We just left Barcelona.
My grandfather was originally from Barcelona; I believe that his family home was in the neighbourhood of Barceloneta. After the civil war he, my grandmother (from the Catalonian country) and their young child (my uncle) left Spain for good and moved to Argentina. This was a two week boat trip back then, as I understand it, and they never went back to Spain together. My grandfather did manage to go back exactly once to see his dying father, that time by plane, and that was it.
I loved visiting my grandparents’ flat when I was a kid. My grandfather was a reserved man, but kind and cultured (is that the proper word, I wonder — there’s probably a better one, one without the layer of pretense, more familiar, but I can’t think of it now). I loved going up to his library and thumbing through his books, some of which became my favourites even before I could read them.
On this train leaving Barcelona for Malaga I thought of an image that I got used to seeing in their home, and that now hangs in my mother’s home. It’s an image of Jesus holding a book that says “Ego Sum Lux Mundi” (I am the light of the world) in Romanic style. It’s pretty well known as far as Romanic icons go — it’s got a name that slips my mind right now, but the internet connection right now is so poor I cannot really search for it in Google. It’s in the National Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, which is just beautiful, and I saw it a few days ago; I always see it when I visit Barcelona.
My grandfather was, as far as I can tell, not a religious man. I wonder if the image could have belonged to my grandmother, but somehow it seems unlikely; she liked Catalan music and customs, but I don’t remember her having any other historic or cultural objects around. If it was his, I think, perhaps he liked it at least partly because it reminded him of Barcelona and its National Museum in Montjuic. The image comes from a church in the Catalonian countryside and was there until the early 20th century, but must have been in the museum already when my grandfather visited it.
In some ways I’m probably the way I am (a bit bookish, a bit reserved) because of how my grandfather was. Unfortunately my grandfather was, according to accounts I’ve gotten since he died, a bit of a male chauvinist. He thought women belonged at the side of a husband, and didn’t support my mother and her plans to continue her education even after they had supported my uncle’s. I like to think that he was this way because he was a product of the society he was raised in, and the education he got, and that he would have perhaps even become a different person if he were around now. But he died around in 1993, so I’ll never know.