Born in North Africa, Morocco, journalist, Evelyne Abitbol lived most of her life in Quebec where she spent a large part of her career in the dialogue of cultures and civilizations and worked within international and national organizations, protecting human rights and democracy. He now shares his life between Andalusia and Quebec.
LePetitJournal.com spoke to him after the publication of his latest book, which talks about Rainer Maria Rilke’s stay in 1912 at the Catalonia Reina Victoria hotel in Ronda… an ideal book for lovers of Andalusia.
Tell us about your latest work, Evelyne Abitbol, about your love for the region of Andalusia
I have been irresistibly drawn to Andalusia all my life because of my Sephardic origins
Evelyne Abitbol: Salvador Chica Jimenez, the illustrator of the book, is an Andalusian proud of his part of the country who passed on to me his unconditional love for Andalusia and his pride of being born in Ronda. I discovered him through his postcards and posters of watercolor paintings that he sold in tourist shops in Mijas, Marbella, Benalmadena, Arroyo de la Miel, Torremolinos, Fuengirola, up to the shop facing the Picasso Museum in Málaga . And, for my part, I have been irresistibly drawn to Andalusia all my life because of my Sephardic origins since my ancestors had to live there and leave it to go to North Africa.
What are the links between Andalusia and this great author Rilke, certainly the most important poet of the 20th century
Indeed, Rilke is the embodiment of poetry!
In 1912, Rilke traveled to Andalusia, seeking an understanding of God, religion and the continuation of his work “The Elegies of Duino”. Perhaps he was fascinated by the Golden Age period. I tell in this book, through a casual discussion with a young poet, my interpretation of his attraction to Spain and especially to Andalusia with the watermark of my own attraction for this beautiful region.
The fact of the presence since 1572 of the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, (RMR), whose initials are also his Rainer Maria Rilke (RMR), should not escape him, he is very attentive to the signs and calls the Angels .
Tell us, in a few words, the theme of your book
It is a novel that takes place in one day, where three characters talk, walking through the streets of Ronda, the research done by the writer Rilke in Andalusia from Seville to Cordoba through Granada to finally ask the his suitcases for a winter in Ronda. As did Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles before him.
Hannah, the admirable narrator of Rainer Maria Rilke, goes to Andalusia in the footsteps of the Golden Age also of the Austrian poet. Together with a friend of the painter, Chica, he went to Ronda where Rilke lived for a few months at the beginning of the last century. There he met Werther Veit, a young poet who shared his love for the German poet. They will live a fusion meeting under the aegis of Rilke. Hannah talks about the one she loves, Lou Andreas Salomé, and other men who are important to her: her husband who never touches her, Freud who trusts her with the education of his daughter, Anna, and Nietzsche, who loves to him.
Hannah begins her journey in Andalusia in search of her Sephardic roots and finds herself in the heart of three monotheistic religions. Werther, Hannah and the painter Chica, talk about love, whether sexual or platonic, and he gradually gets the feeling that his meeting with this young poet is an important page in his life and it gives light everything he was looking for until then and allowed him to better understand Rilke’s work and personality, which he had studied for decades.
In my book, the narrator evokes Rilke, painting, poetry, the Bible, Éluard, Breton and Lou Andreas Salomé, his model of a free woman since his youth. His meeting with a younger poet allowed him to understand the personality and work of Rilke, with whom he fell in love at a very young age.
What is unique about this author for a poetry lover like you, Evelyne Abitbol?
As Marguerite Yourcenar rightly says:
Rilke’s memory has now become like that breeze, which reopens like a Jericho rises the withered hearts of the lonely. Because Rilke was sad, our bitterness lessened; we are less concerned because he lives insecurely; we are less abandoned, because he is alone
To feel less alone, less anxious, less abandoned when reading Rilke’s poetry. His expectation of a response from the angels that form our personal constellation challenges us.
And you, Evelyne Abitbol, what attracts you? Your fight for secularism? The importance you attach to the dialogue of cultures?
My struggle for secularism, I owe it precisely to my Sephardic Jewish background, and therefore Spanish, through the presence of my unconscious in the three monotheistic religions. How these three religions are promoted in many Andalusian cities.
For me, secularism is the basis of democracy. The rest, spirituality, belongs to the private domain
In Rilke’s introduction, the Andalusian, you can read the feeling of living my life as a “Sephardic without a real homeland” until the moment I decided to divide my life between Quebec and Andalusia.
I was overwhelmed when, in Cordoba, I discovered a wonderful Sephardic house: the Casa de Sefarad.
For me, secularism is the basis of democracy. The rest, spirituality, belongs to the private domain. I will repeat here the words of Raif Badawi, whose defense I represent, can be read on the walls of his prison in Saudi Arabia: “secularism is the solution.”
The book, a favorite of the Quebec daily Le Devoir, is available on Amazon now and online at the Numérilab bookstore website.
There are also books to be deposited at the Hotel Catalonia Reina Victoria as well as the Dumas bookshop and the independent bookstores of Ronda and some souvenir shops where posters and postcards of the painter Chica are placed.