Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A holiday dispatch from Spain

The cathedral in Seville, which Jim visited with his family over Christmas holidays. Image found here.

I'm presently in the middle of preparing for the spring semester, so I don't have anything of substance to post on here. But if you have ten minutes or so to spare, I want to encourage you to visit Jim's place, This Analog Life, and read his how-I-spent-the-holidays post. His family flew to Spain to visit him there, and so he found himself in the dual roles of someone still learning his way around Spanish culture and language, on the one hand, and trusted guide on the other. Long-time readers of this blog know I have been a fan of Jim's writing for a long time, and if you visit his place, you'll see why.

Here's his musing on how familiar religious language, when heard in Spanish, prompts him to ponder anew their English equivalents:

The mishmash of ancient Hebrew, old Greek, & Sumerian translated into Vulgate Latin translated into King James’ English is what, unavoidably, I think of when I think of the Word of God, so I felt a shock of almost Brechtian alienation to hear a different language retranslate translation into the vernacular. It’s all wrong, you kneejerk unconsciously, and then catch yourself.

Spanish, for instance, doesn’t distinguish between ‘meat’ & ‘flesh’ - it is all carne, and the Word Made Flesh is la Palabra hecho carne, the word made meat. ‘Our Lord’ comes out as Señor, the most basic term of address. The word for ‘people’ strikingly, is pueblo, which means not just the town, but a people, a nation, a comprehensive & communal group linked by mutual responsibility & obligation. “The people of God” becomes “el pueblo del Dios” (’We the people’ in the U.S. Constitution becomes Nosotros, el pueblo de los Estados Unidos), so that there is an identification at the basic, root, moral center of the godly language with the village, and not the City, of God. There is no such word in a Spanish Catholic mass as elevated as mankind. We are all hombre, man at the most basic. The language of the mass as a whole seemed more stripped-down & everyday than that of the Anglican English, words at their simplest, without the archaic flavor of, for instance thee and thou, or forgive their trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Jim also proves to be an able and observant guide as he describes how Christmas and New Year's and Epiphany are celebrated in the places where he happens to find himself with his family. Most such reports, we all know, seem two-dimensional and monochromatic besides, even if there are color pictures accompanying the text. Jim supplies only one picture, but his language doesn't make you miss them.

I hope you'll set aside some time and read the whole post.

1 comment:

Lawrence said...

The best time of my life

when i was 7 years of age, i had my first family holiday in Spain, we stayed in a Hotel on the Coast Blanca Coast. this was the start of many happy holidays in spain.

My Family and i went to different resorts every year, for example Benidorm, Cabo Roig, Alicante, Lloret De Mar.

when your young everything is an adventure, plus the fact that you are all together makes for happy times, which is what being part of a family is all about. As you know we all grow up and even though we do keep in contact with close ones we never have the time that we had as children.

our family holidays in Spain was at a time when Spain was becoming the no 1 destination for familles from the uk. so, i remember Spain being unspoilt, beautiful and of course sunny!

driving along the new spanish Motorways my dad use to beep other uk drivers as we passed them. nowadays uk drivers are ten a penny on the spanish Rds.

we never booked a Hotel on the Costa Blanca Coast, my dad would spend 3 days driving to spain and get out of his car and book a hotel there and then for 10 nights.

more to follow