“Flowers of Youth” (1917)
Selected collection, with ecclesiastical approval. From the printer and editor Ramón Sopena, Provence, 93 to 97.—Barcelona.
I’m just an enthusiast, but I’m always thrilled to stop for a moment and read the books or postcards I collect. I think it is very nice to recognize ourselves, against the passage of time, in people and societies of our past.
Miss Lovers, lion tamer, and the Belfort Circus Company have arrived at the Rington Hotel. There she will experience a torrid romance, marked by war, with the renowned acrobat and tightrope walker Mr. Louguin…
“Oh, the walk is, for Miss Lovers, a must. Staying in the living room, swinging in a rocking chair or curled up in an armchair, enduring conversations that are almost always insubstantial, having to smile unwillingly, or being serious when joy frolics in her bosom? Not at all. No more ridiculous conventions.”
It is a light-reading book, with beautiful and vibrant illustrations (four black and white illustrations and four chromotypes) and its history is set around the year 1900.
Although at first they are seen in small brushstrokes, as the story progresses the traditional values of femininity, marriage and war-like patriotism are exalted. At times, these fragments even seem to interrupt the carefree style of the narration.
Traditional feminity and marriage
And yet, for most of the novel, Miss Lovers is presented as an independent and skilled woman in her daily life and work:
“Miss Lovers also caressed her projects. She stayed in the lions’ cage for a long time, caressing them, playing with them, playing dead, lying on two chairs, demonstrating her complete mastery of the bloodthirsty fiers”.
This fragment, which identifies marriage with a “sweet slavery” more desirable than that of female waged work, is also curious:
“—I think that the tamer is at the same time tamed… What do you want! There are holy domains, sweet slavery, prisons where one breathes freedom… At least, they break the chain that holds us to the employer”.
War and patriotism
“Religion! Homeland! Here are the two great affections that, like two beautiful and aromatic flowers, perfumed the peaceful existence of Miss Lovers in the poetic retreat of her beautiful little house”.
This last point is especially interesting, since the characters also suffer the devastating effects of the conflict: Mr. Louguin’s sister-in-law dies, having dreamt of her husband’s death at the front, leaving her three children orphaned. At this point in the novel, Miss Lovers chooses to give up her lions to the National Zoo to take care of her friend’s (and now sister-in-law’s) children.
“And there is Miss Lovers, faithful to her friend, exercising her motherly duties, taking care of those precious children, and faithful to Henry, hoping that the blessed peace will come soon and, with it, the return of the lieutenant… or Captain Louguin, who knows, so that, united by the holy bond of marriage, they may be the happy and fortunate parents of those three precious creatures, flowers of youth. END.”