The Non Euclidean Geometry Of Fanfares And Tambourines

Carmena and the 3 wise menThis year Madrid’s much-loved “Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos” has brought more controversy than presents, and the city mayor, Manuela Carmena, made it all the way to the Financial Times. Reading the article “Madrid bemoans some very modern Magi,” I cannot help but laugh. (Or as the saying goes in Spain, I am laughing to keep myself from crying.)

It reminded me of the famous poem by Antonio Machado, “A Fleeting Tomorrow” (El Mañana Efímero.) Yes, sadly this is the old Spain of fanfares and tambourines, in all its glory(1):

The Spain of fanfares and tambourines,
isolated and sacrosanct,
worshiped by Frascuelo and Maria,
with a mocking spirit and an inactive soul
A vain yesterday will engender a tomorrow
that is empty and—thank goodness!—temporary.
for many long years will still give birth
to men who love the sacred traditions
and the sacred forms and customs;

Against this backdrop, the journalist ponders the options of Spanish new left-wing party Podemos. They are facing of a thorny social dilemma:

It is tempting to shrug off this and similar controversies. But they do point to a serious political challenge faced by Spain’s new left. (…) The polemic surrounding the Cabalgata offers, in miniature, the broader dilemma faced by Podemos: how far can the movement push its agenda for social and political change without antagonizing mainstream voters? Is it worth dedicating political capital to red-button issues such as bull-fighting and religious processions, or should the new left-wing mayors focus on themes such as housing and poverty?

Ouch! it sounds like downright resistance to change.

Fortunately we have twitter to resist the rise of the other Spain, the Spain of the chisel and the hammer. Twitter is the perfect implementation of Valle-Inclan’s concave mirrors—to celebrate another renowned Spanish writer whose works enter public domain this year. In Max Estrella’s words(1):

The classical heroes reflected in concave mirrors give rise to the esperpento. The tragic sense of Spanish life can only be understood by an aesthetic which is systematically deformed…
Spain is a grotesque deformation of European civilization…
The most beautiful images in a concave mirror are absurd…
Deformation stops being such when it is subjected to perfect math. My actual aesthetic is to transform the classical norms using the mathematics of the concave mirror.

The funny thing is that veteran Manuela Carmena is not losing her sense of humor. Quite the contrary, she is actively contributing to the non euclidean geometry of the Spanish “esperpento” which, of course, many will never forgive her.


(1) Antonio Machado, “Campos de Castilla”, El Mañana Efímero
(2) Ramón del Valle-Inclán, “Luces de Bohemia”

MAX: Los héroes clásicos reflejados en los espejos cóncavos dan el Esperpento. El sentido trágico de la vida española sólo puede darse con una estética sistemáticamente deformada.
DON LATINO: ¡Miau! ¡Te estás contagiando!
MAX: España es una deformación grotesca de la civilización europea.
DON LATINO: ¡Pudiera! Yo me inhibo.
MAX: Las imágenes más bellas en un espejo cóncavo son absurdas.
DON LATINO: Conforme. Pero a mí me divierte mirarme en los espejos de la calle del Gato.
MAX: Y a mí. La deformación deja de serlo cuando está sujeta a una matemática perfecta, Mi estética actual es transformar con matemática de espejo cóncavo las normas clásicas.

Carmena PopFeatured Image: Piscapez Studio, via Shangay, “Manuela Carmena: el nuevo icono pop madrileño”

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