Well, anyway, I’ve got to keep on living now. And life isn’t a bore, absolutely not. Life was only a bore for Gogol, and King Solomon. Once you get to thirty, it’s worth having a shot at another thirty, yes, indeed. ‘Man is mortal’ – that’s my opinion. But if we’ve already been born, well, there’s nothing we can do about it, we’ve just got to live a while. ‘Life is beautiful’ – that’s my opinion too.
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.
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)
“So tell us: where do they appreciate Russians more, this side of the Pyrenees, or the other?”
“Well, I don’t know about the other, but there’s no appreciation at all on this side. For instance, I was in Italy, and they don’t pay Russians a blind bit of notice there. All they do is sing and paint. I mean, one Italian’ll be standing singing, and another’ll be sitting beside him, painting the one that’s singing. And a bit further off there’ll be a third Italian, singing about the one that’s painting. It’d make you weep, and they don’t understand our sorrow.”
Todo esto que don Quijote decía escuchaba un escudero de los que el coche acompañaban, que era vizcaíno; el cual, viendo que no quería dejar pasar el coche adelante, sino que decía que luego había dar la vuelta al Toboso, se fue para don Quijote y, asiéndole de la lanza, le dijo, en mala lengua castellana y peor vizcaína, desta manera:
—Anda, caballero que mal andes; por el Dios que crióme que, si no dejas coche, así te matas como estás ahí vizcaíno.
Entendióle muy bien don Quijote, y con mucho sosiego le respondió:
—Si fueras caballero, como no lo eres, ya yo hubiera castigado tu sandez y atrevimiento, cautiva criatura.
—¿Yo no caballero? Juro a Dios tan mientes como cristiano. Si lanza arrojas y espada sacas, ¡el agua cuán presto verás que al gato llevas! Vizcaíno por tierra, hidalgo por mar, hidalgo por el diablo, y mientes que mira si otra dices cosa.
(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha)
All this was listened to by a Biscayan Squire who accompanied the coach. He hearing that the coach was not to pass on but was to return to Toboso, went up to Don Quixote, and, laying hold of his lance, said to him: ‘Get away with thee, Sir Knight, for if thou leave not the coach I will kill thee as sure as I am a Biscayan.’
‘If,’ replied Don Quixote haughtily, ‘thou wert a gentleman, as thou art not, I would ere this have punished thy folly and insolence, caitiff creature.’
‘I no gentleman?’ cried the enraged Biscayan. ‘Throw down thy lance and draw thy sword, and thou shalt soon see that thou liest.’
(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote de la Mancha, transl. by Judge Parry)
Note for English readers:
You might wonder what this was all about?
Regrettably, the English translation doesn't convey the joke - which is based on the Biscayan squire's bad Spanish. Understandably perhaps, this episode is generally omitted from most English versions; the version above renders the exchange in correct English. (And I had to consult three different translations before I found one that included it at all!)
If you read the whole chapter, however, you may still find it enjoyable. You can find Parry's translation on Project Gutenberg:
⇒ Don Quixote of the Mancha (chapter VI - following on from the adventure of the windmills). Enjoy!
People go off by themselves to cry, but man is not by nature solitary. It’s just that when people cry, they don’t want anybody joining in. And quite right too, since there’s no higher state than being inconsolable.
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)
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. 🙂
¿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. 🙂
(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!
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:
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!”
This week’s quote is from a satire about the no longer existing Soviet Union seen from the inside. As books come, Venedikt Yerofeev’s short novel, Moscow Stations, was the ultimate in subversion. It’s a book I cannot recommend enough; you can read more about it here.
I hope you enjoy Yerofeev’s cheeky black humour; you can look forward to some more (in-your-face) quotes in the future!
Quote of the Week:
And what are borders anyway? Borders are necessary to stop the different nations getting mixed up. In this country, for instance, a border guard can stand there in the absolute certainty that the border isn’t some sort of fiction or emblem, because on one side people speak Russian and drink more – whereas on the other side they drink less and speak non-Russian. But over there, how can you have borders when everybody drinks the same amount, and they all speak non-Russian?
The Air Vice-Marshal, with flailing arms, was describing how his fighters had completely broken up the first raid of Christmas Day, while the admiral, in whose dockyard the bombs had actually fallen, listened with all the courteous scepticism of a solid sailor for a romantic airman.
Mikes György (better known by the English version of his name, George Mikes) was a Hungarian journalist who moved to England during the 1930s where he married an Englishwoman and lived until his death in 1987. In 1946 he published a humorous book about his experiences as a foreigner in England – a book which betrays as much about Hungarian idiosyncrasies as about English ones! The book was so successful that it was followed by two sequels. And many of his observations of English culture still holds true today.
Mikes György (mejor conocido por la versión inglesa de su nombre, George Mikes) fue un periodista húngaro, quien se mudó a Inglaterra en los años 1930, donde se casó con una inglesa y vivió hasta su muerte en 1987. En 1946 publicó un libro gracioso de sus experiencias como extranjero en Inglaterra – un libro que te revela tanto idiosincracias húngaras como inglesas. El libro tenía tanto éxito que Mikes escribió dos secuelas. Y muchas de sus observaciones de la cultura inglesa siguen ser verdaderas.
Quote of the Week / Cita de la semana:
Some years ago I spent a lot of time with a young lady who was very proud and conscious of being English. Once she asked me – to my great surprise – whether I would marry her. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I will not. My mother would never agree to my marrying a foreigner.’ She looked at me a little surprised and irritated, and retorted: ‘I, a foreigner? What a silly thing to say. I am English. You are the foreigner. And your mother too.’ I did not give in. ‘In Budapest, too?’ I asked her. ‘Everywhere,’ she declared with determination. “Truth does not depend on geography. What is true in England is also true in Hungary and in North Borneo and Venezuela and everywhere.’
(George Mikes: Preface to How To Be an Alien)
Hace unos años he pasado mucho tiempo en la compañía de una señorita joven, quien era muy orgullosa y consciente de ser inglesa. Una vez me había preguntado – para mi grande sorpresa – si me casaría con ella. «No», respondí, «mi madre nunca estaría de acuerdo de que me caso con una mujer extranjera». Me miró con un poco de sorpresa y irritación, y replicó: «¡¿Yo, una extranjera? Qué tontería hablas! Yo soy inglesa. Eres tú quien es un extranjero. Y tu madre, también.» Yo no me di por vencido. «¿Incluso en Budapest?» la pregunté. «En cualquier lugar» me declaró. «La verdad no depende de la geografía. Lo que es verdad en Inglaterra es también verdad en Hungría o en el norte de Borneo y en Venezuela y en todas partes del mundo.»
For today’s quote, an excerpt from a Saint-Exupéry novel, Flight to Arras.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, most famous for his lyric children’s book The Little Prince, was a pilot by profession. Most of his novels are based in his own life experiences; Flight to Arras, set during World War II, is no exception.
Today’s quote is longer than usual: it’s an excerpt from Flight to Arras, a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and it captures the utter exhaustion of a squadron of French pilots during the German offensive on France in June 1940.
Like all Saint-Exupéry novels, Flight to Arras too was inspired by the author’s own experiences. Saint-Exupéry served in the French air force and continued to fight after the fall of France. He disappeared during a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean Sea in 1944; his identity bracelet was finally recovered from the sea in 1998. He’s the author of such classics as The Little Prince, Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars.