The passing of Deià’s Jackie Waldren has resulted in an enormous wave of memories and tributes from the many people who had the good fortune to know her. David Holzer explains what she meant and means to him.
One of the things I was hoping to do this summer was persuade Jackie to be properly interviewed by me. Our conversations, mainly on the terrace of Sa Font Fresca, had only ever showed me the softest outline of her life.
I knew she’d discovered Deià in 1959 when she was 21 and lived in the village ever since. I knew she’d co-founded the Deià Archeological and Anthropological Museum and Research Centre with her beloved husband Bill in 1962. I knew she had a doctorate at Oxford where she was a lecturer and research associate in Social Anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology.
Like many of us I’m sure, I’d read Jackie’s Insiders and Outsiders: Paradise and Reality in Mallorca several times.
That book was published in 1996 and I was always hoping there would be some sort of sequel, reflecting Jackie’s observations of the way life in Deià had changed but in many ways stayed the same, as well as her tireless commitment to the wellbeing of the village.
I don’t think I ever made a formal arrangement to sit down with Jackie and talk about anything. I would walk onto the sun-filled salon of Sa Font Fresca terrace on a glorious morning and there she would be, with a friend or alone and reading the paper over coffee.
We would fall easily into conversation, speaking little of ourselves and mostly of ideas we’d encountered, books we’d read, people she’d met – she really had known an incredible selection of people – and always somehow or other of Deià.
I always felt that Jackie had seen everything, was unshockable, and kept her judgements to herself. As I say, we spoke mainly of ideas, books and authors. With her, I had some of the most stimulating conversations I’ve ever had with anyone ever.
On a slightly trivial note, she was always complimentary about my writing and encouraged me to write more, to write more seriously. She joins the chorus of fellow writers who I picture when I feel I need to raise my game or, to put it bluntly, pull my finger out.
While I certainly wouldn’t claim I knew her well, Jackie was, for me, a strikingly powerful woman who radiated a certain kind of mostly serene strength and grace. I’m glad I knew her.
My thoughts are with her family and close friends at this time.