Hector’s Farewell (Why Homer Matters)

Not so long ago I read a book titled The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson. It is 250 pages long, followed by some fifty pages of notes. Today I read Hector’s Farewell, an article of 809 words (I had the computer to count it, I’m not mad!) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte – and it accomplished, without fail, what 250 pages couldn’t: viz. to convince me that Homer matters.

Not that I particularly needed convincing.

I started out blogging some three months ago with dashing off a paragraph lamenting the fact that somebody wrote a long article about Pride and Prejudice and only managed to say what could have been tweeted: that it was a good book. I blithely concluded that much writing about books is a complete waste of time, and then duly proceeded to waste time by writing about books. And now I seem to have come a full circle: I’m in danger of writing a post which, if I’m not careful, will be longer than the article it extols.

I’ll pass the word to Pérez-Reverte instead:

…I was going to see Hector to say farewell to Andromache in real life. And not only once, but many times.

…I saw him say goodbye in various places, with different faces and names, although it was always the same scene. The first time that I was conscious of this was in Cyprus in 1974, when I opened the window of my hotel in Nicosia and saw the sky full of Turkish parachutists. I went down into the street with my cameras hanging around my neck, and as I walked I passed dozens of men saying goodbye to their wives and children to go to battle: brown and moustachoed Greeks, with their shaken faces, hugged their families and then ran in groups, neighbours, relatives and friends, towards the centres of conscription. In the following twenty years I had occasion to see the same men – they were always the same men – in various places of the extensive territory of catastrophes that I traversed then: in the Sahara, Lebanon, Salvador, Chad, Nicaragua, Iraq, Angola, the Balkans… I even witnessed a scene whose similarity to the text of Homer made me tremble, and still does…


…iba a ver a Héctor despedirse de Andrómaca en la vida real. Y no una, sino muchas veces.

…Lo vi despedirse en diferentes lugares, con rostros y nombres distintos, aunque siempre era la misma escena. La primera vez que fui consciente de eso fue en Chipre en 1974, cuando abrí la ventana de mi hotel en Nicosia y vi el cielo lleno de paracaidistas turcos. Bajé a la calle con mis cámaras colgadas del cuello, y por el camino me crucé con docenas de hombres despidiéndose de sus mujeres e hijos para acudir al combate: griegos morenos, bigotudos, que con el rostro desencajado abrazaban a sus familias y corrían luego en grupos, vecinos, parientes y amigos, hacia los centros de reclutamiento. En los siguientes veinte años tuve ocasión de ver a los mismos hombres -siempre son los mismos hombres- en diversos lugares de la extensa geografía de las catástrofes por la que yo transitaba entonces: Sáhara, Líbano, Salvador, Chad, Nicaragua, Iraq, Angola, los Balcanes… Incluso presencié una escena cuya semejanza con el texto de Homero me estremeció, y todavía lo hace…

Although Pérez-Reverte makes a living as a novelist now whose books have been translated into several languages (English included), it is certainly the former war correspondent speaking here. Which, however, does not make him any less convincing. So if you are ever faced with the choice between reading The Mighty Dead and Hector’s Farewell, choose the latter; you’ll save yourself much time. Except there’s a slight catch: you’ve got to be able to read Spanish. So, reluctantly, I amend myself: If you’re ever faced with a choice between The Mighty Dead and El adiós de Héctor – read whichever you can understand!

Throwback Thursday: Originally published on 3 November 2015
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Discutir con tontos (Arguing with Fools)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

Discutir con tontos supone tener que bajar al nivel de los tontos y ahí son imbatibles.

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: «Somos lo que queremos ser, cada uno tiene el mundo que se merece», Entrevista en Jotdown.es)


Arguing with fools means that you have to sink to the level of fools and there they are unbeatable.

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: “We are who we wish to be, everyone has the world he deserves”, Interview in Jotdown.es)

The Book Vargas Llosa Dares Not Re-Read

Picking up where I left off on Monday night… that is, the problem of re-reading books.

The Dangers of Re-Reading
Or
The Book Vargas Llosa Dares Not Re-Read

A few days ago on Zenda Libros I read the transcript of a group interview with three authors: Mario Vargas Llosa, Arturo Pérez-Reverte and Javier Marías. One of these I’d follow to hell, another won the Nobel Prize and the third one is still on my to be read pile.

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The Siege (El asedio)

In a city under siege, the bodies of gruesomely murdered young women begin to appear. And at every spot where the police finds a corpse, a bomb has fallen. Is there a connection?

This is the (brutally simplified) premise of The Siege, a historical novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. A novel set in Cádiz during the French siege in 1811 and 1812, in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, two years during what the Spanish call the War of Independence.

Cádiz. [Public domain via Pixabay]
En una ciudad bajo sitio aparecen cadáveres de jovencitas asesinadas en una manera horripilante. Y en cada lugar en que el policía encuentra un cadáver, ha caído una bomba. ¿Hay alguna conexión?

Eso es la premisa (simplificada de manera brutal) de El Asedio, una novela histórica por Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Una novela ambientada en Cádiz durante el asedio francés en los años 1811 y 1812, la era de la Guerra de la Independencia. 

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A Day of Anger

Let the Scene Write Itself

I was at work – and I was angry. Somebody else c**ked up hugely, I was left to cope with the fallout and it was just all getting too much.

We all have days like that of course. Some people get so angry on such days that they end sticking the kitchen knife into the person responsible for their misery. (If you ever feel this way inclined, you’d better avoid taking a job in a kitchen – you’ll do much better in life.) I do stop short of knifing incompetent idiots at work but I was very angry so to take my mind of it I went to fetch a glass of water and sneaked a look at the next Everyday Inspiration prompt on my phone. It was, “Let the Scene Write Itself”.

How opportune when I’ve just read a book titled A Day of Anger.

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Adventures in Spanish (Captain Alatriste)

When I travel anywhere I like to take a book that relates to the place I’m visiting. It’s usually a novel set there or a book on the history of the place – or more likely, one of each. Walking down Milsom Street in Bath after you read Persuasion becomes that just a little bit more special. The Torre de Oro in Sevilla seems far more impressive when you know its history. And so, planning to visit Venice soon, I recently embarked on re-reading the Alatriste series of Arturo Pérez-Reverte because Book VII, The Bridge of Assassins, is set in Venice. Those famous churches, bridges and canals will acquire a certain sinister significance when viewed through the eyes of the would be assassins of the Doge.

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Books That Transport You

Following links from one blog to another, as you sometimes do, I came across a book list that immediately took my fancy: The Books That Transport You.

Talk about being bitten by the listmania bug. I immediately decided that I have to make my own list… only to conclude a hundred titles later that I have to rethink my approach. So ten books that – quite literally – transported me to another time, into somebody else’s life or to a place far away…

In no way is this an exhaustive list of books that transport you – to begin with the postman has just delivered a book for me that I am one hundred percent sure would belong on this list, and I’ve only flipped through the pages so far! – but I can always write another list later! 🙂

Enjoy.

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Taking the Prado to Atocha Station

Today I read an interview with Arturo Pérez-Reverte, a Spanish writer whose books I’m quite fond of. The writer, whom I once quoted because he was very convincing upon the subject of why Homer matters. The writer I’d like to write a book for me.

In Spain Pérez-Reverte is known for not being afraid to speak his mind, and is perhaps even regarded as a little bit controversial. If he is controversial, he was true to form in this interview, floating some ‘politically incorrect’ ideas.

Like that culture is for an élite only…

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You’ve Been 404’d!

A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over…

Riszard Kapuscinski: Travels with Herodotus

Your journey is not over! There was once a post here but it’s been updated & republished. Read it here:

Save the Trinidad (The Unwritten Biography of Cayetano Valdés)

(It’s much better than it originally was.)