The Nobel Prix Halldór Laxness´s sentence which Irene Solà chooses as an initial quote in her novel When I Sing the Mountain Dances (Canto jo i la muntanya balla, in its original edition in Catalonian) has already announced to us the valley survival. The past and spectres are still dwelling on it, but the sun reminds us of the power of now, the importance of present.
We are in the Pyrenees, between Camprodón and Prats de Molló, a place of high mountains, and the borderline which links in our memory with a painful and brutal exile, with a Civil War which left grenade and bullet scraps lying in its forests. Artefacts a girl picks up, sediments of the past on which each new spring blooms.
Amongst so many dystopian and catastrophic visions coming from the loss of natural heritage and deterioration of ecosystems, the novel appears as a harmonious song about the relationship between living beings and their surroundings. It shifts away from an anthropocentric vision, showing us how beings which dwell in the mountains can communicate themselves as equals. It is not about domination but about the succession of the natural cycles: the fertilizer of inert substance comes back to life. “Because we always have been here –said the black trumpet mushrooms- and the spores of one of us are the spores of all. The story of one of us is the story of all”.
The narration allows other non human beings to take the floor, presenting their points of view. The omnipresent mountain, a not always mute witness of the passing of time, prefers silence, although clearly shows the insignificance of humans´ and animals’ existence. It has seen them die during centuries. Living near the mountain reveals this smallness, and makes life and passions grow more intense. Perhaps it is the wholeness of our surroundings which brings sense to the world.
Clouds start to talk. “They are powerful people”, Dersú Uzalá would have said. Domènec knows it, knows what being caught by a storm in mountains means. He had left a house which was heavy for him, and he wanted to experience verses between those immutable stone witnesses. But lightning appears, flooding the drama with light and beauty, and then life goes on.
Nature doesn’t understand censorships or human laws. It follows its path and is generous with those who understand it. The spirits of water-women are living in the forest. They reclaim laughter and happiness. They were hanged because they were accused of being witches. But their scars were absorbed by the landscape, and their vile torturers disappeared.
Freedom is the enemy of domination and, to suppress it, men invented a cruel god. A god to whose curse a king turned to prevent his daughters from getting married with infidels, transforming them into mountains. He wanted them to marry Christian princes. The princess became mountains. Pirene, after whom the Pyrenees where named, was burned alive by Geryon and after that she was covered with big rocks. The mountains are still there, reminding us of the story of human intolerance, the persistence of a tradition often discriminatory, the male violence.
Reality also includes all which we cannot understand. Legends explain things which surpass human limits. The present suggests. Human feelings appear, sometimes knotting, other times flowing. The passing of time moves everything, nothing remains.
Mia´s story closes the narration. She is Domènec´s daughter, the man struck by lightning – “because lightning goes wherever it fancies”. Jaume is going to see her after twenty-five years. A deer crossed his path, and all his fears come back to settle in the stormy knots of feelings. He shoots, and his best friend become a ghost who write verses.
The past impacts the present, what is come about never stopped, but language also challenges the inertia of the events. The human being has the word and this is as powerful as a lightning. Words which sometimes –as Irene Solá herself writes- “can be said one after another like a rope”, others “light up like sparklers….”, others burn, others are better uprooted… But all of them are pronounced while the natural cycles keep happening and while the mountain remains there, dancing.