Brutal beauty

TURN a sharp corner in Andalucia – and there are many of them – and you might see a bridge dating to the Roman occupation, a fortress built by the Moors, a mediaeval church, a whitewashed village or a soulless retail park. What you don’t see so often are monoliths raised during the Franco era . . .

I watched a television documentary a few months ago about fascist architecture in Europe, not because I’m particularly interested or enthusiastic about fascist architecture, more because the programme was the work of writer Jonathan Meades and I find his use of the English language captivating and engaging. He is a man of many words and his skill in weaving them together is delightful.

Can’t say I was too impressed by his chosen subject. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco did not possess the most delicate of tastes, with leanings towards grandiose projects displaying a brutal austerity that would not have been out of place in George Orwell’s nightmare world of 1984.

This decorative concrete structure – and I use the word decorative with hesitation – perched on the dam of Los Bermajales reservoir, south-west of Granada, is a bleak survivor of a bleaker era. Built in 1958 at the height of Franco’s power, it represents something dark and ugly that was finally vanquished in the 1970s when the dictator died and democracy brought light and freedom to Spain.

If you like your monuments angular, unembellished, and exhibiting the grace of a print from a jackboot, that’s fine. I find it more than a little disquieting. But, perhaps, because it’s situated in the middle of nowhere on a road hardly anyone travels, that says it all – It is history unloved and almost forgotten in an isolated backwater.

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10 thoughts on “Brutal beauty

  1. At least there’s a view beyond, which right-minded folk have not been able to change! I guess, and hope, that a view to the left will also have much the same effect on our beautiful planet!

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  2. Athough brutalist, such monuments are often reminders of terror but they have a place, if only to enter the mindset in order to make sure such things never happen again, hopefully! Kim

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    1. Hi Kim. I agree with you there. History should not be eradicated. I was impressed with Statue Park, in Budapest, where all the monuments from the communist era were re-erected instead of being destroyed.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. Interesting post, Alen. The picture with you? in the left corner reminds me of a painting but I cannot figure out which??? Maybe someone can help me.
    Brutality will always exist as long as there are humans … and animals. The great thing about humans are that we have the ability to reflect on our dark sides and make a choice.
    The pictures are stuck i my memory!!

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    1. Are you thinking about Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Hanna? Or Pieter Bruegel’s The Harvesters? There’s a peasant in a red shirt drinking from a flagon who looks a bit like me from a distance.
      The trouble with humans is that the ones who have the ability to reflect on brutality are the ones who usually get shoved out of the way or become victims themselves. Keep thinking about that painting.
      Cheers, Alen

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      1. Hi Alen. None of those mentioned. Though The Harvesters are quite an amazing ‘story’ within a painting.
        Well, I’ve given up on that idea I got. But I do hope that if I come across that painting I’m thinking of, I will be able to remember why it was important 🙂
        Like loosing the left glove and let go of the other and then find the left again 🙂

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  4. Passing Clouds here.( still en-route to BWH ) I can’t help wondering that this Bruegel guide to Spain leads you to places that I should have visited in my miss-spent youth. The ‘frame’ is a bit like the early Everest ads…did you come across any white feathers (left by Ted Moult)…? Jonathon Meade I totally agree with you, he was on fairly recently and seemed to have aged,but still absolutely showed a master of English language. Does he direct himself on TV ? Each well crafted scene is a ‘wrap’ and not a re-take and re-take.Facist art …well Winston had his water colours, Dubya Bush his oils but Hitler should recognised as a master ( Whole apartment,two coats,magnolia,….all in an afternoon !) Now and totally irrelevant, can you remember IZAL and BRONCO ? I grew up with them and a whole Empire depended on them. ( an aged aunt had the ‘ vapours’ when a consumer report stated that IZAL was NOT hygienic at all. She was ‘ Harley Streeted’ and eventually sanitised ) I know you missed out on Breadwinner Hogg but did you remember Bronco Lane the cowboy programme/song….tearing across the Texas plane ? Oh how we laughed ,changing this to tearing across the ‘dotted line! (Even though BRONCO came in a flat pack…interleaved.) A friend use to call it John Wayne paper …Rough Tough and took no s..t from anyone!..Cheers Alen. Yours rambling on. Peter.

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    1. Hi Peter. Thanks once again for making me laugh and shining your radiant beam of wit into this far-flung corner of Europe. Izal was indeed one of the four cornerstones of Empire though I have no recollection of Bronco. A visit to my grandmother’s outside loo was always a time for reflection, with its dangling chain, paraffin lamp, and limp tail of Izal wafting in the draughts that howled under the door. Only the British could invent and mass-produce a toilet paper that was completely non-absorbent. I have heard (though this might not be true) that Theresa May was obliged to drop the reintroduction and compulsory use of Izal from the Queen’s Speech when the DUP insisted it was a luxury item and demanded the introduction of barnacled seaweed instead. Whatever. The late Ted Moult made his Everest advert up at the Tan Hill Inn. It’s said that on moonless nights his feather can be seen floating past the windows. It’s more likely to be a piece of Izal because the bogs are draughty up there too.
      All the bet, Alen

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