Robert Graves’s writing paradise
A visit to the English poet and novelist’s home in Majorca
Robert Graves (1895–1985)
Though I’m someone who revels in the mundane details of writers’ lives, I don’t think I’ve ever visited a famous writer’s house—until last month, when on vacation in Majorca I dragged my wife away from the sun and sea and jamón to tour the home of the English poet and novelist Robert Graves. (In truth, I didn’t have to drag very hard; we’re both fans of Graves’s 1934 novel I, Claudius and the 1976 BBC series it spawned.)
For me, writers’ houses are by definition melancholy. They are often obscure, undervisited, quiet, and dark. They remind me of death. And they aim to do the impossible: to make physical—to make real—acts of literary imagination. Going to a writer’s house is a fool’s errand.
But Graves’s house, it turned out, could hardly be less melancholy. A two-story stone building set in the olive grove–lined hillsides of Deiá, on the mountainous northern side of the island, with a lush garden and a view of the Mediterranean, Graves’s house is a rustic, sun-drenched dream of the writer’s life. It has been preserved for visitors by his son William, who has said that his goal was to retain, as much as possible, “the way in which he lived in the house when he was at his most creative, between the 1930s and the 1950s. . . . The vegetable garden is planted as if Robert were to come out from his study to pick tomatoes, aubergines, lettuce or a melon for his lunch.”