WordPress tells me I have now written one thousand entries on this blog. I use to be with Blogspot and I am sure I wrote a few hundreds on that site also.
I just finished reading Wild Olives by William Graves, written in 1995 for the centenary of his father author and poet Robert Graves, it is a biography and a family story of their life in the small mountain village of Deia in Majorca. Robert Graves lived most of his life there before and after the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War. A strange book, full of family recriminations and regrets. William was the oldest surviving son of Robert Graves and one of 8 children his father had with his two wives, Nancy Nicolson and Beryl Pritchard. Robert Graves also had loads of young nymphette his muses he called them, girls as young as 17 who moved in with him, his wife and the kids. Drugs, wild parties and celebrity lifestyle spanning the period from 1946-1985. The English would say that Robert Graves was eccentric, E.F. Benson in his book called them Freaks. You feel no attachment to these people and frankly found the whole book strange, somewhat distateful.
Yes Robert Graves was probably the English Poet of the XXth century and he is best remembered for his book I Claudius and Goodbye to all that. The book also covers at lenght the life of a bunch of ex-pats in Majorca, friends of R.G. which is not endearing. Though to the credit of Robert Graves and his children, they all spoke several languages including Spanish and Catalan with the Majorcan accent. The children went to school in Palma and in England. University for them was Oxford.
Robert Graves was the big alpha male type, he justified seducing young women he fancied as a need for his inspiration for his poetic prose, developing the theme of satisfying the White Goddess. He did write celebrated poems and his books became required reading in the UK school system. His second wife Beryl Pritchard was 20 years his junior and put up with it, paying little attention to the muses and befriending some of them. William Graves in his book narrates his own childhood and the many difficulties he and his siblings had living with a world famous father who expected everyone to obey him in everything. A man who held Court at his house Canellun receiving many other famous people of the period an endless stream it seems. What did the people of Deia think of all this, William tells us that they were in awe of his father who could make things happen in the village and surrounding area in the years of the Fascist dictatorship of General Franco.
W. said to me do we really need to know all the imperfections of a famous person? We enjoy their work so why not leave it at that. When William Graves wrote this book, his mother Beryl was still alive, a person he describes as very private, she died in Deia in 2003. William as executor of this father’s Estate now runs the Robert Graves Literary Foundation at Canellun, the family home in Deia.
At the end of the book William Graves warns the reader that the village of Deia and the Isle of Majorca are no longer as he wrote about them. He spoke of a period in time whose actors are all gone now. From a simple village Deia in the 1960 and 70’s became first a hippie stop over and then a retreat for the wealthy German and British ex-pats. As he says the rustic Deia I knew no longer exist.
His father after 1975 suffered from senile dementia and became with time a confuse and then quiet vacant figure in a wheelchair and the celebrity seekers continued to come to Canellun to see the great man and get a photo.
Robert von Ranke Graves, 1895-1985.