Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Smaller Arse: Cultural Musings

Well, I thought you might like to be kept up to date with developments on the book. Things moved ahead apace yesterday, so much so that when the umpires announced close of play after some twelve hours of dogged translating, interpreting and querying, we (or rather I) had reached another of our good chums, the Pollensa priest Miquel Costa i Llobera and his old pine of Formentor.

What on the one hand is a fairly gruelling assignment is, on the other, somewhat enlightening, and that includes the fixing of the Enlightenment in the scheme of things. The book is no more than a surface-scratching romp across the centuries but it does place developments in context. The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the rights of man acquire powerful roles that one can perhaps forget until they are placed within the context of dominating characteristics, such as religious superstition and the power of the noble class.

In terms of Mediterranean culture (and the place of Mallorca in its world), that upheaval in thought, reason, liberalism and a certain liberation, the principal gain - where the book is concerned - is the degree to which the culture became the object of curiosity from further afield. Hence, and naturally enough, a fair amount of attention is paid to yet another familiar figure, the Archduke Louis Salvador of Austria. Importantly, it is the relationship formed with the sea and the extent to which the sea embodies (if a sea can do such a thing) a spirit and a culture formed by the melding of societies over hundreds and indeed thousands of years. Which is all good philosophical stuff, one has to guess.

What is perhaps the most striking aspect of all this is that, as a translator, one becomes more embedded within the perspective of the author than might be the case by being a later reader of this minor saga. Being taken along for the ride in a continuous fashion, one does start to see things a touch differently. This is only natural. The world view is a Mallorcan and a Mediterranean one, not a northern European (British one) onto which a culture has been grafted. This assumption of an alternative culture and world view goes only so far, it seems to me.

With this in mind, one event is revealed as having greater force than a northern European can imagine. There is a continuity from the very start of the book of the almost landlocked nature of the sea. Almost but not wholly. That's because of the Strait of Gibraltar. The event is 1704 and the British occupation. This lends itself to a whole article, so I'll leave it as a taster. There's another chapter and then a timeline of more than 9,000 words to be cracking on with. 

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