Friday, 27 May 2011

Teba, Spain

One of the most frustrating things about running the Postcards from Malc blog has been sourcing appropriate postcards. I made the task harder for myself by wanting to only use postcards contemporary to when Malc or others had written the piece.

One of my favourite letters written by Malc is one to The Viking Press in 1951 after the company published Samuel Putnam's translation of Cervantes's Three Exemplary Novels. He wrote to the company concerning the phrase "We are neither from Thebes nor from Murcia" and the annotation on the phrase and whether Cervantes was referring to the Andalusian town of Teba. What follows is a wonderful description of the memory Malc has carried around with him since passing through the town on a train back in 1933 while on holiday:

Though I've never met anybody who has been there, & have never even heard the place mentioned until this bit in Cervantes called it (even wrongly) to mind, it made a greater & weirder & more dramatic impression upon me than any single place I have ever seen in my life, - though I only passed through in it in the train. That is to say the town is about 3 miles away from the station, at which we stopped only about two minutes, but built between Taxco the House of Usher & the Castle of Worms, painted by Ryder & El Greco, with orchestral effects by Wagner Hieronymus Bosch & God. All this is 20 years ago, but I remember there was a terrific thunder storm going on, & a sinister individual in dark clothes wearing a top hat descended from the train climbed into a dark coach drawn by two black horses & then began to drive up the hill into the lightning as the train drew out, so that I told myself I certainly was going back to Theba one day & also knew that I could never forget it.

The train journey Malc refers to was either the outbound trip from Algeciras to Ronda en route to Granada or the reverse journey in the early summer of 1933. It was during this holiday in Spain that he met Jan Gabrial who he later married. There is an earlier record of the impact Teba had on Malc as he wrote to Jan in June 1933:

Did you see a place in Spain called Ceba or Seba or Zeba - anyway pronounced Theba, obviously a corruption of Thebes: twenty or thirty miles from Ronda I imagine - I saw it from the train & I thought "we must go there". It is unearthly place looking like Poe's Usher, or Kafka's Castle place I've ever seen.

Teba is a town in Spain. It sits on a rock saddle in the mountains east of Ronda, some 15 kilometre north of Ardales, in the comarca of Antequera and provincia of Málaga in Andalusia. The castle Malc is writing about is called Estrella Castle, locally known as Castillo de La Estrella or Castillo de Teba, which lies on a hill next to Teba. Estrella Castle was probably built somewhere in the 10th century by the Moors. During the 12th and 13th century, under Almohad rule, the castle was strengthened and enlarged. Read more about the castle and see photographs on

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