Land of Giants

Leer esto en castellano

Or The Windmills of Don Quixote

Unexceptional

The Lonely Planet guide about the La Mancha town of Campo de Criptana reads:

One of the most popular stops on the Don Quijote route, Campo de Criptana is crowned by 10 windmills visible from kilometres around. Revered contemporary film-maker Pedro Almodóvar¹ was born here, but left for Madrid in his teens. The town is pleasant, if unexceptional.

Actually, unexceptional doesn’t even begin to describe the town if you arrive by train (Campo de Criptana is on the mainline from Madrid to Albacete, the capital of Castile-La Mancha). Downright ugly might be a better description: as in many Spanish towns, the railway station is on the outskirts, in this case surrounded by industrial buildings of little appeal. Luckily, Campo de Criptana is a small place and fifteen minutes walk will bring you to the centre of town.

Which is unexceptional.

Statue of Cervantes, Campo de Criptana

But you don’t really want the centre of town. You’re a reader, a reader of Don Quixote at that, and what you want is the famous windmills, the giants that Don Quixote fought. Head uphill from the unexceptional Plaza Mayor with its obligatory Cervantes statue, through the Albaícin – the old Moorish quarter -, through the narrow cobblestoned alleys, between whitewashed houses edged in indigo blue… it sounds better already, doesn’t it? There. As you turn the corner, you spot your first windmill. And there are other nine to come.

A Miller and a Thief

Being a miller and a thief is one and the same.

(Castilian proverb)

In 1752, the land survey of the Marquis of Ensenada counted thirty-four windmills here; an earlier survey ordered by Philip II in 1575, the Relaciones Topográficas, simply mentions – rather more vaguely – “many windmills”.

People came here from all over the neighbourhood to have their wheat ground. For the millers, for the town, this was a source of riches. As lingering evidence of the proverbial dishonesty of millers, one of the 16th century windmills goes by the name of El Burleta, corrupted over the centuries from Burlapobres (ie. Tricking the Poor).

The Sierra de los Molinos, Windmill Hill, still boasts three original 16th century mills; the ones Cervantes saw, the ones Don Quixote took for giants. For paltry two euros you can enter one of them and a guide will explain about the machinery inside. Working machinery: on the first Sunday of every month, the mills are still armed with sails and grind wheat. The other seven windmills are more modern constructions, albeit rebuilt from the original stones. The oficina de turismo is located in one of them.

The Land of Giants

Tierra de gigantes / Land of giants

The hill of windmills is tiny. Hardly merits the name of hill, really. But when you reach the top and look around, you feel as if you’re on top of the world. This is the famous Spanish meseta, the Castilian meseta, with the red soil Federico García Lorca sang about and its utter emptiness under a stupendous sky.

These fields are an immense symphony of congealed blood without trees, cool respite or shelter for the brain, full of superstitious prayer, broken lances, enigmatic villages…

(Federico García Lorca: Sketches of Spain)

 

Las ruinas de un granero / The ruins of a grain store, Campo de Criptana, Castilla-La Mancha

There’s nowhere to hide here. You’re exposed to the elements, to the wandering eyes of your fellow humans and to your God, should you have one.

The landscape of La Mancha dotted with windmills is no more rigorously divided into heaven and earth than the Dutch polder. It is an extreme division, unmitigated by temptations, valleys, romantic corners. Most of the meseta is as hard for a man to hide in as the flatlands of the Netherland. A man is always visible between heaven and earth, silhouetted against the sky…

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

The weather rolls in. You can see it coming from a long way off. Two cyclists stand out as stark silhouettes against the empty sky. There are the four windmills on a distant hill, near Alcazár de San Juan. As you wander, you can find the ruins of old grain stores. You can see the odd olive grove. El Toboso, the home of Dulcinea, is about 20 km northeast. Two low flying fighter planes scream through the sky.

There is nothing really here, apart from the windmills, the sky and the red soil of the windswept, half-barren meseta. But if you walk out on the meseta far enough and look back, the windmills do look like giants. With the tiniest bit of imagination.

You are in Don Quixote country.

At this point they came in sight of thirty forty windmills that there are on plain, and as soon as Don Quixote saw them he said to his squire, “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God’s good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” said Sancho Panza.

“Those thou seest there,” answered his master, “with the long arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long.”

“Look, your worship,” said Sancho; “what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go.”

“It is easy to see,” replied Don Quixote, “that thou art not used to this business of adventures; those are giants; and if thou art afraid, away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.”

So saying, he gave the spur to his steed Rocinante, heedless of the cries his squire Sancho sent after him, warning him that most certainly they were windmills and not giants he was going to attack. He, however, was so positive they were giants that he neither heard the cries of Sancho, nor perceived, near as he was, what they were, but made at them shouting, “Fly not, cowards and vile beings, for a single knight attacks you.”

A slight breeze at this moment sprang up, and the great sails began to move, seeing which Don Quixote exclaimed, “Though ye flourish more arms than the giant Briareus, ye have to reckon with me.”

So saying, and commending himself with all his heart to his lady Dulcinea, imploring her to support him in such a peril, with lance in rest and covered by his buckler, he charged at Rocinante’s fullest gallop and fell upon the first mill that stood in front of him; but as he drove his lance-point into the sail the wind whirled it round with such force that it shivered the lance to pieces, sweeping with it horse and rider, who went rolling over on the plain, in a sorry condition.

Sancho hastened to his assistance as fast as his ass could go, and when he came up found him unable to move, with such a shock had Rocinante fallen with him.

“God bless me!” said Sancho, “did I not tell your worship to mind what you were about, for they were only windmills? and no one could have made any mistake about it but one who had something of the same kind in his head.”

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote de La Mancha)

Notes:
¹If one can believe Wikipedia (and why not?), Almodóvar was born in Calzada de Calatrava - only about a 100 km difference!

You might also like:Don Quixote (available for download or online reading on Project Gutenberg)
⇒ Campo de Criptana (Lonely Planet)
⇒ Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago 
⇒ Federico García Lorca: Sketches of Spain
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Tierra de Gigantes

Read this in English

O los molinos de Don Quijote

Nada excepcional

El artículo de Lonely Planet sobre el pueblo manchego Campo de Criptana dice:

Una de las paradas más populares en la ruta de Don Quijote, Campo de Criptana está coronado por 10 molinos de viento visibles desde kilómetros. El respetado cineasta contemporáneo Pedro Almodóvar¹ nació aquí, pero se fue a Madrid en su adolescencia. El pueblo es agradable, aunque nada excepcional.

De hecho, la frase nada excepcional ni siquiera comienza a describir el pueblo si llegas por tren (Campo de Criptana está en la línea principal de Madrid a Albacete, la capital de Castilla-La Mancha). Feísimo podría ser una mejor descripción: como en muchas ciudades españolas, la estación de tren está en las afueras, en este caso rodeada de edificios industriales poco atractivo. Afortunadamente, Campo de Criptana es un lugar pequeño y quince minutos a pie te llevará al centro de la ciudad.

Lo que es nada excepcional.

Statue of Cervantes, Campo de Criptana

Pero la verdad es que no quieres el centro de la ciudad. Eres un lector, un lector de Don Quijote además, y lo que quieres son los famosos molinos de viento, los gigantes con los que luchó Don Quijote. Diríjase cuesta arriba desde la Plaza Mayor con su obligatoria estatua de Cervantes, a través del Albaícin, el antiguo barrio morisco, caminando por los estrechos callejones adoquinados, entre casas encaladas y bordeadas de azul añil … ya suena mejor, ¿no? Ahí. Al doblar la esquina, ves tu primer molino de viento. Y hay nueve más por venir.

 

Molinero y ladrón

Molinero y ladrón, dos cosas suenan y una son.

En 1752, el censo del Marqués de la Ensenada registraba treinta y cuatro molinos de viento aquí; un estudio anterior, las Relaciones Topográficas de Felipe II (1575) menciona – en forma algo más vaga – “muchos molinos”.

 

La gente vino aquí de todo el vecindario para tener harina. Para los molineros, para el pueblo, eso significó la riqueza. Uno de los molinos del siglo XVI se llama El Burleta, corrompido de Burlapobres, un nombre que probablemente hace alusión a la proverbial falta de honradez del molinero.

La Sierra de los Molinos aún cuenta con tres molinos originales del siglo XVI; los que vio Cervantes, los que don Quijote tomó por gigantes. Por sólo dos euros puedes entrar uno de ellos y una guía te explicará la maquinaria que se encuentra dentro. Aún es maquinaria de trabajo: el primer domingo de cada mes los molinos están equipados con aspas y muelen trigo. Los otros siete molinos de viento son construcciones más modernas, si bien es cierto que son reconstruidas de las piedras originales. La oficina de turismo se encuentra en una de ellas.

Tierra de gigantes

Tierra de gigantes

La colina de los molinos es pequeña. Apenas merece el nombre de cerro, de verdad. Pero cuando llegas a la cima y miras a tu alrededor, te sientes como si estuvieras en la cima del mundo. Esta es la famosa meseta española, la meseta castellana, con su tierra roja sobre el que cantó Federico García Lorca y su vacío absoluto bajo un cielo estupendo.

Estos campos, inmensa sinfonía en sangre reseca, sin árboles, sin matices de frescura, sin ningún descanso al cerebro, llenos de oraciones supersticiosas, de hierros quebrados, de pueblos enigmáticos…

(Federico García Lorca: Impresiones y paisajes)

Las ruinas de un granero, Campo de Criptana, Castilla-La Mancha

No hay donde esconderse aquí. Estás expuesto a los elementos, a los ojos errantes de tus semejantes y a tu Dios, si es que tienes uno.

El paisaje de La Mancha salpicado de molinos de viento no está más rigurosamente dividido en cielo y tierra que el pólder holandés. Es una división extrema, no mitigada por las tentaciones, los valles, los rincones románticos. En la mayoría de la meseta es tan difícil para un hombre ocultarse como en las llanuras de los Países Bajos. Un hombre siempre es visible entre el cielo y la tierra, recortada contra el cielo…

(Cees Nooteboom: El desvío a Santiago)

Las nubes negras empiezan a llegar; las puedes ver desde muy lejos. Dos ciclistas aparecen como siluetas austeras contra el cielo vacío. Hay cuatro molinos de viento en una colina distante, cerca de Alcazár de San Juan. Caminando, puedes encontrar las ruinas de los antiguos graneros. Puedes ver algunos olivares. El Toboso, el hogar de Dulcinea, está a unos 20 km al noreste. Oyes el estruendo de dos aviones de combate que vuelen sobre la tierra en una altitud muy baja.

La verdad es que no hay nada aquí, aparte de los molinos de viento, el cielo y la tierra roja de la meseta árida, azotado por el viento. Pero si caminas por la meseta lo suficiente y miras hacia atrás, los molinos de viento parecen gigantes. Con un poquito de imaginación.

Es que eres en la tierra de Don Quijote.

 

En esto, descubrieron treinta o cuarenta molinos de viento que hay en aquel campo, y así como don Quijote los vio, dijo a su escudero:
—La ventura va guiando nuestras cosas mejor de lo que acertamos a desear; porque ves allí, amigo Sancho Panza, donde se descubren treinta o pocos más desaforados gigantes, con quien pienso hacer batalla y quitarles a todos las vidas, con cuyos despojos comenzaremos a enriquecer, que esta es buena guerra, y es gran servicio de Dios quitar tan mala simiente de sobre la faz de la tierra.
—¿Qué gigantes?—dijo Sancho Panza.
—Aquellos que allí ves —respondió su amo— de los brazos largos, que los suelen tener algunos de casi dos leguas.
—Mire vuestra merced —respondió Sancho— que aquellos que allí se parecen no son gigantes, sino molinos de viento, y lo que en ellos parecen brazos son las aspas, que, volteadas del viento, hacen andar la piedra del molino.
—Bien parece—respondió don Quijote—que no estás cursado en esto de las aventuras: ellos son gigantes; y si tienes miedo quítate de ahí, y ponte en oración en el espacio que you voy a entrar con ellos en fiera y desigual batalla.
Y diciendo esto, dio de espuelas a su caballo Rocinante, sin atender a las voces que su escudero Sancho le daba, advirtiéndole que sin duda alguna eran molinos de viento, y no gigantes, aquellos que iba a acometer. Pero él iba tan puesto en que eran gigantes, que ni oía las voces de su escudero Sancho, ni echaba de ver, aunque estaba ya bien cerca, lo que eran, antes iba diciendo en voces altas:
—Non fuyades, cobardes y viles criaturas, que un solo caballero es el que os acomete.
Levantose en esto un poco de viento, y las grandes aspas comenzaron a moverse, lo cual visto por don Quijote, dijo:
—Pues aunque mováis más brazos que los del gigante Briareo, me lo habéis de pagar.
Y diciendo esto, y encomendándose de todo corazón a su señora Dulcinea, pidiéndole que en tal trance le socorriese, bien cubierto de su rodela, con la lanza en el ristre, arremetió a todo el galope de Rocinante y embistió con el primero molino que estaba delante; y  dándole una lanzada en el aspa, la volvió el viento con tanta furia, que hizo la lanza pedazos, llevándose tras sí al caballo y al caballero, que fue rodando muy maltrecho por el campo.
—¡Válame Dios!—dijo Sancho—.¿No le dije yo a vuestra merced que mirase bien lo que hacía, que no eran sino molinos de viento, y no podría ignorar sino quien llevase otros tales en la cabeza?

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha)

Notas:
¹ Si se cree Wikipedia (y ¿por qué no?), Almodóvar nació en Calzada de Calatrava. Sólo cosa de 100 kilómetros!

Quizás también te gusta:Don Quixote (en inglés en el Project Gutenberg)
⇒ Campo de Criptana (por Lonely Planet)
⇒ Cees Nooteboom: El desvío a Santiago 
⇒ Federico García Lorca: Impresiones y paisajes

Dark & Moody

Or Books for Moody Teenagers

The universal cry of Not Fair! can be heard all of over the land wherever there is a moody teenager, usually accompanied by sulky looks and followed by petulant silence. Well, we’ve all been there; contrary to what moody teens believe, it’s a familiar territory for all of us. And like us, they will come out the other end, (hopefully as civilised adults).

In the meantime, perhaps we can try to make the life of our moody teens – and our own – a bit more tolerable. Reading is fun and can be a solace (not to mention instructive and character forming). So here are a few books to add to a moody teen’s library – all suitably full of dark and gloomy landscapes, sinister occurrences, brooding heroes, monsters, misfortune, madness, ghosts and star crossed lovers… the lot. If they show a slight feminine bias, it’s because, well, I’m a female and so are my children – the younger of whom is currently in the moody teen phase. (Moody Friend of the Elephants, this is for you!)

The Moody Teen’s Library

Dracula by Bram Stoker

For all the fans of the dozens of s***ty teenage vampire series out there, this one is a must. Read it on a stormy December night while the rain is lashing against the window and the wind rattles the panes, with the room in deep shadow outside the circle of light thrown by your reading lamp. Ensuring your parents are out for the evening adds to the atmosphere!

Then donate those s***ty teenage vampire series to the charity of your choice because you’ll never waste time on them again.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

You can’t have a better teenage book than one written by a teenager. If my memory serves me well, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only nineteen, just to show to those stuck up men in her company – the poets Byron and Shelley – what she could do. Well, what she could do was to write a book that ensured that her name is at least as well known as that pair of literary giants.

You might not think of it particularly as a book for teenagers, but they will respond to the familiar theme of Nobody Loves Me! on part of Frankenstein’s monster. Besides, teens nowadays seem to be quite fond of the Gothic.

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Talking about Gothic… why not read the original Gothic story that spawned all the rest? It starts with a sinister prophecy, followed by a sinister accident, and it only gets more sinister from then onwards!

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A gloomy story of ill fated love, revenge and general misery set on the bleak windswept moors of Northern England. Classic teenage girls’ stuff, from the 19th century.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

…Followed by a similarly classic teenage girls’ read. You have to wonder about the Bronte family, was something wrong with them that they all ended writing miserable love stories?

Title character Jane Eyre goes from unkind relatives to a grim orphanage, and from the orphanage to a strange household with sinister happenings… where she gets entangled in a somewhat ill fated love affair. (That’s the Brontes in a nutshell for you.)

The Catcher in the Rye by D. J. Salinger

A book that should be on every teenager’s bookshelf: the classic modern (as in 20th century) story of teenage angst. To say more would be spoiling the story. 🙂

The Tales and Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe

Another author who penned both poetry and short stories in a Gothic and macabre vein. The Murders in the Rue Morgue is widely regarded as the first modern detective story, featuring the amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin, forerunner of Sherlock Holmes. If you want sinister, don’t miss Edgar Allan Poe.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

What happens when you let all those moody teenagers loose on a desert island without adult supervision? Well, nothing good, really.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause [public domain via Wikipedia]
Not for the fainthearted, this family saga of troubled relationships is set in the Salinas valley in California, parallelling the Bible story of Cain and Abel.

Pair it with the old 1955 film version, in which teenage icon James Dean played moody Cal before he died young in a car accident aged only 24.

Forget ‘Young Adult’ – these moody teens are well capable of reading real books!

Beats Working in a Bank (Mejor que trabajar en un banco)

Or

Three Authors Who Escaped their Tedious Day Jobs by Becoming Writers

We start with the one who gave the idea for the title of this post: the one who did, in fact, work in a bank.

And loathed it.

O

Tres autores quienes escaparon sus trabajos penosos convirtiéndose en escritores

Empezamos con el que dio la idea para el título de este post: el que, de hecho, trabajó en un banco.

Y lo odiaba.

Continue reading “Beats Working in a Bank (Mejor que trabajar en un banco)”

Twelve Books in Twelve Months (2018)

For certain unfortunate reasons I don’t wish to detail here, I struggled to keep the blog going last year and, as you might have noticed, there were times when weeks went by without me being able to publish any other post than the weekly quote. Nevertheless, I still did manage to read a few books… so to start the new year off (may it be better than the last), let’s look back on some of last year’s readings.

Books you might enjoy – or you’ll want to avoid! 🙂

Continue reading “Twelve Books in Twelve Months (2018)”

Los héroes de Pérez-Reverte (The heroes of Pérez-Reverte)

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

La semana pasada, a propósito de ‘Throwback Thursday’, hemos vuelto a leer  un articulo viejo escrito por uno de mis autores españoles favoritos, Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

Last week, on apropos of Throwback Thursday, we revisited an old magazine article by one of my favourite Spanish authors, Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

Así que hoy me ocurrió que quizás podríamos hablar un poco más sobre él y sus libros. O sea, que le permitimos que nos habla de sus novelas él mismo.

So today I thought maybe we could talk a little more about him and his books. Or rather, we’ll let him tell us about his novels himself.

Como mencioné anteriormente, Pérez-Reverte comenzó su carrera como corresponsal de guerra. Con el tiempo, se ha convertido en un escritor de tiempo completo y miembro estelar de la Real Academia Española (silla T). Hace un par de años, dio una entrevista larga a Jotdown.es, una revista cultural online. En esta entrevista, entre otras cosas, habló sobre de los héroes que pueblan sus novelas y sobre qué es lo que hace sus novelas convincentes.

As mentioned before, Pérez-Reverte started his career as a war correspondent. He graduated to become a full time writer and  a stellar member of the Spanish Royal Academy (seat T). A few years ago he gave an extensive interview to Jotdown.es, an online cultural magazine. In the interview, among other things, he spoke about the heroes that populate his novels and what makes his novels convincing.

Empezamos con lo último.

We start with the latter.

Continue reading “Los héroes de Pérez-Reverte (The heroes of Pérez-Reverte)”

Are You Smarter Than a Robot?

Well, you’d like to think so. Sure, you can’t calculate the cube of 17,302¹ as fast as Siri but you’ve got a brain that’s capable of solving the kind of problems which cause a robot – your computer, your smart phone, your human shaped domestic slave (if you’re reading this in 3000 A.D.) – to freeze.

Shall we put it to the test?

Image by Geralt via Pixabay [CC0].
Continue reading “Are You Smarter Than a Robot?”

Back To School

Autumn is here again with mellow sunshine, golden leaves, conkers in the grass and local teams playing football on the pitches behind our house. The uncharacteristic (for this part of the world) sunshine takes me straight back to childhood: where I come from such sunshine is an integral part of September and the time when you go back to school.

So today, we go back to school – although not as you knew it. The following three stories will let you experience education in a different way, in another place, another time. One story will take you back to wooden desks, inkwells, blackboards and chalk; another will take you to the future; the third one can be considered a ‘school story’ only in the widest sense of the word – think of Mowgli being educated in the jungle…

Enjoy!

Continue reading “Back To School”

¡Elefantástico!

Read this in English
Mingling with Elephants: Young Friend of the Elephants on Elephant Apprecition Day in Whipsnade Zoo / En la compañía de elefantes: Joven Amiga de los Elefantes en el día de apreciación al elefante en Whipsnade Zoo

El sábado pasado (22 de septiembre) fue el día de apreciación al elefante. ¿Hay un mejor manera de celebrarlo que con unos libros memorables sobre elefantes?

Gente es tan complicada. Dame un elefante cualquier día.

(Mark Shand)

¡Que disfrutes!

Continue reading “¡Elefantástico!”

Elephantastic!

Lee esto en castellano
Mingling with Elephants: Young Friend of the Elephants on Elephant Apprecition Day in Whipsnade Zoo

Elephant Appreciation Day is on us again and what better way to celebrate these lovable animals than with a collection of memorable books featuring elephants?

People are so difficult. Give me an elephant any day.

(Mark Shand)

Enjoy!

Continue reading “Elephantastic!”

Storybook England: Greenway House

Murder, She Wrote

A well-known murder mystery writer is employed to organise a novelty Murder Hunt at a village fête held at the local rich man’s mansion. The victim is to be played by a Girl Guide, clues are hidden on the grounds and there is a prize to be won for solving the mystery. There’s only one problem: the writer feels that something sinister is going on behind the scenes. She calls on Hercule Poirot..

Call me a fool if you like, but I can only say that if there was to be a real murder tomorrow instead of a fake one, I shouldn’t be surprised!

That is the premise of Dead Man’s Folly, a classic Agatha Christie murder mystery featuring the ubiquitous Belgian private detective and his handlebar moustache.

The crime scene from Dead Man’s Folly – the boathouse.

By no means would I call Dead Man’s Folly one of Agatha Christie’s best books but it has one great merit: she set the book in her own holiday home and herself appeared in the book as one of the characters.

Continue reading “Storybook England: Greenway House”

Pen Mightier than Sword (Pluma más poderosa que espada)

Authors with Sword in Hand

Throughout history, there were soldiers who wielded the pen with as much as skill as they wielded the sword; sometimes better.

Autores con la espada en mano

A lo largo de la historia, hubo soldados que manejaron la pluma con tanta habilidad que la espada; a veces, mejor.

Most of the literary output of these soldier-writers was, understandably, autobiographical: descriptions of battles and campaigns they took part in. A classic example of this is Xenophon’s Anabasis, better known as The March of the Ten Thousand, a gripping account of the retreat of ten thousand Spartan mercenaries in the wake of a lost battle across hostile territory, from Mesopotamia all the way to the shores of the Black Sea. Another is Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s The Conquest of New Spain, a similarly gripping (at least in the abridged version) account of how four-hundred desperadoes under Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico and overthrew an entire empire in the process. I warmly recommend them both.

La mayor parte de la producción literaria de estos soldados-escritores fue, naturalmente, autobiográfico: descripciones de batallas y campañas en que lucharon. Un ejemplar clásico de este tipo de libro es La anábasis de Jenofonte, mejor conocida con el título La marcha de los Diez Mil, un relato emocionante de la regresa de diez mil mercenarios espartanos después de una batalla perdida, a través de un territorio hostil, todo el camino desde Mesopotamia hasta las orillas del Mar Negro. Otro relato que es semejante emocionante (por lo menos en la versión abreviada) es la Historia verdadera de la conquista de Nueva España por Bernal Díaz del Castillo, que narra como cuatro cientos aventureros bajo el mando de Hernán Cortés han conquistado Mexico y derrocado un imperio entero en el proceso. Os recomiendo ambos libros.

But in addition to these authors, there were a handful of soldiers who are better known by literature professors than by military buffs; a handful of soldiers who are more famous for being authors than for ever having been soldiers.

Pero además de esos autores, hubo un puñado de soldados, que son mejor conocidos por profesores de literatura que por aficionados de la historia militar; un puñado de soldados que son más famosos por ser autores que por su pasado como soldados.

Meet five of them.

Aquí abajo puedes conocer a cinco de ellos.

Continue reading “Pen Mightier than Sword (Pluma más poderosa que espada)”

Six Mouse Clicks

The most boring type of blog post?

A book review.

They all follow the same predictable pattern – understandably. After all, a reader will rightfully expect information about the plot, the characters and the style of writing, with some tidbits about the author. The result, as with any genre writing, is a complete lack of creativity.

That is why, although Waterblogged is ostensibly a book blog, I was never really in the business of writing book reviews. Nevertheless, over the past three years I found myself writing a handful. There are books that are so good that you can’t help recommending them to others.

(There was, of course, an exception. You’ll find it here.)

Six reviews; six mouse clicks.  Six books you will want to read.

Fiction – English-Speaking Countries:

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Fiction – Spanish-Speaking Countries:

Death in the Andes

Fiction – Rest of the World:

Moscow Stations

History:

City of Fortune

Biography:

The Novel Life of Britain’s Greatest Frigate Captain

Autobiography:

The Bible in Spain

Throwback Thursday:
Revisiting the early days of Waterblogged

El Samurai

Read this in English: The Samurai

…y el sacerdote

Porque El samurai, esta novela por el autor japonés, Shusaku Endo, tiene de hecho dos protagonistas, aunque el título sólo menciona uno. Dos personajes principales en paralelo: unidos en el propósito pero, al mismo tiempo, con un marcado contraste entre los dos.

El propósito que une el samurai Rokuemon Hasekura y el padre Velasco es negociar privilegios comerciales con Nueva España para los japoneses a cambio de que los misioneros europeos puedan predicar al cristianismo en Japón. Lo que los separa es… pues todo los demás, empezando con sus razones para participar en la embajada. El año es 1613, y el caudillo Tokugawa Ieyasu acabó unificar Japón bajo su propio mando.

¿Y la recompensa para los dos protagonistas después de un viaje arduo cruzando dos océanos? El samurai espera que recobre sus tierras solariegas; el sacerdote sueña de hacerse el primer obispo de Japón. Pero sus Señorías sólo les conceden sus deseos si consiguen la misión …  ¿pueden hacerlo?

Continue reading “El Samurai”

Six Books, Six Continents

Africa

Red Strangers by Elspeth Huxley

Africa has a lot going for it as a continent – like elephants – but somehow it doesn’t often feature among my readings. (That could be because I don’t keep re-reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.)

I read Red Strangers for a reading challenge a couple of years ago and boy, was it a challenge!… But the last paragraph made up for it all.

⇒ A Girl Called Aeroplane

(Do let me know what you think of it!)

Continue reading “Six Books, Six Continents”

The Samurai

…and the Priest

Because The Samurai, this novel by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, has two protagonists for all that only one of them is mentioned in the title. Two main characters in parallel, united in purpose – yet in contrast to each other.

The purpose that unites them is gaining an agreement for the establishment of direct trade between Japan and Nueva España, New Spain, in exchange for Japan allowing Christian misssionaries to proselytise in the country. What separates them is… everything else, beginning with their reasons for setting out on the embassy. The year is 1613, and the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu has recently managed to unify Japan under his own rule.

The samurai, Rokuemon Hasekura, hopes to get his ancestral lands back; the priest, Father Velasco, dreams of becoming the Bishop of Japan. Their desires will only be granted if their mission is successful…  can they carry it off?

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Matar a Leonardo da Vinci (To Kill Leonardo da Vinci)

Visité Florencia, esta ciudad del arte renacentista, por unos días la semana pasada – un viaje organizado en la última hora, se puede decir. Viajé acompañado por un libro que, muy adecuadamente, lleva un retrato de la ciudad en la tapa: Matar a Leonardo da Vinci por el autor español, Christian Gálvez.

I visited Florence, this city of Renaissance art, for a few days last week – a last minute trip. Travelled in the company of a book which, very appropriately, carries a drawing of the city on the cover: Matar a Leonardo da Vinci (To Kill Leonardo da Vinci) by the Spanish author Christian Gálvez.

View of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo
A word of warning here for English readers: this book review is going to benefit you little since it deals with a book which, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't been translated into English yet - and frankly, no loss if it never will be. With that caveat, please feel free to continue reading. :) (At least you'll know to avoid it if it ever comes out in English!)

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Submarine!

Visits to Chatham Historic Dockyard, home among others to the diesel-electric submarine HMS Ocelot, and to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth, home to HMS Alliance, a submarine built at the end of World War II, means I’ve got some photos of the outside and inside of the submarines to share. (Click on the gallery to enlarge photos.)

This being primarily a book blog, the photos are accompanied by a book list – half a dozen books set on submarines. Not a definite list, by any means; I have heard of several others well spoken off (but I haven’t got round to reading them yet). If you’d like to recommend a book on submarines that you enjoyed, please leave a comment below.

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