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)

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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)

The Dark Side of Life (In Nine Haikus)

It’s February, it’s cold, it’s dark, life is s**t for so many different reasons.

In other words:

It’s Time For Poetry

I could, of course, dig out something uplifting, like Odysseas Elytis painting an Aegean heaven. I usually do, at moments like this. But you know what, not tonight. After all, life is not all song and dance, and sometimes, just ever so often, you do have every reason to sit in a dark corner and howl. (Some of you might have a lot more reasons to sit and howl than others – rid yourself of the notion that life is fair.)

Continue reading “The Dark Side of Life (In Nine Haikus)”

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]

Top (?) Ten

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

(Source disputed¹)

The quote – whoever it was who first came up with it – says it all: you should take statistics with a pinch of salt. (Even better, understand what they truly mean.) Nevertheless, if you’re a blogger, it’s rather difficult to ignore the statistics; and the other day I took a look at what posts were the most popular – that means most visited – in the past few years.

Continue reading “Top (?) Ten”

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)

The Three (Spanish) Musketeers

Leer esto en español

A murderer at the the age of thirteen, exiled from Madrid… what future would have had a boy like that?

Well, it seems that he had a pretty interesting future. So interesting that later he considered it worthwhile to write his memoirs. So interesting in fact that these memoirs gave life to a character in a well-known – at least in Spain – novel. And this character, in turn, gave life to a character in a TV series…

Do you know who they are?

The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez [Courtesy of the Museum of Prado, Madrid]
If you have seen the original Spanish version of this post, you may have noted that it contains several quotes by Eduardo Marquina. They are from his play En Flandes se ha puesto el sol, The Sun Has Set in Flanders. Unfortunately, I was unable to find an English translation of this work, and I most definitely draw the line at trying to translate poetry. My apologies, but apart from a brief excerpt, you'll just have to do without.

Continue reading “The Three (Spanish) Musketeers”

Capitán y español: Las vidas de aquellos capitanes

Read this in English

Asesino a la edad de trece años, desterrado de la Villa… ¿qué futuro habría tenido un chico como aquello?

Pues parece que tenía un futuro bastante interesante. Tan interesante que más tarde le valdría la pena escribir sus memorias. Tan interesante, de hecho, que estas memorias dieron vida a un personaje en una novela muy conocida. Quién, a su vez, dio vida a un personaje de una serie de la televisión…

Capitán y español, no está avezado
a curarse de herida, que ha dejado
intacto el corazón dentro del pecho.

(Eduardo Marquina: En Flandes se ha puesto el sol)

Te adivines ¿de quiénes se tratamos?

Las lanzas o La rendición de Breda por Diego Velázquez [Gracias al Museo del Prado]
Continue reading “Capitán y español: Las vidas de aquellos capitanes”

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)”

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)”

Art, Word, War: Anglo-Saxon Codices

Orderly British queues, intellectuals discussing minute details of craftsmanship and content; teenage girls squealing in delight as if they just met a rock star – at the sight of the handwriting of an early 9th century bishop. (I wonder what school they go to.)

That was Art, Word, War, the current British Library exhibition about the Anglo-Saxons.

Continue reading “Art, Word, War: Anglo-Saxon Codices”

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)

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)”

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

A Snowy Morning (Una mañana de nieve)

(Avanza el texto para leer esto en castellano.)

Quote of the Week:

We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive. The floor creaks under our feet as we move toward the window to look abroad through some clear space over the fields. We see the roofs stand under their snow burden. From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences, we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art.

Silently we unlatch the door, letting the drift fall in, and step abroad to face the cutting air. Already the stars have lost some of their sparkle, and a dull, leaden mist skirts the horizon. A lurid brazen light in the east proclaims the approach of day, while the western landscape is dim and spectral still, and clothed in a sombre Tartarian light, like the shadowy realms. They are Infernal sounds only that you hear,—the crowing of cocks, the barking of dogs, the chopping of wood, the lowing of kine, all seem to come from Pluto’s barn-yard and beyond the Styx;—not for any melancholy they suggest, but their twilight bustle is too solemn and mysterious for earth. The recent tracks of the fox or otter, in the yard, remind us that each hour of the night is crowded with events, and the primeval nature is still working and making tracks in the snow. Opening the gate, we tread briskly along the lone country road, crunching the dry and crisped snow under our feet, or aroused by the sharp clear creak of the wood-sled, just starting for the distant market, from the early farmer’s door, where it has lain the summer long, dreaming amid the chips and stubble; while far through the drifts and powdered windows we see the farmer’s early candle, like a paled star, emitting a lonely beam, as if some severe virtue were at its matins there. And one by one the smokes begin to ascend from the chimneys amidst the trees and snows.

(Henry David Thoreau: A Winter Walk)

Cita de la semana:

Dormimos, y al final despertamos a la inmóvil realidad de una mañana de invierno. La nieve yace tibia como el algodón y se acumula sobre el alféizar de la ventana; el marco hinchado y los cristales helados reciben una luz débil e íntima que realza la acogedora comodidad interior. La quietud de la mañana es impresionante. El suelo cruje bajo nuestros pies cuando nos acercamos a la ventana a mirar un claro sobre los campos. Vemos los techos bajo el peso de la nieve. De los aleros y las cercas cuelgan estalactitas de hielo, y en el jardín se alzan estalagmitas que cubren su corazón oculto. Los árboles y los arbustos elevan sus brazos blancos al cielo; y donde había paredes y setos vemos formas fantásticas que retozan haciendo cabriolas por el sombreado paisaje, como si la Naturaleza hubiera esparcido sus diseños hechos durante la noche como modelos para el artista.

Abrimos la puerta en silencio, dejando que caiga dentro la nieve amontonada, y salimos a enfrentarnos con el aire cortante. Las estrellas ya han perdido parte de su brillo, y una niebla opaca y plúmbea bordea el horizonte. Una tenue luz bronceada sobre el este proclama la llegada del día, mientras el paisaje occidental aún permanece espectral y oscuro, envuelto en una tenebrosa luz tartárea, como si fuera un reino umbrío. Se oyen sólo sonidos infernales: el canto de los gallos, el ladrido de los perros, hachazos contra la madera, el mugir de las vacas… todo parece venir del corral de Plutón, más allá de la laguna Estigia, no porque evoquen melancolía alguna, sino porque su bullicio crepuscular es demasiado solemne y misterioso para la tierra. El rastro fresco de algún zorro o alguna nutria en el huerto nos recuerda que la noche está repleta de acontecimientos, y la naturaleza primitiva aún sigue en marcha dejando huellas en la nieve. Abrimos la verja y echamos a andar a paso vivo por el solitario camino; la nieve seca y quebradiza cruje bajo nuestros pies y nos estimula el chirrido agudo del trineo de madera que parte hacia el distante mercado, desde la puerta matinal del granjero donde ha permanecido todo el verano soñando entre las briznas de hierba y los rastrojos, mientras vemos de lejos la luz de la primera vela a través de las ventanas nevadas de la granja, como una pálida estrella que emite su rayo solitario o una severa virtud rezando sus maitines. Las volutas de humo de las chimeneas empiezan a ascender una tras otra entre los árboles y la nieve.

(Henry David Thoreau: Un paseo de invierno)

Wishing you all a peaceful, happy Christmas! 🙂

Links/Enlaces:Henry David Thoreau texts on Project GutenbergTextos por Henry David Thoreau en Archives.orgImage via Pixabay [Public Domain]

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)”