I had a large farmhouse in the Catalan mountains and I burnt it down

Francesc Pujols’ global taxonomy of women’s caresses.

I’ve been translating some rather elderly Flemish, so here, by way of a break, is an unchecked translation of the beginning of Francesc Pujols’ La tardor barcelonina (1908) (Saragatona > Teresa Amat > Avui > Casa del Llibre):

I had a large farmhouse in the Catalan mountains and I burnt it down. (I will explain later why I burnt it down.) The fire was so intense that the walls became as transparent as windows and they rang the bell in the village church on the other side of the mountain. This frightened me because I thought they were calling the faithful to come and put out the fire (I will explain later why I was frightened). But there was no reason to be afraid: the glow of the fire had made them think that dawn was breaking, and that is what the bell was announcing. I ran through the woods to the light of the flames, reading the diagram I had composed in other times classifying the caresses women give to win one’s heart, to have thus a chart for the uncharted paths along which love leads. So, without further ado, I will publish this diagram, by means of which I hoped to find my way on love’s road. (With regard to the directions needed to understand what I am explaining: I will provide them later.)

Now, before publishing the diagram, I would note that women can be divided into two groups: firstly, those who give caresses and secondly those who don’t.

The following diagram includes only those belonging to the first group. We will not discuss those in the second group, this being a group that is subdivided into two: firstly those who win one’s heart with disdain, and secondly those who neither disdain nor win one’s heart, that neither those who belong to these subdivisions nor the disdainful being of interest to us.

DIAGRAM

CLASSIFICATION OF THE CARESSES WOMEN GIVE TO WIN ONE’S HEART

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE
Caresses for the purposes of winning one’s heart are always false

DIVISION
of women according to this principle:

1
Those who do not know that these caresses must be false.
2
Those who know that these caresses must be false.
SUBDIVISION
of the first division
SUBDIVISION
of the second division
1
Those who want them to be false without knowing that they must be.
2
Those who, if they knew that they were false, would not give them.
1
Those who give them because they know they are false.
2
Those who, knowing that they are false, would like to give real ones.

The soul of those in love is encompassed like a flame by this diagram, enabling it to find the secret that should explain to it the secret of his loved one. (Respecting an explanation of the secret of that which is being talked: I will explain it at a later stage.) My soul does not curl up through the scheme, but becomes tangled with my body, like the flames of the fire through the farmhouse I had just burnt down. The birds sang as if the sun was coming up and the forest was red like a mop of woman’s hair washed in hydrogen peroxide. I wanted to kill myself (for reasons I will explain later), but I remembered that the day would come when I would say: curse those times when you wanted to kill yourself. Besides, if I were to kill myself now and, as frequently happens, only wound myself, and instead of waking in a sepulchre I were to wake in a bed, then it would not be the bed of the large farmhouse, burning amidst the flames that I lit in order to incinerate the farmhouse, the bed, and the woman who was in that bed, the only woman I love.

I read the diagram again and classify the caresses of the woman burning in the flames as belonging to the second subdivision of the second division. A big blaze which, after having twisted its way through the ruins like the lover through the body of his mistress, with luminous wings takes flight. It is the soul of the woman whose caresses I have just classified. She is called Agatha.

Agatha, it transpires, is an accomplished woman who … well I’ll translate the rest for you when copyright expires in 2032. (One might contend–I most certainly would not–that, rather living on into fruitless old age, Raimon Casellas did us a favour by throwing himself under a coal train within a decade of publishing Els sots feréstecs (1901), enabling pirates to republish him in the twentieth century, no less, without paying off a bar full of illiterate third cousins.)

La tardor barcelonina was originally published in episodes in a satirical Barcelona weekly, Papitu, commencing on November 25 1908 in the latter’s first issue. It is short, entertaining, and interesting for a number of reasons, one of which is the author’s spelling. Enric Casasses writes in a rather curious editorial preface that he has standardised the variation in Pujols’ orthography so that quadro and cuadro become quadro, am and ab become amb, and something as deliciously cholera curish as desde’l balcó becomes a drab des del balcó. This is no doubt the politically correct approach–and the Catalan publishing industry is heavily dependent on subsidies–but it seems to me that any miniscule gains in reading efficiency are heavily outweighed by the reduction in reading pleasure caused by such homogenisation.

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