Intruder in the Alhambra

Quote of the Week:

Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

The pink walls of the Alcazaba are tinged with a different shade each hour, the disciplined gardens around me, the eroded brick of the fortifications which seem to bleed in places, the gates and patios I saw that day, the excruciating intricacy and refinement of the decorations in corridors and pavilions and then suddenly, in the midst of it all, rises Charles V’s Renaissance palace like an intruder clinging to the remains of that vanished Orient, a proclamation of power and conquest.

A severe statement, a massive square enclosing a magnificent circle, a courtyard the size of a town square, one of the most lovely open spaces I know, as if even air could express the advent of a new era and a new might. Columns are curiously akin to trees, the multicoloured chunks of rock that nature once pressed into these marble thunks to make a superior kind of brawn, bear witness to a new military caste deploying its forces worldwide to destroy empires and amass the gold with which armies are fed, palaces built, and inflation generated. Skulls of oxen, stone tablets commemorating battles, iron rings decorated with eagles’ heads that once served to tie up horses, winged women of great beauty reclining dreamily on the pediments, their broken wings half spread, there is no more tangible evidence of the confrontation that took place here than those two intertwined palaces: the one extroverted, out to seduce, the other haughty, self-absorved; over and above the hedonistic bloom of the sultans the imperial edifice points to the might of the other, earlier caesars who ruled Europe long before the armies of Islam came and went.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Palace of Charles V in Granada
Palace of Charles V / Palacio de Carlos V, Granada
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The Best Government (El mejor gobierno)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Plutarch (c. 46 AD – c. 120 AD)

When a Persian asked what kind of government he [Lysander] commended most highly, he said, “The government which duly awards what is fitting to both the brave and the cowardly.”

(Plutarch: Morals, On Talkativeness)


Al preguntarle [a Lisandro] un persa qué tipo de gobierno recomendaba especialmente, dijo: «Aquel que dé su merecido tanto a los valientes como a los cobardes.»

(Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, Sobre la charlatanería)

 

Image credit: Odysses via Wikipedia. Cropped. [CC-BY-SA 3.0]

Messing About in Boats

It was going to be Plutarch today but life intervened in the form of a sunny Easter weekend. Sunny as in summer-like sunny. So yesterday we hired a boat and made a long day of it on the Thames; because there’s nothing better than messing about in boats…

Sometimes even Plutarch can wait.

Quote of the Week:

Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932)

“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “Never been in a—you never—well I—what have you been doing, then?”

“Is it so nice as all that?” asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing—about—in—boats; messing—”

“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

“—about in boats—or with boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not. Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?”

(Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows)

 

Purple Evenings, Juicy As Grapes

Quote of the Week:

Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

There were purple evenings, juicy as grapes, the thin moon cutting a cloud like a knife; and dawns of quick sudden thunder when I’d wake in the dark to splashes of rain pouring from cracks of lightning, then walk on to a village to sit cold and alone, waiting for it to wake and sell me some bread, watching the grey light shifting, a man opening a table, the first girls coming to the square for water.

(Laurie Lee: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning)

 

The Enemy

Quote of the Week:

Léon Werth, 1878-1955

At the door of the town hall-schoolhouse, a German officer politely makes way for my wife. He hesitates, then suddenly says in passable French, “You are afraid of us, madame?”

“Afraid? No, monsieur. But as long as you wear that suit (she points at his uniform) here, you are my enemy.”

(Léon Werth: 33 Days)

 

The Ghost’s Rent (La renta del fantasma)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

They even took me one night to a tenement near the cathedral and pointed out a howling man on the rooftop, who was pretending to be a ghost in order to terrorize the landlord and thereby reduce the rents.

(Laurie Lee: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning)


Incluso me llevaron una noche a un bloque de pisos cerca de la catedral y señalaron a un hombre aullando en la azotea, que pretendía ser un fantasma para aterrorizar al propietario y así reducir las rentas.

(Laurie Lee: Cuando partí una mañana de verano)

April Fool?

Did a man really howl from the rooftops in Cádiz in order to reduce his rent? Or did I just make it up?

The best way to find out is by reading the book. 🙂

¿Inocente?

¿Estaba, de verdad, un hombre aullando en la azotea en Cádiz, para reducir su renta? ¿O lo he inventado yo?

La mejor manera de averiguarlo es leer el libro. 🙂

Aristotle on Comedy & Tragedy (Aristóteles sobre la comedia y la tragedia)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

But when Tragedy and Comedy came to light, the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy, and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians, since the drama was a larger and higher form of art.

(Aristotle: Poetics)


Pero tan pronto como la tragedia y la comedia aparecieron en el ambiente, aquellos naturalmente atraídos por cierta línea de poesía se convirtieron en autores de comedias en lugar de yambos, y los otros inclinados por su índole a una línea distinta, en creadores de tragedias en lugar de epopeyas, porque estos nuevos modos del arte resultaban más majestuosos y de mayor estima que los antiguos.

(Aristóteles: La Poética)

 

You might also like: Aristotle on HomerAristotle on the Unity of Action / Aristóteles sobre la unidad de acción

Image credit:
Tilemahox Efthimiadis via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Extra-Galactic Astronomy

Quote of the Week:

Venedikt Yerofeev (1038-1990)

(Do I need to remind you that Moscow Stations being a satire, Yerofeev writes with his tongue tucked firmly in his cheek?)

I’m not a fool. I’m well aware there are such things as psychiatry and extra-galactic astronomy and the like. But I mean, really, that’s not for us. All that stuff was foisted on us by Peter the Great and Dmitri Kibalchich, and our calling lies in an entirely different direction… You can leave all that extra-galactic astronomy to the Yanks, and the psychiatry to the Germans. Let all those Spanish bastards go watch their corridas, let those African shits build their Aswan dam, go ahead, the wind’ll blow it down anyway, let Italy choke on its idiotic bel canto, what the hell!

(Venedikt Yerofeev: Moscow Stations)

He Who Is Different From Me (El que es diferente de mí)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

He who is different from me does not impoverish me – he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in Man… For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras) 


El que es diferente de mí no me empobrece, sino que me enriquece. Nuestra unidad se basa en algo superior a nosotros mismos, en el Hombre… Pues ningún hombre quiere escuchar su propio eco o verse reflejado en un cristal.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Piloto de guerra)

El problema de las palabras (The Problem with Words)

La cita de hoy es una advertencia que siempre piensa antes de hablar.

Today’s quote is a reminder to always think before you speak.

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

El problema de las palabras es que, una vez echadas, no pueden volverse solas a su dueño. De modo que a veces te las vuelven en la punta de un acero.


The problem with words is that once spoken, they cannot find their way back to the speaker alone. Sometimes they have to be returned on the tip of a sword.

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

The Oddest Motive for Walking the Camino de Santiago

There is an old route of pilgrimage, or rather I should say several routes, leading to the town of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Northern Spain. It is known as the Camino de Santiago, St James’s Way, and it is actually a whole network of routes starting in various parts of Spain; the most popular and famous remains the camino francés, the French Way, which starts in France and climbs over the Pyrenees before traverses Northern Spain. The Camino continues to be a very popular walking route and not just for religious pilgrims.

If you complete the walk, at the end you can obtain a certificate, as you can read in today’s quote below by Dutch author, Cees Nooteboom.

Quote of the Week:

Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

Everyone who had completed the journey on foot or on a bicycle, could, if they wished, obtain a rubber-stamped document from him and have their names registered in the great book. “Many times people burst into tears right here,” he had told me, pointing in front of his desk. He had shown me the ledger, too, a sort of account book, written in longhand.

He had turned the pages until he spotted a Dutchman, a chemistry teacher, “not a believer”, motive: “thinking”.

He had appreciated that, he said, people came up with the oddest motives, but “thinking” was seldom among them.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Motivo para escribir (A Reason to Write)

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

Octavio Paz (1914-1998)

Yo no escribo para matar el tiempo
ni para revivirlo
escribo para que me viva y me reviva


I do not write to kill time
nor to revive it
I write that I may live and be revived

(Octavio Paz: El mismo tiempo / Same time)

 

Image credit: Photo by John Leffmann via Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0]

A Tourist Below Vesuvius

Moscow Stations by Russian dissident Venedikt Yerofeev was first circulated only in the form of samizdat; small wonder as it was a strident criticism of the ‘glorious’ Soviet Union. Not that the quote below particularly illustrates that aspect of the book…

Quote of the Week:

Venedikt Yerofeev (1038-1990)

There were three things I fancied a look at: Vesuvius, Herculaneum, and Pompeii. But they told me Vesuvius had gone out ages ago, and sent me to Herculaneum. And at Herculaneum they said: “What d’you want with Herculanium, you prat? You’d better be going to Pompeii.” So I turn up in Pompeii, and they tell me: “What the hell d’you want with Pompeii? Piss off back to Herculaneum!”

(Venedikt Yerofeev: Moscow Stations)

Aristotle on the Unity of Action (Aristóteles sobre la unidad de acción)

A slightly longer quote this week, from the Poetics of Aristotle. He talks about the meaning of unity of action, or plot – one of the three unities (aka classical unities) in literature. The other two unities are the unity of place and the unity of time. The three unities were described by Aristotle in his Poetics; they were later followed by such neo-classical authors as Molière and Racine. A play that observes the three unities will have a single action occurring in a single place in the course of a single day.

Una cita un poco más larga este semana, de La Poética de Aristóteles. Nos habla sobre el significado de la unidad de acción, es decir trama – una de las tres unidades (también conocido como unidades clásicas) en literatura. Las otras dos son la unidad de tiempo y la unidad de lugar. Las tres unidades fueron descritas por Aristóteles en La Poética; luego fueron observadas por tal autores neoclásicos como Molière y Racine. Una obra que observa las tres unidades tendrá una acción sola, ocurriendo en un lugar único durante un día sólo.

Continue reading “Aristotle on the Unity of Action (Aristóteles sobre la unidad de acción)”

If (Si)

Or Philip II of Macedonia vs Sparta

Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, invaded Greece in the 4th century BC and subjugated most of the Greek city states, Athens included.

He then turned his attention to Sparta:

Philip wrote [to the Spartans] at the time when he entered their country, asking whether they wished that he should come as a friend or as a foe; and they made answer, “Neither.”

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

Needless to say, this was not the end of the affair…

O Filipo II de Macedonia contra Esparta

Filipo II de Macedonia, el padre de Alejandro Magno, invadió Grecia en el siglo IV  a.C.  y subyugó la mayoría de las ciudades-estado griegas, incluso Atenas.

Después, centró la atención en Esparta:

Filipo, cuando entraba en su territorio, les escribió [a los espartanos] si preferían que fuera como amigo o como enemigo. Le respondieron: «Ni lo uno, ni lo otro.»

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

Sobra decir que esto no fue el final del asunto…

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

When Philip wrote to them, “If I invade Laconia, I shall turn you out,” they wrote back,

“If.”

(Plutarch: Morals, On Talkativeness)


Y a lo que les escribió a su vez Filipo: «Si invado Laconia os arruinaré totalmente», le contestaron por escrito: 

«Si».

(Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, Sobre la charlatanería)

Neither Philip II, nor even his son Alexander the Great invaded Sparta.

Ni Filipo II, ni siquiera su hijo, Alejandro Magno invadió Esparta.

I don’t know about you but it is one of my most favourite quotes – it’s so wonderfully… well, laconic, right?

No sé de ti, pero esta es una de las citas que me gustan sobre todo – es so maravillosamente… pues, lacónica, ¿no?

Back Then, Before the Great War

Today’s quote by Joseph Roth takes us back to the times before the Great War – times which, when I was growing up, were still habitually referred to by the oldest generation as ‘those happy times of peace’. Not that any of them actually could remember those times – theirs would have been the generation born during or immediately after the Great War. Roth on the other hand was born in 1894 and wrote these lines – oozing nostalgia – in 1932. Enjoy!

Quote of the Week:

Joseph Roth (1894-1939)

Back then, before the Great War, when the incidents reported on these pages took place, it was not yet a matter of indifference whether a person lived or died. If a life was snuffed out from the host of the living, another life did not instantly replace it and make people forget the deceased. Instead, a gap remained where he had been, and both the near and distant witnesses of his demise fell silent whenever they saw this gap.

If a fire devoured a house in a row of houses in a street, the charred site remained empty for a long time. For the bricklayers worked slowly and leisurely, and when the closest neighbours as well as casual passersby looked at the empty lot, they remembered the shape and the walls of the vanished house.

That was how things were back then. Anything that grew took its time growing, and anything that perished took a long time to be forgotten. But everything that had once existed left its traces, and people lived on memories just as they now live on the ability to forget quickly and emphatically.

(Joseph Roth: The Radetzky March)

A Thought of Marcus Aurelius

Quote of the Week:

Marcus Aurrelius Antoninus (121-180 AD)

And thou wilt give thyself relief if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to thee.

(Marcus Aurelius: The Thoughts)

A very Zen-like advice from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, aka ‘the philosopher king’.

Links:
The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, available for free download from Project Gutenberg