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Saturday, 01 September 2018

Madrid: The Literary City of Amor

Written by Caleb Gonzalez
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“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.” – Pico Iyer

Due to the heat wave that has come from North Africa, I feel sweat running down my spine as I walk to my poetry class in Madrid. 1.6 kilometers each way exactly. And every day when I get back to my dorm room, I must change my sweat-drenched shirt. This becomes a cycle. My heat-based study-abroad cycle that doesn’t allow me to experience the city like I want to.

35 degrees Celsius. This is the temperature almost every day.

The heat keeps me indoors as much as possible. Like the rest of my peers, I have a routine. Breakfast: toast with a crushed tomato spread and olive oil, a typical Spanish breakfast. After breakfast, I walk to class almost slipping and falling on the wet cobblestone porch that the groundskeeper of the dormitory seems to be adamant about washing down every single morning (he ignores the water laws of the city due to its serious drought, but that’s none of my business). After class, I walk back to my room, change my shirt, take an ice-cold shower, and nap for the rest of the afternoon. I wake up. Lunch: rice, fish, and a cold glass of water with extra ice. After lunch, I study in my dorm room reading Spanish literature. I eat dinner: more rice, meat, and another cold glass of water with extra ice accompanied by my daily offering of thanks to the heavens for it. I go to bed and repeat the cycle.

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I spend four weeks taking upper-division courses on Spanish poetry, theatre, and short stories at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. I take these courses with language-learning students from the U.S. My classes allow me to observe the heartbreaking poetry of Gloria Fuertes as she discusses the meaning of love and the mix of emotions that it brings to the human soul in her poem “A Veces Quiero Preguntarte Cosas”. Fuertes writes…a veces quise soñar contigo, y cuanto más quería, más soñaba, por tus versos que yo saboreaba, tú el rico de poemas, yo el mendigo. I discover the comedia picaresca of the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega as he connects religion to performance in his play Lo Fingido Verdadero. A controversial play in its time. And during my lunch breaks, I eat Bocadillo sandwiches with cheese in the school cafeteria. And, of course, there’s the daily battle with the heat.

* * * *

During my time at the Universidad Complutense, I decide to take a week-long class that is ironically my last class before I leave this city. It is a class that focuses on how the key sites and monuments of the city are deeply connected to Spanish literature.

“I hear that the teacher is nervous,” some of my classmates say. “He physically shakes when he teaches. The worst. Daniel Santiago Tauler is his name.”

The door opens and a tall thin man with slick black hair and a small birth mark on the left side of his face walks in. He puts his bag down and lowers the room temperature.

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Last modified on Saturday, 01 September 2018

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