The Dolls of Barcelona

There are many located throughout the city… They gaze upon the people lost in their thoughts who pass through their streets, in their own world, without moving. Their physical characteristics are like those of real people, but not a peep is heard from their mouths. From their faces, not even an ounce of emotion. And from their joints, not a single movement. They spend the entirety of their days there, through empty eyes.

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Plaza de Pons y Clerch, Barcelona | Federica Zolla

The first on the list is Jack, who has been a doll for around 40 years and once worked as a mannequin in a men’s suit shop on Passeig de Gràcia. There, he had the opportunity to sport the best and most expensive fabrics that came from every corner of the world, and would then be bought by some of the most illustrious aristocrats in Catalonia.

There came a time when Jack fell in love. A store opened directly in front of his. A clothing shop. Women’s clothing shop. But Jack didn’t fall in love with a mannequin – he fell in love with a real woman. Her name was Licorice and she was was a very elegant lady who arrived every morning to open the shop, only to then leave and go far away (who knows where). To Jack, she was everything that a simple doll could want. Until the magic ended. The company that Jack worked for closed and the poor doll was thrown to the garbage dump. In this strange place, any peculiar object could be found. When Jack arrived, her looked around, observing the place, but he couldn’t find anything that looked like him. It was in that moment that a feeling of loneliness overcame him, and it was the first time that he ever experienced such a sentiment. He had grasped the luck of experiencing his first love and immediately following, was inevitably greeted by loneliness. The poor doll passed unending days, months – even years in that dirty dump.

The sky was clear as far as the eye could see as some seagulls searched through the remaining food scraps in the dumpster. In a swift, almost unperceived movement, a hand snatched Jack and carried him away.

Nowadays, Jack spends each morning looking upon the main street in front of the balcony where he stays, and even though it may not be perceptible to the passing eye, he smiles.

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Carrer de la Princesa | Federica Zolla

Marie has very rosy cheeks, and they’ve always been that way. She likes to watch couples as they pass by below her balcony. There are those who stroll past on their first date, potential future lovers who never fail to emit a certain embarrassment. They don’t exactly know what to say or where to look, but the tension tends to lessen within the first five minutes and they generally head to a nearby bar, movie theater or park. And then there are the couples who stop after just having had a fight. These are Marie’s favorites. Nothing more than a look and they start to scream the worst things into each others’ faces; some look like actors due to the teatral expressions and movements they make. After the initial rage, the fire of discord begins to calm and the screams become softer as lips begin to meet, kissing.

Marie always loved this, the moments when she felt as if she was in a cinema, watching the last dramatic scene of the season. She knows a lot about cinema and theatre; in fact, before ending up on the balcony of the sunny street on which she now lives, she worked as an extra in different movies and theatrical productions. But, she performed in the French capital instead of in Barcelona. There, Marie lived the beginning stages of her life, as well as success, fame and wealth. They were years of her life that were entertaining and energetic – up until someone decided that this little doll had done enough and that she should be replaced. She passed through fives houses: the first belonging to a German collector, the second a Swiss surgeon, the third a retired Dutchman, the fourth an Italian businessman and finally, the fifth, in which she peered through a window to look upon the Born neighborhood.

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Carrer Gìriti, Barcelona | Federica Zolla

Kalim has been there forever. Ever since he remembers opening his eyes for the first time. He’s never worked or been in love, has never acted in a theater or in a film, but the one thing that he’s always had is the capability to smell. He can smell all of the magnificent scents that characterize the neighborhood. There are aromas of curry, bread that has just left the oven, the smoke of hash, women’s perfume and trees at the start of summer. All of this Kalim perceives through his plastic nose. And he enjoys it more than he can say – thanks to this ability, he feels alive. He lives like he never has before and like he never will.

Unfortunately, there came a day when a neighborhood garbage truck’s wheel burst precisely below his window. This was the only instant in which he would’ve preferred to not feel so alive. However, with the exception of this incident, his gift always brought him good tidings. As his only other sensorial capability is that of sight, equal to that of his colleagues, he leads his days combining visions with smells in an attempt to perceive reality just as it is. And with the passing of years, he has also learned to connect each aroma with its corresponding object. His favorite scent is that of hash smoke. His absolute favorite moment occurs at night, when the neighborhood youngsters meet up in the bar below his house to have a few beers and smoke a few joints.

Although Kalim is only a mannequin, he knows how to be a true Moroccan. After his favorite scent comes that of curry chicken, prepared by his neighbor, Danila. Danila is a 50-year-old woman with a husband much older than her and with too many children for the family to handle. But she knows how to cook the best curry in all of the city, or at least Kalim likes to think so. In some way, she has come to understand the doll’s passion and as a result, leaves the plate of prepared deliciousness on the balcony for a few extra minutes each time she cooks.

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Carrer dels Escudellers, Barcelona | Federica Zolla

Here conclude the stories of these three dolls: the lovestruck, the French actress and the Moroccan smoker. Each account is completely fictional, however the protagonists are real and are accompanied by many more curious, fascinating others seen gazing upon the streets of Barcelona; the only thing one has to do is look up towards the sky and perhaps, use a little imagination. I hope that one of them will put a smile on your face someday.

Jack can be admired on Passeig del Born, in Barcelona.

Marie is located on one of Carrer Gìriti’s balconies in the city.

And Kalim would be greatly appreciative if passersby were to bring a serving of curry chicken as they stroll below his window on Carrer dels Escudellers (even if it will never be quite as good as Danila’s).

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Passeig del Born, Barcelona | Federica Zolla

Fede

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