Books on Ibiza
by Martin Davies
Eva Lis Wuorio (Part Two)
back to the webpage that uncovers the real Ibiza. For bookworms, that is. As we
live in the age of the sound bite, let's kick off with a few titles which have
recently caught my eye:
1. Shit, man! A French
hippie novel set on Ibiza. It won the prestigious Prix de Deux Magots in 1972
and was even translated into Spanish (published in Buenos Aires - not Franco's
2. Dedicado a los que no saben y a
los que no pueden leer: observaciones y notas en Ibiza (Dedicated to
those who don't know and those who can't read', 1987). Written by someone who
doesn't really know how to write. Published in Valencia.
Wenn Fische malen können (If Fish Could Paint', 2000). A familiar
theme this: jilted husband goes to Ibiza to find himself' and becomes a
porn star instead.
4. The Terrible Door (1964).
This has only three pages about Ibiza (pp. 39-42), partly lifted from the account
by Norman Lewis in his classic travel compilation, The Changing Sky (1959).
The story is rather curious and nicely turned: rare bookdealer is on the trail
of the notorious Ibiza letters' of sub-Oscar Wilde literary fugitive, who
was on the island at the beginning of the twentieth century. On Ibiza he checks
out the writer's Castle', a tower next to a beach beyond Santa Eulalia (shades
of Benjamin, or Robin Maugham, perhaps). The terrible door' is better known
these days as the terrible closet'.
Knight Has Died. (1963) This is about as literary as it gets, and also more
than a touch self-pitying. The author, Cees Nooteboom, is one of the great names
in Dutch letters, but this is definitely not his Don Quixote. Not recommended,
unless you absolutely have to read everything ever published about Ibiza.
They Are Ruining Ibiza (1998). No, not a long-overdue UNESCO report, but a
novella by a Texan literary academic. Again, it features a porn starlet, but I
won't say more in case you're tempted to buy it. Funny in parts. Could the publishers
please, please hire billboards for this title in front of the Consell Insular,
the parliament buildings in Palma, Madrid and Brussels and the United Nations
HQs in New York and Geneva?
7. Yoni (a spiral-bound
book, date ca. 2000. The title means C**t' in Sanskrit). This is definitely
one for bibliomaniacs of the hippie generation. The author, Bruce C. Stratton,
has also written The Last Boat to Barcelona (also spiral bound) which contains
the memorable sentence: "I heard one woman remark that she had been judged
legally insane in New York but since coming to Ibiza five years ago she hadn't
had any problems."
8. The Gossip Pines:
an Ibiza Country Journal (1994). Includes excellent recipes for boiled
and roasted hedgehog. As for that title, in our country [Scotland] custom
requires that you tell all your family news to the bees, the Ibizencos tell it
to the pines: every birth, every death, every marriage must be announced to them
this small island is a storehouse of Mediterranean history, trapped
in the memory of its trees.' Interesting theory.
Is Harry on the Boat? (1997). Londoner Colin Butts' début about holiday
reps in Ibiza had the whole island buzzing, not just for its well-turned plot
but just as much for the racy title, which is rhyming slang: Harry = Harry Monk,
and Boat = Boat race. If race' stands for face', what on earth could
Monk' stand for? (Clue: it's the same colour as the isla blanca.)
the end of the first article we took a look at The Island of Fish in the Trees,
a children's book in which two girls dressed in party frocks wander around Formentera
in search of a GP to mend a broken doll. The author, Eva-Lis Wuorio, moved in
her childhood to Toronto from Viipuri, an ancient walled city in Finland, hence
her unusual surname and perfect command of English. The sound and love of
the sea never left her' says a biographical note, so when she went to work as
a journalist in Europe, Ibiza became her base, followed at a later stage by Jersey.
Ibiza History Culture readers who recall José Ribas's articles (Weekly Editions 051
and 052 of 16th and 23rd February 2002) about barruguets (local mischief-making
imps) will be interested to hear that her second book is entitled Tal and the
Magic Barruget (1965).
Eva-Lis Wuorio with
Sandy in El Caballo Negro (Sandy's Bar)
Santa Eulària (Early 1960s)
Tal is an eight-year-old
boy, born in New York to a Canadian mother and Welsh father, the former now dead
five years. The father is an abstract painter who goes off to make documentary
films in far-flung corners of the globe, recalling the former profession of long-term
resident Rolph Blakstad, better known as an architect and expert on Ibicencan
culture. On this particular occasion the person left in charge is a sweet old
grannie called Bruja Vieja (Old Witch'), who dresses in Sabbath black, has
a large beak-like nose and likes to dabble in magic. The first thing she does
is summon a barruguet from the oleanders in the river-bed to do the household
chores. The diligent goblin soon makes it plain that his stomach is every bit
as big as his gigantic pointy ears, so the fat, so to speak, is in the pan. Without
revealing too much of the plot, readers can rest assured that dramatic tension
is balanced with plenty of feel-good detail. In The Island of Fish in the Trees,
the Formenterans were delighted to help the girls in their quest for the doctor,
while in Tal it is the residents of Wuorio's home village of Santa Eulalia (in
spite of the book's cover, which depicts Ibiza Town) who form a sort of protective
blanket round the multilingual boy: even if he has lost his real mother, there
are several others ready to stand in at the drop of a sombrero. In both
books locals and foreigners form one big happy island community. Incidentally,
as folklorists may have noticed, the strange-looking fellow summoned from the
riverbed who constantly bellows Work or food!' is not a barruguet but
Back and front covers
of Eva-Lis Wuorio's book Tal and the Magic Barruget
In the same year
that Tal and the Magic Barruget was published in Ohio, a third children's
book about Ibiza saw the light of day in London, Pietro and the Mule by
Helen Cresswell and illustrated by Maureen Eckersley. Helen Cresswell is known
in her native Nottinghamshire and far beyond as a children's writer of definite
stature, so here's a small sample of her chiselled prose:
the Mediterranean Sea there is a little island called Ibiza. The sun is hot there,
so the reddish soil is dry and baked to a fine powder, and the only green is that
of the vines and olives on the slopes of the hills. Even this green is pale and
dusty, as if it had been faded by the sun. The peasant folk who toil in the fields
wear long black clothes to shield themselves from the glare, and when the sun
is overhead they drop their tools and lie in the shade, their straw hats tilted
down over their faces.
The book itself is
only eight inches high - perfect for junior laps and hands - and the paper has
a thick, creamy consistency which leaves the letters perfectly defined, begging
to be read. At every stage its production has been in the hands of people who
dream about font sizes and margins, agonize over different shades of ivory and
would sooner be hung, drawn and quartered than allow a misplaced inverted comma
to appear in print. Even the address of the firm's Edinburgh office (Tweeddale
Court) seems to have been chosen with a bookish attention to detail.
to the story: the protagonist is an Ibicenco boy who lives with his mother and
grandfather in Sa Penya, the fishermen's quarter below the ramparts of Dalt Vila.
When Granddad is taken to hospital with a back injury, money runs low forcing
Pietro to take responsibility for deliveries of fruit and vegetables by mule-cart.
The plot thickens when Amanda, a wily American who seems to have a lot in common
with Tal's barruguet, arrives on a cruise-boat. She jumps ship and gives
her unfortunate parents and Chief Policeman Alberto a string of severe panic attacks.
(Her surname, by the way, is Cunnington.) The entire town is eventually mobilized
to run her to ground, but I won't spoil the ending. There are nine ink drawings,
one of which was based on a photograph which originally appeared in the guidebook
This is Majorca (1964) and more recently in the photographic anthology edited
by your correspondent, Eivissa-Ibiza: A Hundred Years of Light and Shade
(2000). It shows Pietro standing on the quay just as the boat leaves. There is
one serious mistake in the book, a black mark it has to be said for both Helen
Cresswell and Nottinghamshire letters: Pietro is an Italian name. In nine years
on Ibiza, I have never come across it once.
Picture from This is Majorca
Photographer Cas Oorthuys
from Pietro and the Mule
By Helen Cresswell
Next week we move on to 1966 with Juanito of
the Tower, a children's book without a single obvious mistake in its title.
To sign off, an Arabic proverb, both because we're so close to the North African
coastline and because bibliomaniacs there are such highly-respected members of
A book in the pocket is a garden in the