The next time we run into each other in a cafe or bar, thanks to this cheat sheet, you will be able to tell me how much you liked January’s Plum, Evert Taube’s Funeral, without ever having had to struggle through it.
Our protagonist, Lars, works for a Swedish holiday agency in Andalucia. Though he is an accomplished guide with an excellent command of Spanish, his personal ideas about the Spain that is worth experiencing (unspoiled by the very tourist industry he is part of) differ radically from what he shows his clients.
The Tipping Point
Driving up to a small village in the mountains above Malaga, engrossed in the flamingo music he is playing on his radio ( La Paquera de Jerez ), Lars in surprised by a dog on the road. Maneuvering to avoid the dog his car ends up dangerously perched on a steep garbage-strewn clifftop.
In fact his Ford Fiesta is so close to going over the cliff he fears that the stamping and handclapping in La Paquera’s buleria could cause that to happen and he shuts off the radio. If you think that is far fetched check out La Paquera here.
He exits the car by creeping out of the rear hatchback and lands in a pile of garbage. Now, as often during the story, he recalls one of the scripted monologues that he delivers as a guide even though, in Lars’ opinion, it’s all useless information which goes in one ear and out the other of his tourist clients. These monologues are paraphrases of mid-century cinema/TV travelogs.
And for those that have missed out on seeing Charlie Chaplin in the Gold Rush tipping cabin scene it’s here.
Lars decides to walk to a place where he believes there might be a telephone (remember this is the seventies). The place is shut but he gets a ride from Kiko, a delivery truck driver. Lars asks Kiko to drive him back to the scene of the accident, but Kiko feels insulted by Lars’ offering of money and refuses. He takes Lars to Prado del Serrano, where Lars was originally heading.
You can read about the “White Towns of Andalucia here.”
Prado del Serrano
Kiko is delivering groceries to a tavern owned by Carlos Hidalgo, a man who had lived and worked in Sweden for several years. As we find out later, Carlos harbors much resentment towards Sweden, yet he ironically calls himself ‘The Swede’, has Swedish dishes on his menu, and Swedish decorations prominently displayed on the walls of his tavern.
Lars goes for a stroll in the town on his way to the local police station. He visits a small carnival and sees the stage where the evening’s festivities will take place. He notices a girl who is decorating the stage.
At the police station the Guardia Civil, Lieutenant Méndez, tells Lars there are no resources available to help him with his car which has probably fallen into the ravine anyway.
He returns to the tavern and Carlos relates for him how, when working as as a waiter in Marbella, he was “adopted” by a Swedish couple, the Silversvärds, who invited him to come and work in their Spanish-themed restaurant in a small town in Sweden. Lars finds himself listening to a long diatribe of dissatisfaction. He goes out to try and enjoy the festival he came to Prado del Serrano to experience.
He follows a religious processional on its way to the festival grounds and enjoys some respite from his problems. Though he would rather have stayed at the ferie the whole evening he is obligated to return to the taberna for a dinner.
Since everyone else in the village is at the ferie, the taberna is empty with the exception of Carlos, Lieutenant Méndez, the town gossip, Benito, and Lars.
Carlos continues to complain about life in Sweden and even though Lars has much criticism and some disdain for his home country, he becomes increasingly annoyed with Carlos’ negativism.
Carlos tells how he was sexually molested by Mrs. Silversvärd, and says Mr. Silversvärd is a coward who, in order to preserve his honor, should have murdered both his wife and Carlos.
Lars is put in the position of defending Sweden, Swedish values, and particularly Helena Silversvärd.
Lars tells the story of Evert Taube, a flamboyant Swedish troubadour. Lars claims that Taube represents the hidden qualities of Sweden. Perhaps not coincidentally for Lars, Taube had adapted much of the Latin flourish in his lifestyle and immortalized in song his romantic adventures in Spanish speaking countries. Lars is ridiculed for comparing Taube to Jesus.
When Lars, hoping to portray just how joyful and spirited Swedes can be, given the right opportunity, vividly describes Evert Taube’s funeral, he can’t resist some extravagant exaggerations. He mixes real events with pure fiction, expressing as true that which he wishes was so.
At this point both his fellow dinner companions and you the reader of the story have become bored with Lars passionate detailed descriptions.
Lieutenant Méndez talks about the American singer Bing Crosby having died on a golf course in Madrid the previous weekend. Lars considers this an unkind slight – Méndez comparing this shallow, artificial, American crooner with his (now semi-fictional hero) Evert Taube.
The dinner ends. Lars hasn’t the energy to return to the festival and falls asleep dreaming of his misfortunes.