My last post is about the old problem of providing a slightly more useful answer to the question of where Hell is than “Where God is in His wrath,” or whatever. “Africa empieza en los Pirineos,” like the British M6, helps make the choice between Hell and Heaven relevant by creating a physical connection between the two. The phrase is one of a bunch used by residents of the Carolingian Coal and Steel Community (with bastard Norman outliers) to locate themselves in the European heartland.
Alexandre Dumas père is usually credited, which seems pretty unlikely since when Domingos António de Sousa Coutinho, Count of Funchal wrote in La guerre de la Péninsule sous son véritable point de vue (1816) that Dominique Dufour de Pradt “fait commencer l’Afrique aux Pyrenées” Dumas was only 14. A quick trawl doesn’t turn up any written record of M de Pradt having used the phrase, but his bestselling account of France’s dreadful experiences during the then recent Peninsular War, Mémoires historiques sur la révolution d’Espagne (1816), contains a sturdy exposition of the substance behind the slogan:
It is an error of geography to have assigned Spain to Europe; it belongs to Africa: blood, manners, language, the way of life and making war, in Spain everything is African. The two nations have been mixed up for too long–the Carthaginians who came from Africa to Spain, the Vandals who left Spain for Africa, the Moors who stayed in Spain for 700 years–for such a long cohabitation not to have confused the race and customs of the two countries. If the Spaniard were Mohammedan, he would be completely African; it is religion that has kept it in Europe.
C’est une erreur de la géographie que d’avoir attribué l’Espagne à l’Europe; elle appartient à l’Afrique: sang, mœurs, langage, manière de vivre et de combattre; en Espagne tout est africain. Les deux nations ont été mêlées trop longtems, les Carthaginois venus d’Afrique en Espagne, les Vandales passés d’Espagne en Afrique, les Maures séjournant eu Espagne pendant 700 ans, pour qu’une aussi longue cohabitation, pour que ces tranfusions de peuples et de coutumes n’aient pas confondu ensemble les races et les mœurs des deux contrées. Si l’Espagnol était Mahométan, il serait un Africain complet; c’est la religion qui l’a conservé à l’Europe.
I believe both de Pradt and do Funchal attended the magnificently sociable Congress of Vienna, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that the former used it there as a way of expressing succintly his view of the post-Napoleonic era and the latter gratefully noted it for future use–it seems unlikely that a Portuguese count would have either classified himself as African or been so modest as to deny authorship of such a striking phrase. Dumas fils, says Néstor Luján, denied that his father would have uttered the phrase, both being passionate admirers of Spain,
despite having been stoned by the entire population of a village in the province of Granada whose name I do not care to recall.
Not exactly a resounding endorsement.
- Daniel Heinsius’ solitary phoenix and the final words of the beastly bookseller of Barcelona
In 1927 the Catalan literary researcher and writer, Ramon Miquel i Planas (1874-1950; henceforth MiP) wrote a little book, published in a bibliophile edition, called La llegenda del llibreter assassí. In it he reflects on the origins and recycling of “Le bibliomane ou le nouveau Cardillac”, an anonymous tale published as if true in 1836 …
- From Charles Trenet, two musical De Gaulle anecdotes
Re the songs, L’âme des poètes and Douce France.
- Mole models in Cervantes
From saviour to saved to savoury: the de-/remystification of bodily imperfection.
- Pirates and Kleinecke’s etymology of “pidgin”
It is suggested that an old Spanish slang word has nothing at all to do with Dutch pirates but instead adds weight to David Kleinecke’s generally discarded South American etymology of the word “pidgin”.