The Siege (El asedio)

In a city under siege, the bodies of gruesomely murdered young women begin to appear. And at every spot where the police finds a corpse, a bomb has fallen. Is there a connection?

This is the (brutally simplified) premise of The Siege, a historical novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. A novel set in Cádiz during the French siege in 1811 and 1812, in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, two years during what the Spanish call the War of Independence.

Cádiz. [Public domain via Pixabay]
En una ciudad bajo sitio aparecen cadáveres de jovencitas asesinadas en una manera horripilante. Y en cada lugar en que el policía encuentra un cadáver, ha caído una bomba, ¿Hay alguna conexión?

Eso es la premisa (simplificada de manera brutal) de El Asedio, una novela histórica por Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Una novela ambientada en Cádiz durante el asedio francés en los años 1811 y 1812, la era de la Guerra de la Independencia.

Cádiz 1812

1811-1812 – turbulent years in the history of Spain. (Which years weren’t?) With “The Desired” King Ferdinand VII in French custody, Spain is ruled by Joseph, the brother of Napoleon. The country is in open rebellion, with guerillas hunting French soldiers, while the rebel government, after a series of military defeats, has been pushed back into Cádiz… Where, in the absence of a king, in an uneasy alliance with England (who only a few years ago were the enemy), besieged by Imperial troops and against a backdrop of rebellion in the Americas, the Cortes proclaimes the sovereignty of the nation over the king and adopts a constitution that includes such novel notions as the freedom of press and the abolition of torture…

Rather to the annoyance of superintendent Rogelio Tizón who finds these new laws cumbersome in his line of work.

The announcement of the Constitution of 1812 by Salvador Viniegra / La promulgación de la Constitución de 1812 por Salvador Viniegra [public domain via Wikipedia]
1811-1812 – años turbios en la historia de España. (¿Cuáles no lo eran?). Con “El Deseado” rey Fernando VII prisionero en Francia, España es gobernada por José, el hermano de Napoleón. El país está en rebelión abierta, guerrilleros españoles cazan soldados franceses en el campo mientras el gobierno rebelde, después de una serie de derrotas militares, ha retrocedido a Cádiz… Donde, en la ausencia de un rey, en una alianza incómoda con Inglaterra (que era el enemigo hacía unos pocos años), asediadas por las tropas imperiales y sobre el trasfondo de la rebelión en las Americas, las Cortes proclaman que la soberanía reside no en el rey, sino en la nación, y adoptan una constitución que incluye ideas novedosas como la libertad de la prensa y la abolición de la tortura… 

Nuevas leyes que fastidian bastante al comisario Rogelio Tizón en su línea de trabajo.

In this turbulent wartime world move the protagonists of the book: Tizón, the somewhat corrupt police superintendent without too much scruples regarding his methods… a corsair captain and the female owner of the trading company who employs him… a salt-pan worker who joined the army… a solitary taxidermist… and even a French artillery captain on the opposite shore of the bay who is only interested in increasing the reach of his shots. Not exactly heroes, certainly not in the most positive sense of the word. Living separate lives until their paths cross, moving the plot forward.

En este mundo turbio de guerra mueven los personajes principales de la novela: el comisario Tizón, un poco corrupto y sin demasiado escrúpulos en sus métodos… un capitán corsario y  la dueña de una casa comercial que lo emplea… un salinero, que se alistó en el ejercito… un taxidermista solitario… e incluso un capitán de artillería francés al otro lado de la bahía que sólo se interesa en aumentar de alcance de sus disparos. No héroes, exactamente, no en el sentido más positivo de la palabra, por lo menos. Viviendo vidas separadas hasta que sus caminos crucen , y la trama se mueve adelante.

View from the Cathedral, Cádiz. Photo by Nedim, via Pixabay [public domain]

A Deadly Game of Chess

This plot, the central plot of the book, is a detective story: Superintendent Tizón is investigating a series of horrific murders in the besieged city. In each location where the superintendent finds a corpse, a French bomb has fallen. What is the connection – if any – between the fall of the bombs and the young women tortured to death? And assuming there is a connection: is it possible to figure out where the next bomb will fall and forestall the murderer?

Un partido de ajedrez mortal

Esta trama, la trama central del libro, es una historia policíaca: el comisario Rogelio Tizón está investigando una serie de asesinatos espantosos en la ciudad asediada. En cada lugar en que el comisario encuentra un cadáver, ha caído una bomba francesa. ¿Qué es la conexión- si hay alguna – entre las caídas de bombas y las mujeres jóvenes torturadas hasta la muerte? Y, si hay una conexión: ¿sería possible adivinar dónde caerá la próxima bomba y prevenir al asesino?

While the policeman and his friend theorise over games of chess about the murders and the French artillery, a reclusive taxidermist carefully maps the locations of the fallen bombs, noting down distances, trajectories and atmospheric conditions. Is he the murderer – or is he just a spy? As the policeman’s obsession grows, he prowls around the town trying to guess where the next bomb would fall. A sinister map is being drawn up, of trajectories, bombs and dead women. A deadly game is being played out on the chessboard of Cádiz, where Tizón is setting traps, risking his pieces. On the real chessboard he usually loses… so can he outwit the murderer in the street?

Mientras el policía y su amigo juegan ajedrez y teorizan cerca de los asesinatos y la artillería francesa, un taxidermista recluso marca un mapa cuidadosamente con los lugares de las bombas caídas, con distancias, trayectorias y condiciones atmosféricos. ¿Es este hombre el asesino – o solamente un espía? A medida que su obsesión crece, el comisario ronda la ciudad en un intento para averiguar dónde caerá la próxima bomba. Se está desarrollado un mapa siniestro de trayectorias, bombas y mujeres muertas. En el tablero de Cádiz, Tizón está jugando un partido mortal, teniendo trampas, arriesgando sus piezas. Pero en el tablero de ajedrez real el comisario pierde con frequencia… ¿podría ser más listo en la calle?

A Portrait of Cádiz

The storyline of the murder and the investigation, however, is not what really makes the novel: this is not a book for those who seek fast paced action and a clear, simple resolution at the end.

Instead, it’s a novel with a wide historical scope and many characters: on its nearly 800 pages more than one plot is being played out, more than one life is being wrecked. Ultimately, the real protagonist is the town itself: with its narrow streets, its citizens dependent on the sea, its solid bulwarks battered by the Atlantic; captured in the act of creating a liberal, enlightened constitution that could have changed Spain but never did.

It’s a book full of atmosphere, and you’ll never walk the old town of Cádiz quite the same way again, not without being conscious of how the wind channels down the streets, not without noticing the dark and hidden corners. In places it’s brutal and in the end, melancholic. Very Pérez-Reverte.

Cádiz. Photo by Manolofranco via Pixabay [public domain]

Un retrato de Cádiz

La historia del asesinato y la investigación, sin embargo, no es lo que realmente hace la novela: este no es un libro para gente que busca acción rápida y una resolución clara y sencilla al final.

Es una novela con un amplio alcance histórico y muchos personajes: en sus casi 800 páginas se desarrolla más de una trama, se estropea más de una vida. De hecho, el verdadero protagonista es la ciudad misma: sus calles estrechas, sus ciudadanos dependientes del mar, sus sólidos baluartes maltratados por el Atlántico; capturado en el acto de crear una constitución liberal e ilustrada que podría haber cambiado España pero nunca lo hizo.

Además es un libro lleno de atmósfera. Nunca volverás a caminar por el casco antiguo de Cádiz en la misma manera, no sin que serás consciente de cómo sopla el viento por las calles, no sin que te darás cuenta de los rincones oscuros y reconditos. A veces es un libro brutal y al final, melancólico. Muy Pérez-Reverte.

You may also like / Quizá también te gusta:Constitution of Cádiz in Encyclopaedia Britannica

Pablo Neruda Explains a Few Things

I read in the news on Friday that in Madrid they are renaming the streets that carry Francoist names – high time. The same afternoon, Sophisticated Young Lady came home for the weekend from university (where she reads Spanish and History) and reminded me of a poem that I haven’t heard for decades… and certainly never read in the original until last Friday night. So today we’ll remember the Spanish Civil War…

Pablo Neruda explica algunas cosas

El viernes leí en las noticias que en Madrid van a dar nombres sustituivos para calles con nombres franquistas – ya es hora. La misma tarde, La Señorita Sofisticada volvió a casa de la universidad (donde estudia español y historia) para visitarnos para el fin de semana y me recordó a una poema que no había oído hace décadas… y seguramente no he leído en lo original nunca hasta la noche del viernes pasado. Así que hoy recordamos la guerra civil española…

With this poem:

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
his words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?

I’ll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille’s dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raúl?
Eh, Rafael?
Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
Everything
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings —
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!
(Pablo Neruda: I’m Explaining a Few Things)
Guernica by Pablo Picasso (via Wikipedia). The original painting can be seen in the Museo de la Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Con este poema:

Preguntaréis: Y dónde están las lilas?
Y la metafísica cubierta de amapolas?
Y la lluvia que a menudo golpeaba
sus palabras llenándolas
de agujeros y pájaros?

Os voy a contar todo lo que me pasa.

Yo vivía en un barrio
de Madrid, con campanas,
con relojes, con árboles.

Desde allí se veía
el rostro seco de Castilla
como un océano de cuero.
Mi casa era llamada
la casa de las flores, porque por todas partes
estallaban geranios: era
una bella casa
con perros y chiquillos.
Raúl, te acuerdas?
Te acuerdas, Rafael?
Federico, te acuerdas
debajo de la tierra,
te acuerdas de mi casa con balcones en donde
la luz de junio ahogaba flores en tu boca?
Hermano, hermano!
Todo
eran grandes voces, sal de mercaderías,
aglomeraciones de pan palpitante,
mercados de mi barrio de Argüelles con su estatua
como un tintero pálido entre las merluzas:
el aceite llegaba a las cucharas,
un profundo latido
de pies y manos llenaba las calles,
metros, litros, esencia
aguda de la vida,
pescados hacinados,
contextura de techos con sol frío en el cual
la flecha se fatiga,
delirante marfil fino de las patatas,
tomates repetidos hasta el mar.

Y una mañana todo estaba ardiendo
y una mañana las hogueras
salían de la tierra
devorando seres,
y desde entonces fuego,
pólvora desde entonces,
y desde entonces sangre.
Bandidos con aviones y con moros,
bandidos con sortijas y duquesas,
bandidos con frailes negros bendiciendo
venían por el cielo a matar niños,
y por las calles la sangre de los niños
corría simplemente, como sangre de niños.

Chacales que el chacal rechazaría,
piedras que el cardo seco mordería escupiendo,
víboras que las víboras odiaran!

Frente a vosotros he visto la sangre
de España levantarse
para ahogaros en una sola ola
de orgullo y de cuchillos!

Generales
traidores:
mirad mi casa muerta,
mirad España rota:
pero de cada casa muerta sale metal ardiendo
en vez de flores,
pero de cada hueco de España
sale España,
pero de cada niño muerto sale un fusil con ojos,
pero de cada crimen nacen balas
que os hallarán un día el sitio
del corazón.

Preguntaréis por qué su poesía
no nos habla del sueño, de las hojas,
de los grandes volcanes de su país natal?

Venid a ver la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver
la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver la sangre
por las calles!

(Pablo Neruda: Explico algunas cosas)

I don’t believe in analysing poems to death, so I will limit myself to the minimum explanation here:

  • Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who served as ambassador in Spain in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out.
  • His house in Madrid served as a meeting place for friends: Raúl González Tuñón (an Argentinian poet), Rafael Alberti (a Spanish poet), and Federico García Lorca (a Spanish poet and playwright who was killed by Francoist militias in Granada in the beginning of the civil war).

No creo en explicar poems hasta matar la poesía. Así que os doy una explicación mínima: 

  • Pablo Neruda era un poeta chileno que servía de embajador en España en 1936 al estallido de la guerra civil.
  • Solía quedarse con amigos en su casa en Madrid: con Raúl González Tuñón (un poeta argentino), Rafael Alberti (un poeta español) y Federico García Lorca (un poeta y dramaturgo español que fue asesinado por los franquistas en Granada al principio de la guerra civil).
You might also like / Quizá también te gusta: 
⇒ Lorca's Bones: Can Spain Finally Confront its Civil-War Past? in the New Yorker
⇔ Federico García Lorca: Impresiones y paisajes

Canoeing in the Wilderness

In the summer of 1857, the American writer Henry David Thoreau – best known for his book Walden detailing his experiences of living in a log cabin for two years in the wild – went on a canoe trip in the still unspoilt regions of Maine, with a friend and an Indian guide from the reservation of Old Town.

Canoeing in the Wilderness is the recounting of this two-week journey, in the form of a diary.

Mount Kineo on Moosehead Lake, Maine. By Jesse Lee Tucker [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Think of our little eggshell of a canoe tossing across that great lake, a mere black speck to the eagle soaring above it!

Canoeing in the Wilderness by Henry David Thoreau

It’s the classic canoeing trip: the rain showers, the instability of the canoe on open water when the wind whips up the waves, shooting through rapids and clambering over fallen trees on the portages… camping by the waterside, a dripping tent and nights disturbed by mosquitoes… cooking over fire, picking raspberries, waking to bird song at dawn… getting lost in the woods and suffering an upset stomach. All this accompanied by Thoreau’s vivid observations of nature, the plants, animals and landscape – not to mention the ways and character of his Indian guide.

You feel like you’re right there in the woods with him.

Mount Katahdin, Maine. Photo by tpsdave [CC0 public domain] via Pixabay.

I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. It is cheerfully, musically earnest.

Henry David Thoreau’s Journal, 16 November 1850

You might also like: 
⇒ Adventure 101: Canoeing the Allagash on National Geographic
⇒ Canoeing in the Wilderness on the Gutenberg Project
⇒ Quotes from Henry David Thoreau on the Walden Woods Project

In Memoriam: Azure Window (La Ventana Azul)

The Azure Window in Dwejra Bay on the Maltese island of Gozo made headlines last week – not for a good reason. The rock formation, one of the most popular tourists sights on the small island, has disappeared without a trace during a storm.

I had the good fortune to see it when it was still there – so for today’s Mediterranean theme, a few photos of the Azure Window in memoriam (click photos to enlarge):

In Memoriam: La Ventana Azul

La Ventana Azul en la bahía de Dwejra en la isla de Gozo en Malta salió en las noticias la semana pasada – y no por una buena razón. Esta formación rocosa, uno de los más populares lugares de interés turístico en la isla pequeña, ha desaparecido sin dejar un rastro durante una tormenta.

Tuve la suerte de verla cuando todavía estaba allí – así que para el tema del Mediterráneo de hoy, algunas fotos de la Ventana Azul in memoriam (haz clic en las fotos para ampliar):

Although nothing now is left of the Window, not even the stacks that had seemed pretty solid before last week, Dwejra Bay is still well worth a visit if you’re at all interested in fossils. There are many fossils in clear view all over the surface of the limestone, from the Miocene and the Oligocene periods. In fact, it’s difficult to avoid treading on them! The boat trip through the rock tunnel out to sea presumably continues as well.

A pesar de que ya nada queda de la Ventana, ni siquiera las pilas que parecían bastante sólido antes de la semana pasada, la bahía de Dwejra todavía vale la pena de visitar, si te interesan los fósiles. Hay muchos fósiles sobre la superficie de la piedra caliza, desde los períodos de Mioceno y Oligoceno. De hecho, es difícil evitar pisar sobre ellos! Además, supongo que todavía se pueda hacer también el viaje en un bote a través del túnel de roca hacia el mar.

All photos taken at the end of October in 2015. Todas las fotos son del final de octubre en 2015.

You may also like / Quizá también te gusta:
Gozo on Paleontica

Iconic (St Paul’s Cathedral, London)

Iconic

The only photo I remember from my primary school history book is this:

St Paul’s Cathedral, rising above the bombed London skyline, is shrouded in smoke during the Blitz. Taken from the roof of the Daily Mail offices in Fleet Street. Copyright: © IWM.

I’m sure you’ve all seen it before: St Paul’s dome standing intact above the ruins, surrounded by smoke and flames, seemingly indestructible, converting into a symbol. Iconic doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was taken on 29 December 1940, the 114th night of the Blitz, by Herbert Mason, a Daily Mail photographer, from on top of the Daily Mail building in Fleet Street. I take my hat off to Mr Mason – quite apart from any other considerations, just for having the guts to stand on an exposed London rooftop during a German bombing raid, taking pictures.

Continue reading “Iconic (St Paul’s Cathedral, London)”

Just How Difficult Is It to Take a Self-Portrait?

Under certain circumstances: very.

The first challenge of Dogwood2016 was a self-portrait, using the camera’s self-timer. Well, finding out how to do that was easy (I read the manual).

But the rest…!

If there’s anything I hate more than being seen with a camera in my hand, it’s being in front of the camera. I was only sure of one thing: the resulting self-portrait should not really show much of me. If you say that can’t be a self-portrait, yes, it can.

Continue reading “Just How Difficult Is It to Take a Self-Portrait?”

Rest in Peace? The Wandering Remains of Christopher Columbus

¿Que en paz descanse? Los restos errantes de Cristóbal Colón

The other day I was reading the Rough Guide to Andalucía, and I came across this:

The dispute about Christopher Columbus‘s birthplace – claimed by both Italy and Spain – is matched by the labyrinthine controversy surrounding the whereabouts of his remains.

I thought it sounded promising, so I read on.

El otro día estaba leyendo la Rough Guide de Andalucía, y me topé con esto:

La disputa sobre el lugar de nacimiento de Cristóbal Colón – reclamada tanto por Italia como por España – está acompañada por la controversia laberíntica que rodea el paradero de sus restos.

Pensé que sonaba prometedor, así que seguí leyendo.

Continue reading “Rest in Peace? The Wandering Remains of Christopher Columbus”

Take Your Time: The Case of the Neurotic Photographer

One of the greatest impediments to me becoming a better photographer is that I wouldn’t want to be seen dead with a camera in my hand. 

Quick on the Trigger like John Wayne

In a city like London not wanting to be seen taking a picture does rather pose a problem. Even if you use a phone, even if you had an invisible camera, you would be still seen acting like a photographer.

What I’d like instead is to take great photos without behaving like a photographer.

To pull out the camera and shoot from the hip, as it were, in one quick movement, non-chalantly, seemingly without aiming but hitting the target for the first time, all the time. Yeah! Like John Wayne.

Continue reading “Take Your Time: The Case of the Neurotic Photographer”

Dazzling Doors (The Hungarian Parliament)

Recently I went on a visit to Hungary to spend time with family and catch up with old friends… and to introduce Young Friend of the Elephants (who caught the photography bug from me) to some of the more prestigious buildings of Budapest. In the course of which we took a copious amount of pictures, most of which proved to be a blurry failure when downloaded to the computer – but of that, more in another post…

Because today I’m contenting myself with nominating some dazzling doors from the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest (the few that came out sharp!) to Norm’s weekly Doors challenge.

Enjoy.

You might also like:Under Italian Influence: The Queen's House in GreenwichSun-DrenchedSpain in Black & White III

Don’t Panic!

Stop the World, I want to get off!
Stop the World, I want to get off!

There’s an Argentinian cartoon from the late 1960s-early 70s, about a little girl called Mafalda, whose exclamation, ¡Paren el mundo, que me quiero bajar! (Stop the world, I want to get off!) became an internationally known phrase. As we all have moments in which we want to get off (I did, yesterday afternoon), perhaps it might be a good idea if you keep The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at hand?

As the title suggests, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the only – electronic – book you’ll ever need if you should actually succeed in getting off by hitching a ride on a passing UFO. It will also provide you with light relief while you’re waiting by the roadside, as it were, with your thumb stuck in empty air as those heartless aliens are driving by without stopping.

Continue reading “Don’t Panic!”

How to Live like a Local in Budapest

I just came home from home. The experience was slightly unnerving in both directions (as usual). To begin with, there was the inevitable confusion of languages: while at home, I tended to do it all wrong. I spoke Hungarian to Young Friend of the Elephants and English to my father, not to mention when I creatively mixed the two languages to the changing room attendant in the thermal baths. To end with, back home there was the immigration officer at Heathrow who asked cunning questions to find out if I was trafficking my child into the country to be some sort of a domestic slave. (She’s washing up after dinner right now but don’t tell that to the border police.)

Continue reading “How to Live like a Local in Budapest”

God’s Chosen People?

The other day, reading a history of Spain by Juan Eslava Galán, I came across the following paragraph:

Spain had become the defender of the honour of God. Theologians and thinkers (not so many of these latter) became convinced that Spain and God were united in a pact. God promoted Spain to the rank of the chosen people, protected her and granted her riches and power (the Americas) in exchange for which Spain acted as his armed arm on Earth, champion of the true faith against the error of the Protestants and the Turks.

España se había erigido en defensora del honor de Dios. Teólogos y pensadores (de estos hubo menos) llegaron al convencimiento de que España y Dios estaban unidos por un pacto. Dios la había promocionado al rango de pueblo elegido, la protegía y le otorgaba riquezas y poder (las Américas) a cambio de que ella ejerciese como su brazo armado en la Tierra, paladín de la fe verdadera contra el error de protestantes y turcos.

This notion of the pact with God and the chosen people put me strongly in mind of the Hun-Hungarian legends which I read as a child.

Continue reading “God’s Chosen People?”

Salamis (According to Herodotus)

Salamis – an island in the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea, opposite Mount Aigaleo, 16 kilometres west of Athens.

Salamis – a battle that defined history for centuries to come.

The Warriors of Salamis (Achilles Vasileiou), battle monument on the island of Salamis. Photo by Sculptureholic via Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 4.0]
The Warriors of Salamis by Achilles Vasileiou, on the island of Salamis. Photo by Sculptureholic via Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Continue reading “Salamis (According to Herodotus)”

Sun-Drenched

I don’t know about you but at around this time of the year, I invariably reach the point when I could murder for sunshine, flowers and the ability to go out without a coat.

(Not to mention it’s Monday.)

So what we need right now is a little sunshine:

Wishing you all a happy sunny Monday! (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Night at the Museum

Many of London’s museums and galleries stay open late into the evening once a week. You might think day or night makes no difference…

But it’s nice to break the daily routine once in a while. Instead of going home after work, I head for Bloomsbury.

british-museum-p1020724

The British Museum after six pm is a different place

The lights are dimmed. The crowds are gone; it’s quiet. I relax in the members’ room with my book and a glass of wine before going for a wander.

I can get up close to the most popular exhibits without an elbow fight. I can contemplate. I can read the labels in peace.

I can take pictures.

Till next Friday.

You might also like:
Made by the Egyptians: A Bust of Amenhotep IIIThe Mausoleum at HalicarnassusThree Hours at the British Museum

The Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets (El imperio en el que nunca se pone el sol)

I first heard this evocative phrase in a history class at university many years ago but in certain countries (the English and the Spanish can raise their hands here) it’s pretty well-known. And I don’t know about you but it makes me think of ships ploughing the oceans, armies marching and merchants haggling over exotic goods. I think of kings whose word was law over diverse lands, of gold and glory and of a confusion of languages to equal that of Babel. In fact, in my mind I can see the big globe in the library of the Escorial, turning slowly….

He oído esta frase evocador en una clase de historia en la universidad hace muchos años pero en ciertas países  (los españoles y los ingleses pueden levantar las manos aquí) es bastante bien conocida. No sé nada de ti, pero me hace pensar en barcos cruzando el mar, ejercitos en marcha y comerciantes regateando mercancías exóticos. Pienso en reyes cuyos palabras eran la ley en tierras distintas, en oro y gloria, y además en una confusión de idiomas igual que la de Babel. De hecho, mentalmente veo el gran globo en la biblioteca de El Escorial, girando despacio… 

The library of the Escorial with the big globe / La biblioteca de El Escorial con el gran globo
The library of the Escorial with the big globe / La biblioteca de El Escorial con el gran globo. Photo by José Maria Cuellar via Flickr. [CC BY-NC 2.0]
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