El Tajo y el Manzanares (The Tagus and the Manzanares)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)

Y en brazos estremecidos del Tajo va a pasar este arroyo de Goya [el Manzanares] por la hoz del río de la imperial Toledo, la del Greco, del río que sacaba fuera el pecho en tiempos de Don Rodrigo. Y se enlazan dos tragedias, pues también el Manzanares, el que oyó los fusilamientos del 2 de mayo de 1808, el que vio brotar en sus orillas los trágicos caprichos goyescos, cuando corría con fuego, sintió la tragedia de la vida. Y el Tajo lo lleva en sus brazos estremecidos a dejarlo al pie de Lisboa, en la mar de los conquistadores de Indias.

(Miguel de Unamuno: Orillas del Manzanares)


And in the trembling arms of the Tagus, this stream of Goya [the Manzanares] will pass through the sickle of the river of imperial Toledo, that of El Greco, from the river that stuck its chest out in the days of Don Rodrigo. And two tragedies are linked, because also the Manzanares, which heard the executions of May 2, 1808, which saw the tragic Goyesque caprices rise on its banks when it ran with fire, felt the tragedy of life. And the Tagus carries it in its trembling arms to leave it at the foot of Lisbon, in the sea of the conquerors of the Indies.

(Miguel de Unamuno: The Shores of the Manzanares)

The History of Spain in a Dozen Maps

Leer esto en castellano

1. Prehistory, 30 000 B.C.

In prehistoric times, the Iberian Peninsula was clearly the place to be – as attested by this map:

Prehistoric sites in Spain / Sitios prehistóricos en España [Courtesy of Jesús of the blog La Mar de Historias]
Now a year ago I had a great holiday in Ribadesella in Asturias – one of those places where only the Spanish (and American surfers) go on holiday to and it’s very useful to be actually able speak Spanish. You can find it on the map above where it says Tito Bustillo.

The Tito Bustillo Cave, some ten-fifteen minutes walk from the centre of Ribadesella, is a UNESCO World Heritage site (like the much better known Altamira). It was only discovered in the 1960s by a group of young people who evidently had nothing better to do and it’s named after one of them who died young in a caving accident. Cave paintings and stone age tools were found in the cave, the oldest paintings being about 30 thousand years old. In a hidden corner there are some paintings of… er… female genitalia which were, appropriately enough, discovered by a female member of the caving party who looked for some privacy to relieve herself. Or at least, so the tour guide says. 🙂

Continue reading “The History of Spain in a Dozen Maps”

Twelve Books in Twelve Months (2019)

About a year ago I looked back at 2018, admitted it had been a real struggle to keep the blog going and hoped for things to go better in 2019. Well, I can tell you this: they didn’t (if you didn’t work this out already for yourselves by the scarcity of the posts). What can I say? May 2020 be better than 2019 and may I write some good posts this year! 🙂

But while you’re waiting for those posts, let’s have a quick review at some of the books of 2019: books you might enjoy – or you’ll want to avoid! 🙂

By the way, if you ever want to know what I’m reading, you can always take a look at the Reading Log (which I do try to keep reasonably up-to-date).

Continue reading “Twelve Books in Twelve Months (2019)”

El lector de un solo libro (The Reader of Only One Book)

Empezamos el año nuevo con un consejo de uno de mis autores favoritos.

Si piensas en ello…

We start the new year with a piece of advice from one of my favourite Spanish authors.

When you think about it…

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

“…desconfíen siempre vuestras mercedes de quien es lector de un solo libro.”


“Never trust a man who reads only one book.”

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: Limpieza de sangre / Purity of Blood)

La compañía de Cristo (Christ’s Company)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

Que ninguna bandera o compañía es perfecta; e incluso en la de Cristo, que fue como él mismo se la quiso reclutar, hubo uno que lo vendió, otro que lo negó y otro que no lo creyó.”

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: El sol de Breda)


No unit and no company is perfect. Even in Christ’s, which was one he had recruited himself, there was one who betrayed him, another who denied him and yet another who failed to believe him.

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: The Sun Over Breda)

Don Quijote y el escudero vizcaíno (Don Quixote and the Biscayan Squire)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616)

Todo esto que don Quijote decía escuchaba un escudero de los que el coche acompañaban, que era vizcaíno; el cual, viendo que no quería dejar pasar el coche adelante, sino que decía que luego había dar la vuelta al Toboso, se fue para don Quijote y, asiéndole de la lanza, le dijo, en mala lengua castellana y peor vizcaína, desta manera:

—Anda, caballero que mal andes; por el Dios que crióme que, si no dejas coche, así te matas como estás ahí vizcaíno.

Entendióle muy bien don Quijote, y con mucho sosiego le respondió:

—Si fueras caballero, como no lo eres, ya yo hubiera castigado tu sandez y atrevimiento, cautiva criatura.

—¿Yo no caballero? Juro a Dios tan mientes como cristiano. Si lanza arrojas y espada sacas, ¡el agua cuán presto verás que al gato llevas! Vizcaíno por tierra, hidalgo por mar, hidalgo por el diablo, y mientes que mira si otra dices cosa.

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha)


All this was listened to by a Biscayan Squire who accompanied the coach. He hearing that the coach was not to pass on but was to return to Toboso, went up to Don Quixote, and, laying hold of his lance, said to him: ‘Get away with thee, Sir Knight, for if thou leave not the coach I will kill thee as sure as I am a Biscayan.’

‘If,’ replied Don Quixote haughtily, ‘thou wert a gentleman, as thou art not, I would ere this have punished thy folly and insolence, caitiff creature.’

‘I no gentleman?’ cried the enraged Biscayan. ‘Throw down thy lance and draw thy sword, and thou shalt soon see that thou liest.’

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote de la Mancha, transl. by Judge Parry)

 

Note for English readers: 
You might wonder what this was all about? 
Regrettably, the English translation doesn't convey the joke - which is based on the Biscayan squire's bad Spanish. Understandably perhaps, this episode is generally omitted from most English versions; the version above renders the exchange in correct English. (And I had to consult three different translations before I found one that included it at all!) 
If you read the whole chapter, however, you may still find it enjoyable. You can find Parry's translation on Project Gutenberg:
⇒ Don Quixote of the Mancha (chapter VI - following on from the adventure of the windmills). Enjoy!

Woe Is Me, Alhama!

Woe Is Me, Alhama!

Boabdil’s Farewell to Granada by Alfred Dehodencq [public domain via Wikipedia]
One of my favourite Spanish historical ballads is A Very Mournful Ballad of the Siege and Conquest of Alhama, also known as The Moorish King Rides Up and Down or Woe Is Me, Alhama! It was also one of the first Spanish ballads I’ve ever read in the original (Spanish learners take note – the text is that accessible). I came across it in a collection of ballads which I found in a second-hand bookshop in Southport in Lancashire; it was a university textbook from the 1960s. In A Brief (Literary) History of the Reconquista I have already shared an excerpt with you (and a shorter version a few years ago in The Moorish King Rides Up & Down) but the ballad deserves better, so today you’re going to get the full version – plus the Spanish original for those of you who can enjoy it.

Continue reading “Woe Is Me, Alhama!”

Las tierras del Cid (The Lands of El Cid)

La primera vez que oí hablar de Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, mejor conocido como El Cid, tenía unos diez u once años. De hecho, no había oído hablar de él en absoluto: lo vi en una película que dieron en la tele en Hungría. Fue una película de Hollywood de 1961, titulado El Cid, con Charlton Heston en el papel del Cid y Sophia Loren en el papel de Doña Jimena. Os recomiendo si os gustan las películas románticas. 🙂

La cita muy romántica – en el sentido literario – de esta semana es, entonces, de Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, escritor y rector de la Universidad de Salamanca en su tiempo.

I first heard of the Spanish hero Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid (The Lord), when I was about ten or eleven. Actually, I didn’t exactly hear of him: I saw him in a film, shown on Hungarian television. It was the 1961 Hollywood epic, El Cid, with Charlton Heston as the Cid and Sophia Loren as Doña Ximena. I recommend it to anybody with a romantic turn of mind. 🙂 The Cid was a Castilian knight in the eleventh century, who fought the Moors during the period of the Reconquista, that is, the reconquering of Spain from the Moors.

This week’s very romantic – in the literary sense – quote is from Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, a Spanish essayist and rector at the University of Salamanca in his time.

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)

La Reconquista! ¡Cosas tuvieron nuestros Cides que han hecho hablar a las piedras¡ ¡Y cómo nos hablan las piedras sagradas des estos páramos! Reconquistado su suelo, Castilla, que había estado de pie, se acostó a soñar en éxtasis, en arrobo sosegado, cara al Señor eterno.

(Miguel de Unamuno: Por las tierras del Cid)


The reconquista! The things done by our Cids which have made the rocks talk. And how the holy rocks of these plateaus talk! Having reconquered her land, Castile, who had been standing, laid herself down to dream in ecstasy, in peaceful bliss, with her face to the eternal Lord.

(Miguel de Unamuno: Through the Lands of El Cid)

Land of Giants

Leer esto en castellano

Or The Windmills of Don Quixote

Unexceptional

The Lonely Planet guide about the La Mancha town of Campo de Criptana reads:

One of the most popular stops on the Don Quijote route, Campo de Criptana is crowned by 10 windmills visible from kilometres around. Revered contemporary film-maker Pedro Almodóvar¹ was born here, but left for Madrid in his teens. The town is pleasant, if unexceptional.

Actually, unexceptional doesn’t even begin to describe the town if you arrive by train (Campo de Criptana is on the mainline from Madrid to Albacete, the capital of Castile-La Mancha). Downright ugly might be a better description: as in many Spanish towns, the railway station is on the outskirts, in this case surrounded by industrial buildings of little appeal. Luckily, Campo de Criptana is a small place and fifteen minutes walk will bring you to the centre of town.

Which is unexceptional.

Statue of Cervantes, Campo de Criptana

But you don’t really want the centre of town. You’re a reader, a reader of Don Quixote at that, and what you want is the famous windmills, the giants that Don Quixote fought. Head uphill from the unexceptional Plaza Mayor with its obligatory Cervantes statue, through the Albaícin – the old Moorish quarter -, through the narrow cobblestoned alleys, between whitewashed houses edged in indigo blue… it sounds better already, doesn’t it? There. As you turn the corner, you spot your first windmill. And there are other nine to come.

Continue reading “Land of Giants”

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)

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”

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)”

Pen Mightier than Sword (Pluma más poderosa que espada)

Authors with Sword in Hand

Throughout history, there were soldiers who wielded the pen with as much as skill as they wielded the sword; sometimes better.

Autores con la espada en mano

A lo largo de la historia, hubo soldados que manejaron la pluma con tanta habilidad que la espada; a veces, mejor.

Most of the literary output of these soldier-writers was, understandably, autobiographical: descriptions of battles and campaigns they took part in. A classic example of this is Xenophon’s Anabasis, better known as The March of the Ten Thousand, a gripping account of the retreat of ten thousand Spartan mercenaries in the wake of a lost battle across hostile territory, from Mesopotamia all the way to the shores of the Black Sea. Another is Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s The Conquest of New Spain, a similarly gripping (at least in the abridged version) account of how four-hundred desperadoes under Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico and overthrew an entire empire in the process. I warmly recommend them both.

La mayor parte de la producción literaria de estos soldados-escritores fue, naturalmente, autobiográfico: descripciones de batallas y campañas en que lucharon. Un ejemplar clásico de este tipo de libro es La anábasis de Jenofonte, mejor conocida con el título La marcha de los Diez Mil, un relato emocionante de la regresa de diez mil mercenarios espartanos después de una batalla perdida, a través de un territorio hostil, todo el camino desde Mesopotamia hasta las orillas del Mar Negro. Otro relato que es semejante emocionante (por lo menos en la versión abreviada) es la Historia verdadera de la conquista de Nueva España por Bernal Díaz del Castillo, que narra como cuatro cientos aventureros bajo el mando de Hernán Cortés han conquistado Mexico y derrocado un imperio entero en el proceso. Os recomiendo ambos libros.

But in addition to these authors, there were a handful of soldiers who are better known by literature professors than by military buffs; a handful of soldiers who are more famous for being authors than for ever having been soldiers.

Pero además de esos autores, hubo un puñado de soldados, que son mejor conocidos por profesores de literatura que por aficionados de la historia militar; un puñado de soldados que son más famosos por ser autores que por su pasado como soldados.

Meet five of them.

Aquí abajo puedes conocer a cinco de ellos.

Continue reading “Pen Mightier than Sword (Pluma más poderosa que espada)”

Six Mouse Clicks

The most boring type of blog post?

A book review.

They all follow the same predictable pattern – understandably. After all, a reader will rightfully expect information about the plot, the characters and the style of writing, with some tidbits about the author. The result, as with any genre writing, is a complete lack of creativity.

That is why, although Waterblogged is ostensibly a book blog, I was never really in the business of writing book reviews. Nevertheless, over the past three years I found myself writing a handful. There are books that are so good that you can’t help recommending them to others.

(There was, of course, an exception. You’ll find it here.)

Six reviews; six mouse clicks.  Six books you will want to read.

Fiction – English-Speaking Countries:

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Fiction – Spanish-Speaking Countries:

Death in the Andes

Fiction – Rest of the World:

Moscow Stations

History:

City of Fortune

Biography:

The Novel Life of Britain’s Greatest Frigate Captain

Autobiography:

The Bible in Spain

Throwback Thursday:
Revisiting the early days of Waterblogged

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)

Matar a Leonardo da Vinci (To Kill Leonardo da Vinci)

Visité Florencia, esta ciudad del arte renacentista, por unos días la semana pasada – un viaje organizado en la última hora, se puede decir. Viajé acompañado por un libro que, muy adecuadamente, lleva un retrato de la ciudad en la tapa: Matar a Leonardo da Vinci por el autor español, Christian Gálvez.

I visited Florence, this city of Renaissance art, for a few days last week – a last minute trip. Travelled in the company of a book which, very appropriately, carries a drawing of the city on the cover: Matar a Leonardo da Vinci (To Kill Leonardo da Vinci) by the Spanish author Christian Gálvez.

View of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo
A word of warning here for English readers: this book review is going to benefit you little since it deals with a book which, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't been translated into English yet - and frankly, no loss if it never will be. With that caveat, please feel free to continue reading. :) (At least you'll know to avoid it if it ever comes out in English!)

Continue reading “Matar a Leonardo da Vinci (To Kill Leonardo da Vinci)”

Don Quijote y el ventero andaluz (Don Quixote and the Andalusian inn-keeper)

Don Quijote & Sancho Panza, Cervantes Monument, Madrid. Photo by Michael Gwyther-Jones [CC BY 2.0] via Wikipedia

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Viendo don Quijote la humildad del alcaide de la fortaleza, que tal le pareció a él el ventero y la venta, respondió:

—Para mí, señor castellano, cualquiera cosa basta, porque ‘mis arreos son las armas/mi descanso el pelear, etc.’

Pensó el huésped que el haberle llamado castellano había sido por haberle parecido de los sanos de Castilla, aunque él era andaluz, y de los de la playa de Sanlúcar, no menos ladrón que Caco, ni menos maleante que estudiantado paje…

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra:
El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha)


Don Quixote, observing the respectful bearing of the Alcaide of the fortress (for so innkeeper and inn seemed in his eyes), made answer, “Sir Castellan, for me anything will suffice, for

‘My armour is my only wear,
My only rest the fray.'”

The host fancied he called him Castellan because he took him for a “worthy of Castile,” though he was in fact an Andalusian, and one from the strand of San Lucar, as crafty a thief as Cacus and as full of tricks as a student or a page.

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote)

Federico García Lorca: Impresiones y paisajes

Read this in English (written in two parts)
⇒ Sketches of Spain: CastileSketches of Spain: Granada

Hay libros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque todo se ha dicho ya. Y hay otros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque lo único que puedes hacer es citarlos. Impresiones y paisajes por Federico García Lorca es uno de esos últimos.

La noche tiene brillantez mágica de sonidos desde este torreón. Si hay luna, es un marco vago de sensualidad abismática lo que invade los acordes. Si no hay luna…, es una melodía fantástica y única lo que canta el río…, pero la modulación original y sentida en que el color revela las expresiones musicales más perdidas y esfumadas, es el crepúsculo… Ya se ha estado preparando el ambiente desde que la tarde media. Las sombras han ido cubriendo la hoguera alhambrina… La vega está aplanada y silenciosa. El sol se oculta y del monte nacen cascadas infinitas de colores musicales que se precipitan aterciopeladamente sobre la ciudad y la sierra y se funde el color musical con las ondas sonoras… Todo suena a melodía, a tristeza antigua, a llanto.

Continue reading “Federico García Lorca: Impresiones y paisajes”

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.

Continue reading “A Day of Anger”