Van Gogh in the Bookshop (Van Gogh en la librería)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)

So often, in the past as well, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me up and reminded me that there are good things in the world.

Vincent Van Gogh: Letter to Theo Van Gogh, 30 October 1877

A menudo, en el pasado también, una visita a la librería me ha animado y me ha recordado que haya cosas buenas en el mundo.

Vincent Van Gogh: Carta a Theo Van Gogh, 30 de octubre de 1877

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Water (Agua)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

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

There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong, there is nothing that can take precedence of it.

Lao Tse: Tao Teh King 78:1


No hay nada el mundo tan blando como el agua.
Pero nada hay que la supere contra lo duro.

Lao-Tse Tao te king LXXVIII

Quote of the Week: The Council of Trent

George Borrow portrait
George Borrow (1843), courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

In 1842, a  nobody called George Borrow wrote a detailed, 550-pages long account of his day job. Sounds boring? It isn’t: Borrow’s day  job was to sell Bibles in war-torn, Catholic Spain. The Bible in Spain is a book I cannot recommend enough; it’s a travelogue, an adventure story and comedy all in one. If you want to know more, you can read my review here.

Today’s quote is rather lengthier than usual but gives you a flavour of Borrow’s style of writing. Enjoy this excerpt about his run-in with the famous Spanish bureaucracy:

By far the most clever member of this government was Galiano, whose acquaintance I had formed shortly after my arrival.  He was a man of considerable literature, and particularly well versed in that of his own country.  He was, moreover, a fluent, elegant, and forcible speaker… Why he was made minister of marine is difficult to say, as Spain did not possess any; perhaps, however, from his knowledge of the English language, which he spoke and wrote nearly as well as his own tongue, having, indeed, during his sojourn in England, chiefly supported himself by writing for reviews and journals,—an honourable occupation, but to which few foreign exiles in England would be qualified to devote themselves.

[…] Galiano forthwith gave me a letter to his colleague, the Duke of Rivas, in whose department he told me was vested the power either of giving or refusing the permission to print the book in question. The duke was a very handsome young man, of about thirty, an Andalusian by birth, like his two colleagues. He had published several works—tragedies, I believe—and enjoyed a certain kind of literary reputation. He received me with the greatest affability; and having heard what I had to say, he replied with a most captivating bow, and a genuine Andalusian grimace: “Go to my secretary; go to my secretary—el hará por usted el gusto.”

So I went to the secretary, whose name was Oliban, an Aragonese, who was not handsome, and whose manners were neither elegant nor affable.

“You want permission to print the Testament?”
“I do,” said I.
“And you have come to his Excellency about it?” continued Oliban.
“Very true,” I replied.
“I suppose you intend to print it without notes?”
“Yes.”
“Then his Excellency cannot give you permission,” said the Aragonese secretary. “It was determined by the Council of Trent that no part of the Scripture should be printed in any Christian country without the notes of the church.”
“How many years was that ago?” I demanded.
“I do not know how many years ago it was,” said Oliban; “but such was the decree of the Council of Trent.”
“Is Spain at present governed according to the decrees of the Council of Trent?” I inquired.
“In some points she is,” answered the Aragonese, “and this is one. But tell me, who are you?Are you known to the British minister?”
“Oh yes, and he takes a great interest in the matter.”
“Does he?” said Oliban; “that indeed alters the case: if you can show me that his Excellency takes an interest in this business, I certainly shall not oppose myself to it.”

The British minister performed all I could wish, and much more than I could expect. He had an interview with the Duke of Rivas, with whom he had much discourse upon my affair: the duke was all smiles and courtesy. He moreover wrote a private letter to the duke, which he advised me to present when I next paid him a visit; and, to crown all, he wrote a letter directed to myself, in which he did me the honour to say, that he had a regard for me, and that nothing would afford him greater pleasure than to hear that I had obtained the permission which I was seeking. So I went to the duke, and delivered the letter. He was ten times more kind and affable than before: he read the letter, smiled most sweetly, and then, as if seized with sudden enthusiasm, he extended his arms in a manner almost theatrical, exclaiming, “Al secretario, el hará por usted el gusto.”

Away I hurried to the secretary, who received me with all the coolness of an icicle. I related to him the words of his principal, and then put into his hand the letter of the British minister to myself. The secretary read it very deliberately, and then said that it was evident his Excellency “did take an interest in the matter.” He then asked me my name, and, taking a sheet of paper, sat down as if for the purpose of writing the permission. I was in ecstasy. All of a sudden, however, he stopped, lifted up his head, seemed to consider a moment, and then, putting his pen behind his ear, he said, “Amongst the decrees of the Council of Trent is one to the effect . . .”

“Oh dear!” said I.

“A singular person is this Oliban,” said I to Galiano; “you cannot imagine what trouble he gives me; he is continually talking about the Council of Trent.”

“I wish he was in the Trent up to the middle,” said Galiano, who, as I have observed already, spoke excellent English; “I wish he was there for talking such nonsense. However,” said he, “we must not offend Oliban—he is one of us, and has done us much service; he is, moreover, a very clever man, but he is an Aragonese, and when one of that nation once gets an idea into his head, it is the most difficult thing in the world to dislodge it. However, we will go to him. He is an old friend of mine, and I have no doubt but that we shall be able to make him listen to reason.”

So the next day I called upon Galiano, at his marine or admiralty office (what shall I call it?), and from thence we proceeded to the bureau of the interior, a magnificent edifice, which had formerly been the casa of the Inquisition, where we had an interview with Oliban, whom Galiano took aside to the window, and there held with him a long conversation, which, as they spoke in whispers, and the room was immensely large, I did not hear. At length Galiano came to me, and said, “There is some difficulty with respect to this business of yours, but I have told Oliban that you are a friend of mine, and he says that that is sufficient; remain with him now, and he will do anything to oblige you. Your affair is settled—farewell.” Whereupon he departed, and I remained with Oliban, who proceeded forthwith to write something, which having concluded, he took out a box of cigars, and having lighted one and offered me another, which I declined, as I do not smoke, he placed his feet against the table, and thus proceeded to address me, speaking in the French language.

“It is with great pleasure that I see you in this capital, and, I may say, upon this business. I consider it a disgrace to Spain that there is no edition of the Gospel in circulation, at least such a one as would be within the reach of all classes of society, the highest or poorest; one unencumbered with notes and commentaries, human devices, swelling it to an unwieldy bulk. I have no doubt that such an edition as you propose to print would have a most beneficial influence on the minds of the people, who, between ourselves, know nothing of pure religion; how should they? seeing that the Gospel has always been sedulously kept from them, just as if civilization could exist where the light of the Gospel beameth not. The moral regeneration of Spain depends upon the free circulation of the Scriptures; to which alone England, your own happy country, is indebted for its high state of civilization and the unmatched prosperity which it at present enjoys. All this I admit, in fact reason compels me to do so, but—”

“Now for it,” thought I.

“Bu—” And then he began to talk once more of the wearisome Council of Trent and I found that his writing in the paper, the offer of the cigar, and the long and prosy harangue were—what shall I call it?—mere φλυαρία.

(George Borrow: The Bible in Spain)

Quote of the Week: The Blaze of Summer

Photo by Joerg-Design [public domain via Pixabay]

On the other side of the closed blinds, in the scorched, withered garden, summer ignited a last blaze like an arsonist setting the fields on fire in senseless fury before making his escape.

(Sándor Márai: Embers)


A csukott redőnyök mögött, az aszalt, pörkölt és elszáradt kertben utolsó dühével lobogott a nyár, mint egy gyújtogató, aki esztelen dühében felgyújtja a határt, mielőtt világgá megy.

(Márai Sándor: A gyertyák csonkig égnek)

 

The Amazing Cynicism of the Tao Teh King

In Search of Tranquility

I occasionally see world weary westerners traipsing down Regent Street in loose robes and sandals chanting ‘Hare Krishna’, apparently believing that this would ease their existential angst, or, better still, solve all their problems – I blame the Beatles. Personally, I’ve never yet felt tempted to sing ‘Hare Krishna’; mainly because it’s somebody else’s cultural background and I’ve got a perfectly serviceable one of my own. Even so – and despite the Beatles – I recognise that the East has much to offer us.

Continue reading “The Amazing Cynicism of the Tao Teh King”

Argos vs Sparta (Argos contra Esparta)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

When an Argive said once upon a time, “There are many tombs of Spartans in our country,” a Spartan said, “But there is not a single tomb of an Argive in our country,” indicating by this that the Spartans had often set foot in Argos, but the Argives had never set foot in Sparta.

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


Cuando un argivo dijo en una occasión: «En nuestra tierra hay muchas tumbas de espartanos», un espartano le respondió: «Pues en la nuestra no hay ni una sola de argivos», porque ellos habían invadido muchas veces Argos, pero los argivos jamás Esparta.

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

 

A Bear of Very Little Brain (The World According to Pooh)

The other day, in the course of an argument, somebody called me a person with a small brain.

Even while I took offence, I recalled a line from my childhood bible, Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne:

“For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain and long words Bother me.”

(Winnie-The-Pooh)

I’m all with the Bear of Very Little Brain on this one: long words bother me too. Especially when used by people who don’t know what they mean.

Continue reading “A Bear of Very Little Brain (The World According to Pooh)”

Seville Harbour (Puerto de Sevilla)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

View of Seville in the 16th century with the Fleet of the Indies / Vista de Sevilla en el siglo XVI con la Flota de Indias [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Seville harbour – only a few hundred yards of dock set on the banks of a slow river, fifty miles from the sea, yet once the greatest harbour in the world, and still, in the legends of man, the most important. Columbus, Pizarro and Fernando Magellan, the Santa María and the little Victoria – from here they sailed to find a new world, or to be the first in all history to encircle the globe.

(Laurie Lee: A Rose for the Winter)


El puerto de Sevilla – sólo unos pocos cientos de yardas de muelle en las orillas de un río lento, cincuenta millas del mar, sin embargo, en otro tiempo el mayor puerto del mundo, y todavía en las leyendas de la humanidad, el más importante. Colón, Pizarro y Fernando de Magallanes, el Santa María y el pequeño Victoria – zarparon de aquí para encontrar un mundo nuevo, o para ser primero en toda la historia en la circunnavegación del globo.

(Laurie Lee: Una rosa para el invierno)

Nature (Naturaleza)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Photo by Beba [public domain via Pixabay]

I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. It is cheerfully, musically earnest.

(Henry David Thoreau: Journals, 16 November 1850)


Amo la naturaleza, amo el paisaje, porque es tan sincero. Nunca me engaña. Nunca me burla. Es alegre, musicalmente serio.

(Henry David Thoreau: Diarios, 16 de noviembre de 1850)

The Wine-Dark Sea

Quote of the Week:

“Sailing over the wine-dark sea…” (Homer: The Odyssey)
[Image public domain via Pixabay]

It was evening when we made our way back to the cove. The sun was setting fire to the headlands west of us, and the sea had become absolutely still. Not even a cat’s-paw trailed across the purple water. The sea was truly like wine to look at. The professors who had decried Homer’s adjective and invented other meanings for it, had never been sailors.

(Ernle Bradford: The Wind Off the Island)

Lao Tzu on Knowing Yourself (Lao-Tse sobre conocerte a ti mismo)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

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

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.

If you realise that you have enough,
you are truly rich.

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, 33
(Transl. by Stephen Mitchell)


El que conoce a los demás es inteligente.
El que se conoce a sí mismo es iluminado.
El que vence a los demás es fuerte.
El que se vence a sí mismo es la fuerza.
El que se contenta es rico.

Lao-Tse: Tao te king, XXXIII

 

Palabra mágica (Magic Word)

The library of Pannonhalma Archabbey, Hungary. Photo by Thaler Tamás via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]
En septiembre 1931, el poeta Federico García Lorca hizo un discurso por la ocasión de la inauguración de la biblioteca pública en su pueblo natal, Fuente Vaqueros en Granada.

In September 1931, the poet Federico García Lorca made a speech on occasion of the inauguration of the public library in his hometown, Fuente Vaqueros in Granada.

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

¡Libros! ¡Libros! He aquí una palabra mágica que equivale a decir amor, amor, y que debían los pueblos pedir como piden pan o como anhelan la lluvia para sus sementeras.

(Federico García Lorca: Medio pan y un libro)


Books! Books! Here is a magic word that is equivalent to saying love, love, and what people should ask for like they ask for bread or yearn for rain for their crops.

(Federico García Lorca; Half a Bread and a Book)

Quote of the Week: On Liberty

John Stuart Mill
(1806-1873)

…the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else.

The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

(John Stuart Mill: On Liberty)

You might also like:On Liberty by John Stuart Mill on Project Gutenberg

Image credit: Public domain via Wikipedia

Come And Take Them (Ven a tomarlas)

Quote of the Week: Come And Take Them

The ultimate laconic reply of defiance: that of Leonidas to Xerxes at Thermopylae, unbeatable in its simplicity. Especially in Greek where it’s only two words: molon labe.

When Xerxes wrote again: ‘Deliver up your arms,’ he wrote back: ‘Come and take them’.

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

The words “molon labe” as inscribed on the Leonidas monument at Thermopylae. Source: Wikipedia

La cita de la semana: Ven a tomarlas

Lo último en el desafío lacónico: lo de Leónidas a Jerjes en las Termópilas, con su sencillez imbatible. Especialmente en griego, como que solo consiste de dos palabras: molon labe.

Cuando de nuevo Jerjes escribió: «Entrega tus armas», contestó: «Ven a tomarlas.»

(Plutarco: Moralia, III, Máximas de espartanos, Leónidas)

Elephants & Herd Instinct

Elephant herd in front of Mt Kilimanjaro. Photo by Diana Robinson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Quote of the Week:

For the herds of wild elephants show no resentment when domesticated animals join them. They have none of that herd instinct directed against the stranger that one finds in cattle, in small boys and among many grown-up men. This tolerance is just one of the things about elephants which makes one realise they are big in more ways than one.

(Lt.-Col. J. H. Williams: Elephant Bill)

Religión (Religion)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

Juan Eslava Galán (1948-)

La religión es como gaseosa: una vez abierta la botella solo es cuestión de tiempo que pierda el gas.

Religion is like a fizzy drink: once the bottle is open, it’s only a question of time before it goes flat.

(Juan Eslava Galán: Historia de España contada para escépticos / The History of Spain Told for Sceptics)

You might also like:God's Chosen People?The Bible in Spain
⇒ El sitio de web de Juan Eslava Galán

Image credit: Conchiare via Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Quote of the Week: Hokusai on Art & Ageing

Beauty on a summer morning by Hokusai (1810) – detail

From the age of six I had a penchant for copying the form of things, and from about fifty, my pictures were frequently published; but until the age of seventy, nothing I drew was worthy of notice.

At seventy-three years, I was somewhat able to fathom the growth of plants and trees, and the structure of birds, animals, insects and fish.

Thus when I reach eighty years, I hope to have made increasing progress, and at ninety to see further into the underlying principles of things, so that at one hundred years I will have achieved a divine state in my art, and at one hundred and ten, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.

Hokusai: Postscript to One Hundred Views of Mt Fuji, 1834.

Beauty on a summer morning

Hokusai painted Beauty on a summer morning when he was forty. It’s one of those which he didn’t think were “worthy of notice”. (Just saying.)

You might also like:Beyond the Great Wave at the British Museum (until 13 August 2017)