Sorpresa (Surprise)

La cita del día / Quote of the Day

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

Explosion

Quote of the Week

Laurie_Lee
Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

When a shell hit the ground and exploded near by, the snow rose in the air like a dirty ghost, and hung there spikily billowing, before collapsing into the ground again. Such apparitions increased all around me, lifting, hovering and falling, together with the brutal rending and peeling back of the air, and the knowledge that under bombardment one has no courage.

(Laurie Lee: A Moment of War)

 

El carácter español (The Spanish Character)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

Cees Nooteboom bw
Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

El carácter español tiene algo monacal, incluso en sus grandes reyes hay un dejo de anacoreta: Felipe y Carlos construyeron monasterios para ellos mismos y vivie- ron durante mucho tiempo de espaldas al mundo que debían dirigir. Quien ha viajado mucho por España está acostumbrado y espera en medio de la nada un enclave, un oasis, un sitio vuelto hacia dentro, amurallado, a modo de fortaleza, en el que el silencio y la ausencia de los demás causa estragos en las almas.

(Cees Nooteboom: El desvío a Santiago)


The Spanish character has something monastic about it, even in their great monarchs there is a touch of the anchorite: both Philip and Charles built monasteries for themselves and spent much time in seclusion, turning their backs to the world they were required to govern. Anyone who has travelled widely through Spain is accustomed to such surprise encounters, and indeed anticipates them: in the middle of nowhere an enclave, an oasis, a walled , fortress-like, introverted spot, where silence and the absence of others wreak havoc in the souls of men.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Short Swords (Espadas Pequeñas)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Plutarch (c. 46 AD – c. 120 AD)

The younger Agis, when Demades said that the jugglers who swallow swords use the Spartan swords because of their shortness, retorted, “But all the same the Spartans reach their enemies with their swords.”

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


Agis, el joven, cuando Demades dijo que los prestidigitadores se tragaban las espadas espartanas por lo pequeñas que eran, dijo: «Y, sin embargo, los espartanos alcanzan a los enemigos con sus espadas».

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

Freedom of Conscience

Quote of the Day

A somewhat Machiavellian argument for the freedom of conscience from the 18th century. 🙂

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755)

It is useless to claim that it is not in the prince’s interest to permit several religions coexist in his realm. If every sect in the world assembled there together, it would in no way harm the prince, because there is not a single religion that does not prescribe obedience, and preach submission. 

(Montesquieu: Persian Letters, Letter 83)

Soria (Spain)

Today’s quote is much longer than usual but it gives you a flavour of Cees Nooteboom’s style of travel writing – and a feel for the Spanish town of Soria. Enjoy!

Quote of the Week:

Cees Nooteboom bw
Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

Génie de lieu is the phrase used by the French when a particular site emanates something very special and remarkable.

There are no Knights Hospitallers of of Saint John of Jerusalem in Soria today, but a vestige of the cloister they built in 1100 still stands, a sketch, a hint of what was once the arcade around the inner courtyard. It is early in the morning, wisps of mist float over the river, which is narrow here and courses swiftly and darkly along the banks lined with reeds and tall greenery. The pointed arches are interlaced and look like arabesques suspended in a void. It is a truly secluded courtyard, a tangle of roses against the walls of the little church, gladioli and man-high daisies sway under the poplar trees, but the square space between the four walls is unoccupied. That is what makes thecourtyard so enigmatic: it is open to all sides, wind and air and voices blow through the apertures, it is free-standing, it is out of doors, and yet I am inside a Moorish courtyard. The shape of the ruins indicates what it must have been like, the walls of that long-vanished cloister still surround me. I enter the small church. I see several tombstones with Hebrew lettering, the arch over the apse is Arabic. There are two curious canopy-like structures, one domed, the other conical, next to and in front of the spot where the main altar must have stood; the canopies are Christian, and so in this small deathly-quiet space the three worlds of Judaism, Christianity and Islam come together in a symbiosis that is unique in the world today.

Why are some places famous and not others? Why does everyone talk of Autun and Poitiers and you never hear a word about Soria, while it has one of the loveliest and most moving Romanesque portals of medieval Christianity? Every true lover of Romanesque art should see the façade of the Santo Domingo and the cloister of San Pedro. They are, with the San Juan de Rabanera and the San Gil, treasuries with the most wondrous details. Florid capitals crown pillars with plant motifs, to which such subtle irregularities have been introduced as to make the stone come alive, Arab influences, the artful manner of showing nudity (by depicting vices), winged lions with birds’ heads which remind me of Persepolis – all those stories and admonitions and decorations that were carved a thousand years ago by master craftsmen and that survive here in the dry, harsh climate of Soria, they are truly worthy of pilgrimage. You find yourself wishing you had an outsize magnifying glass through which to study the carvings: a capital-scope. The decorations oare often miniatures in stone, and if you want to read what the images have to say, you must come armed with a dictionary of Biblical and Christian icons and symbols. I confess to a heartfelt irritation when I cannot interpret precisely what the pictures are trying to tell me.  What used to be common knowledge is now the reserve of experts and scholars.

What, I wonder, is so attractive about all this? I am standing in front of the Santo Domingo. Not famous, so there is no tourism, a quiet corner in a quiet town. Is it the simplicity, if that word is at all justifiable? The piety? The unshakeable totality of a world view? The idea that it was made by people and for people to whom this was not “art” but reality? That a story was being told in stone which everyone already knew by heart but wanted to see and hear again and again – just as Greeks (and Japanese) still flock to see their ancient tragedies? I don tknow. What I do know is that this low, almost squat façade, in which the tympanum takes up relatively little space, exudes great force and emotion. The idea that this was ever new. New! Just finished, hewn out of those almost golden blocks of hard stone! How proud the makers were, how everyone in the province crowded to see the sight!

The figures in the tympanum are so small that you have to get up close to see them. Even then you must crane your neck, because the four rows into which they are crammed are straight up above you, not in front of you. With the four ascending registers on the archivolt securely fixed in your gaze, each made up of a variety of scenes, you find that they lack that rigid and hieratic quality which, for the sake of convenience, we tend to label “primitive”. Indeed, they are both lavish and droll, with their oversize, pious gnomes’ heads protruding from richly pleated garments. And everything happens the way it is described in the Good Book and has been preserved in countless surviving images and no doubt in countless others long since lost: the head of teh Baptist is severed, God fashions the body of Adam from clay, the Annunciation, the adoration of the Magi, the same old stories, only this time not in paint, not in silver, not by Rembrandt, not by Manzú or Rouault, but carved, unsigned, by vanished hands in the hard stone of a barren Spanish province, where serenely they await the end of time.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

La mar eterna (The Eternal Sea)

Como quizás os habéis dado cuenta, recientemente fue demasiado ocupada para escribir posts con regularidad, especialmente para escribir esas largas posts sobre Heródoto que necesitan investigaciones adicionales…

As you might have noticed, recently I have been too busy to be able to blog regularly – especially writing those long posts about Herodotus, involving additional research…

Desafortunadamente, por el momento espero seguir ocupada, pero tengo muchas buenas citas para compartir, de modo que la Cita de la semana se convertirá, al menos temporalmente, en La cita del día. Empezando hoy.

Unfortunately, in the near future I expect to be even busier but I have lots of good quotes to share, so that Quote of the Week will become, at least temporarily, Quote of the Day. Starting today.

Y, por supuesto, estoy siguiendo escribir posts más largas siempre que tengo el tiempo!

Of course, whenever I have the time I’m still writing longer posts as well!

La cita del día / Quote of the Day:

unamuno
Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)

…bañaba todos los días mi vista en la visión eterna de la mar, de la mar eterna, de la mar que vio nacer y verá morir la historia, de la mar que guarda la misma sonrisa con que acogió el alba del linaje humano, la misma sonrisa con que contemplará su ocaso.

(Miguel de Unamuno: ¡Montaña, desierto, mar!)


…every day I bathed my sight in the eternal vision of the sea, of the eternal sea; of the sea that saw history be born and will see it die; of the sea that preserves the same smile with which it received the dawn of mankind, the same smile with which it will contemplate its sunset.

(Miguel de Unamuno)

Man’s Spirit

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

Man’s spirit is not concerned with object; that is the business of our analytical faculties. Man’s spirit is concerned with the significance that relates objects to one another. With their totality, which only the piercing eye of the spirit can perceive. The spirit, meanwhile, alternates between total vision and absolute blindness.

Here is a man, for example, who loves his farm – but there are moments when he sees in it only a collection of unrelated objects. Here is a man who loves his wife – but there are moments when he sees in love nothing but burdens, hindrances, constraints. Here is a man who loves music – but there are moments when it cannot reach him.

What we call a nation is certainly not the sum of the regions, customs, cities, farms, and the rest that man’s intelligence is able at any moment to add up. It is a Being. But there are moments when I find myself blind to beings – even to the being called France.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

Where, Not How Many (No cuántos son, sino dónde están)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Plutarch (c. 46 AD – c. 120 AD)

He [Agis son of Archidamus] said that the Spartans did not ask ‘how many are the enemy,’ but ‘where are they?’

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


Decía [Agis, hijo de Arquidamo] que los espartanos no preguntan cuántos son los enemigos, sino dónde están.

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

The Cuckoo Clock (El reloj de cuco)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Graham Greene (1904-1991)

“You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

(Graham Greene: The Third Man)


«En los treinta años que estuvieron los Borgia en Italia hubo guerra, terror, asesinato y derramamiento de sangre —le explica—. Pero de ahí salieron Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci y el Renacimiento. En Suiza tenían amor fraternal, quinientos años de paz y democracia. Y, ¿qué salió de todo eso? El reloj de cuco».

(Graham Greene: El tercer hombre)

Rudderless

Quote of the Week

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957)

We live haphazard, we die haphazard, rudderless, with sails bellying. A wind blows. Where it blows, there we go. Water rushes into our ship, we work at the pumps day and night. But the water keeps rising and the pumps are rusty. The wretched things won’t work any more, and we go to the bottom. That’s human life, and you can yell as loud as you like. What’s our duty? To serve the pumps day and night, not to fold our arms, not to complain, not to moan. We ought not give up shamefully, but to work at the pumps day and night. That much I’ve learned from life, and you can take it or leave it!

(Nikos Kazantzakis: Freedom and Death)

The South of England (El sur de Inglaterra)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

George Orwell (1903-1950)

Down here it was still the England I had known in my childhood: the railway-cuttings smothered in wild flowers, the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate, the slow-moving streams bordered by willows, the green bosoms of the elms, the larkspurs in the cottage gardens; and then the huge peaceful wilderness of outer London, the barges on the miry river, the familiar streets, the posters telling of cricket matches and Royal weddings, the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen – all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.

(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia)


Allí, en el sur, Inglaterra seguía siendo la que había conocido en mi infancia: zanjas de las vías del ferrocarril cubiertas de flores silvestres, las onduladas praderas donde grandes y relucientes caballos pastan y meditan, los lentos arroyuelos bordeados de sauces, los pechos verdes de los olmos, las espuelas de caballero en los jardines de las casas de campo; luego la serena e inmensa paz de los alrededores londinenses, las barcazas en el río gangoso, las calles familiares, los carteles anunciando partidos de críquet y bodas reales, los hombres con bombín, las palomas de la plaza Trafalgar, los autobuses rojos, los policías azules… todo durmiendo el sueño muy profundo de Inglaterra, del cual muchas veces me temo que no despertaremos hasta que no nos arranque del mismo el estrépito de las bombas.

(George Orwell: Homenaje a Cataluña)

 

Spartan Territory (El territorio espartano)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Plutarch (c. 46 AD – c. 120 AD)

Being asked how much land the Spartans controlled, he [Archidamus, son of Agesilaus] said, “As much as they can reach with the spear.”

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


Al preguntársele cuanto territorio dominanaban los espartanos, [Arquidamo, hijo de Agesilao] dijo: «Cuanto alcanzan con su lanza.»

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

El problema (The Problem)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

The Decency of Human Beings (La decencia de los seres humanos)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

George Orwell (1903-1950)

This war, in which I played so ineffectual a part, has left me with memories that are mostly evil, and yet I do not wish that I had missed it. When you have has a glimpse of such disaster as this – and however it ends the Spanish war will turn out to have been an appalling disaster, quite apart from the slaughter and physical suffering – the result is not necessarily disillusionment and cynicism.

Curiously enough, the whole experience has left me with not less but more belief in the decency of human beings.

(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia)


Esta guerra, en la que desempeñé un papel tan ineficaz, me ha dejado recuerdos en su mayoría funestos, pero aun así no hubiera querido perdérmela. Cuando se ha podido atisbar un desastre como éste -y, cualquiera que sea el resultado, la guerra española habrá sido un espantoso desastre, aun sin considerar las matanzas y el sufrimiento físico-, el saldo no es necesariamente desilusión y cinismo.

Por curioso que parezca; toda esta experiencia no ha socavado mi fe en la decencia de los seres humanos, sino que, por el contrario, la ha fortalecido.

(George Orwell: Homenaje a Cataluña)

 

How Many Spartans (Cuántos Espartanos)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Plutarch (c. 46 AD – c. 120 AD)

When someone inquired how many Spartans there were in all, he [Ariston] said, “Enough to keep away our enemies.”

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


A uno que preguntaba cuántos espartanos había en total, [Aristón] le dijo: «Tantos cuantos son suficientes para mantener apartados a los enemigos.»

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

Patriotism (Patriotismo)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.


Sólo comprenderá lo que es un dominio aquel que le haya sacrificado una parte de sí mismo, aquel que haya luchado para salvarlo, y penado por embellecerlo. Entonces vendrá a él el amor del dominio.

 (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras / Piloto de guerra)

Eggs & Cretans

Quote of the Week

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957)

The eggs had already been eaten, shells and all. Now Captain Michales with a blow from his fist, smashed the pottery egg-cups, and distributed them to his guests to eat. Bertódolus was terrified, took his piece and clung breathless to a cask. With goggling eyes he watched the Cretans at his feet bit their bits of clay and chew them until they became sand and grit, which they swallowed with a snigger.

There are three sorts of men, Bertódolus slowly explained to himself: those who eat eggs without the shells; those who eat eggs with the shells; and those who gobble them up with the shell and the egg-cups as well. Those of the third kind are called Cretans.

(Nikos Kazantzakis: Freedom and Death)

Image Credit: Kazantzakis Museum via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0