I think I was about thirteen when I heard flamenco guitarist extraordinaire Carlos Montaya performing Malagueña.
Here’s Pepe Romero performing it:
The experience of hearing Carlos steered me to a musical path that I followed fervently for many years.
Later, much later, I turned to writing historical fiction. After discovering an ancient copy of the Times of London, May 12, 1937, I published a novel about what was happening in Europe in 1937.
Here’s a scene from my story, published in the novel Smoke, in which the main character, a young American businessman, Philip, is in a French tavern on the Mediterranean coast hearing a report about the war in Spain. The tavern scene is inspired by Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which he wrote before he penned 1984. Orwell had traveled to Spain as a volunteer, fighting, as Hemingway also did, for the government of Spain. These nationalists were resisting Generalissimo Franco’s fascist army who were being proxy-supported by Mussolini and Hitler.
The situation in Spain was similar to what is now happening in Ukraine, with a fiercely determined Madrid government resisting the destructive attack of a dictator’s invasion.
In this scene from Smoke, the woman who is speaking, Plia, is an intrepid nationalist whose fighting husband had been captured by the Franco fascists. Her character was inspired by Hemingway’s “Pilar” in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Sitting in the tavern, Plia speaks as Philip listens:
“I suppose when a man has something once, always something remains,” the woman said. She was speaking of her husband, who now was confined to a prison in Barcelona. The “something” that remains of Geraldo Kopa could not be known, since neither his condition nor the accusation against him had yet been revealed by the PSUC, or Partit Comunista, which seemed now to be more and more in charge of the Spanish government.
Philip was listening intently to the imprisoned Comandante’s wife, Plia, whose seasoned voice now issued from between her dark lips like slow smoke from some craggy Pyrennic cave, and the smoke enveloped her words in clouds of cynical hindsight.
Whatever it is inside a man that compels him to lead ragged, ill-equipped militias onto the frosty plateaus of Aragon and require those soldiers to hold a front line against trained fascist battalions — whatever it is that sustains him through such war, and then strengthens his resolve to do what is right — even even after his anti-fascist comrades have unjustly thrown the brave comandante into a dark prison; “Always something remains,” Plia was saying, as lamplight glowed on the taut skin of her high Castillian cheekbones, while the cigarette shrouded her obscure hope in pathos.
Later on in life, Pat and managed to visit Spain, thank God. While we were there we visited a Flamenco club where we witnessed this passionate dancer, accompanied by Flamenco musicians.
At that moment, you might say my Flamenco fantasy, having begun long ago while hearing Carlos Montoya, came full circle, to passionate reality.