship with a young man named Max Versphol, who a few short months later (in the autumn of 1933) would lead the SS Hamburg Division. Benjamin got to know the ideas of this young man, who, in the writerâs own words, performed âsecretarialâ tasks for him in Ibiza (mainly copying manuscripts, and occasionally safeguarding them at the philosopherâs request), and yet they continued to correspond at least until 1934, since it is known that Versphol helped him out financially on the island. But Versphol was not the only Nazi with whom Benjamin had dealings in Ibiza: on his arrival in 1932, he met Jokisch, a peculiar character who went on to become the protagonist of one of his Ibizan stories: âThe Cactus Hedgeâ.
4.- Blaupot, his last love. In the summer of 1933 Benjamin met Anna Maria Blaupot Ten Cate, a Dutch painter with whom he fell in love, sharing his last days on the island with her.
5.- A fashionable island. Ibiza made a name for itself at that time, becoming a fashionable spot. Between 1933 and 1936, the island welcomed artists and writers such as Raoul Hausmann, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, GisĂšle Freund, Florence Henri (with whom Benjamin coincided), Albert Camus, Rafael Alberti, MarĂa Teresa LeĂłn, Jacques PrĂ©vert, Esteban Vicente, Wols, Soledad MartĂnezâŠ The book is also an account of that heady time, when ancient and modern coexisted side by side. Among the more bizarre examples was the visit to the island paid by General Francisco Franco, newly appointed General Commander of the Balearic Islands. On 6 May 1933, the Generalâs retinue passed in front of the philosopherâs house.