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La ceba.

Jordi Teixidor. La ceba. Barcelona. Edicions 62. 1997. 89 pages. ISBN 84-297-4297-2.

A short theatrical piece in two parts, La ceba (literally "The Onion") was written in 1987 by the renowned playwright Jordi Teixidor (b. 1939, Barcelona). A limited edition which appeared in 1987-88 is now considered "phantom," making the present publication, for all practical purposes, the first edition.

The early play El retaule del flautista (The Flute Player's Retable; 1968) is considered Teixidor's masterpiece. Brechtian in texture, it was awarded the 1968 Josep Maria de Sagarra Prize. La ceba is, however, another excellent example of the author's work. Alternating prose and verse, La ceba begins in prologue fashion with a long speech by Tiresies, a clever and amusing character who fakes blindness for profit. He demonstrates traits of the sightless character in Lazarillo de Tormes and of the crafty Celestina.

La ceba, in colloquial language "a fad," has entered political parlance as a term meaning "a staunch or uncompromising Catalanist." Quimet Morrofort, a Catalan "de la ceba," striving to keep the Catalan blood pure, refuses to permit his daughter Cati to marry Gumer, who is a "xarnego" (i.e., an immigrant from a Castilian-speaking region). When someone in the know, however, questions the purity of the bloodline of Morrofort's deceased wife Roser - despite the fact that the latter spoke impeccable Catalan - Morrofort denounces the charge as a false and a cruel joke perpetrated merely to annoy him.

The worst is still to come. Faced with an explosive situation which could push Morrofort to murder or to suicide, his elderly maid Tata-muda, long believed to be a mute, utters the dramatic phrase "My son" in Castilian. Tata-muda had been in a terrible train accident in Badajoz (a city in southeastern Spain) and allegedly had subsequently brought an infant orphaned in the crash to its family in Catalonia. That infant, however, had perished with his parents, and the child "saved" by Tata-muda was in fact her own. Thus Morrofort learns, to his dismay, that he too is a "xarnego." In the best tradition of ancient Greek tragedy, he blinds himself and begs Tiresies to lead him and his mother to "xarnego land" where they belong.

A priceless scene in the play is the mock seance gone awry, staged by Paula to summon the spirit of Morrofort's wife. Also of great interest is Morrofort's encounter with the putative spirit of his hero, the medieval Catalan king Jaume I, whose virility fails him before the willing Paula. The baby-switching motif, moreover, is a brilliant adaptation of the main theme of the Spanish romantic play El trovador by Garcia Gutierrez.

Teixidor offers a stark view of intolerance and intransigence as seen from the perspective of the host region, Catalonia. The humor here is reminiscent of that of Serafi Pitarra, permeated as it is with crudely appropriate sexual innuendos, and the play addresses a topic all too familiar to Catalans and Castilian-speaking immigrants alike. La ceba offers a masterful parody of reality in a land whose natives strive to remain pure despite the avalanche of "impure" xarnego immigrants, many of whom, paradoxically, will become, in time, more Catalanist than the pureblood Catalans. The play, practically unknown until now, can only add to the renown of Jordi Teixidor as one of the most truly gifted of Catalan playwrights.

Albert M. Forcadas University of Alberta
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Author:Forcadas, Albert M.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1998
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