Last year author Alexander Chee joined the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop as our fiction instructor for our 2016 Summer in Granada, Spain Writing Retreat. Now Chee has been chosen as one of four authors to share stories of how love and travel intersect for The New York Times’s debut Love Issue. The his essay, “In Spain, Secrets and a Possible Betrayal,” Chee recounts traveling to Granada during the summer with a former boyfriend, referred to as M. in the piece. In the essay, Chee writes:
M. loved poets, wrote poetry, sometimes wrote me poems, and his favorite poets all seemed to have met violent or tragic deaths, including Lorca. The day we visited Lorca’s house in Granada, we found the whole of it kept much as it was when he was there. I noticed the roses in the vases were almost gone, ready to be replaced, while roses bloomed outside. I imagined the poet had planted them, or at least tended them, but I didn’t want to ask in case it wasn’t true. I can still see the shrug as the tour guide said, “Yes, he was the son of a wealthy man,” a detail I wrote down in my notebook, along with how we all then looked at the beautiful wooden desk that seemed like a boat. I didn’t know why the guide said that and still don’t. Just as I don’t know why a book of his poems on the desk that day was open to “Poet in New York” — his other city.
Lorca’s murder had made him Granada’s presiding ghost. If his body had vanished at the hands of fascist murderers, he was everywhere there now, his face and words on mugs, T-shirts, restaurant menus and graffiti nearly anywhere you looked.
Unlike M., I already spoke Spanish. I needed to go to Paris and London to research my second novel, so we planned a summer trip across Europe to combine our aims, beginning with me in London and Paris, where he would join me, then Granada, beginning in July and concluding in late August…
M. had chosen our apartment because it was opposite the Alhambra, the magnificent historic Moorish palace on the hill across from our neighborhood, the Albaicín. The Darro ran between us. Our roof patio was opposite a simple mirador with a fountain, where there always seemed to be people playing guitar and smoking marijuana, with whom we exchanged waves. The apartment was simple and clean, its magnificence concentrated in the patio view of the palace and the city. Each room was on a different floor off a spiral staircase, the apartment as winding as the hill it was on. We left and returned by climbing a series of winding footpaths and side streets, and if I was confused, at night, I was always able to follow the guitar music home…
M.’s days at the school began early and were long, and left to my own devices, I would write for a few hours and then walk through the side streets, where I mapped the ancient cathedrals, most of which had been mosques before the expulsion of the Muslims, and then had the traditional breakfast of bread with tomate, a fresh tomato purée on toast, and olive oil. In Granada, there are usually two kinds of olive oil on the tables to put on, it seemed, anything you ate, but especially for this.
Read Alexander Chee’s full essay on his summer spent writing in Granada here.
The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada Writing Retreat will take place from August 2-6, 2017. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes. Work on your existing manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects. During the retreat, we will be staying at the Hotel Guadalupe, just a short walk from the Alhambra. The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Tim Horvath, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The cost of the retreat is $2950, which includes tuition, lodging, and daily breakfast. Apply at cww.submittable.com by May 1, 2015!