Expatica news

“Grotesques” reflect the image of Valle-Inclán once again

27 February 2008

MADRID – The celebrated distorting mirrors that once inspired Ramón María del Valle-Inclán (1866-1936), one of Spain’s most influential dramatists and novelists, will be displayed again from 26 March in front of a Madrid restaurant called Las Bravas on the Callejón del Gato pedestrian street.

The original mirrors, which were broken in 1998 by vandals and are kept today inside a metal box for protection, have been substituted by more resistant ones.

The new mirrors will perform the same tasks of the original ones by making your body balloon or become thinner.

"We have always tried to respect tradition," says José Carlos Blanco, a relative of Valle-Inclán and owner of the establishment. "It was 10 years ago when they destroyed the mirrors and everyone promised to help us with money."

Las Bravas, which is located a stone’s throw from the central Plaza Santa Ana, was originally opened by Blanco’s grandfather in 1933, becoming a famous spot for artists and bohemians.

Blanco says that in the end nobody helped him with the restoration. The authorities would not help put the mirrors in a museum or keep them in a safer place. Finally, Blanco ended up paying EUR 1,800 for them.

One of the things that made Valle-Inclán such a unique dramatist-novelist was his ability to invent new words. The most famous of these is esperpentos, which could be defined as "grotesques."

The mirrors that will stand outside Las Bravas inspired Valle-Inclán to write one of his most famous plays called Lights of Bohemia, in which a near-blind man learns with the help of the mirrors to see the world in a different way.

In the play, the main character, the poet Max Estrella, is forced to confront a dilemma: whether to pursue art or be socially committed. Among the main issues Valle-Inclan attacks in plays such as Lights of Bohemia is the hypocrisy and turbulent political times that characterised Spain during the first two decades of the 20th century.

He was especially critical of moralising playwrights, the privileges of the upper class and values of Spanish society such as patriotism and male chauvinism.

Some of Valle-Inclán’s major novels include Tyrant Banderas, which has been highly influential among Latin American writers such as Paraguayan Augusto Roa Bastos.

[Copyright El Pais / Enric González/ Eugenia de la Torriente 2008]