The Paseo de los Cipreses and other areas of the Generalife left Juan Ramón Jiménez “wounded by beauty” during the visit he made in 1924 at the invitation of Lorca.
The Alhambra and the Generalife are linked to García Lorca for many historical reasons. But the Generalife and, in particular, the Paseo de los Cipreses (Promenade of the Cypress Trees) and the Escalera del Agua (Water Staircase), have a link that dates back to the summer of 1924, when Juan Ramón Jiménez, accompanied by his wife Zenobia Camprubí, visited Granada perhaps for the first and only time and was fascinated and “wounded” by so much beauty.
The couple arrived, after multiple invitations from Federico, at the end of June. Juan Ramón before Zenobia. They stayed at the Hotel París, located at the beginning of the Gran Vía. Zenobia left for Madrid at the beginning of July, but the poet from Huelva stayed until the middle of that month and then traveled to Seville and from there to Madrid.
The fruit of Juan Ramón’s stay in Granada was the book Forgetfulness of Granada, a mixture of memories, prose, evocations and letters, as well as some famous photographs of the group on the Promenade of the Cypress Trees and in the Partal Gardens.
“Granada has caught my heart. I’m like wounded, like convalescent. There I did not realize so much. It is true that I am very passive, a slave to beauty (…). Then comes the enormous pathetic reaction. I feel a real physical discomfort and sometimes I have to run away from myself, in her, and think of something else. At night and during the siesta, especially, this beautiful discomfort is aggravated in the form of nostalgia,” he wrote recently arrived in Madrid to Isabel García Lorca, then a girl of 11 years old who seduced the poet of Moguer with her innocence and to whom he dedicated the ballad entitled Generalife. “For the Little Fairy of the Generalife,” he says in the heading.
The result of that stay in Granada was the book Forgetfulness of Granada, a mixture of memories, prose, evocations and letters related to that visit, as well as some famous photographs of the group in the Promenade of the Cypress Trees and in the Partal Gardens, the spaces that attracted the most visitors.
Isabel García Lorca left a detailed account in her memoirs of the visit, full of chiaroscuros, of Juan Ramón and Zenobia. The poet from Moguer stayed in Granada for almost a month at the Hotel París, which no longer exists. Juan Ramón, who was a few days ahead of Zenobia, traveled on the night train with Federico and Francisco García Lorca. Just by the smell, Francisco recounted, he was guessing what the fields they passed through were planted with. The next day he went to Lorca’s house, who lived on Acera del Casino, where a year earlier Federico, Falla and Hermenegildo Lanz had staged the famous Christmas puppet show.
On the first outing, by horse-drawn carriage, they went to the Alhambra. Granada, then, was reasonably unpopulated by tourists. “The days before Zenobia’s arrival,” writes Isabel, “she stayed to eat with us; simply because it was lunchtime and she wouldn’t leave.” The afternoons were spent touring the palaces and the Generalife. “This was repeated almost every day. I think Juan Ramón was completely happy in Granada. We would go to the El Polinario, father of Ángel Barrios, in that delightful little patio where Federico went so much,” Isabel recounts. They also visited Manuel de Falla’s house.
The personal impressions of Juan Ramón Jiménez were exposed in the letter he wrote to Zenobia from the ungrateful hotel in Granada: “The Lorcas have shuddered with me these days and I hardly come to the hotel except to sleep because the noise continues as on the first day, and the heat, for three days, has been truly unbearable. They have taken me to new delightful places: La Vega, cheerful and fragrant and fresh; the Bola de Oro, the most beautiful for me of the Granada landscape, with aspects of Florence, Rome, the Pyrenees, Seville…; and this Verbena de San Pedro, of which it is not possible to give an idea in a letter like this”.
Before the misunderstandings could spoil the courteous atmosphere of the visit, in November of the same year, once the beauty of Granada had been digested, Juan Ramón Jiménez sent Isabel the ballad Generalife “that I made in August for her, in exchange for a precious portrait”, a poem of singular importance in Juan Ramón’s work full of light and transparency where the garden and the water are twinned with the background of the Generalife to create “the greatest lyrical monument to water” in our history.
At the time of the visit, Leopoldo Torres Balbás, an institutionalist friend of Fernando de los Ríos, had been appointed head of the Alhambra. The Lorca family became close friends with Balbas. However, the architect, a newcomer, did not pay much attention to the City Hall’s head gardener, Fernando Vílchez, also a friend of Federico and Falla. Juan Ramón listened to the comments of that controversy and, back in Madrid, wrote a very harsh article against Torres Balbás in El Sol signed, under a pseudonym, by a friend of his, the poet Siderico García Laorta. “My parents considered it a betrayal. With this our relationship with Juan Ramón Jiménez cooled, but not with Torres Balbás because Juan Ramón was always considered a man of very bad intentions”. The Lorcas and the Jiménez did not meet again until years later.
This was not the only clash between the Lorca family and Juan Ramón Jiménez. Years later, in the Lyric Caricatures, Juan Ramón dedicated to Federico a semblance where his famous bad temper reappears: Federico, he writes, “has done nothing but drop green fruit here and there, very few his own and of no fundamental value. His friends, boys mostly incapable of criticism, and in whom he reigns with evident superiority, come and go after him, ready for all the applause and all the concessions. And the years go by, nothing has yet curdled in Lorca, who must be around 30, reclining in the gold and pink mirages of the easy triumphs of the café and the Residence”.
The Hotel París where Juan Ramón Jiménez and Zenobia Camprubí stayed, despite being located at number 3 Gran Vía, did not meet the minimum conditions that such a sensitive person needed to reside in a city so full of lyricism. According to his hosts, JRJ was always complaining about how bad, how dirty, how disgusting his hotel was and how sick to his stomach he was. Such was his apprehension that breakfast was sent to him daily on a tray by Emilia Llanos, a friend of the Lorcas who lived near the hotel.
The book Forgetfulness of Granada has had different editions and its content has increased since the Mexican edition of 1944-1945 typed by the author. Among the additions are the Other Forgetfulness of Granada that the poet from Huelva wanted to include in an Argentine edition and that was rescued by Miguel Ángel Vázquez Medel for publishing in the Libros de la Estrella (Star Books) collection of the Diputación de Granada.
The entry dedicated in Forgetfulness to Manuel de Falla perfectly sums up the relationship between the composer and Granada: “He went to Granada for silence and time, and Granada gave him harmony and eternity”.
…Hablan las aguas y lloran…
[The waters speak and cry]
bajo las adelfas blancas;
[under the white oleanders;]
bajo las adelfas rosas,
[under the pink oleanders,]
lloran las aguas y cantan,
[the waters cry and sing,]
por el arrayán en flor,
[for the myrtle in bloom,]
sobre las aguas opacas.
[over the opaque waters.]
¡Locura de canto y llanto,
[Madness of singing and crying,]
de las almas, de las lágrimas!
[of souls, of tears!]
Entre las cuatro paredes,
[Between the four walls,]
Penan, las llamas, las aguas;
[Suffering, the flames, the waters;]
las almas hablan y lloran,
[souls speak and cry,]
las lágrimas olvidadas;
las aguas cantan y lloran,
[the waters sing and cry,]
las emparedadas almas.
[the walled souls.]
…¡Por allí la están matando!…
[They are killing her over there!]
¡Por allí se la llevaban!
[They were taking her there!]
—Desnuda se la veía.
[—She could be seen naked.]
¡Corred, corred, que se escapan!
[“Run, run, they’re running away!”]
—Y el alma quiere salirse,
[—And the soul wants to get out,]
mudarse en mano de agua,
[move in the water,]
acudir a todas partes
con palabra desatada,
[with unleashed words,
hacerse lágrima en pena,
[make a tear in sorrow,]
en las aguas, con las almas…—
[in the waters, with the souls … —]
¡Las escaleras arriba!
[The stairs up!]
¡No, la escalera bajaban!
[No, the ladder went down!]
—¡Qué espantosa confusión
[—What dreadful confusion]
de almas, de aguas, de lágrimas;
[of souls, of waters, of tears;]
qué amontonamiento pálido
[what a pale heap]
de fugas enajenadas!
[of alienated leaks!]
- Juan Ramón Jiménez. Forgetfulness of Granada. Edited by Miguel Ángel Vázquez Medel. Diputación de Granada, 2002.
- Isabel García Lorca. My Memories. Tusquets. Barcelona, 2002.
- Miguel Ángel Vázquez Medel. Juan Ramón Jiménez and Federico García Lorca . Academia de Buenas Letras of Granada.
- Lorca´s location
- current location
- Paseo del Generalife, s/n
- 958 027 971
- DETAILS OF THE VISIT
There is a specific type of ticket to visit the Alhambra Gardens, which gives access to the Generalife and other areas of the monument. Official website for purchasing tickets.
From APRIL 1 TO OCTOBER 14
From Monday to Sunday, from 8.30a.m. to 8p.m.
From OCTOBER 15 TO MARCH 31
From Monday to Sunday, from 8:30a.m. to 6:00p.m.