Insignificance

Quote of the Week

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755)

…when I see men that creep about over an atom, the earth, which is simply a dot in the universe, propose themselves as models of Providence, I do not know how to reconcile such extravagance with such insignificance.

(Montesquieu: Persian Letters)

The Partiality of the Eye-Witness (La parcialidad del testigo)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Today’s quote is a piece of advice from George Orwell regarding reading about the Spanish civil war. But the advice applies to reading all historical sources and eye-witness accounts – history students take note. 🙂

La cita de hoy es un consejo de George Orwell para quienes leen sobre la guerra civil española. Pero es un consejo que tenemos que seguir siempre cuando leemos obras históricas y informes de testigos – estudiantes de historia, toma nota. 🙂

George Orwell (1903-1950)

And I hope that the account I have given is not too misleading. I believe that on such an issue as this no one is or can be completely truthful. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan.

In case I have not said this somewhere earlier in the book I will say it now: beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events. And beware of exactly the same things when you read any other book on this period of the Spanish civil war.

(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia)


Y espero que mi relato no haya sido demasiado confuso. Creo que, con respecto a un acontecimiento como éste, nadie es o puede ser completamente veraz. Sólo se puede estar seguro de lo que se ha visto con los propios ojos y, consciente o inconscientemente, todos escribimos con parcialidad.

Si no lo he dicho en alguna otra parte de este libro, lo diré ahora: cuidado con mi parcialidad, mis errores factuales y la deformación que inevitablemente produce el que yo sólo haya podido ver una parte de los hechos. Pero cuidado también con lo mismo al leer cualquier otro libro acerca de este período de la guerra española.

(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia / Homenaje a Cataluña)

 

When the War Is Over (Después de la guerra)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

Yesterday, speaking to Lieutenant Gavoille, I had let drop the words, “Oh, we’ll see about that when the war is over.” And Gavoille had answered, “I hope you don’t mean, Captain, that you expect to come out of the war alive?”

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)


Ayer decía al teniente Gavoille:
—Ya lo veremos después de la guerra.
Y el teniente Gavoille me respondió:
—No tendrá usted, mi capitán, la pretensión de seguir viviendo después de la guerra.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Piloto de guerra)

Die Fighting for Sparta (Morir en defensa de Esparta)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Plutarch (c. 46 AD – c. 120 AD)

When someone said to Astycratidas, after the defeat of Agis their king in the battle against Antipater in the vicinity of Megalopolis, “What will you do, men of Sparta? Will you be subject to the Macedonians? he said, “What! Is there any way in which Antipater can forbid us to die fighting for Sparta?”


A Asticrátidas, cuando después de ser derrotado Agis, su rey, en la batalla contra Antípatro, cerca de Megalópolis, alguien le dijo: «¿Qué haréis, espartanos?, Os someteréis por ventura a los macedonios?», respondió: «¿Qué?, Acaso podría Antípatro impedir que nosotros muriéramos en defensa de Esparta?»

(Plutarch: Morals, Vol. III, Sayings of Spartans) / Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, III. Máximas de espartanos)

Painting the Stars (Pintar las estrellas)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)

That doesn’t stop me from having a tremendous need for, shall I say the word — for religion — so I go outside at night to paint the stars…


Eso no me impide sentir una necesidad enorme de — ¿uso la palabra? — de religión, así que salgo de noche y pinto las estrellas…

(Vincent Van Gogh: Letter to Theo Van Gogh, 29 September 1888 / Carta a Theo Van Gogh, 29 septiembre 1888)

Gredos lo eterno (The Eternal Gredos)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)

Porque Gredos es lo eterno; Gredos vio a los iberos llegar a España, y vio a los romanos, y a los godos, y a los árabes, y verá acaso pasar a otros bárbaros; Gredos vio morir, en uno de sus repliegues, al emperador Carlos V.


Because the Gredos is eternal; the Gredos saw the Iberians arrive to Spain and saw the Romans, and the Goths, and the Arabs, and perhaps will also see other Barbarians pass; the Gredos saw the Emperor Charles V die in one of its hollows.

(Miguel de Unamuno: ¡Montaña, desierto, mar!)

The Need to Escape (La necesidad de evasión)

The Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

There is a cheap literature that speaks to us of the need of escape. It is true that when we travel we are in search of distance. But distance is not to be found. It melts away. And escape has never led anywhere. The moment a man finds that he must play the races, go the Arctic, or make war in order to feel himself alive, that man has begun to spin the strands that bind him to other men and to the world. But what wretched strands! A civilisation that is really strong fills man to the brim, though he never stir. What are we worth when motionless, is the question.


Hay una mala literatura que nos ha hablado de la necesidad de evasión. Por supuesto, uno emprende viaje en busca de extensión; pero la extensión no se encuentra, se funda; y la evasión nunca lleva a ninguna parte.

Cuando el hombre, para sentirse hombre, tiene necesidad de correr carreras, de cantar en coro, de hacer la guerra, se impone lazos para anudarse al otro y al mundo. ¡Pero qué pobres lazos! Si una civilización es grande, colma al hombre, aunque éste permanezca inmóvil.

En este pueblecito silencioso, bajo el gris de un día de lluvia, diviso una inválida recluida que medita junto a su ventana. ¿Quién es? ¿Qué han hecho de ella? Yo juzgaría la civilización del pueblecito por la densidad de esta presencia. ¿Qué valemos, una vez inmóviles?

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras/ Piloto de guerra)

Corpses & Titles (Cadáveres y títulos)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

In 1453, Don Álvaro de Luna, grandmaster of the Military Order of Santiago and prime minister under King Juan II of Castile, received the title of Count of San Esteban de Gormaz. That title still exists – Spaniards don’t like throwing things away, not corpses and not titles either…


En 1453, se le otorgó a don Álvaro de Luna – gran maestre de Santiago y primer ministro de Juan II de Castilla – el título de San Esteban de Gormaz. El título existe todavía – los españoles no tiran las cosas tan fácilmente, ni cadáveres ni títulos…

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago / El desvío a Santiago)

Fraudulent Pages

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

Dutertre and I sat looking out of the window. Here too was a branch swaying in the breeze. I could hear the cackle of the hens. Our Intelligence Room had been set up in a schoolhouse; the major’s office was in a farmhouse.

It would be easy to write a couple of fraudulent pages out of the contrast between this shining spring day, the ripening fruit, the chicks filling plumply out in the barnyard, the rising wheat — death at our elbow. I shall not write that couple of pages because I see no reason why the peace of a spring day should constitute a contradiction of the idea of death. Why should the sweetness of life be a matter for irony.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

The Milk on the Doorstep (La leche en el umbral de la puerta)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

George Orwell (1903-1950)

And then England – southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. It is difficult when you pass that way, especially when you are peacefully recovering from seasickness with the plush cushions of a boat-train carriage underneath you, to believe that anything is really happening anywhere. Earthquakes in Japan, famines in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don’t worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday.

(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia)


Y luego Inglaterra, el sur de Inglaterra, probablemente el  paisaje más acicalado del mundo. Cuando se pasa por allí, en especial mientras uno va recuperándose del mareo anterior, cómodamente sentado sobre los blandos almohadones del tren de enlace con el barco, resulta difícil creer que realmente ocurre algo en alguna parte. ¿Terremotos en Japón, hambrunas en China, revoluciones en México? No hay por qué preocuparse, la leche estará en el umbral de la puerta mañana temprano y el New Statesman saldrá el viernes.

(George Orwell: Homenaje a Cataluña)

 

God’s Siesta (La siesta de Dios)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

I want to enter the cathedral, but even God sleeps after his midday meal in Spain, so I linger in the cool forecourt, face to face with allegorical statues unwondering at my presence.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)


Quiero entrar en la catedral, pero incluso Dios duerme la siesta en España, así que me quedo durmiendo en el fresco antepatio, cara a cara con las imágenes alegóricas que no me ven.

(Cees Nooteboom: Desvío a Santiago)

France

Quote of the Week

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

France is not an abstract deity. France is not a history textbook. France is not some ideology. France is the flesh that sustains me, a network of connections that rules me, a collection of axes that are the foundation of my affections. That’s why I need those to whom I’m attached to outlast me. To be oriented, I need them to exist. Otherwise, how would I know where or what to return to?

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Introduction to 33 Days)

The Spartan with the Crippled Leg (El espartano con la pierna mutilada)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Plutarch (c. 46 AD – c. 120 AD)

Androcleidas the Spartan, who had a crippled leg, enrolled himself among the fighting-men. And when some persons were insistent that he be not accepted because he was crippled, he said, “But I do not have to run away, but to stay where I am when I fight the opposing foe.”

(Plutarch: Morals, Vol. III, Sayings of Spartans)


Andróclidas, el espartano, con una pierna mutilada se alistó entre los combatientes. Como algunos insistieran en impedírselo, puesto que estaba mutilado, les dijo: «Pero yo no tengo por qué huir, sino que debo permanecer firme para luchar contra los que se me opongan.»

(Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, III. Máximas de espartanos)

El Tajo y el Manzanares (The Tagus and the Manzanares)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)

Y en brazos estremecidos del Tajo va a pasar este arroyo de Goya [el Manzanares] por la hoz del río de la imperial Toledo, la del Greco, del río que sacaba fuera el pecho en tiempos de Don Rodrigo. Y se enlazan dos tragedias, pues también el Manzanares, el que oyó los fusilamientos del 2 de mayo de 1808, el que vio brotar en sus orillas los trágicos caprichos goyescos, cuando corría con fuego, sintió la tragedia de la vida. Y el Tajo lo lleva en sus brazos estremecidos a dejarlo al pie de Lisboa, en la mar de los conquistadores de Indias.

(Miguel de Unamuno: Orillas del Manzanares)


And in the trembling arms of the Tagus, this stream of Goya [the Manzanares] will pass through the sickle of the river of imperial Toledo, that of El Greco, from the river that stuck its chest out in the days of Don Rodrigo. And two tragedies are linked, because also the Manzanares, which heard the executions of May 2, 1808, which saw the tragic Goyesque caprices rise on its banks when it ran with fire, felt the tragedy of life. And the Tagus carries it in its trembling arms to leave it at the foot of Lisbon, in the sea of the conquerors of the Indies.

(Miguel de Unamuno: The Shores of the Manzanares)

The Historian

Quote of the Week:

Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

…the historian, not even the history philosopher, no, just the academic, a drone as big as a man, working his life away in archives and monastery libraries which he leaves briefly once every so many years to announce, with modest jubilation, the discovery of another piece of the puzzle hitherto missing, a piece that expands the puzzle even further.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Return from the War

Quote of the Week:

Robert Graves (1895-1985)

“England looked strange to us returned soldiers. We could not understand the war-madness that ran wild everywhere, looking for a pseudo-military outlet. The civilians talked a foreign language. I found serious conversation with my parents all but impossible.”

(Robert Graves: Goodbye to All That)

Roads to Santiago

Quote of the Week:

Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

Ten years ago I resolved to drive to Santiago, and so, eventually, I did – not once but several times — but because I had not written about it, I still hadn’t really been there. There was always something else that needed thinking or writing about, a landscape, a road, a monastery, a writer or a painter, and yet it seemed as if all those landscapes, all those stories of Moors and kings and pilgrims, all my own memories as well as the written memoirs of others pointed steadily in the same direction, to the place where Spain and the oceanic west come together, to the city which, in all its Galician aloofness, is the true capital of Spain.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

El lector de un solo libro (The Reader of Only One Book)

Empezamos el año nuevo con un consejo de uno de mis autores favoritos.

Si piensas en ello…

We start the new year with a piece of advice from one of my favourite Spanish authors.

When you think about it…

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

“…desconfíen siempre vuestras mercedes de quien es lector de un solo libro.”


“Never trust a man who reads only one book.”

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: Limpieza de sangre / Purity of Blood)