Majorca remembers Robert Graves at last with museum at his home

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The Independent Online

The Majorcan village where Robert Graves wrote his most celebrated work has finally remembered the British poet more than 70 years after he made it his home.

Graves' white-washed home in Deya, where he wrote the classic I Claudius and his two best-known works of non-fiction, The White Goddess and The Greek Myths, has been turned into a museum.

He lived with his family in Ca N'alluny ("faraway house") from 1932 to 1985, with a brief interruption during the Spanish Civil War. It was here that he wrote more than 144 books and poems, turning the traditional farming village with a population of 700 into a fashionable haunt for the world's celebrity elite.

The writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the actors Ava Gardner and Peter Ustinov were regular visitors. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who have a home in the village, attended the museum's inauguration this week.

Before the museum's opening, all that remained of Graves' contribution to the island was his tomb in Deya's cemetery.

The Balearic Islands' regional government bought the house for €2.5m (£1.7m) to create the museum with the help of Graves' son, William. Deya had lost out to other celebrity tourist attractions on Majorca, such as the monastery at nearby Valldemossa, where the composerChopin had a brief sojourn with his lover, the writer George Sand. William Graves has recreated the atmosphere of simplicity which helped to inspire his father's greatest works. Mr Graves, 65, said: "It is just as it was in the 1940s, when my father wrote his best works, with the same furniture, the same atmosphere when we lived here."

He added: "Until now there were busloads of people coming to see Chopin's piano in Valldemossa even though he was only there for a few months. But there was nothing here for people who wanted to see what my father had done, except his tomb."

Visitors will see Graves' typewriters, several notebooks and the small amphitheatre where his four children entertained their father with plays. There is also the printing press which Graves and his first muse, the poet Laura Riding, used to start a small publishing business, Seizin Press.

Graves and Riding arrived in Deya by chance after she broke her back in a failed suicide attempt in Rome and had to leave Italy. A local on Majorca told them that it was a good place for fresh food.

Also among the artefacts are letters from Gertrude Stein and Winston Churchill, manuscripts of Graves' poems and novels, and photographs of the writer and his family and friends. Among these papers is a newspaper clipping which mistakenly announced Graves' death in the First World War.

William Graves has also made a 14-minute documentary about his father's life on Majorca.

Mr Graves, who lives in Deya, said that when his father arrived there in the Thirties it was a simple farming village with a strong anti-clerical tradition. "He probably started the arrival of celebrities which reached its peak with Princess Diana. The place is very upmarket now and hasn't looked back," he said.

The Bond actor Pierce Brosnan has a house nearby, as do The Corrs, and it was rumoured that Lord Lloyd-Webber was house-hunting in the area.

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