Basic Spanish!

The Spanish daily, El País, has an occasional feature called La Cuarta Página  (The Fourth Page) which has something of an intellectual bent. Luminaries of the Hispanic intelligentsia, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, the recent Nobel Prize for Literature, write opinion pieces on topics that may not, in fact, be particularly topical – just something they want to let off some cerebral steam about.  Sometimes the articles are good, even if you agree with the writer or not.

Other times they´re crap.

The Fourth Page feature on Monday the 26th falls into this category. Entitled La tarea del traductor  (The Translator´s Task) by Miguel Morey, a philosophy professor at the University of Barcelona, the piece is one of the best examples of the worst kind of intellectualism in Spain – verbal verbosity to no clear end, or as we at home call it, mental wanking.

What´s really fun about this atrocious piece is the fact that it openly embraces the superiority of the obscure, the impossible to grasp and the traditional over the knowable, to the point of putrefaction.  It´s all about the power of Adam, Towers of Babel and the Old Testament.  If this article were a cheese, it would be the Asturian Cabrales, so rotten it can practically sprint off to a bar on its own. Yuck.

Morey, having prattled on about writing and translation as the doomed attempt of man to rob the hidden, “divine language” from the Creator, he then attacks the use of what he calls automatic translators.  Yet, this isn´t really where he´s going with this incoherent, snobbish and completely useless drivel.  No, he´s got a culprit in mind for this fall from linguistic grace.

And who – or what is it?  The usual.

English.

Honestly, I was waiting for it (it´s not like I haven´t seen it before) and there it was, in the second last paragraph. A looooong paragraph, in which Morey states that the Curse of Babel is no longer made manifest through the creation of many, diverse languages but one, artificial, neo-language (useless for hiding the unsayable) like, for example, basic english. Yes, without capitals, such is the knowledge of English of this Ivory Tower intellectual.

Astoundingly, however, the climax of  Morey´s intellectual onanism is the affirmation that British-American Scientific International Commercial English is trying to impose itself as the obligatory means of expression into which all knowledge is to be translated.

Apart from his primary-school level of reasoning and absence of proof, this is truly offensive.

And I ask myself:-

All what knowledge?

All Spanish knowledge?

All Spanish literary genius?

All Spanish scientific discovery?

Morey´s rambling and pointless “article”?

Er, I think that on a two way street, this guy´s driving in the wrong direction. Go into any Spanish bookshop and what do you find? 90% of the books on sale are translations INTO Spanish of work originally written in English.  Open any book translated FROM English into Spanish.  What do you find? Such tortured, culturally incorrect prose that you vow never to open another translation in your life.

In a country which has consigned science to the budgetary dustbin and which has broken up the Ministry of Culture and soft-shoed it under an adminstratively hopeless Ministry (or Mystery) of Education,  Culture and SPORT carpet, who´s being basic?

When Spain excels at something other than music, gastronomy, tourism, sport, cheap clothes and shoes we´ll talk about Basic English. In the meantime, Mr. Morey, turn your attention to Basic Spanish, so well-represented by your short-sighted, airy fairy and erroneous “article”.

Don´t wait for it to be translated. As I said, it´s crap, and nobody would want to translate it into English – or any other language.

Because stuff from Spain that makes it into English has to be worth it.

 

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/opinion/tarea/traductor/elpepuopi/20111226elpepiopi_10/Tes

 

!Resolve!

 

CAPTION.  Wife: I´m going to frame the lists of New Year Resolutions we made for 2009. Where´s yours?  Husband: Up my bum I think, but I don´t really remember.

With New Year, Año Nuevo, approaching  (be very careful to use the tilde over the “n” or you´ll be addressing the tabu, not to mention medically-suspect, question of a new anus),  I´d started preparing my Top Ten New Year Resolutions.

It turned out to be a list of learning.  Learn about Spanish wine, instead of just drinking it.  Learn more Spanish history, instead of just surmising it.  Learn how to explain the Spanish language, instead of just using it.  Learn about Alcalá instead of just living in it.

Learn, learn, learn,  so much to learn.

Learn Spain!

It´s  really just one, all-encompassing New Year Resolution, I thought.   Then I remembered my own country.  How much time have I ever really spent learning about Scotland?  Not much and certainly not in an all-encompassing way.

Why not?

Why haven´t I made the understanding of my own country one of the most important, ongoing quests in my life?  Why have I had to move to another country to even consider it?

My New Year Resolution is to resolve why I never thought it useful or interesting to learn about my own country until I came to Spain.

So thank you, Spain, for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Happy Christmas

keep_calm_and call momTime to forget Merkel and the Common Market and head round to Mercadona, your local supermarket, and stock up on goodies for Christmas.

The Spanish chain has a good relación calidad-precio (good value for money), so very necessary during these times of Banker Bombardment over the skies of Europe.

Never was so much owed by so many honest, hard-working folk to so few greedy, cabrón bastards, but I wish you all a good, Christmas dinner, at the very least, and much better times in the New Year.

Iñaki Choricín

Royal Christmas Hampered by Iñaki

The tall and handsome Iñaki Urdangarín, champion handball player and son-in-law of the Spanish King and Queen, has always been tasty.

But now he´s positively mouthwatering!

This champion chorizo (thief) has recently been exposed for greasing his Duque de Palma palms with money from the public purse – while claiming not-for-profit status for his charitable foundation.

Iñaki Choricín

Fatty,  fleshy and hanging by a string, he´s being eaten alive.

And I just had to have a bite  of him.

Spaniards – Old and New


The New Spaniards (Paperback)

By (author): John Hooper

Spain has become a land of extraordinary paradoxes in which traditional attitudes and contemporary preoccupations exist side by side. Focusing on issues which affect ordinary Spaniards, from housing to gambling, from changing sexual mores to rising crime rates, this study offers a portrayal of Spain of the twenty-first century.
List Price: £10.47 GBP
New From: £3.82 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.34 GBP In Stock


I shouldn´t really be recommending a book which, technically, I haven´t read. Yet, with Christmas coming around, I´m convinced that many people with a connection to Spain – expats, students and, of course, people who just love the country – would be delighted to get this under the tree on the 25th…. or on the 5th (of January) if you live here and prefer to wait till the Reyes arrive to get your pressies.

And furthermore, I won´t be buying this book! Yes, funny book review this, in which I admit I haven´t read the book and don´t want it anyway!

Well, it´s really quite simple. One of my most treasured possessions is a copy of John Hooper´s earlier work, The Spaniards: A Portrait of the New Spain. It´s from 1987, well-thumbed and underlined – though not dog-eared, as I´d rather cut my fingers off than do that to a book. I use bookmarks, preferably cross-stitched with my name on them, but then we all have our idiosyncrasies, don´t we?

So, my Hooper (as I call it) is old and smelly, a bit like myself now, as I´ve watched Spain change in the way Hooper explains in his updated book. Back in ´87 I was young and, as can be seen in the previous post, fixing to marry my Spaniard.

But the reason why the book is so dear to me isn´t only its excellent, wonderfully written and researched content or my Asturian boyfriend. It´s because it was a Christmas gift from my Mum, signed simply, “To my dear daughter Maureen with love from Mum xxx.”

I suppose some girls get “married life” manuals and others get recipe books. But I got my Hooper, even if my Mum didn´t live to see me married.

So while I won´t be acquiring The New Spaniards, I highly recommend it.

Go on, get your own Hooper.

It will serve you well.I shouldn´t really be recommending a book which, technically, I haven´t read. Yet with Christmas coming around, I´m convinced that many people with a connection to Spain – expats, students and, of course, people who just love Spain – would be delighted to get this under the tree on the 25th…. or on the 5th (of January) if you live in Spain and prefer to wait till the Reyes arrive to get your pressies.

And furthermore, I won´t be buying this book! Yes, funny book review this, in which I admit I haven´t read the book and don´t want it anyway!

Well, it´s really quite simple. One of my most treasured possessions is a copy of John Hooper´s earlier work, The Spaniards: A Portrait of the New Spain. It´s from 1987, well-thumbed and underlined – though not dog-eared, as I´d rather cut my fingers off than do that to a book. I use bookmarks, preferably cross-stitched with my name on them. (But we all have our flaws, don´t we?)

So, my John Hooper (as I call it) is old and smelly, a bit like myself now, as I´ve watched Spain change in the way Hooper explains in his updated book. Back in ´87 I was young and, as can be seen in the previous post, fixing to marry my Spaniard.

But the reason why the book is so dear to me isn´t only its excellent, wonderfully-written content or my Asturian boyfriend. It´s because it was a Christmas gift from my Mum, signed simply, “To my dear daughter Maureen with love from Mum xxx.”

I suppose some girls get “married life” manuals and others get recipe books. But I got my Hooper, even if my Mum didn´t live to see me married.

So while I won´t be acquiring The New Spaniards, I highly recommend it.

Go on, get your own Hooper.

It will serve you well.

 

It Had to Be Tú

Ramón Parrondo

Remarkable likeness to Kevin Costner

Today is the anniversary of one of the biggest – if not the biggest – decisions I ever made in my life.

Twenty-two years ago, I married a Spaniard in a simple ceremony at the Registry Office in Glasgow.  And I had not the slightest idea of what was in store for me.

Perhaps if I had, I´d have turned tail and run away into the Scottish cold!

Looking back, what strikes me as very strange is that I thought I did know!

I´d already spent time in Zaragoza and was well-versed in Spanish customs.  I spoke the language reasonably well (to be going on with).  We´d even lived together in Oviedo for two years.

Though it had been a bumpy journey to that wedding day – insecure teaching jobs, the loss of my mother, opposition from my future husband´s family, studies to finish, not to mention the normal teething problems in any relationship – it seemed the worst was over.

How wrong can you be?

Illness, unemployment and a move to Spain that has turned out to be permanent were to follow. It didn´t take me long to realise that, in fact, I knew nothing at all about Spain.   Though I´d spent time here as a student, now I had to integrate.

I resisted.  I hadn´t come to Spain to spend the rest of my life.  I didn´t want to be a permanent expat.  I wanted a decent job.  I wanted public libraries. I wanted customer services.

The result was friction because of my one, simple oversight.

On the day I married my Spaniard, I failed to see I was wedding myself to Spain too.  And twenty-two years later here I am.  Here we are, all three of us.

Because it had to be him.

Ramón, it had to be you.

 

 

 

 

From Immaculate to Fornicate: A Tale of Grannies and Grammies

Virgin/Whore illustration

From mass to crass

I had a very interesting Saturday night recently.  It was all about mass phenomena …. half past seven Mass in a chapel, then a televised programme for the masses!

The first performance took place in a lovely church dedicated to San Sebastián, Mártir, right after Mass (attended only to get a seat for the concert) and the second was the last half hour of the televised Grammy Latinos.

Although apparently very different, I found similarities in both.  The live concert of classical música sacra by the wonderful Choir and Chamber Orchestra on the altar of a church and the pop, música profana concert in Las Vegas on a commercial station were two ex pressions of the same old song: the sacred and the profane.

From grannyfest to fannyfest

Despite their  fantastic singing voices, the women in both events personified the male-assigned roles of Maria or Magdalena, the Virgin/Mother or the Whore.  In both lo femenino was accessory, and lo masculino, dead centre.

A young priest urged his motherly, middle-aged and granny flock, past their child-bearing days, to invite the Señor into their homes this Christmas.  This was against a central backdrop dominated by a huge crucifix depicting the almost naked Christ´s suffering and the equally nude and bloody sacrifice of  Saint Sebastian, Martyr.

Victims of male violence – and eye candy for sadomasochistic, homosexual priests – their sacrifice is  presented as exemplary, while the daily sacrifice of women to bring up their children in cultures full of male violence – fifty eight Spanish women have been murdered by their partners this year – was invisible.

Maybe we should be inviting the Señora to our Christmas tables rather than another male.

The glorious classical music concert which followed (all-male composers, of course) continued with the exaltation of the male.  There was a Gloria, but it turned out to be an exhortation and not a girl´s name.  Carl Orff entitled his fantastic work Carmina Burana and I thought for a second it might be about some talented woman, since there is a mention of the pagan Queen Hecuba. But she´s vilified for putting out folks´ eyes and barking like a bitch and the other female presence, the Roman goddess of Fortune, is blamed for all of life´s woes.

The outstanding choir sopranos, in their long, decorous skirts, essentially evoked the Maria flank of the Virgin/Whore dichotomy.  My daughter, young and impressionable, was singularly unimpressed and bored to death.  I thought she might fall asleep.

From snoring to whoring

Over at the Las Vegas Latin Grammys, the female role model was Magdalena, la puta.  Male performers in outerwear draped Her, disrobed, around themselves, bought and paid for, just like the crass, materialistic bling on their necks and wrists.

My daughter, young and yada, yada, yada adored it.

In this temple of the subjugation of the female to male sexual desire, fired by the ostentation of unlimited wealth, prostitution was glorified to a frenzied and positively gynocological climax with Marc Anthony´s Rain Over Me “feat” with the vicious Pitbull.  It was definitely not raining men, here, but hot, wet bitches in wild animal print bikinis, doing the predictable, spreadleg, strip-club business over chairs. The audience positively yelped in heat.

No wonder they call it show business.  It was almost all on display.

It seems that Marc Anthony, fresh from his ball-breaking divorce from bump, grind and what a behind, J. Lo., needs his self-esteem shoring up, particularly given Jenny from the block´s “dancing for Papi” vedettery at the American Music Awards with none other than the great pimp himself, Pitbull.  Well, he says it in the song: next thing you know, we were playing with three…

There were a lot more than three raining down. It seems Pitbull doesn´t read the newspapers or watch the Mexican station, Televisa, or he´d know that there´s no glamour in the coercive sex trade and that most pros would rather piss on their clients than rain on them.  Prostitution is an “industry” run by men for men and one requiring male violence to function – a point he does seem to get, given his choice of “artistic” name, epitomising the dog´s need to control its bitches through fear.

Are these the values that Pitbull wants Latinos to take to the White House when he raps that, “Latin is the new majority, ya tu sabes, next step la Casa Blanca?”

I hear César Chávez, a lifelong activist for Latino civil rights, turning in his tumba along with the silence of the still active Chicana feminist, Dolores Huerta, not getting a soundbite.

Arguably, lo femenino was occasionally centre stage at the Grammys since Shakira won the Female Pop Vocal Album for the Spanish-language Sale El Sol. Yet her performance was essentially the embodiment of the animalistic, shimmy shaking Whore.  Last year she sold us the pussy-parading shewolf, la loba, and now we have her relamiéndose (drooling) over her tigre, all wrapped up in the locura of crazy, unbridled, female desire.

Just what Daddy wants.

There was a brief moment in which Shakira´s motherly, caring role with deprived children was highlighted to much whooping approval. And let´s face it, the most famous hips in Latindom have certainly got child-bearing potential, especially after all that fornication. But then it was back to Babylon.

Or oblivion.  Even the epic song, Latinoamérica, by Grammy winners, Calle 13, replete with Latino social values is a paean to patriarchy: Soy lo que me enseñó mi padre. El que no quiera a su patria no quiere a su madre. I am what my father taught me. He who does not love his fatherland, does not love his mother.

If this wasn´t so tragic it would be funny.  If it wasn´t for Latina women, Latino men, with their armies, revolutions, golpes de estado, drug-trafficking, sicario murderers, corruption, Uncle Samism, totalitarian governments, gangs, private fiefdoms and guerrilla groups would all have murdered each other by now and most of the women and children as well.

From maternalismo to machismo

While the events of that Saturday night may appear chaotic, they´re not. They are aspects of a binary value system that has endured for millenia and will continue to do so unless we do something about it.

Happily, some people were doing something about it.  There was one real feat going on and it was the Choir of literally stand-up singers, gals and guys, on the church altar. They had rehearsed for months to gift us with two hours of their supposedly “amateur” talent and outshone the mamonería of “professional,” barely literate, millionaire rap gangsters in their Vegas brothel.

It´s easy to say that these female roles, virgin, mother and whore, are archetypes, deeply embedded in the human psyche.  I disagree. They´re stereotypes, deeply embedded in an unequal sociocultural structure, whether this be Anglo or Latin or, as is most probable, a new fusion of American materialism with Latino machismo.

Yet they´re not immutable and women and men can – and will –   eventually be recognized as complex, talented individuals.

 

 

 

 

Brave, Wild Nino

 

There´s little that moves Spaniards like the singer Nino Bravo.

Or me.

It´s all about nostalgia.  When you first move to a new country, you´ve got your memories from your own wee bit hill and glen.

But what happens when you´ve been here twenty years and you´ve nothing new from your own country except cold, indifferent newspaper headlines?

What happens to your overriding human need for nostalgia?

I found mine here, as you will, if you stay long enough.

With Nino Bravo.

The Spaniards haven´t forgotten him, nor should you, even if you´re just hearing about him now.  His immense, seventies voice sang of Spanish striving towards freedom, a better life, perhaps even far away from Spain, a way out.

A transition to democracy.

It came.  The Spanish people made it happen,  but Nino Bravo didn´t live to see it, tragically killed on the lethal Spanish roads of the time.

He was only twenty-seven.

If you want to make this country your own, listen to the song.

“Libre.”

Free.

It´s about a young man who thinks that barbed wire is only a bit of metal and that it can´t keep him from freedom.

Piensa que la alambrada sólo es

un trozo de metal,

algo que nunca puede detener

sus ansias de volar.

In the song, he´s killed and is free that way.

But Spaniards are free now, democratically, from forty years of dictatorship and the Civil War that preceded it.

Everyone is moved by songs of freedom and Nino Bravo will never be forgotten by Spaniards.

Or me.

Nino Bravo

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someplace in La Mancha

I had an uphill climb this weekend in more ways than one.  First off, I struggled my way through a few more chapters of Don Quijote in Spanish. Then I clamb my way up the seemingly vertical streets of Campo de Criptana, site of the famous knight´s strushie with the windmills.

In a life already dominated by Cervantes (living in his birthplace, hubbie working at the Cervantes Institute) here we went again.  We drove past huge, streamlined, aerogeneradores, those wonders of eolic technology that are ever more present on the Spanish landscape, to visit their ancestors of stone and wood in the Land of Giants, Tierra de Gigantes, La Mancha.

We´d stopped off in towns such as Alcázar de San Juan, like most villages painted white and cobalt blue, the signature colour of the region, so as we left our stuff at our overnight accommodation, evening was threatening to ruin our view of the windmills.  We hurried over the cobbled alleys up to the vast, natural esplanade where the windmills, much bigger than I had imagined,  stood in no discernible relationship.  We don´t mind being neighbourly, they seemed to say, but let´s not overdo it.

But we needn´t have worried.  Dusk in Campo de Criptana falls, not against blackness, but deep blue, and the windmills were floodlit.  We clowned around, tilting at windmill sails, immortalized our heads on a cut-out of Quijote and Sancho Panza, and checked out the one tourist shop, complete with its own cave house (visit 60 cents).  The 360 degree, gold sunset over the vast plains of Castilla La Mancha took our breath away. Malassie inserted the phrase un vasto paisaje, a vast landscape, at every opportunity and later used it as part of the commentary of her upcoming Littlest Pet Shop “movie”.

Little lights popped on along the side of the planicie. It was Saturday night, after all, and even here, in magical windmill land, Spaniards were heading out for a good time.  There was a restaurant, Las Musas, with the scariest, lifesize, pair of “muses” you ever saw on its white walls.

 

There was an ancient tavern where my bottom all but touched the floor on a bench that was so old it might have to be dated by Carbon 14.  There was an epicurean shop of fine manchego wines and cheeses with a profitable little sideline of Quijote armour for visitors to dress up in.

I declined.  So did hubby, but he bought a lovely silver pin of the head “armour” worn by Don Quijote – a barber´s bacía, circular but for an arc taken out for the user´s hand.  (It´s similar to this without the hanger).


We were cold now, but as we left, sturdier and stylish españolas in fur coasts and high heels were picking their way up the cobbled slopes of cantos rodados to these few nightspots at the top of the world.  Criptana´s buildings are trimmed in cobalt blue, apparently to ward off evil, but what evil could befall these people fortunate to live at the foot of these guardian giants?

We spent the night in one of those blue buildings, not five minutes from Sardinero, Infante, Castaño, Burleta, Inca Garcilaso, Lagarto, Culebro, Pilón, Cariari, ….Yes, they have names, like fighting bulls.  La Casa del Abuelo José (Granpa Joseph´s House) is a neat complex of self-catering apartments around a small patio.  The flatlets are not only top-notch, but economical. (No, nobody´s paying me to say that). Malassie declared she wanted to live there forever.

We loved it too.  My favourite touch was that instead of the customary Bible on the nightstand, there was a copy of the Quijote.

http://www.lacasadelabuelojose.com/

 

 

Those Crazy Brits!

Cheese ´n´ toast

Got myself in trouble.

Again.

Turns out we Brits cenamos at half five in the day.

What the Spaniards do at 9, 10, 11 p.m., we crazy Brits do at 5.30!

Some days it´s just hard to be a guiri.

My daughter´s bilingual school is planning a First Year trip to England.  I couldn´t be more pleased, since Malassie has never been to London and I think the experience of being A Broad without us could only do her good.

But….

…. enter a salesperson from a Spanish enterprise called Home from Home (to be pronounced in one´s most fluent Cantonese as Hong Frong Hong), bent on winning little customers for their commercial cause.

At the Parents´ and Miscellaneously Worried People´s meeting, which I attended insouciantly, since I alone in this context understand Britain to be a civilised country, he stated in a quite unequivocally cavalier manner that “los británicos cenan a las 5, 5 y media.”

Oh yeah?

I let it go, even as hard-working and concerned padres y madres, soon to be asked to fork out their hard and honourably-earned cash in these times of crisis for the britanización of their kids, gasped in disbelief at the culinary perfidy of these ´tranjero´.

But the salesguy went on.  It´s weird, but yes, these Brutish people cenan at half five in the day, just when we normal Spaniards are opening up shop again.

I put up my hand and said in a loud voice, Perdone.  After all, these worried Spaniards are my neighbours.   I commented that, in my opinion, the salesperson was misrepresenting British eating times and confusing a simple matter.

I was not pardoned.

“No, I´m not,” he said, ” I´ve been there and the British ….”.

I´m British,” I said, and no cenamos a las cinco y media. 

Well, would you believe that he argued with me? I tried to explain that the terms he was using, comer and cenar, were misleading and that he should swap them around or  explain that the British have their comida fuerte at half five or six.  I went over breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper but incredibly, he stuck to his guns (from the Armada drowned off the coast of England?) and contradicted me, saying that the Brits cenamos a las 5 y media.

I left, saying that Malassie would not be going anywhere with them.

And the words Spaniard and arrogant came to mind.

What would it have cost this guy to cede a little and add to the understanding of all?

No really, it´s not a rhetorical question, I want to know.

Being a big mouth and imbued with a very British expectation of redress, I talked to the school teachers (who got the problem in one) and I have written to the superior of Mr. Last Meal of the Day At Five Thirty Then Bloody Starve.

But it´s not my fault if people have never heard of having cheese ´n´ toast before bed, is it?

Nor is it my fault that the Spaniards have the single, aberrant eating schedule in all of Europe.

But it WILL  be my fault if they never hear about it, goddammit!

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

 

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