Sunday Mornings in Fascist Spain`

These days I’m reading “Sunday Mornings in Fascist Spain” by Willis Barnstone. It’s out of print so I had to track down a copy, a fairly straightforward task in this wired age. How I came to be reading this particular memoir is odd in and of itself; I don’t have any idea who Willis Barnstone is.

Ten or eleven years ago, in the winter of 1997, I visited Haiti for a few weeks. An acquaintance of my parents’ heard of my impending travel, and asked me to bring this book to his brother. I carried the book around Haiti for a couple weeks, never reading it but reading the title over and over again. Haiti was in complete disarray and it took me some time to track down my friend’s brother. It seemed like it was going to be an odd quixotic quest that would end without delivery of the book until finally I found him in that strange, dis-jointed semi-providential way people found each other before mobile phones in a city without street names. The brother invited me in to his house, and we sat across from each other, a bit uncomfortable, nothing really in common, or so it seemed, so I handed him the book and left after just a few minutes of silence and snippets of conversation.

But I continued to carry around the title of that book, “Sunday Mornings in Fascist Spain”. A few years later another friend gave me a translation of C. P. Cavafy’s poems by a woman named Aliki Barnstone; I wondered if she was related to the Willis Barnstone of the Haiti Brother Book Quest. Turns out she’s Willis’ daughter (and a fine translator of poems!).

The title of the book stayed with me, completely without any context and so my imagination added context and layered meaning. When Morra and I traveled around Spain, I would find myself imagining Sunday Mornings in this particular spot in Spain half a century ago. But still I had not read the book. Finally, inexplicably, a month ago I tracked down the book online and ordered it. The siren call of that title had finally become to great to resist, and so now I find myself devouring Barnstone’s delicious memoir of poetry and a time when American and indeed the World was quite different.

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