Text: Virginia Servera
A full member of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), Carme Riera combines her work at this cultural institution with her activity as a professor of Spanish Literature at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Distinguished with the National Literature Award in 2015, and the Gold Medal of the Balearic Islands in 2018, she shares with Mallorca Caprice her views on the past, present and future of Mallorca.
You entered the RAE in 2013 with a speech dedicated to Mallorca titled Sobre un lugar parecido a la felicidad (On a place like happiness). What prompted you to choose that topic?
The interest in discovering to what extent Mallorca was considered a mythical place and in honoring my home at an important time for me.
With the n, consonant of the chair you occupy. Describe the island with three adjectives.
You are making it difficult, the n is the letter for no, nobody, nothing … Mallorca is a notable, noble, necessary island.
“Mallorca has been too complacent with cement”
What were the impressions from Mallorca of writers and artists who travelled here in the 19th and 20th century?
In general, a place where all wonder is possible. In particular, (Gertrude Stein to Robert Graves) it is heaven if you can bear it…
What vision do they convey today?
Travelers no longer choose Mallorca, tourists do, and for some it is a vision of sun, beach and alcohol. I am not only referring to Magaluf.
How did that influence the self-perception of Majorcans?
Sometimes, we manage to make our own the image that travelers left us, for example, we value the Sierra de Tramontana from the Arxiduc.
“To be a world leading example, Mallorca needs cultured politicians with vision for the future”
Why do you consider that Luis Salvador de Habsburgo was the personality that “left the greatest legacy on the island of all those who visited it”?
Because it’s the truth. No one wrote a work as significant as Die Balearen, nor loved our landscape as much as he did, nor made it possible, for example, for Martel to discover the lake that bears his name in the Cuevas del Drac, or even helped create the Oceanographic … and so much more.
If you were asked to write a Mallorca travel book now, what would you highlight? What could be a good title?
I have been commissioned. But it’s bad luck to talk about a book not started yet. As for the title, mine usually coincide with the last sentence, like this, for example “In the last blue” and I don’t have the last sentence yet, because I don’t even have the first.
As mentioned in her speech, Sissi the Empress was resistant to visiting the island for fear that she would like this destination more than Corfu, where she had built a palace. Do you think the same would happen today?
The Empress was a misfit, she only desired for what was unattainable. Now days, she wouldn’t think this. Mallorca has been too complacent with cement; landscape killers have visited Corfu less.
How have the Majorcan character traits evolved? Can Majorcan society boast of openness and modernity?
Relations with others have made us more open. I can think, for example, of certain discriminations, like the one suffered by the so-called “xuetas”, which are now almost inexistent. This is a very good thing.
Do you think that lost habits are recovering? What does it obey?
I have no idea. Are churches more crowded or only when there are funerals?
“”Nobody like Luis Salvador de Habsburgo loved our landscape so much””
How do you assess the Balearic cultural production?
Balearic cultural production? I don’t understand what you mean… I don’t get it.
What corners of the island are among your favorites?
Those in which there are few tourists, especially some coves.
What remains of “the island of calm” that Santiago Rusiñol described?
Very little, despite the lethargy of some…
What is your perspective on the present and future of the island?
A very difficult present. The pandemic and the economic consequences derived therefrom are terrible for an island that lives only from tourism. We have to expand towards industries other than tourism. Investing R&D, for example, recovering self-sufficiency through a type of sustainable agriculture and not relying exclusively on tourism.
Do you think that Mallorca could become a world leading example of the Mediterranean model?
Without a doubt, but for this it is necessary to have cultured, sensitive, intelligent politicians, with vision for the future; not with the sole objective of winning the next elections.