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):
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