Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weekend-special: Isidro Ferrer (4)

As we come to the end of our Isidro Ferrer weekend, we have for you a special treat: this short story was published in the “Cheval sans tête”-magazine in 1996. This beautiful “revue internationale de création, bande dessinée et illustration” was the flagship title of the French publishing house Amok. Ferrer got published often by Amok and this is one of his most touching stories. As far as I know this is the first time it got translated into English.



Once I read somewhere that smoke stood for the connection between earth and the heavens…


…because smoke columns of a sacrificial fire ascend to heaven, towards god.


At Huesca, the village where I was born, when I helped my father at work in the field, the smoke told us my mother had prepared breakfast or diner.

So, the only relation between smoke and god for me was the prayer my mother said to bless the food before we honored  what she had prepared.




The smoke I associate with Barcelona was quite different. I went there to work in the factories after my parents told me to leave this land that didn’t bring forth anything but slaves.

It was the time of the republic.Somebody had set the neighborhood church on fire and the women were screaming that we should save the statues of the saints that were still inside.

Did god burn amidst those flames? I don’t know, but sometimes I wonder.In any case, the priest told us we would be punished for this sacrilege.

And boy, did we get punished.





During the war, the skies above Barcelona were often covered in smoke. From the terraces we saw the fascist planes arrive and their bombes transformed the houses into burning logs.

During this sacrifice we talked a lot about the death but very little about god, who was, however, constantly being talked about by the rebels.

Later, the war was lost and we had to flee to France. We were put into camps where we would sleep under  the open sky until we managed to build ourselves some shelter.

On the sand of the Mediterranean beach we warmed ourselves with pinewood fires. Sitting there, the smoke rising towards the stars, I often thought about my parents fireplace.





When France was occupied by the Germans, a Nazi officer came to the camp which was located at what they called the “free zone”. He promised us work and freedom if we accepted to join them as volunteers.

A few months later the officer came back. He didn’t talk about volunteering anymore, but about obligatory work.

So, one night, I ran away.

I fought alongside the Haut-Garonne resistance for a long time. Now, smoke was often the signal to come out of the woodworks and go down to the village for food and supplies.





One day I fell into an ambush. The Germans put me onto a train to a camp where I was amongst a lot of Spaniards.

And there, again, the smoke belched day and night from the chimney of the crematory ovens. A perpetual link between earth and heaven.

And god, still, was nowhere to be seen.









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