The Spanish Riveter: Postcard from Galicia by Inma López Silva, translated by Alice Banks

To be different is to exist. One hundred years ago, that phrase, taken from a book by Vicente Risco, was the motto that encapsulated Galician culture’s raison d’être, as well as its right not to depend on its metropolis, Spain, with its all-powerful language. But it was not only the Galician language that provided us a room of our own, our distinctive nature also allowed us to build ourselves a community, a nation, and a space in which to explain the world.

Galicia – even by way of its name which, like the Gaul of Goscinny & Uderzo, comes from the Indo-European etymon gal-, which meant ‘fortress’ – has always been an exotic area on the edge of the empires that have subdued it over the centuries. Encircled by sea and mountains, Galicia has always been seen as a more or less impenetrable bastion, inhabited by beings able to live between legend and reality as naturally as they inhabit the vague border between life and death. That’s why literature is the raison d’être of this Atlantic corner of Europe, a land more similar in landscape and character to Ireland and Brittany than anywhere else.

To maintain our aura of a strong and unconquerable people, we Galicians have created a whole literature, one that has elevated us. We built ourselves from a mountain, the Medulio, and started a rebellion against Rome and even defied the laws of Newtonian physics: only here do stone boats float. And those same boats brought us Santiago the Apostle, who founded Compostela. And that city would not exist without its legend, just like so many other places in Galicia.

George Borrow, one of the first foreign travellers to write about Galicia, has also described us as storytellers. He dedicated a chapter of his curious book The Bible in Spain, published in 1843, to this corner of the peninsula. He arrived by sea, ravaged by storms and swells, but was fascinated by the sudden calm of the estuaries, the strange coastal phenomenon we have here. Just another of our legendary rarities immortalised in photos and poems.

In some ways, we are still exotic. This is the reason that the world, from time to time, turns its eyes towards the Galicia recounted in the rich literature that acts as its letter of introduction. Thousands of people have discovered our difference through the elegant poetry of Olga Novo or the detective novels of Domingo Villar. Our writing, existing because it is different, is today the calling card of a people whose fiction nourishes them like their blood. We are that way. Our flesh is literature. And Galicia is a place where – fortunately – reality is stranger than fiction.

By Inma López Silva

Translated by Alice Banks

Read The Spanish Riveter here or order your paper copy from here.

Buy books from The Spanish Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Spanish Riveter page.

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