Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
Life in Modern Spain: Expression is not entirely free here. Click here and here for evidence of this claim.
Life in Old Spain: I've just finished the second volume of Arturo Barea's wonderful 'autobiographical novel', The Forging of a Rebel. This centres on his time in the army in North Africa in the early 1920s. The accounts of maltreatment, debauchery, negligence, inefficiency and corruption are hard to believe but doubtless accurate. Here are extracts which appealed to me:-
- For the fist 25 years of the 20th century, Morocco was a battlefield, a brothel and an immense tavern.
- [On the soldiers trying to get sick to avoid fighting, quoting an old hand.] "When there's fighting, if you're lucky, you get leave to go to Tetuan and you find a bitch who's sick and you sleep with her. Then they send you to hospital for 3 or 4 months and you don't have to run about when it's raining bullets. But those lousy bitches know it and ask for double the price".
- It's frighteningly easy for a man to slide back into an animal state.
- This Spanish 'Be it as God wills' does not signify hope in God's kindness but rather the end of any hope, the expectance of worse things to come.
- In the Spanish code of personal relations drunkenness is considered not only disgusting but also as proving a lack of virility. But on certain occasions there is an exception to the rule, as for instance on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve.
- At the far end of the camp barrels of wine were lined up against 2 square tents: the canteen and the brothel.
- As a rule, the wine which was sold to the forces in Africa contained a shameless dose of water and half a dozen chemicals to to prevent quick fermentation.
- The women were old, corroded by disease, in rags of glaring colours, hoarse from syphilis and alcohol, their eyes red-rimmed.
- The tavern had the same fascination for me which the first visit to a lunatic asylum has for a normal person.
- [An exhortation from the insane Lieutenant Colonel Millán Astray, later to become even more infamous during the Civil War]. Gentlemen of the Legion! What are you? The Betrothed of Death. You have washed yourselves clean, for you have come here to die. There is no other life for you than in the Legion. But you must understand that you are Spanish gentlemen, all of you, knights like those other legionaries who, conquering America, begat you. In your veins there are some drops of blood of Pizarro and Cortés. There are drops of blood of those adventurers who conquered a world and who, like you, were gentlemen - the Betrothed of Death. Long live Death!
- In a war, men are saved by the fact they cannot think. In the struggle, man reverts to his origins and becomes an animal in a herd, his only instinct is that of self-preservation.
- The units of the Spanish army in Morocco went into action without any means of finding their bearing. Suddenly I understood those tragic Moroccan withdrawals in which, after a victorious operation, hundreds of men perished in ambushes.
- In Xauen's Hebrew quarter, they still spoke an archaic Spanish of the 16th century. And a few of the Jews still wrote that dusty Castilian in antiquated letters , all curves and arabesques, which made a sheet of paper look like a parchment.
- A few thousand exhausted men embarked in Ceuta glare of the sun, worn to the limit of their endurance. Badly clad, badly equipped and badly fed. [Thanks, in large part, to vast corruption on the part of the officers].
- The whole social life of the town was so regulated that groups could not mix. There were cafés for soldiers, for NCOs and for officers. There were brothels for each of the 3 castes. Certain streets and even parts of the same street were reserved for one group or the other. On the whole, the soldiers fled the streets in the centre of town where they had eternally to salute: the officers avoided the streets where they could not exhibit themselves to the public that counted.
More tomorrow, of his time back in the festering Madrid of 1924-5.
By the way . . . There are 2 references to cackerel. The first one I assumed to be a mistake for mackerel. But now I'm not sure. Though Google knows nothing of it.
Meanwhile . . . Nutters' Corner: Our old favourite, Pastor Kevin Swanson, is at it again:-
- I hate the Beauty and the Beast movie because it promotes inter-species dating.
Finally . . . The Camino de Santiago is, of course, all about money these days. With a bit of religion/spirituality thrown in. You can see this from the fact that a new 'ancient' route is discovered every year. There's been an enormous increase in 'pilgrims' on the Portuguese Way since I did it back in 2010 and the demand for cheap hostels (albergues) has correspondingly soared. But, not content with coining it, the owners of these are now hurling the common Spanish complaint of unfair competition (competencia desloyal) at the local councils who are opening up sports halls for those looking to keep their costs down. Chose you bastards.