07 March 2007

I have a new name and it is bibi

Barcelona two weekends in a row is about as much as my travel-weary knees can take (my kneecaps fear and loathe the airplane seat crunch). Especially until our apartment there is renovated, because until then it means staying with the in-laws or the grandmother, and while I love them very much and am so grateful that they put us up and we enjoy our time with them, it means living out of our suitcases, and a certain lack of privacy. And being fed overmuch.

That said, the weather in Barcelona was absolutely gloooorious both weekends. Perfection, even. Neither hot nor cold. We got a little sunburned. As I write, it is pouring here in Brussels and has been raining on and off for the past two days. Ah, how the memory of Barcelona sustains me.

As usual, our time there was brimful with activities, because we're always trying to squeeze in visits with friends and time with our nieces, often scheduling lunch in one place then coffee in another then dinner in another. We got to eat tapas with my brother's great girlfriend, who is studying in Barcelona for a semester. We gathered a group of alumni from M's year in Bologne, and caught up on everyone's jobs in politics. We watched the Barça-Seville game with friends and their babies, and went to a fantastic concert by tenor Jaume Aragall with M's grandmother at the incredible modernist Palau de la Musica (Josep Carreras was in the audience; in Catalonia, Aragall is as important as Carreras, but is a lot more shy). We saw The Lives of Others (go see it! it's great!).

Our nieces dressed up in their cute ladybug carnival costumes, although the four-year-old insisted on being "Princesa Marieta, Reina del Bosc" (Princess Ladybug, Queen of the Forest), because all of her friends were dressed up as princesses this year. The costume was a conglomeration of ladybug wings, tulle skirt, antennae and crown, and heaven forbid if we messed up the name and called her "Marieta Princesa" or something. Also, the little one started saying my name, although it came out "Bibi," which is also what she calls her grandpa (from "avi"). As in, "Bibi, vina!" holding my hand and tugging me towards what she wants. Robin, come!

But besides all the "fun" stuff, two weekends ago, I also had the chance to attend a conference on translation that was held by the Institut d'Estudis Catalans, which was thought-provoking in regards to my own translations from Catalan. I heard about the first translations of Catalan to Hindi, and about the challenges of Hungarian, German, Slovenian, and Chinese translations. I talked to the woman who does the Slovenian translations, and am hoping that I'll be able to do some work for the website of the Catalan PEN club.

And then, that Saturday, we went to Sitges for a presentation by Paul Preston on international journalists and the Spanish Civil War. Several things you should understand: Sitges is a beeee-autiful seaside town about an hour from Barcelona, so it was a treat just to go there. Also, Paul Preston is one of the Top Dog Historians when it comes to the Spanish Civil War (he is British, from the London School of Economics, and he even gave the talk in Catalan!). Also, my thesis involves both literature and its interaction with journalism in various forms. So, all told, this was nerdily exciting for me. And, encouraged by my husband and father-in-law, I worked up the nerves to introduce myself afterwards during the champagne/mingling and asked a technical question about a somewhat obscure thirties writer he had referenced. This produced the desired effect, i.e., him taking an actual interest in my work instead of polite nodding, and we had a nice conversation in which he gave me some tips on archives to look into, asserted that most of the literary criticism on the topic is crap because it doesn't take the history into account, and that there is a lot of material out there to work with (I happen to agree on both accounts), and thus encouraged me to rigorously read the history. And he said I could e-mail him!

Actually, we were near to Sitges, in a town called Villafranca, because a close friend of M's parents had died, and we went to the viewing at the funeral home. The following (this past) weekend, we went to an informal ceremony for the scattering of his ashes at the top of the national park/mountain, Montseny. Both were sad, and moving, as funerals are. But because I had never met this man, in an odd way it was an experience of abstract emotions about loss and death, and was able to experience the moment more fully instead of being sideswiped by pain. Isn't that strange? It was the first time I had ever attended anything like it, in an outdoor setting, and it truly was beautiful. Sunshine, and long views of the Catalan landscape, and music: they played "Red River Valley" and "Gracias a la vida." I hesitate to write more, simply because he was a stranger to me, but in an odd way, hearing his friends and family speak of him made him known, a friend.

1 comment:

Catanea said...

I wonder why they played "Red River Valley"? I have noticed that there is a part of the Mass for the Dead in Catalan which is sung to the tune of "Red River Valley" (Blast! Can't remember which bit). So I wonder if they knew what they were playing? [Stranger still, I have heard the Lord's Prayer in French sung to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". But reverently.]
-Amanda Adams