Carcas and guiris

Late C19th Spanish quasi-realism sometimes reads more like Flashman than Zola. Here is a fairly random translation of a not entirely random excerpt from Un viaje de novios, a fine romance (mashed potato plot and all) written by minor aristocrat Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851-1921) during a stay in Vichy and published in 1881:

The strange thing about the whole affair is that in broad daylight the young master was always a lion, as we all know… what a joy it was to see him in the war… – praise God! putting himself among the bullets as if they were candies… He never used weapons, but a satchel containing I don’t know how many things: scalpels, lancets, forceps, bandages, sticking plaster… In addition he had his pockets jam-packed with yarn and rags and raw cotton… I’m telling you, young lady, that if you got promotions for not being bothered by those liberal nobodies, nobody would get them better than Don Ignacio… Once a bomb fell like that, two paces from him… he stood there watching, hoping no doubt it would blow up, and if it didn’t go and take an arm off sergeant Urrea who was close by… And he didn’t retreat either during bayonet charges. During one of them a guiri soldier – damn their race! – went right at him with the point at the ready… And what do you think my Don Ignacio did? even the devil wouldn’t think of this one… He brushed it aside with his hand as if he was brushing off a mosquito, and that great big savage lowered his bayonet and let himself be pushed aside. And the look on the young master’s face… God help me, but what a face. Between serious and good natured, that sorry fool must have been left speechless.

The author seems to be referring to the third Carlist war (1872-76), which is sometimes called the second Carlist war because the Catalans cheated and started the real second one (1846-49) before everyone else was ready. Some obstinate souls claim that number three was in fact number six, but the freemasons have promised to ensure that no one publishes their books. More on guiris, bourgeois scribblers and the Welsh connection some other time.
Meanwhile, you may wish to consult Pep Rovira’s fine list (Catalan; English hack) of other Spanish post-Napoleonic wars. As La Vanguardia eulogised in 1945, and as secondary school history students here will quietly acknowledge, Franco did at least put an end to Spain’s unfortunate habit of getting involved in a war every 5-10 years.

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