10 August 2016

Sylvia Plath in Benidorm

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes traveled to the end of Spain for their honeymoon in the summer of 1956. After getting married, they went from London to Cambridge to London to Paris to Madrid, where they rested before moving on to Alicante and, ultimately, Benidorm. They left Spain via Barcelona on 22 August 1956, stayed in Paris for about a week, and returned to England on 29 August 1956. In all she had been one the continent for more than two months.

This post is about Plath's time in Benidorm and was inspired by Gail Crowther's finding and sending me the following two videos in April: Benidorm in Color, 1950s and Antique photographs of Benidorm. These, in congruence with a long paper on Plath's time Benidorm "De quan Sylvia Plath va vindre a Benidorm" by Pasqual Almiñana Orozco, were positively revelatory in my understanding more clearly than ever Plath's time there.

Of course, one cannot consider Plath's time in Benidorm, also, without use of the rich record of documents from her time there: her letters, journals, personal pocket calendars, artwork, poetry, and fiction. As well, one should consider what Ted Hughes wrote in his own letters and in poems such as "You Hated Spain", "Moonwalk", "Drawing" and others. It is possible to read and observe output in each of these mediums and gain much insight into her time there. Benidorm itself has changed so dramatically since 1956 that some might say it would be impossible to trace Plath. However, the videos linked above, which I hope still work, capture the Spanish fishing town as a very undeveloped and sleepy village, seemingly sparsely populated, and very much as Plath herself saw it, lived in in, and documented it.

In viewing the videos in April, I took screenshots of various scenes that, either from my memory or via research conducted in the interim, evoked Plath's works. I will try to give accurate information to each screenshot to help to contextualize it. Plath's journals were the starting point for placing the scenes in the films, in particular, journal entries from 15 July and 18 August 1956 (Appendix 10).

15 July 1956
"Widow Mangada's house: pale, peach-brown stucco on the main Avenida running along shore, facing the beach of reddish yellow sand with all the gaily painted cabanas making a maze of bright blue wooden stilts and small square patches of shadow."
Plath's 15 July 1956 journal entry is so close to her short story "That Widow Mangada" that it seems like the entry might have been notes or a draft of the story. Plath herself knew that the widow's name wasn't "Mangada", for on two letters held by the Lilly Library she lists her return address as being in care of "Enriqueta Luhoz Ortiz". However, according to Plath's pocket calendar, the idea for the story did not come to her until 3 August 1956, well after they had left this abode facing the ocean for another house just up from the center of the town. Perhaps Mangada was a nickname she, Ortiz, gave to herself? It does not appear to be a Spanish word, though "Manga" means "sleeves" and "da" means "gives". Perhaps it's "That Widow Gives Sleeves"?

In the images below, I've drawn arrows to the the house that I believe was Widow Mangada's based on Plath's descriptions and information contained in the paper by Orozco linked above. By the way, if anyone is brave enough to try to translate document into English I will send them something in gratitude.



"Out in the middle of the bay juts a rock island, slanting up from the horizon line to form a sloped triangle of orange rock..." Not much else to say about the blow image: Plath nailed it.


18 August 1956
"The houses of Benidorm cluster along the top of a rocky headland jutting out into the bay." By the time Plath wrote this on 18 August 1956, she and Hughes were living at 59 Tomas Ortunio. They enjoyed their time there as they had an entire house to themselves and were very self-sufficient.  The subsequent quotes say pretty much all there is to say about the images captured in the films.




"The blurred words "Hotel Planesia" are printed in faded black letters on the long windowless side of the building."


"Below the buildings of the hotel, a staircase cut in rock zigzags down to the beach..."



"...the fluted blue dome of the Castillo..."



Sylvia Plath: Drawings features the houses clustered on the rocky headland (p. 37) and Carrero del Gats (p. 38), both of which appear in the film. Plath also drew the sardine boats and their very distinctive lights (p. 35; published first in the Christian Science Monitor). Seeing the boats and lights in the film and then looking at Plath's drawing was a very awesome experience and I hope that you feel the same way.

Carrero del Gats (these images include some map and other views, as well as those taken from the videos):






Sardine Boats:



How do you feel about seeing these long, gone places and scenes captured contemporaneously, in color, to Plath's time in Benidorm? It fairly blew my mind. Thanks thanks thanks to Gail for finding these on YouTube and for sending them to me (us).

All linked accessed 29 April and 8 August 2016

3 comments :

suki said...

Fascinating Peter.
I'll ask my niece about the translation

Julio J. Hernández said...

In Spanish, "una mangada" is "a piece of arable land, long and narrow."
On the other hand, "Mangada" is a surname, but uncommon.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you Suki and Julio for your comments.

~pks

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.

Interviews