martes, 18 de octubre de 2016



PART ONE - Sandra at Six
(later on, Sandra at Twelve and Sandra at Eighteen will be added, to reflect on which new things I discovered when it comes to literature)

These is the literature I read when I entered the Burrow (El Cau) at six. The first time in my life I wielded a tennis racket and saw a periodic table.
It was also my first contact with Shakespeare and Goethe, both translated into Catalan (I will put the original MSND scene and my own translation of Goethe, as well as of the davirón story and of the description of the tennis bear :) )


This was my introduction to the Bard of Avon: the faerie queen's romance with a clown actor endowed, thanks to a spell, with a donkey's head. I was immediately transported to a world of littlepeople more beautiful than us humans and far closer to nature, just to see the marital spat between Queen Titania and King Oberon come to a happy end.
I first read a Catalan translation/adaptation of this fragment, whose lowing-out of certain passages in the adaptation read by my 6-year-old self I have echoed in this edition, in the 3rd-grade coursebook of Llengua (Catalan language) from the Anaya publishing company's Sèrie Sol i Lluna (Sun and Moon Series). To be more precise, as the initial reading for Unit 12, S'obri el teló (Up with the Curtain), on dramatic texts:

Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
while I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
and stick musk-roses in thy sleek smooth head,
and kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.
Where's Peaseblossom?
Scratch my head, Peaseblossom. Where's Monsieur Cobweb?
Monsieur Cobweb, good monsieur, get you your
weapons in your hand, and kill me a red-hipped
bumblebee on the top of a thistle; and, good
monsieur, bring me the honey-bag. Do not fret
yourself too much in the action, monsieur; and,
good monsieur, have a care the honey-bag break not;
I would be loath to have you overflown with a
honey-bag, signor. Where's Monsieur Mustardseed?
Give me your neaf, Monsieur Mustardseed. Pray you,
leave your courtesy, good monsieur.
What's your will?
Nothing, good monsieur, but to help Cavalery Cobweb
to scratch. I must to the barber's, monsieur; for
methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I
am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me,
I must scratch.
What, wilt thou hear some music,
my sweet love?
I have a reasonable good ear in music. Let's have
the tongs and the bones.
Or say, sweet love, what thou desirest to eat.
Truly, a peck of provender: I could munch your good
dry oats. Methinks I have a great desire to a bottle
of hay: good hay, sweet hay, hath no fellow.
I have a venturous fairy that shall seek
the squirrel's hoard, and fetch thee new nuts.
I had rather have a handful or two of dried peas.
But, I pray you, let none of your people stir me: I
have an exposition of sleep come upon me.
Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.
Fairies, begone, and be all ways away.
Exeunt fairies
So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle
gently entwist; the female ivy so
enrings the barky fingers of the elm.
O, how I love thee! how I dote on thee!
They sleep
Enter PUCK
[Advancing] Welcome, good Robin.
See'st thou this sweet sight?
Her dotage now I do begin to pity:
For, meeting her of late behind the wood,
seeking sweet favours from this hateful fool,
I did upbraid her and fall out with her;
for she his hairy temples then had rounded
with a coronet of fresh and fragrant flowers;
and that same dew, which sometime on the buds
was wont to swell like round and orient pearls,
stood now within the pretty flowerets' eyes
like tears that did their own disgrace bewail.
When I had at my pleasure taunted her
and she in mild terms begg'd my patience,
And now [···], I will undo
this hateful imperfection of her eyes:
And, gentle Puck, take this transformed scalp
from off the head of this [···] swain;
that, he awaking when the others do,
may all [···] back again repair
and think no more of this night's accidents
but as the fierce vexation of a dream.
But first I will release the fairy queen.
Be as thou wast wont to be;
See as thou wast wont to see:
Now, my Titania; wake you, my sweet queen.
My Oberon! what visions have I seen!
Methought I was enamour'd of an ass.
There lies your love. (He shows her BOTTOM).
How came these things to pass?
O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!
Silence awhile. Robin, take off this head.
Titania, music call; and strike more dead
than common sleep of all these five the sense.
PUCK, with magical gestures, disenchants BOTTOM, taking off his donkey head.

Music, ho! music, such as charmeth sleep! Music, still

Gods my life, stolen
hence, and left me asleep! I have had a most rare
vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was--there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,--and
methought I had,--but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom's Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.

Now, until the break of day,
through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
which by us shall blessed be;
and the issue there create
ever shall be fortunate.
With this field-dew consecrate,
every fairy take their gait;
and each several chamber bless,
through this palace, with sweet peace;
and the owner of it blest
Ever shall in safety rest.
Trip away; make no stay;
meet me all by break of day.
If we shadows have offended,
think but this, and all is mended,
that you have but slumber'd here
while these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
no more yielding but a dream,
gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
if we have unearned luck
now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
we will make amends ere long;
else the Puck a liar call;
so, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
and Robin shall restore amends.


These verses were my introduction to Romanticism in general and Goethe in particular: the poem "Heidenröslein", which I first encountered translated into Catalan by Joan Maragall, in Joan Fuster's children's literary anthology Un món per a infants (A World for Children):

Veié un nin una roseta,
la roseta de bardissa,
fresca, bella i tan perfeta
que ell hi corre a la voreta:
mirar-la l’encisa,
la roseta vermelleta,
la roseta de bardissa.

Diu el nin: –T’arrencaré,
la roseta de bardissa.─
La roseta: ─Pensa-ho bé:
el danyar no em plau a fe,
pro sóc punxadissa─,
la roseta vermelleta,
la roseta de bardissa.

El dolent la va arrencar,
la roseta de bardissa.
La roseta el va punxar.
Ai, quins plors, quin gemegar!
Era punxadissa
la roseta vermelleta,
la roseta de bardissa.

Here is my own translation of the same Lied directly from the German into English, which I have used as a leitmotif in the Baratheon Saga. Coincidentally, the Austrian composer who put formidable and heartwarming music to these verses, Franz Schubert, was born on a 31st of January just like yours truly...

Saw a lad a rose in bloom, 
blooming on the heathland, 
young and fair, just like the morn.
He ran closer, seeing no thorn,
and beheld it, pleased lad.
Little scarlet heathland rose,
little wild and red rose!

Quoth the lad: "I'll now pick thee,
little wild and red rose!"
Quoth the rose: "I'll pierce your skin,
you'll remember, thus, your sin,
I will not regret woes!"
Little scarlet heathland rose,
little wild and red rose!

And the wild lad fiercely picked
little wild and red rose!
Red rose did herself defend,
young lad cried, to no good end,
in her, no regret rose!
Little scarlet heathland rose,
little wild and red rose!

The Rammstein song Rosenrot also draws inspiration from this Lied, which is rather popular in the Germanosphere.


This is an excerpt of Stranalandia (Extrañalandia in the Spanish translation), a fantasy zoological compendium by Italian author Stefano Benni, an excerpt which I first read as a unit-initial reading in another Anaya coursebook, this one from the early 90s (those vintage grammar textbooks had some very interesting reads, not like today...).

Tennis Bear (Ursus wimbledon)
According to Stephen Lupus, this plantigrade originated in Australia, yet currently it is only endemic to Strangeland. Mother Nature has predisposed it for tennis-playing: note the racket-shaped ears and the characteristic tennis sneakers on the hind feet. Tennis bears spend hours and hours on the red beaches of Seaslug Bay playing tennis against one another (Lupus counted up to 128 individuals).
The rules of bear tennis are quite similar to those of human tennis, the only difference being the lack of an umpire, since these plantigrades are endowed with an extraordinary Olympic spirit and rarely protest upon losing a match. Only in the case of severe errors do the bears get irate and perform a "zok," their counterpart of throwing the racket on the ground. Since the racket is one of its ears, the angry bear throws a large pumpkin on the ground and roars "ZOK!" (which means, more or less, "curses!") During mating season, they arrange mixed doubles matches: a male and a female on every team.
The tennis level of these plantigrades is excellent: Lupus tried to challenge one of them to a match, using himself a rudimentary wooden racket with calamari tentacle strings, and he lost game, set, and match with a score of six love (6-0). Only then did he realize that Oswaldo (a hobbit-like humanoid native to Strangeland) had eaten the strings of his racket.


Another great story from the Anaya Sol y Luna coursebooks, this time from the Castilian counterpart (Lengua 3º) of the book whose Catalan version contained the MSND scene. I was, on one hand, disappointed, by the lack of Shakespeare, but, on the other, I learned to know a new kind of magical creatures: the davirones (created by a genial Pilar Mateos), hairy asexuated tailed kobolds, similar to trolls, that live in treetops in the woodland pocket dimension of Daviroland (Davirolandia). Furthermore, feeling different emotions makes davirones change colour: for instance, they turn literally red with anger or green with envy. This is the initial reading of Unit , aptly titled "¿Cómo es un davirón?" ("What does a Davirón Look Like?"):

(When I get my hands on the book, I will post the text and my translation thereof. To be placed here soon).

First things first: Santiago de Cuba was the hometown of my maternal grandparents, bless their souls. It's the "eye of the gator." (Cubans see their island as alligator-shaped, and Santiago lies where the eye of the gator should be; much like Castellón is the "eye of Hispania or Iberia" if one sees the Iberian Peninsula as a female profile) They fled with their only daughter Elena to Spain due to the Revolution. But still they spoke with a lot of nostalgia of the colonial elite (plantation owner and intelligentsia) world they had left behind, of their paradise lost. I owe a lot to them, all my homeschooled education, leading up to my university degree. They never returned to Santiago. Moreover, they were deceased for a lustrum when Fidel shuffled off his mortal coil (the dictator outlived them!). And I am most likely to never leave Europe.
Now this poem was my introduction to García Lorca. Serious as Sirius Black. I first saw it in a Senda 7 textbook. A textbook in Literature for high-school teens that I read as a six-year-old. I was struck by the rhythm and the surreal whimsy of these verses: like... the plantain, or male banana ("plátano macho") wishing to be a sea jelly, so soft and translucent and floppy and unphallic? A car made of black water? Romeo and Juliet? A harp of living tree trunks, a coral in the darkness (a luminescent coral in the midnight zone of the Caribbean)...? And this throbbing rhythm...

Cuando llegue la luna llena 
iré a Santiago de Cuba, 
iré a Santiago, 
en un coche de agua negra. 
Iré a Santiago. 
Cantarán los techos de palmera. 
Iré a Santiago. 
Cuando la palma quiere ser cigüeña, 
iré a Santiago. 
Y cuando quiere ser medusa el plátano, 
iré a Santiago. 
Iré a Santiago 
con la rubia cabeza de Fonseca. 
Iré a Santiago. 
Y con la rosa de Romeo y Julieta 
iré a Santiago. 
¡Oh Cuba! ¡Oh ritmo de semillas secas! 
Iré a Santiago. 
¡Oh cintura caliente y gota de madera! 
Iré a Santiago. 
¡Arpa de troncos vivos, caimán, flor de tabaco! 
Iré a Santiago. 
Siempre he dicho que yo iría a Santiago 
en un coche de agua negra. 
Iré a Santiago. 
Brisa y alcohol en las ruedas, 
iré a Santiago. 
Mi coral en la tiniebla, 
iré a Santiago. 
El mar ahogado en la arena, 
iré a Santiago, 
calor blanco, fruta muerta, 
iré a Santiago. 
¡Oh bovino frescor de calaveras! 
¡Oh Cuba! ¡Oh curva de suspiro y barro! 
Iré a Santiago.

One thing that surely made my granny Ana, bless her soul, wince (aside from communists, socialists, Buddhists, and frogs) was boxing. She said it was a barbarians' sport, uncouth and too violent. However, Camilo José Cela was one of the Spanish authors she praised and adored the most, recommending me to read Cela, who wrote the prologues to my preschool-age Gloria Fuertes poetry books. At El Cau they had a little Cela book from that deep-green-with-golden-letters Renfe book collection (Biblioteca de Literatura Universal), Café de artistas y otros papeles volanderos. It contained the Franco-era anthem of the Spanish Boxing Federation, in the Voltairian essay "Lecturas para el desayuno" ("Breakfast Reads") that quickly became my favourite -- among other things, for listing the left- and right-wing newspapers of each Spanish region (the Levante and Las Provincias that Cela gives for my own Valencia Region are still being published and read) and this anthem, a heartily welcomed song as a breather from his chaotic prose, that I happened to learn by heart and remember through the years (and now I'm 24!). Since I haven't found the tune, I sing it to the tune I composed in my childhood: the first four stanzas to the Imperial March of Star Wars and the two latter to the refrain of La Marseillaise (¡Arri-i-iii-ba boxeado-o-ooor!). Here is the fragment, putting the boxing anthem into context to understand the profound sass and irony of the author:

Pero no todo ha de ser calamidad ajena a la hora de la delicia del desayuno propio. El espíritu también hace acto de presencia en las páginas concebidas para la digestión, y la poesía está latente en ellas. Véase, si no, el himno de la Federación Española de Boxeo, del que nos instruye la prensa.

Bravo y leal,
siempre señor,
por los caminos del deporte
va el boxeador.

Noble ademán
del vencedor,
cuando la mano da al vencido
de corazón.

Fuerza y valor,
lucha y ardor,
son la bandera, santo y seña
del boxeador.

Un nuevo amanecer
brota con nuevo sol,
premio a la fe y a la ilusión
del boxeador.

¡Arriba, boxeador!
Tu victoria responde a tu honor.
¡Arriba, boxeador!
Eres reflejo de la historia de lo español.

¡Arriba, boxeador!
Siempre a luchar,
siempre a vencer,
va el boxeador.
¡Arriba, boxeador!

El himno no puede ser más sentido y emocionante, y de él puede decirse, sin miedo al error, que agrada a todos los españoles, con la sola excepción de los espíritus derrotistas y enemigos de la crítica constructiva, que tampoco faltan entre nosotros. De lo que ya no nos informa el periódico es si fue o no fue cantado en la olimpiada de Méjico (sic), después de las tundas que nos dieron, no los caballerosos púgiles adversos, sino la altura sobre el nivel del mar y las lamentables actuaciones de los árbitros, impropias del espíritu olímpico.

Another book that was available at the Burrow library was Calderón de la Barca's masterpiece. The whole play being in verse, I gladly learned some passages by heart as well. This is one such passage of those I still know by heart: the cupbearer/royal advisor telling the king how he drugged the crown prince, locked in a keep way out in the provinces, to convey him back to the royal palace in a carriage:

Viéndole ya enfurecido
           con esto, que ha sido el tema
           de su dolor, le brindé     
           con la pócima, y apenas
           pasó desde el vaso al pecho
           el licor, cuando las fuerzas
           rindió al sueño, discurriendo
           por los miembros y las venas 
           un sudor frío, de modo
           que, a no saber yo que era
           muerte fingida, dudara
           de su vida.  En esto llegan
           las gentes de quien tú fías   
           el valor de esta experiencia,
The official English translation goes like this:

This, his usual theme of grief,
having roused him nigh to madness,
I occasion took to proffer
the drugged draught: he drank, but hardly
had the liquor from the vessel
passed into his breast, when fastest
sleep his senses seized, a sweat,
cold as ice, the life-blood hardened
in his veins, his limbs grew stiff,
so that, knew I not 'twas acted,
death was there, feigned death, his life
I could doubt not had departed.

There are two Dermarkian translations, one I have done in pentameter (think Shakespeare) and one in ballad meter (think The Rains of Castamere):


Thus, since I had brought forth the cause of what
troubled him, into fury soon he burst.
I saw this, and upon that I relied,
and reached the draught to him; he seized the cup,
and barely had the prince this liquor downed,
not yet washed down his throat into his chest,
when, suddenly, all strength forsook his frame,
and a cold sweat ran through his every vein,
his blood freezing to ice; if I knew not 
his death were counterfeit, I'd surely doubt
that he, pale, cold, and breathless, was alive.


And thus, since I'd opened his wounds,
he could not hold his rage,
I saw 'twas time to reach the draught:
as thought, was set the stage.

No sooner was the liquor strong
washed down into his chest,
that he felt sapped of all his strength,
and thus, lay down to rest.

Through every vein his blood ran cold,
a cold sweat drenched his skin...
if I knew not the truth, I'd swear
there was no life within.

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