Friday, November 11, 2011

Here's a few quotations from James Michener's Iberia, which - we've established - has nothing at all to say about the western bit of the peninsula which we call Portugal.

The book was published in 1968, when Franco was nearing the end of his long tyranny.

Everyone who knows a little or a lot about Spain can decide for him/herself just how many of these observations remain valid. And to what degree.

- Spain is a very special country and one must approach it with respect and with his eyes wide open. He must be fully aware that once he has penetrated its borders he runs the risk of being made prisoner . . . I have spent many trips endeavouring to unravel its peculiarities. I have not succeeded, and in this failure I am not unhappy, for Spain is a mystery and I am not at all convinced that those who live within the peninsula and those who were born there understand it much better than I, but that we all love the wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful land there can be no doubt.

- One of the sure signs that this is Spain is the number of young married women who have allowed themselves to get fat. . . I commented on this to a Spaniard and he said approvingly, "It's one of the most beautiful sights in Spain. To sit in the plaza at dusk and watch the fat married woman roll by with their husbands and children. It's beautiful because in Spain once a woman gets married, she no longer has to fight the dinner table. She has her man and nothing on earth can take him away from her, so she doesn't give a damn how fat she gets. In Spain there's no divorce and her children cannot be taken away from her, nor her home either. Of course her husband will probably take a mistress. But he'd have one whether his wife was slim or fat. So our women eat and love their children and go to the movies and gossip and put their faith in the Catholic Church and to hell with dieting, and you won't find a more contented group of women in the world."

- In the days that followed I was reminded again of the first essential for anyone who wishes to understand Spain: in every manifestation of life Spain is a Catholic country . . . There is no education that is not under the control of the Church and its orientation is to the past.

- An Englishwoman had been molested by a gang of gypsies. Two Guardia Civil officers came on the scene and began to rough up the gypsies, whereupon the latter cut their throats to the neckbone. Someone ran to report the murders to a neighbouring station, whereupon four pairs of guardia climbed into a truck, drove to the scene of the murder, threw a cordon around the gypsy encampment and proceeded to machine-gun every human being therein.

- The man then used a phrase I'd never heard before: "We have the old spirit of Viva yo. In Spain you must always take into account Viva yo." The phrase won't be found in a dictionary. It could be translated 'Hurray for me and to hell with everyone else'. Some time ago there was a competition for the cartoon which best expressed the Spanish character. The winner, without a close second, was one showing an arrogant little boy urinating in the middle of the street and spelling out the words Viva yo.

- The attendant brought my car promptly now, for like a good Spaniard he needed words as much as money, and the words he wanted had to be the most expansive and inflated available. Estupendo. Maravilloso.

Back in the here-and-now . . . Amidst all the gloom about economic growth, there remains the beacon of Galicia's massive international success story - Zara. Here's something on the company from, of all things, The Jakarta Globe. Checking on line, this seems to be an article which did the rounds in the Far East only. One wonders why.

As it happens, IberoSphere featured an article on the challenges being faced in 2011 by young Spanish women who almost certainly have not let themselves go to fat.


Mike the Traditionalist said...

Read that article in IberoSphere regarding the single Spanish lady. A life based on fornication will not have a happy ending.

ANA said...

The wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful land bit is true but then so is the 'viva yo' bit which I have to embrace at times to feel integrated,although I have yet to wee in the street.