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)

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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)”

El arco romano de Medinaceli (The Roman Arch of Medinaceli)

 

The Roman arch of Medinaceli, Spain. Photo by By Diego Delso via Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 4.0].

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

¡Medinaceli! El arco romano, imperial, mirando con ojos que son pura luz al paisaje planetario de aquellas tierras tan tristes…

(Miguel de Unamuno: Por las tierras del Cid)


Medinaceli! The Roman arch, imperial, looking with eyes of pure light at the planetary landscape of those sad lands…

(Miguel de Unamuno: Through the lands of Cid)

 

Fighting Spirit (Espíritu de lucha)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Androcleidas the Spartan, who had a crippled leg, enrolled himself among the fighting-men. And when some persons were insistent that he be not accepted because he was crippled, he said, “But I do not have to run away, but to stay where I am when I fight the opposing foe.”

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


Andróclidas, el espartano, con una pierna mutilada se alistó entre los combatientes. Como algunos insistieran en impedírselo, puesto que estaba mutilado, les dijo: «Pero yo no tengo por qué huir, sino que debo permanecer firme para luchar contra los que se me opongan.»

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

Take Preventive Action (Prevenir antes de que suceda)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

That which is at rest is easily kept hold of; before a thing has given indications of its presence, it is easy to take measures against it; that which is brittle is easily broke; that which is very small is easily dispersed. Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance, order should be secured before disorder has begun.

(Tao Te Ching 64:1)


Lo que está en reposo es fácil de retener.
Lo que no ha sucedido es fácil de resolver.
Lo que es frágil es fácil de romper.
Lo que es menudo es fácil de dispersar.
Prevenir antes de que suceda,
y ordenar antes de la confusión.

(Tao te king LXIV)

The Fifth of November

It being not only Monday but the 5th of November, for today’s quote of the week we’re going to remember the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The First Suicide Bomber in Britain

To cut a long story short, in 1605, the much persecuted Catholics hatched a plot to blow up Westminster while Parliament was in session and the king, James I, in attendance. A cellar below the building was filled with barrels of gunpowder and Guy Fawkes was left to ignite to fuse. If he succeeded, he would have gone to heaven (or hell) with his victims, but as history would have it, he had been apprehended in the act.

The day when the plot failed, known as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes’ Night, is still celebrated in England with fireworks and bonfires.

Effigy of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire, Billericay, 2010. Photo by William Warby [CC-BY 2.0]
When I first lived through it, in the near aftermath of the Second Iraq War, I had the worrying sensation of having been transported to Baghdad, because the explosions around the house went on all night. You get used to it eventually, and one year long ago, when Sophisticated Young Lady was not yet sophisticated, nor yet a lady, and Young Friend of the Elephants was even younger than she is now, I’ve even gone to the trouble of making a ragdoll ‘guy’ to burn at the stake of our garden bonfire.

Guess if it rained that year.

Quote of the Week:

Remember, remember
The fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Socrates on Integrity (Sócrates sobre la integridad)

Quote of the Week

Socrates said:

… a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong – acting the part of a good man or a bad.

…For wherever a man’s place is, whether the place he has chosen or that where he has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything, but of disgrace.

Plato: Apology


La cita de la semana

Sócrates dijo:

A este hombre le daré una respuesta muy decisiva, y le diré que se engaña mucho al creer que un hombre de valor tome en cuenta Ios peligros de la vida ó de la muerte. Lo único que debe mirar en todos sus procederes es ver si lo que hace es justo ó injusto, si es acción de un hombre de bien ó de un malvado.

…todo hombre que ha escogido un puesto que ha creído honroso, ó que ha sido colocado en él por sus superiores, debe mantenerse firme, y no debe temer ni la muerte, ni lo que haya de más terrible, anteponiendo á todo el honor.

Platón: La apología de Sócrates

Silence in the Desert

Sahara Desert, Morocco. Photo by flowcomm via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Quote of the Week:

There is the silence of peace, when the tribes are reconciled, when the evening cool returns and it seems as if you were putting in, sails furled, at a quiet harbour.

There’s silence at noon, when the sun suspends all thought and movement.

There’s a false silence when the north wind flags and insects appear, ripped away from oases in the interior like pollen, presaging a sandstorm from the east.

There’s the silence of brewing plots, when you know that some distant tribe is simmering.

There’s a mysterious silence when the Arabs gather for their indecipherable confabulations.

There’s a tense silence when a messenger is late returning.

An acute silence when, at night, you hold your breath to listen.

A melancholy silence if you’re remembering someone you love.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Introduction to 33 Days)

Truth Does Not Depend on Geography (La verdad no depende de la geografía)

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.»

(George Mikes: Prólogo a Como ser un extranjero)

Great Task (Tarea grande)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Lao Tzu (6th century BC) [public domain via Wikipedia]

Confront the difficult
while it’s still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching 63
(Transl. by Stephen Mitchell)


Acomete la dificultad por su lado más fácil.
Ejecuta lo grande comenzando por lo más pequeño.

Lao-Tse: Tao te king LXIII

Hiding Art (Ocultar el arte)

Today’s quote has been variously attributed to Horace, Ovid, Quintilian and Tibullus. Possibly to some other authors as well. The only thing we’re sure of is that it is a Latin quote.

La cita de hoy ha sido atribuida a varios autores: Horacio, Ovidio, Quintiliano y Tibulo. Posiblemente a otros autores también. Lo único que es cierto es que es una cita latina.

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Ars est celare artem.


Art lies in hiding the art.


El verdadero arte es ocultar el arte.

Bull-Fight

The bull-ring in Mérida, Spain

Today’s quote of the week is once again longer than usual: an excerpt from a book by the English travel writer, Laurie Lee – most famous for his autobiographical trilogy: A Cider with Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War. The first deals with his childhood, the second with him traipsing around the Spanish countryside in 1935 and the third with his experiences in the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

The quote below is from A Rose for Winter, a book that recounts his visit to Spain about fifteen years after the end of the Civil War.

Continue reading “Bull-Fight”