During the winter on Ibiza the pace of life here noticeably slows down. Somehow there just seem to be more hours in each day. This extra time can be profitably spent with a book on a deserted beach on sunny days, or curled up in front of a blazing fire during those long dark winter evenings… So here are some literary suggestions from our resident bookworm:
Ever since I impetuously offered to write a piece about writing about Ibiza I have been wrestling with how to approach the topic. The sheer post-modern, concentricity of the concept is a serious challenge, even for a hardened word-winnower. Elvis Costello’s famous remark that: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s a really stupid thing to want to do” has been rattling nervously in my head, meantime. If he thought music was tough what would he have made of trying to render into literary sense an island whose very appeal is in its mercurialness and magic?
Even if you neither know nor care that Es Vedra is the third most magnetic place on earth, or that mystically significant ley lines intersect on Ibiza, or that it is historically a place of refuge, freedom and hedonism you can’t come here and not feel something.
Whether you attribute it to hippies, narcotics, clever marketing or the gods, Ibiza is a funny kettle of fish and – as such – inherently resistant to efforts to pin down its essence by means of putting black ink on white paper. For better or (sometimes) worse that hasn’t stopped an abundance of the brave and foolhardy from taking their best literary shot. As befits their elusive, multi-faceted subject books about Ibiza run the gamut from serious to glamorous to downright tawdry. They do, however, tend to fall into rough categories. Let’s look at the main contenders.
Long before television churned up middleclass relocation fantasies of the A Place In The Sun and A Year In… ilk Ibiza was inspiring lovestruck expats to compose lyrical hymns to their island paradise. These tend to emphasise the bucolic nature of island life, often using exploration of Ibiza’s hidden landscapes as a parable or guide for journeys through psychological inner spaces.
In Mediterranean Moods J.E. Crawford Fitch takes a traditional tour of Ibiza and muses: “On a hot afternoon at the bottom of a donkey-cart dreams have none of their stormy midnight energy… thought itself dissolves like the useless fleeces of cloud in the measureless sky. The mind becomes a mirror which reflects nothing but the blue emptiness overhead.” Incredibly, this account was published in 1911. Clearly, the island has been altering peoples’ consciousness since long before the acid invasion.
More recent accounts include A Wild Thyme in Ibiza, in which Stewart Andersen relates how a “three-month visit” in the 1960s turned into more than two decades of island life. While Bogged Down in County Lyric by Peter Kinsley is an Ibiza Now favourite – “Many amongst us who have followed in their footsteps will find it easy to relate to this description of what was then a secret paradise,” praised our reviewer.
Perhaps it is the palpable glut of possibilities; perhaps it is the primitive rhythms of ancient life that still animate the sea and soil: perhaps it is the abundance of picturesquely ruined locations and dramatic backdrops – whatever the cause Ibiza holds a definite appeal for the suspense fiction writer.
Scottish lady of letters Dorothy Dunnett (not, one imagines, her real name) used the island as a setting in Ibiza Surprise, one of her many detective novels. Bill Reade’s Ibiza Syndicate and A Short Life on a Sunny Isle by Hannah Blank, and Writer in Residence by Herbert Burkholz all exploit the mysterious charms of the White Island.
Interestingly, I haven’t stumbled across any of the Sexy Beast oeuvre. Barrow boys with guns, sovereign rings and shell-suits don’t seem to have taken hold in the literary landscape. Whether that’s because the ‘Costa del Crime’ is too firmly fixed in the popular imagination to admit any competition, or whether it is because anyone who has been to Ibiza instantly realises the absurdity of such characters being allowed to run riot here is debateable. Either way, it’s a mercy that there is no imminent danger of Danny Dyer being asked to star in a film adaptation aboutthe Ibiza underworld.
A separate and distinct category from the above, and one which has arguably done a great disservice to the island. The antithesis of gently written musings on the island’s abundant beauty, these celebrate the horrors of Ibiza Uncovered. At the vanguard of this unholy troupe is Colin Butts, author of Is Harry On The Boat?, Is Harry Still On The Boat?, and A Bus Could Run You Over. The cheap, lurid airport-bookshop blues and pinks of the cover tell you almost everything you need to know. The crude rhyming slang of the titles should clear up any lingering doubts about what lies beneath.
This genre isn’t always entirely fictitious: Wayne Anthony’s Spanish Highs: Sex, Drugs & Excess in Ibiza, purports to be factual; while Jennifer Eric’s Ibiza Virgin grew out of research for a master’s thesis that went Pete Tong. Utterly trashy, these books are well-suited to putting the wind up Middle England and contain very little any civilised resident of the isle would recognise as Ibiza. Yet are somehow as indispensable to the canon as any highbrow musing. Like I said, it’s the impossibility of typecasting Ibiza that makes it such a fantastically, endlessly enchanting place. Love it or hate on it, the sluttish world of rampant boozing, casual sex and even more casual drug consumption is part of the story.
Coffee table books
Few places on earth are better suited to lavish, full-colour treatment, and there is no shortage of it available. Art, architecture and colourful characters are perennially popular topics, as seen in Ibiza Style, Ingrid Rassmussen and Chloe Grimshaw’s snoop around “inspirational homes and distinctive hotels”: Ibiza Lifestyle by Tony Riera; Ibiza: A Mediterranean Lifestyle by Lluis Domenech Girbau and Conrad White; and Eyebiza by Leelu Morris. They are all, to varying degrees, concerned with transmitting the “wow” factor of Ibiza – an exercise in which you can only wish them luck.
For all its instantly accessible beauty, there remains an impressively, maddeningly technology-resistant quality to its delights. As one long-time resident put it to me: “When friends see my pictures they think they’ve been Photoshopped – there’s something about the colours seems unreal.” It is a problem which, happily, seems unlikely to be solved any time soon, but there is sure to be no shortage of photographer/writer teams willing to have a go.
Island history/culture/flora & fauna
In a sense, all books written about or set in Ibiza are about the island’s history and culture. You can’t escape it. What I mean, here, though, is specifically non-fiction works about Ibicenco life. However, I am reluctant to say much about this category as publisher, author and bibliophile extraordinaire, Martin Davies, along with IbizaNOW historian and author Emily Kaufmann, are in every sense authorities on these books.
As well as writing regularly for IbizaNOW, Emily and Martin contribute to the Live Ibiza website which is crammed with reviews of Ibiza related books (including children’s stories) as well as dripping with anecdote, history and the sort of background information you only absorb through extended exposure to the Balearic breezes. It seems only courteous to defer to their expertise.
In conclusion, I should confess my interest in literary Ibiza is partially selfish. I already have one half-finished Ibiza novel (children’s suspense variety) in my word bank and am about to embark on my second. I have no idea what category it will fall into. Possibly I won’t until it is finished (or even after that). Whatever the outcome, it’s nice to know I’ll have plenty of bookish company.
By Cila Warncke
Many of the books featured in this article also be purchased online from our website: www.ishopibiza.com
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