Clase de literatura (Literature class)

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Acabo de volver del Instituto Cervantes de Londres – de mi primer clase de literatura en español. Esperaba que volvería a casa más sofisticada y con una experiencia de haber hablado en español mucho tiempo durante de las dos horas del clase sobre literatura, y bueno, quizá también con el título de un libro que tendré que empezar a leer para el próximo clase.

Que no.

Volví a casa con una fotocopia de los primeros treinta páginas de un libro argentino y el deseo de cambiar el curso. Si lo puedo, a esas alturas.

Fuimos cuatro los estudiantes y estábamos pasando el tiempo leyendo, en voz alta, el libro por casi dos horas. En el tiempo que nos quedó, la profesora nos habló del escritor y la sociedad argentina de la primera parte del siglo XX, con ojos brillantes de alegría (no estudiaba en dos universidades sin reconocer los síntomas de un profesor perdido en su propio mundo). El tema era bastante interesante pero no lo que necesito para mejorar la fluidez. Creo que hablé más en español con el guardia de seguridad que me explicó como llegar al aula que con mi profesora. Aunque, eso sí, practicaba leer en voz alta, algo que no hice de la edad de diez años.

Así que ahora estoy sentada en el sofá, con mi portátil y un vaso de vino tinto (por Dios que lo necesitaba), blogueando en español. ¿Puede ser que la clase no era un siniestro total? (Sin embargo, voy a cambiarla.)

Por cierto, el libro fue El juguete rabioso por Roberto Arlt.


Literature Class

I have just come home from the Cervantes Institute of London – from my first class of literature in Spanish. I expected that I would come home more sophisticated and with the experience of having spoken in Spanish about literature a lot during the two hours of the class, and well, perhaps a title of a book which I would have to start reading for the next class.

But no.

I came home with a photocopy of thirty pages of an Argentinian book and the desire to change the course. If I can, this late.

There was four of us students and we spent the time reading out loud the book for nearly two hours. In the time that remained, the professor talked to us about the writer and the Argentinian society of the first half of the 20th century, with her eyes sparkling of joy (haven’t studied at two universities without learning to recognise the symptoms of a profesor lost in his own world). The topic was interesting enough but not what I need to improve my fluency. I think I talked more in Spanish with the security guard who told me where the classroom was than with my teacher.  Although it’s true that I practised reading out loud, something I haven’t done since the age of ten.

So now I’m sitting on the sofa with my laptop and a glass of red wine (by god, I needed it), blogging in Spanish. Possibly the class wasn’t a total write-off? (Nevertheless, I’m going to change it.)

By the way, the book was The Mad Toy by Roberto Arlt.

Eight Catalan Surnames (Ocho Apellidos Catalanes)

Have you ever seen somebody from a distance and sussed their nationality at first glance, without even having heard them speak – because they looked so stereotypical?

(All right, excluding Japanese tourists.)

Well, we did, last Sunday.

¿Has visto alguna vez a alguien de la distancia y adivinado de dónde es, a la primera vista, sin que lo has oído hablar – porque se parecía tan estereotípico?

(Bueno, excluyendo a los turistas japoneses.)

Pues, eso es exactamente lo que nos pasó el domingo pasado.

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Westminster

Overheard outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday afternoon as I passed two middle aged women.

Oí esto fuera de las Casas del Parlamento ayer por la tarde cuando pasaba dos mujeres de mediana edad.

Woman 1: No, it happened on the bridge.
Woman 2 (animated): Oh right… shall we go and have a look?

Mujer 1: No, lo ocurrió en el puente.
Mujer 2 (animada): Vale… ¿Vamos a echar un vistazo entonces?

Well, that explains why the bridge was more full of pedestrians than ever.

Bien, eso explica porqué el puente tenía más peatones que nunca.

(So much for terrorism.)

(El fracaso del terrorismo.)

 

A Sense of History

History (from Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning inquiry) is the study of the past…

History is asking questions.

?

And answering them.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time. May the great and wonderful deeds – some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians – not go unsung as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other.

Herodotus: The Histories, 1:1

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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.

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Nine Quirky Facts (Nueve hechos raros)

Nine Quirky Facts I Read Last Year

Books are not merely a source of entertainment but also of knowledge… (today’s cliché). How many of the following nine facts do you know?

Nueve hechos raros que leí el año pasado

Los libros no son sencillamente una fuente de entretenimiento, pero también lo de conocimiento… (cliché de hoy). ¿Cuáles de los nueve hechos siguientes ya sabes?

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Last Year’s Best Reads? (Or Self-hosted vs Hosted)

In the past week I’ve been engaged in looking at my statistics… And since the blog moved from being self-hosted to wordpress.com during the year, I had to collate the statistics manually, a task during which I found myself evaluating the pros and cons of…

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“Le bien publique” (The Public Good)

Thought for today, courtesy of Tolstoy:

As long as the world has existed and people have been killing each other, no one man has ever committed a crime upon his own kind without calming himself with this same thought. This thought was le bien publique, the supposed good of other people.

This is Tolstoy’s comment in War and Peace after the governor of Moscow, Rastopchin, offered up a political prisoner to the mob as a scapegoat for his own failures.

“In the interest of the public good.” We all heard this before. History brings countless examples, most of them horrific beyond belief.

Because who decides what’s in the interest of public good? And how far are we willing to go in the name of this public good?

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Mediterranean Vote

Stuck indoors with Young Friend of the Elephants, who is engaged in the fifth labour of Hercules (cleaning the Augean Stables, aka her bedroom) so I thought I’ll take a look at the results of the Mediterranean Mondays vote: it was dismal. (Scroll down to see the results.) Political apathy I could understand but this apolitical apathy?

So I made you a slideshow:

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Click Here to Vote

The results so far:

Travel photos: 2
Bits of history: 2
Holiday destinations: 1 (the second one was me testing the poll)
Travel anecdotes: 1
Bits of poetry: 1

(A politician would have presented this in percentages to hide the fact that hardly any of you bothered to vote but I’m not a politician.)

Mediterranean Mondays

Much as I love the Mediterranean, in the past few months I found that I could do better things with my Sunday than writing blog posts. 🙂 This morning’s sunshine finally gave me the push to make up my mind that Sunday’s Miscellany will be moved to Mondays, when regardless of the weather, I’ll be stuck in an office all day anyhow and will want to cheer myself up with thoughts of sea and sun…

So I suppose we herewith rename the miscellany, to mark the change.

And while I’m making changes, I thought I’d invite your thoughts on what would you like to see more of in this feature about the Mediterranean? As it’s the only feature of the blog in which I’m committed to a publishing schedule, I still intend to keep it reasonably short but I think I might as well do away with the self-imposed 300 word limit (which I often failed to stay within anyhow).

You’re invited to vote on which of the topics we had in the last year you’d like to have more of – or let me know if there’s something new you’d like me to include – Spanish pop songs anybody? 🙂

In the meantime I’m off to enjoy the weather; you’ll get a dose of Mediterranean sunshine tomorrow. 🙂

Andalusian Slow-Roast Pork

Travelling educates your mind; and if you travel with Mr Anglo-Saxonist, it also educates your taste buds. He’s a great believer in eating the local food.

In ages bygone, after you returned from abroad, you could only eat exotic dishes again if you found a restaurant run by immigrants near your home. But one of three things you can thank the internet for is that you can now find recipes and source prime ingredients from just about anywhere in the world. (The other two are Project Gutenberg and my blog.)

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It’s Not Like Anybody’s Going to Read It

I’m only an accidental blogger: when I started, I didn’t even know that blog was short for web log or what a blog is actually for.

It all started during the summer holidays in 2015 when I had nothing better to do. Exactly one year ago today, in fact. Fed up with the way my family pulled faces at the dinner table whenever I tried to share my clever thoughts about books with them, I typed my latest earth-shattering insight into my husband’s website editor instead…

Pride and Prejudice… manages to be witty about something utterly mundane. Jane Austen is all about character observation and style. The plot is not important.

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How to Fail as a Blogger (In Five Easy Steps)

The other day I carelessly volunteered for  a guest post on Bloggers’ World and feeling that I ought to write something that might actually interests people there instead of boring them with my pet obsessions (such as Herodotus or the continuing Brexit wars), I hit upon the subject of blogging advice: How To Be A Successful Blogger. Between you and me (don’t whisper it outside these walls), I’m not qualified to give such advice; nevertheless, after a year of blogging I’m not entirely without expertise…

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Sea, Sailing, Sunset…

Okay, so it was a very hard week at work, in the evenings I was both tired & busy and I’ve done almost no blogging at all (although I did make some progress on a bilingual post with my first ever author interview)…

…I think it’s time to chill.

So that’s Malta over there on the starboard, people – taken from a sailing ship last autumn. If you consider this poor fare for a Sunday, more Malta stuff here, including a good book on Maltese history. 🙂 Happy Sunday!

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Spaniard’s Inn

Today’s miscellany is a swindle… because the Spaniard’s Inn is not actually anywhere near the Mediterranean! The Spaniard’s Inn, in fact, is a pub in Hampstead Heath in London. Although, clearly, Spaniards are involved – which is my excuse for writing about it here. (That, and that it was passable weather today and I went to Hampstead Heath.)

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Photo: Wikipedia.

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I Read Therefore I Write

Herodotus wrote because he wanted to record the events of the recent past so that great deeds would not be forgotten. The Spanish conquistador, Bernal Díaz del Castillo wrote because he was annoyed by what somebody else wrote about men he knew and fought with. García Lorca wrote because poetry bubbled up and out of him, like water from a fountain on some sun-drenched Plaza Mayor… and Hemingway, you suspect, wrote at least in part because through writing he could live the lives of men whose manliness, courage or sheer bloody-mindedness he admired.

P. G. Wodehouse wrote because it was better than working in a bank. (I’m all with him on that one.)

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Taking Myself Seriously

I decided to take myself seriously as a blogger from now on. (Well, somebody has to.) So I signed up for a basic photography course with the so-called Blogging University – those of you who live your lives on WordPress.com you know what I’m talking about, the rest of you, don’t waste your time looking it up.

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Chocolate con churros

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Chocolate con churros in the Chocoletaría San Ginés in Madrid. Photo by Chocoletaría San Ginés.

Chocolate con churros – hot chocolate with churros – is a Spanish breakfast treat. Churros are a doughnut-type pastry, deep fried and eaten dipped into thick chocolate. It was Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico who sent the first shipment of cocoa to Spain in 1524, and Spanish monks adapted the Mexican drink replacing the spices with honey, sugar and milk; the recipe was guarded by the crown as a state secret for over a century.

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