Lluís Amiguet, 13/02/2021
Ian Gibson, biographer of Lorca, Dalí, Buñuel; publishes ‘Towards the Iberian Federal Republic’
Age? I’ve grown up reading and listening to everyone and it’s easy here, even if they scream and don’t listen to you. I am a Celtiberian: we Irish are, even if lost in the north. I dream of an Iberian Republic, a kind of What a big mistake to want to have only one culture!
It is refreshing to hear the Hispanist Ian Gibson talking about his dream of reconciling, federating and, finally, uniting without homogenizing the four great Iberian peoples: Catalan, Galician-Portuguese, Castilian and Basque in an EU increasingly integrated and prosperous. It is a romantic dream – I point it to him and he concedes – but one that emanates from the reality lived in his experience of half a century of research in the universal footsteps of Lorca, Dalí, Buñuel and Machado throughout the Peninsula. How many opportunities, celebrates a Gibson in love with this tail from Europe, to learn our Iberian languages and enjoy Joan Maragall, Pessoa, Lorca … Why reduce our identity to one?
– How many years have you been living in Spain?
– Already established living here, since 1978.
– Half a century, and the Spaniards have aged over these years: have they matured?
– No people mature if they do not know their history, and I am afraid that many Spaniards do not want to know the real one. As a recipe to ripen, read; read a lot; and more, history.
– And what would our history tell us?
– That we Iberians have four souls: the Catalan, the Castilian, the Galician-Portuguese and the Basque. If we combine them, we will live together, ergo we will live better with shared prosperity.
– Did you say “we Iberians have”?
– Because the Irish are also Celts, so we share with the Spaniards that Celtiberian identity present throughout the Peninsula and its place names: the Irish are, after all, Celtiberians lost in the north.
– Welcome, Fáilte abhaile, dear Ian!
– And how comfortable I feel in this fabulous territory of Roman, Goth, Celtic, Phoenician, Arab, Jewish crossbreeds…! How lucky you are here in Catalonia to be Iberian and to have Catalan and Spanish and to be born with two languages that are yours if you want! I learn them.
– There is no better fraternal neuro-gymnastics.
– That is why I regret the closure of reducing myself to having a single identity, like the one painted in a town: “Here we are only Catalan”.
– They are entitled to do so, but why so much purism?
In that graffiti appears that same obsession –so unfortunately Spanish– with the purity of blood and culture that already is present in Lope de Vega’s Peribáñez, who proclaims his clean blood “never stained with Moorish or Hebrew”.
– Catalan, Castilian, Basque, Galician-Portuguese Iberia … Don’t you leave aside other autonomies?
Outside of those four souls, the truth is that they are just redundant administrative gizmos and also very expensive to maintain.
– What shape would you give to this new Iberia?
– An Iberian Federal Republic. And I do not improvise: Joan Maragall, Pessoa or Ribera i Rovira agreed on that formula, in their splendid Iberisme … And, as you know, Lluís Companys came to proclaim it from the Generalitat … .
– .. “The Catalan Republic inside the Iberian Federation” … If I remember well.
– And it is still the current solution for the coexistence of the four great Iberian nations.
– Some Catalans do not feel Iberian for having been a Carolingian Hispanic brand.
– It is as difficult to dialogue with a close-minded pro-independence fellow as with the neo-Franco right. Some abhor all identity and language that is not Catalan and, especially, Castilian and others repudiate our splendid Arab heritage … What a great mistake!
– You claim to be a Celtiberian by name … And by surname?
– I am a romantic, like Gerald Brenan.
– And like their republic, wouldn’t Portugal refuse to lose its independence as well?
No, because it would not lose sovereignty. What I propose is to create a kind of Iberian Benelux, united in everything except in maintaining each one its culture and language, within an increasingly federated Europe.
– What would the Portuguese contribute to that Iberian identity?
– From them, the rest of the Iberians could learn from them to listen and be silent, as the Galician scholar García-Sabell has already pointed out. In Spain everyone talks at the same time and nobody listens to anyone.
– You are a biographer of Dalí. Do you share his thesis of “anal retention” of the Catalans?
– Dalí told me that they were chronic anal-retentive guys: always saving, withholding …
– Here we say ‘squeezing ass’.
– And he told me that that explained the caganer. culture… Anyway, I guess that is coming from the Phoenicians.
– It is an honor. Are there no republics like Albania and monarchies like Denmark?
– I am a republican and I believe that Spain, too, but I recognize that a monarchy can work well and a republic, badly.
– Why do we lose reason in favor of identity? Why does the tribe always return?
– It is the trend not only of Catalonia and the Iberian peoples but of all humans.
– Do you have a remedy?
There is no other solution than learning, learning and learning since you are a child, learning to think. And doubting, as Machado taught his students. Put my photo in Cotlliure.
– Learning by reading?
– And talking especially with those who do not think like you. And I’ve noticed that no one here takes notes on anything. In other countries, when a book is recommended to you, it is good manners to write it down. I always do it. And take notice of the immense archaeological legacy of so many peoples and cultures under your soil.
– You have been a biographer of Lorca, Dalí, Machado and Buñuel. Who would you go to live with?
– I am living with Lorca. He was a genius of the word. There is not a day when I don’t think about him.
– Right now? Let’s go! Quote him!
– Not long ago it was snowing over Madrid and at dawn I remembered his verse from the Romancero Gitano: “And the smooth gong of the snow” … And that’s when I listened to it with Federico.