Don’t ask. Plus: Victoria = Felipe II?

My impression is that in the six years since this blog started

  • Things have improved immensely.
  • In downtown Barcelona, most shop assistants now speak some form of English. This may have been a Darwinian process, where the rejects end up in other parts, but I don’t think so.
  • Part of this is no doubt due to Anglophones beating the Hispanophones at the game of “we’re not going to speak any language but our own.”
Skimming lightly, eyes shut, over the waves of history, I’d tend to blame the Spanish problem on the monstrous wave of intolerance unleashed during Felipe II’s reign, of which Antonio Alatorre gives good account in El apogeo del castellano. The only undoubted success of the European Union has been the Orgasmus programme, quasi-academic sex tourism which, appropriately, has undone for ever the damage caused by 16th century Spain’s anti-Erasmusian xenophobes and their followers:

Como remate de todo, en ese año de 1559, en noviembre, por decreto de Felipe II, les quedó prohibido a todos sus súbditos salir al extranjero a estudiar o a enseñar, para evitar contagios con ideas no “oficiales.”

But it’s not just the Spanish who are capable of salvation. A frustrating idiosyncracy of Andrés Trapiello’s brilliant pioneering study of literature of right and left and fuck-off-and-leave-me-alone in and around the 36-39 civil war, Las armas y las letras, is his enthusiasm for amusing but bullshit-prone aphorisms. So:

… esos viajeros ingleses del siglo XIX … capacitados como nadie para describirnos un gitano … pero como nadie incapaces para comprenderlo… Ésa es la grandeza del pueblo inglés sobre cualquier otro, y de ahí que hayan sido los grandes viajeros de la historia: han viajado sin dejar de ser ellos mismos un solo instante y sin buscar que los otros se les parezcan.

For anyone who shares his phenomenal, almost Philippian ignorance of non-Victorian English and Imperial sexual and linguistic mores, I’d recommend … ooh, William Dalrymple’s White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in 18th-century India, which I enjoyed very much recently.

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