Spain has always been different

Godzjumenas has a post about Johannes Goropius Becanus, who turned down the lucrative position of personal physician to Philip II of Spain in order to dedicate himself to linguistics and scientific observation in Antwerp. His most important discovery, apart from a monstrous worn-out phallus in a house patronised by women next to the town gaol, was that in Eden Adam and Eve had spoken Brabant dialect, whence all other languages came.

Linguistics has moved on, but Iberia is still plagued by researchers alla Goropius who will leave no joint unsmoked in their efforts to prove that their village or nation or granny’s cooking is the source of all civilisation. The end of the Franco dictatorship and the rise of regionalist fascism has seen a trend away from centripetal nutjobs to centrifugal refugees from reality, but one of the maddest books out there is still the españolistaJorge Maria Rivero San José/Ribero-Meneses’s La España olvidada (1988).

La España olvidada situates Spain as the source of rationality. While in comparative terms, Spain may currently have stronger claims than Italy, Greece or the Middle East, Rivero wants it all: Paradise was situated somewhere near the (not notably well-watered) town of Avila, there were Jews hanging around eating bagels in Spain before the Flood, Spain is a kind of bridge to another world, tourists come to Spain not for its sun or for its beaches but because they know instinctively that it is the Mother Country, Hercules, the Olympic Games, card games blah blah blah.

However, this is no Castilian egoism: Ribero is generous enough in his madness to find evidence of the birth of humanity in Extremadura, in Asturias, and in Barcelona, not in its infernal sewers but on the slopes of its devil-mountain:

Arba was … the primitive name given to Hebron …, considered … the first populated place on the planet, undoubted cradle of the Hebrew people… [On the skirts of Tibidabo] we … find the monastery of Pedralbes or Piedras [ie stones] Albas. This is no coincidence. It is simply the case that Alba–the most important and widely distributed toponym on the planet–is the form from which was derived Arba, which in its turn was the origin of the word Hebrón.

How is it possible that notable scholars (they’ve got a pension) like Albert Balcells, Josep Benet and Borja de Riquer haven’t discovered this important building block in their construction of the History of the Glorious Catalan Nation? (See also Robert Burton.)

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