Follow monroe_aly on Twitter

Sunday 20 September 2009

Bulls and Bells

Further to my last blog, I have been thinking more about the use of language and the perceived exoticism of foreign settings.

I suppose the most famous novel in English involving the Spanish is For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway’s take on the Spanish civil war. ‘Bells, bulls and balls’ was Nabokov’s brisk summary of Hemingway’s interest in Spain. And I have some sympathy for that.

A little less dismissive was the complaint of an absurdly archaic tone given by Hemingway’s use of ‘thou’ for the Spanish ‘tĂș’, that Edmund Wilson described as a ‘a strange atmosphere of literary medievalism.’ See
(Scroll down the following page to ‘Language’) for more on this.

False exoticism is not new. Look at Byron’s introduction to Don Juan where he lampoons the romantic fantasy of Spain, or the whole storks drunk on sherry fumes from the bodegas approach, including barefoot children with voices like angels and of course a gypsy dancing girl or two (no, I’m not just talking about Laurie Lee).

I was anxious to avoid that. This has nothing to do with ‘expat pedantry’. It is about doing justice to people.

The Peter Cotton series is really about the end of imperialism and I want it to include respect both for the people of the countries I am writing about, and also respect for the reader.

No comments: