Blogs in English About Spanish Language Literature

I’ve come across a couple new blogs that focus on Spanish language literature. One is caravana de recuerdos whose reviews often feature comparisons between the Spanish original and the English translation. It is usually quite informative (a sample after the jump. The other is Books on Spain, which as its name suggests, is about books from Spain. The author is well informed about publishing trends and is worth taking a look at.


From caravana de recuerdos writing about a Quevedo translation.

Even though I had some problems understanding La vida del Buscónin Spanish (the combination of Quevedo’s frequent puns and the characters’ criminal slang, while amusing, was truly difficult at times) and then felt swindled by Michael Alpert’s unreliable English translation of the work, I’d like to second Amateur Readerin acknowledging that the experience of reading the Buscón [TheSwindler] in any language is well worth the effort.  It’s just scandalously funny.  With that in mind, I’d like to wrap up this little miniseries on the Spanish classic with a look at some examples of its edgy humor.  In Book II, Chapter 3, for example, the swindler Pablos comes awfully close to committing blasphemy in telling  the story of how, against all expectations, a hermit cheats him and a soldier out of all their money in a game of cards: “Our cards were like the Messiah–since they never turned up, and we were always waiting for them” (83).*  In Book III, Chapter 3, the sacrilegious tone continues with the description of an impostor who earns a living by pretending to be a penitent in search of alms: “He wouldn’t raise his eyes to look at women”, Pablos writes, “but their skirts were another matter” (123).**  Elsewhere, Pablos flirts with the boundaries of good taste by describing how a “good conscience in a merchant is like virginity in a streetwalker since it’s peddled without being possessed” (85) and follows it up with a remark about how he’s sure that his mother–imprisoned by the Inquisition in Toledo–will “make sparks fly” at the stake (95)!***  Although Quevedo has been criticized by some modern scholars for the anti-Semitic and misogynistic elements in this novel, I think it’s important to remember that nobody gets off unscathed in Pablos’ crude vita of an unrepentant 17th century criminal ready to ship off for the New World.  Hilarious.

From Books on Spain

So these two books are both by the Spanish journalist, writer and diplomat Isabel Oyarzábal Smith de Palencia (Malaga, 1878 – Mexico City, 1974): I Must Have Liberty (1940) andSmouldering Freedom (1945). As you can probably tell from her unusual collection of surnames, Oyarzábal was half Spanish (with Basque roots) and half British (with Scottish roots); she was brought up bilingual in Spanish and English, which is why the two books I’ve just acquired, like several of her others, were written directly in English. I knew a little bit about Oyarzábal already, mostly because of her Anglo connection, which brings her into the orbit of my interest in Anglo-Spanish relations since the 19th century, but also because she began publishing during the 1900s and so is one of the women included in my database project Spain’s Women Intellectuals, 1890-1920but the books are throwing up all sorts of fascinating connections.


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