Tag-Archive for ◊ Enlightenment ◊

Author:
• Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Emili Rosales was born in 1968 in Spain’s Sant Carles de la Ràpita. He spent his childhood and adolescence in his home town before moving to Barcelona to study philology. He worked as a literature teacher and translator and currently is editor and contributor to the newspapers Avui and La Vanguardia. He lives in Barcelona and is a member of the Association of Catalan Language Writers.

Emili Rosales has written two poetry books:
Cities and Sea, published in 1989 and The Days and You, published in 1991.
He has also written four novels to date:
The Beach House, published in 1995, Lord of The Earth in 1997, While Barcelona sleeps in 1999 and The Invisible City in 2005.

The Invisible City became a best seller and has been translated into twenty five languages. The English version was published in 2009. It won the prestigious Catalan literary prize: The Sant Jordi Prize, was selected among the five best novels in Spain in 2006 and was short-listed in 2007 for the Prix Médicis Etranger in France.

Emili Rossell, the main character in the novel, is a young gallery owner in Barcelona, born and raised in Sant Carles de la Ràpita – like the author himself. One day he receives an anonymous parcel containing a copy of an 18th century manuscript written in Italian and entitled: The Memoirs of the Invisible City, written by Andrea Roselli, the Italian architect of king Charles III of Spain, who reigned from 1759 to 1788. This manuscript reawakens Rossell’s great childhood interest in the mystery of the so-called “Invisible City” in his home town, a riddle that even the adults around him couldn’t solve.

Emili Rossell mentions the invisible city of his “childhood games” out of the blue to his school friend, Armand Coll. After examining his encyclopedia, Armand informs his friend that: “Sant Carles de la Ràpita constitutes a mystery within the failed projects of the Enlightenment. It was first designed to be a grand, new city, but at some point the project came to a halt, no one knows exactly why… What was not yet a reality, soon became a pile of ruins. These are the ruins where you and your friends played and scattered pigeons”.

The author skillfully connects the past and present by constructing two parallel, intertwining plots in an architectural way. On the one hand, the aborted plans and unfulfilled dream of king Charles III of Spain and on the other hand, the remaining ruins of this ambitious scheme in the Ebro delta two centuries later. The relics of this unfinished work becomes the playground for the child, Emili Rossell and his friends, who are unaware of the history of these vestiges.

King Charles III’s biggest ambition was to replace Madrid with a new capital which he wanted built around the Ebro delta in Catalonia under the name of Sant Carles de la Ràpita. He wanted a similar city to the majestic Saint Petersburg, built by Peter the Great of Russia (1672-1725) on the banks of the Neva river.

This colossal plan does not materialise because of jealousy and political court intrigues. The senior royal court architect, Francesco Sabatini, who is put in charge of this gigantic project, takes the young Andrea Roselli under his wing. Everything changes when Sabatini discovers, through Tiepolo’s painting of Cecilia – intended as a present by her for her ex lover, Roselli – the romance between his wife, Cecilia and his trusted protégé.

In a jealous rage, Sabatini confronts Roselli and promises him that he will ensure that “his new city” will never exist, and “the privileges he had enjoyed so far will be taken from him”. Roselli knows that Francesco Sabatini is capable of persuading the king to bring the project to a halt, which he does.

What was destined to become a new capital, an ideal, perfect, great artistic and commercial city promoting trade between Spain and America, instead becomes a fishermans’ town. Sabatini has effectively destroyed Roselli’s career and promising future as well as alienating him. Nevertheless, some unfinished buildings will remain until the twentieth century as a witness to this agitated period.

The story also includes the mystery of the lost painting by the famous eighteenth century Venetian master, Giambattista Tiepolo. It goes missing soon after his death and Emili Rossell’s beautiful old friend, Sofia Mendizàbal, is desperately trying to find it two centuries later, by pleading the help of Rossell.

The plot contains the enigma around the hidden identity of Emili Rossell’s father. A secret well kept by his family and which haunted him during his childhood. He learns at an early age never to ask about the father he has never known, feeling a heavy hidden sense of shame and culpability. He loses interest as an adult but eventually discovers his father’s identity towards the end of the novel.

As we embark on an intimate journey with Andrea Roselli and Emili Rossell, we discover that they both have things in common such as a complicated relationship with women, whether it’s Cecilia with Andrea Roselli or Ariadna, Chloe or Sofia with Emili Rossell. Another thing they both share is having to settle accounts with their own past.

The Invisible City is an interesting, thrilling and intriguing story with an elaborate plot that manages to bring all the mysterious loose threads together in the end. There is a useful and abundant description of architecture. It’s a good insight into king Charles III of Spain’s reign and no doubt a great amount of research and maybe traveling by the author was needed in order to situate his novel in historical context. But most important of all it is the hymn of praise to Emili Rosales’ native home town, Sant Carles de la Ràpita.

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Author:
• Saturday, May 01st, 2010

John le Carré, who’s real name is David John Moore Cornwell, was born in 1931 in Poole, Dorset in the south west of England. He went to Sherborne school in Dorset, followed by one year study of German literature in the University of Bern, Switzerland (1948-1949). He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford in 1956 with a first-class honours degree in modern languages.

Le Carré taught French and German at Eton school for two years from 1956 to 1958 and became a member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 to 1964 as Secretary in the British Embassy in Bonn and as Political Consul in Hamburg. He started writing books in 1961 and is well known for his espionage, thriller novels. He has written twenty two novels to date, one non-fiction book, a few short stories and screen plays.

Le Carré has been married twice: once in 1954 and the second time in 1972. He has four sons, three from his first wife and one from his second. He has twelve grandchildren.  John le Carré hates cities, he lives today in Cornwall with his second wife.

In The Mission Song, like in The Constant Gardener, John le Carré describes the exploitation of Africa by the hypocritical western powers. The introductory quotation of The Mission Song, taken from Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, which is about the Congo, reveals the subject of the novel.

Le Carré, in The Mission Song, gives the reader a clear and detailed account about the complexity of politics and business in The Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as an insight into who is behind the tension, the feuds between ethnic tribes and the bloodshed which killed around three to four million people from 1998 to 2003.

Following this period there was some semblance of stability in some part of the country but unfortunately not in the area of East Congo which to this day still suffers from combats and attacks against the civilian population. In particular in the province of Kivu, which happens to abound in natural resources in general and especially in minerals such as  Coltan (an important element used in electronic components) therefore attracted the interest and greed of the locals, the Congolese, the neighbours, like the Rwandans, the British and other western powers.

The story of The Mission Song is narrated by the unbelievably naïve and gullible, Bruno Salvador, a son of an Irish Catholic missionary priest and a Congolese village woman and who, eventually, becomes a British citizen. He is a polyglot and a very talented top interpreter who speaks English, French, Swahili and other African dialects spoken in Kivu, where he was born. He is a free-lancer who works for law firms, hospitals and big corporations.

Due to Bruno’s competence and to being so much in demand, the British Secret Service asks him to be the interpreter at a highly secret meeting, between an anonymous business Syndicate and some important Congolese negotiators from Kivu. The meeting takes place on an unknown island and will earn him a good sum of money in cash.

Bruno has been married for a few years to Penelope, a white well-bred, successful journalist, working for a national paper. His marriage has lost its glow and seems to be falling apart, he suspects his wife of having an affair. The “coup de grâce” comes when Bruno falls in love with a Congolese nurse, Hannah, which awakens and strengthens his loyalty and patriotism to his homeland rather than to his country of adoption and which will lead him and Hannah into great danger.

Bruno will not be able to turn a deaf ear and stay impartial or keep confidentiality, as his job demands, once he discovers the lies and deceits involved in the evil plan concocted by the avid western powers. The plan requires the help of the corrupt African leaders from the different ethnic tribes in Kivu in order to stage a coup d’état and create a war, which will endanger his homeland, his beloved people and give a free hand to the wicked and immoral commercial entity, called “The Syndicate” to control the Congo.

At first, Bruno was enthusiastic because he thought by accepting this mission he was helping in creating peace in Congo. He was made to believe that the Westerners wanted to establish peace by freeing Kivu from the Rwandan invaders who are stealing Kivu’s wealth. The British gave him to understand that they wanted to get ahead of the forthcoming elections in Congo by helping the old, mystic, religious, likeable, Mwangaza (which means enlightenment in Swahili) to get into power, not mentioning their intention to install a puppet regime with a puppet ruler and, of course, establish democracy and give back to the people of Kivu the wealth that belongs to them.

The Mission Song, published in 2006, is a fictional story condemning the corruption and exploitation of the African people by the western powers for their commercial interest, greed and racism. Unfortunately, the continuing massacres, in the Kivu region of The Republic of Congo even today tend to shed a sad and realistic light onto the novel.