Deal-Me-In Challenge – 2017

The last few years I’ve watched other bloggers make and post lists for a challenge hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis–52 short items (frequently short stories, but often also including poems, essay, or plays), each linked to a specific playing card. The idea: over the course of the coming year to select a card for each week then read that item in the appropriate week of the year. And it’s always been tempting–nothing too long to read, a great way to spend some time with literature types I don’t usually read. I finally succumbed to the temptation year, but under the strict understanding: I will almost certainly fail (I’m placing my bet on week four 馃槈 ). Actually I stand a lot better chance if I don’t commit to posting on everything I read, so, whether I do or not will probably be by whim. Regardless, I’m hope this helps me continue to push my reading boundaries away from longer forms.
Deal Me In Short Stories Challenge Logo

My List is half short stories / half poems (for weeks with more than one poem, the poems in question are very short). All selections are from collections either on my own shelves or pilfered from my parents (they won’t even notice…)

Hearts – short stories
A – The Leader of the People – John Steinbeck
2 – Mr. Know-All – W. Somerset Maugham
3 – The Old Demon – Pearl S. Buck
4 – Young Archimedes – Aldous Huxley
5 – Butch Minds the Baby – Damon Runyon
6 – Suspicion – Dorothy L. Sayers
7 – The Open Boat – Stephen Crane
8 – My Oedipus Complex – Frank O’Connor
9 – The Snows of Kilimanjaro – Ernest Hemingway
10 – Six Feet of the Country – Nadine Gordimer
J – The Boarding House – James Joyce
Q – The Brute – Joseph Conrad
K – Lead Her Like a Pigeon – Jessamyn West

Spades – short stories
A – Vanka – Anton Chekhov
2 – Hautot and His Son – Guy de Maupassant
3 – A Letter to God – Gregorio L贸pez y Fuentes
4 – The Little Bouilloux Girl – Colette
5 – The Ruby – Corrado Alvaro
6 – A Double Game – Alberto Moravia
7 – Maternity – Lilika Nakos
8 – God Sees the Truth, But Waits – Leo Tolstoy
9 – The Walker-Through-Walls – Marcel Aym茅
10 – The Augsburg Chalk Circle – Bertolt Brecht
J – The Procurator of Jud忙a – Anatole France
Q – My Lord, the Baby – Rabindranath Tagore
K – Modern Children – Sholom Aleichem

Diamonds – poetry
A – To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare – Ben Jonson
2 – L’Allegro – John Milton
3 – Il Penseroso – John Milton
4 – Lycidas – John Milton
5 – To a Mouse – Robert Burns
6 – Tam o’ Shanter – Robert Burns
7 – Kubla Khan – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
8 – Morte d’Arthur – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
9 – Ulysses – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
10 – A Grammarian’s Funeral – Robert Browning
J – Pioneers! O Pioneers! – Walt Whitman
Q – O Captain! My Captain! – Walt Whitman
K – When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d – Walt Whitman

Clubs – poetry
A – Sonetos I, LXI, LXXXI – Juan Bosc谩n
2 – Sonetos & “Da mi basia mille” – Crist贸bal de Castillejo
3 – Sonetos I, IV, X, XI – Garcilaso de la Vega
4 – Sonetos XIV, XXIII, XXIX, XXXII – Garcilaso de la Vega
5 – Canci贸n III – Garcilaso de la Vega
6 – Canci贸n V – Garcilaso de la Vega
7 – Madrigales I, II & Soneto I – Gutierre de Cetina
8 – Sonetos V, XX, XXIII – Francisco de la Torre
9 – Endecha II – Francisco de la Torre
10 – Soneto al rey nuestro se帽or – Hernando de Acu帽a
J – Oda I – Fray Luis de Le贸n
Q – Oda III – Fray Luis de Le贸n
K – Oda VII – Fray Luis de Le贸n

I look forward to starting this one – come Sunday! It should be a nice challenge. A thank you to Jay for hosting.

Completed: El burlador de Sevilla (Spanish Lit Month)

Cover: El burlador de Sevilla“El burlador de Sevilla”
Tirso de Molina (written c. 1616; published c.1630, Spain)
My edition from Diez Comedias del Siglo de Oro, 2nd edition
Jos茅 Martel & Hymen Alpern, editors
Revised by Leonard Mades

Don Juan:聽聽 聽聽聽 聽T铆o y se帽or,
Mozo soy y mozo fuiste;
Y pues que de amor supiste,
Tenga disculpa mi amor.


Don Juan:聽聽 聽聽聽 聽Uncle and lord,
Youth I am and youth I was;
And you knew what it is to love,
You must excuse my love.

(my attempt)

Act 1

You know how sometimes you decide to do something that seems like a really good idea at the time, but in execution turns out to be not so great? Yeah, that would be my brilliant idea to read “El burlador de Sevilla” in Spanish. At first it seemed it would work out well: similar to my method of reading The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance, I decided read an English translation followed by the Spanish. It was an easy enough decision–I had both on hand, hand-me-downs from an aunt who once-upon-a-time was a Spanish teacher (before moving on to other things). The English read quickly enough, although I found myself with nothing to say about the play. So move on to the Spanish.

Which is when I became disappointed.

Turns out, the English translation I have* is…lacking. To be kind. First, it was in prose rather than making any attempt to match the poetry of the original. Fair enough, translation of poetry is understandably difficult. (Though Grossman proves it very doable.) Of course, it turns out that I’m a reader that wants the translation to at least follow the from of the original.聽 But on top of that, lines were reassigned to different speakers, sections were left out and an entire passage (a lengthy three-page monologue) was dramatically condensed and reassigned to a different speaker in a different act and there were even brand-new lines of dialogue added鈥. I feel like that’s taking poetic license a bit far! So all this to say, instead of reading through the Spanish for a general sense of the language and sounds of the original, instead I found myself trying to understand the entire thing. (I will admit, the English translation did at least give me a go by to help with some of the trickier places. Assuming the section hadn’t been omitted, of course.)聽 Thank goodness for online translation dictionaries!

I am glad I read the Spanish, though. The English left me feeling ambivalent towards it (turning it into prose is a travesty), but after conquering the Spanish, I find I like “El burlador de Sevilla” much better. I would LOVE to see it performed, but that seems highly unlikely. (Is there a recorded version anywhere, though?)

“El burlador de Sevilla” was the first dramatization of the Don Juan legend (although not perhaps the best known–Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni likely holds that title), the story of a womanizing trickster who seemingly seduces every woman he meets, heedless of consequence, and seeming to delight even in seducing the women his own friends love. Indeed, the question may be whether he takes more delight in the women or in the enga帽o (trick or deception) he pulls. But this play is in the hands of a Catholic monk (Tirso de Molina was the pseudonym for Fray Gabriel T茅llez), so consequence there must be. His sins are not only his deceptive seductions, but also murder and arrogance. He does not repent until too late–and likely only out of desperation; doubtless Molina intended this as a morality play. Were it not for this moral, it would have felt in some ways like reading a Shakespearean comedy: deceptions and wrongs, but with everything turned right in the end (save Don Juan, of course), all told in poetic meter and fast-paced action among quickly-shifting scenes.

I do wish I had a better translation of “El burlador de Sevilla” on hand. (If you know of a good one I could get, do let me know.) Despite reading the Spanish second, and slowly (verrrrry slowly), I still feel as if I need another few go-throughs before I can really get to the heart of this play. The basic outlines are there, I know the plot, and can begin to see some threads of ideas to explore. The variety of women–for although most–but not all!–fall for Don Juan, they are each a different character with different responses. The limitations placed on both the women, and on the nobility–were not Don Juan’s fated decided by his sin, his King would chose his path for him. The importance of honor for both men and women, and the different concepts of justice then and now. And without a better hold on Spanish, I can’t even begin to comment on the language of the play. After all, I was so focused on basic meaning that I barely even noticed the rhyme schemes employed throughout. Perhaps one to revisit again?

I read this both for Spanish Lit Month hosted by Stu of Winstons dad’s blog and Richard of Caravana de recuerdos and as part of a readalong (originally planned for June) hosted by Richard.

*If you must know, from Three Classic Don Juan Plays, edited by Oscar Mandel, 1971 edition. I believe out-of-print.

鈥 I did consider that perhaps the editors were working from a different Spanish text, but not only have I not found聽 any significant variations between the Spanish I read and versions I found online, they openly admit to moving and condensing the above-mentioned monologue.

Completed: The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance

The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance
Translated by Edith Grossman, 2006

Aqu铆 la alma navega por un mar de delzura, y finalmente en 茅l ans铆 se anega que ning煤n accidente extra帽o y peregrino oye o siente  Fray Luis de Le贸n, 鈥淥da III鈥 7th Stanza

So….did you know that Renaissance and Baroque era Spanish poetry is a good beach read? Neither did I actually, but it was while on vacation, at the beach, enjoying sea breezes and the sounds of the surf pounding the sand (and studiously avoiding the sun, preferring not to turn fire-engine red), that I read the entirety of Edith Grossman’s 2006 translations of some of her favorite Siglo de Oro poetry. Somehow this worked: I made my way through the book rather quickly, even challenging myself to read the Spanish of each poem first–for a taste of the sound, mostly; I made no effort to create my own mental “translations”–before turning to the English translation. Not only does this therefore mark the first time I’ve read a whole (half) book in a language other than English, but I was often surprised at how much I did understand from that first, quick, reading.

I was also surprised to find myself wanting to read more after the first sitting. I thought this would be more of a challenge for me, not being much of a reader of poetry, and these being Renaissance/Baroque era poems on top of that! While I didn’t care for every poem I read, this definitely was an enjoyable experience rather than the expected “work” and “effort” to get through what I was sure was a worthy book, just perhaps not “my thing.” In fact, if my Spanish were better, I’d be reading from Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain, Elias L. Rivers, ed. (the book Grossman used for the Spanish versions of her translations). (It’s on my list, and I own a copy, but I need to reclaim more forgotten Spanish first.)

This does not mean I’m a complete convert to poetry as of yet. I still stumble around how to talk about poems, and I find that I’m not very fond of the sonnet: I can appreciate the work required to fit a sentiment into a set form, but I don’t seem to enjoy them as much as longer forms. Perhaps this in part because many of the sonnets included here are of the “courtly love” type; somehow “woe is me, I love this beautiful, unobtainable, cold-hearted woman so now I wish to die because she doesn’t love me” just doesn’t work for me.

On the other hand, many of the more religious-themed poems did draw in me in. Apparently, “momento mori” is a theme that resonates quite well with me! (I swear, I’m not a depressing person.) I think too, it seems that the poets strove for even grander language when trying to contemplate ideas or themes that resonate beyond the here-and-now. I just love the lines I opened this post with, from Fray Luis de Le贸n’s “Oda III.” It is a tribute to a Spanish composer, Francisco Salinas, but it also touches on the power of the music and the idea of a “divine Musician.” He ends thus:

隆Oh! suene de contino, Salinas, vuestro son en mis o铆dos, por quien al bien divino despiertan los sentidos, quedando a lo dem谩s amortecidos.  Fray Luis de Le贸n, 鈥淥da III鈥 Final StanzaI am also rather partial to Jorge Manrique’s “Coplas que fizo por la muerte de su padre” / “Verses Written on the Death of His Father.” Sounds uplifting, doesn’t it? But I found it beautiful, the language he used, even before I turned to the English translation. This was one of the poems the surprised me actually, with how much I understood from the Spanish.

Manrique_Coplas_3rdStanzaOf course, there are some happier poems too! In particular, I enjoyed Lope de Vega’s “Soneto de repente” / “Instant Sonnet.” It is an amusing little sonnet about writing, well, itself: “catorce versos deicen que es soneto:/burla burlando van los tres delante.” (“Fourteen verses, they say, are in a sonnet:/I haven’t even tried and I have four.”) And here we get to translation: I can understand most of the Spanish on this one, and the English isn’t quite the same. I rather like the Spanish better, in fact. But how to translate a poem? With rhythm and meter and rhyme? English, it appears to me, has greater difficulty in finding rhymes than does Spanish, so it is no wonder Grossman chooses not to concern herself with matching rhyme schemes. And to match the other–the translation is a difficult task indeed! Without better Spanish I cannot look at most of the poems here and readily see the changes made–words added or words neglected–and determine why such change is. A word-for-word literal translation doesn’t seem quite right for poetry, which would surely turn the poem into prose. It seems that the translator of poems must be–becomes–a poet. Thinking of the difficulties, I both admire those who make it look so effortless and think that if I wish to read more of the Spanish poets I would be well served to learn to read them in Spanish. The practical difficulties of learning to read well in another language, though! Thank goodness for translators!

The question remains, why did I attempt something that I expected to be “work” while on my beach vacation? I blame Richard of Caravana de recuerdos entirely, as this was yet another readalong he tempted me to. This, I think, is the best part of book blogging–the opportunities to challenge ourselves to something we might not otherwise read, knowing other readers are making their way through the same. Thanks so much, Richard, for hosting!


ETA: Richard’s master post for the RAL may be found HERE.

Siglo de Oro

The thing about lists is…once you’re started it can be difficult to stop! I am currently buried in a figurative pile of assorted lists, and I confess, I’m probably going to be posting these based on how much effort (or not) it takes to complete them. So it is for my third entry: Siglo de Oro. Like the Italian books, I knew very little going into this list as to what should be on it, so I thought it would take some real effort and research to create it. Or maybe, surprisingly, not so much…

Although I’m sure we covered the topic in Spanish class my senior year of high school, all I could have said on the Siglo de Oro about 6 months ago would have been that I was pretty sure it translated literally to “Centruy of Gold.” However, a series of blog posts by Richard on El Busc贸n helped refresh my memory. For those who don’t know (for me when I forget in a year or two…), the Siglo de Oro was a period of the flourishing of the Spanish Empire and Spanish culture–music, art, and of course, literature–during roughly the 16th and 17th centuries. The most famous literary work of the period is almost certainly Don Quixote, considered by some, although this is disputed, as the first Western Novel.

Here I must make a confession. Don Quixote was required summer reading before my sophomore year of Spanish, but I only read a bit more than half. A consummate procrastinator during high school, I ran out of summer. Whoops. Admittedly, it is lengthy, but from what I remember, not that difficult and most definitely humorous.

Now, at this point, I should probably be stumped on what else to add to the list. I could (and did) refer to my trusty 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. The Wikipedia entry on the Spanish Golden Age was a bit low on recommendations, so not to much help there. Of course, there are other list sources around–but I had a bit of a cheat on this one: when I was still studying Spanish, one of my aunts–who in a previous career taught high school Spanish–gave to me the entirety of her remaining college Spanish texts. Gold mine! Among the volumes were such titles as Diez Comedias del Siglo de Oro and Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain. With these as a starting point, it didn’t take too much work to develop a Siglo de Oro list.

Some points to mention: First, because 1001 Books listed some medieval Spanish literature that sounds interesting (and hopefully entertaining), I’ve added these as well, so the limits aren’t strictly defined here. Second, with this list, I’m deviating from my typical novels. From what I can determine, much of the top Spanish literature of the era was plays and poetry. Since I already have ready access to some of these, I’ve decided to include them, although the poetry will definitely pose a challenge for me: I almost never read any. Finally, as much of what I have is in Spanish (in textbook form, so well foot-noted), I will hopefully be reading a least a portion of the list in Spanish. This list is my first really challenging one!

  1. Anonymous: The Poem of the Cid [El Cantar del Mio Cid] (12th century)*
  2. Martorell, Joanot: Tirant the White [Tirant lo Blanc] (1490)*
  3. Rojas, Fernando de: La Celestina (1499)*
  4. Montalvo, Garci Rodr铆guez de: Amadis of Gaul [Amadis de Gaula] (1508)*
  5. Anonymous: The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (1554)
  6. Ercilla, Alonso de: The Araucaniad [La Araucana] (1569-89)
  7. Alem谩n, Mateo: Guzm谩n de Alfarache (1599-1604)
  8. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: Don Quixote (1605, 1615)
  9. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: El Licenciado Vidriera (1613)鈥
  10. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: El Casamiento Enganoso (1613)锘库
  11. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: El Coloquio de los Perros (1613)鈥
  12. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: The Travels of Persiles and Sigismunda (1617)
  13. Lope de Vega: Fuenteovejuna (1619)鈥
  14. Quevedo y Villegas, Francisco G贸mez: The Swindler [Historia de la Vida del Busc贸n] (1626)
  15. Molina, Tirso de:聽 El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra [The Rouge of Seville] (c. 1630)鈥
  16. D铆az del Castillo, Bernal: The Conquest of New Spain [Verdadera historia de la conquista de Nueva Espa帽a] (1632)
  17. Calder贸n de la Barca, Pedro: La Vida es Sue帽o (c. 1629-35)鈥
  18. Calder贸n de la Barca, Pedro:El Alcalde de Zalamea [The Mayor of Zalamea] (1651)
  19. Anonymous: Estebanillo Gonz谩lez (1646)
  20. Graci谩n y Morales, Baltasar: Critic贸n(1651-57)
  21. Rivers, Elias L., editor: Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain (1966 ed.)

I admit, I’m a little intimidated by the thought of reading so much Spanish after having been away from it for so long. I have an abbreviated Don Quixote in Spanish, as well as a complete English translation, so I may start there and ease my way into remembering words long forgotten. This will definitely be a long-term project, regardless!

* I believe all of these works are considered Medieval rather than Siglo de Oro.
鈥 I have all of these in a single volume titled Three Exemplary Novels
鈥 Included in Diez Comedias del Siglo de Oro