Thursday, June 30, 2011

"The Dark Night of Ramon Yendia."

Lino Novás Calvo. Pp. 147-175.

Summary: In the midst of a revolution. A cab driver. He is fearful. On every street he sees attackers. He acts suspiciously. Now the attackers follow his cab in their cars. He uses his wits to try to escape. Finally, he is shot. The attackers gather around him Nobody knows who he is. Killed because he had acted suspiciously, fearfully and tried to escape his imagined fears.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"The Man Who Married an Ill-Tempered Wife."

Don Juan Manuel.

Summary: When asked if his son could marry a wealthy man’s daughter, the rich man said, “I am sure that if he married my daughter, he would either die or wish he were dead.” The woman was a termagant, a very devil.

Well, they were married. The young newlywed ordered his dog, in the presence of his wife, to bring him water. When the dog made no attempt to do so, the young newlywed cut the dog to pieces with his sword. Next he ordered his cat to bring him water. When the cat failed to do so, he cut the cat to pieces with his sword. Finally, he ordered his only horse to bring him water, but the horse failed to comply with the young newlywed’s wishes and the young newlywed cut the horse to pieces. When the young newlywed ordered his ill-tempered wife to bring him water, she, fearful that he would cut her to pieces, did as the newlywed ordered and then she brought him food and so on.

Comment: With apologies to PETA, I heard a variation of this story involving a donkey. When the owner ordered the donkey to move forward, and it didn’t, the owner said, “That’s once.” When the donkey still failed to move, the owner said, “That’s twice.” When the owner ordered the donkey to move a third time, and the donkey failed to comply, the owner smacked him with a mallet right between the eyes. When the wife failed to do as he ordered, the man said, “That’s once.” You get the rest. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"The Fatherland."

Horacio Quiroga. Pp. 133-141.

Summary: A beast fable. The animals of the forest were free and unencumbered until the drones suggested that they found a fatherland. At once they set up barriers and boundaries to mark their fatherland. But the animals, that had been happy before setting up the fatherland were now unhappy. They were no longer free. Along came a soldier who had been fighting for his fatherland to tell them why they were unhappy. They were no longer free. Reason and logic created prisons and they therefore lost their freedom. The soldier died, but the animals remembered his message. Live free or die.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Life and Death of a Hero."

Arturo Cancela. P. 102-132.

Summary: Don Juan Martin went from an impoverished knife sharpener to a rich man. He retained all his old habits and enjoyed his old house in which he lost his wife and raised his daughter, who was ashamed of his past and of his habits and his control of her. To the extent that she wished him dead.

But on the occasion of his death, she could not escape his negative influence on her, striking at her deepest wishes for all the material goods she craved.

So he was a hero, who retained his influence in spite of everything his daughter wished to do.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Tattle-Tale Parrot."

From Book of Sandebar.

Summary: A man trains his parrot to tell him everything his wife does when he has gone. The wife entertains her lover and the parrot tells the husband all about it. He orders his wife out of the house. The wife blames the maid for telling on her, but the maid says the parrot did it.

That night the wife covers the bird in his cage and provides sound effects and flashing lights to simulate a thunderstorm. When the husband awakens in the morning, he asks what happened during the night. The parrot says he couldn’t see because of the thunderstorm. Since there had been no thunderstorm, the husband accuses the parrot of lying, kills the parrot, begs his wife’s forgiveness, and they lived happily ever after.

Comment: Translated into Spanish from the Arabic in 1253. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 94-99.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Sister Aparicion."

Emilia Pardo Basán.

Summary: Sister Aparicion is a nun in a convent. She is eighty or ninety years old, now. When she was young, called Irene, she was beautiful. Besieged by a young lover, a poet, she resisted him. But he set his goal to make love to her. He made a bet that he could.

When she finally succumbed, he raised a banner behind the bed where a group of young men assailed her with laughter. Naked, she ran through the streets to her home and then entered a convent where she did brutal penance, year after year. Even in old age, because she was doing penance for two, including herself and her young lover whom she had never seen again.

Comment: I went to a school in a Catholic elementary school taught by nuns. I never thought much about them as individuals with a past, but this story makes me wonder about their pasts. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 94-99.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"The Honor of His House"

Carlos Wyld Ospina.

Summary: a half-blind beggar, homeless, traveling on foot cross-country, stops at a ranch house aching with hunger. He is fed and then sees that his former wife is working on the ranch with their fifteen-year-old daughter. He and his ex-wife hate each other.

Juan Barrabas, the beggar, is hired as a jack-of-all-trades. And he is excellent at his work. The ranch, because of his work, is profitable and the Boss even brags about this extraordinary man to his neighbors and the town folk.

One day, his ex-wife tells him her boss is interested in their young, fifteen-year-old daughter and she wants to encourage the affair. Juan Barabbas beats her to within an inch of her life. No such thing will happen on his honor.

His wife whines and cries at her beating, but in the end, she recognizes that he is an honorable man and a man of honor and admits that he is reforming everyone on the ranch, including her, and she proclaims him a saint.

Comment: From bum to saint in one short story. The bum with the heart of gold. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 49-84.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The Thief and the Ladder of Moonbeams."

From Calila y Dimna (a collection of fables).

Summary: A thief on the roof of a rich man’s house. The rich man awakes and assumes the intruder on the roof is a thief. He awakens his wife and tells her to ask him how he became so rich. In reply to her question, he concocts a story that he used to go on to roof tops in the moonlight, spoke a magic formula, “Saulan Saulan,” then climbed down the moonbeams into the house unheard by the residents and stole everything. Then he repeated “Saulan Saulan,” and climbed up the moon beams back to the roof and made his escape. The thief hears this explanation, says the magic formula and falls off the roof as he tries to clutch the moonbeams and crashes to the ground below where the rich man beats him to within an inch of his life.

Comment: Moral—if you believe everything you hear, you’re a fool. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 49-84.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr." Miguel de Unamuno.

Summary: The saintly man is saintly in spirit, but not in the formal religious sense. He does not believe that religion has the answers to life’s problems. He believes that life is an illusion of striving for happiness and that life after death does not exist. He urges his flock to believe in life’s existence because it makes them happy. That is what he strives for, to make life an illusion of happiness. He says to his confidantes that even Christ did not believe in life or life after death. What is sin? Being born. It is necessary to accept the illusion that life is happy. Because life is all we have. Life is literally a novel. Life is literally a dream.

Comment: This is a short story with many quotable quotes. The priest who has lost his faith, The story is told in the words of a young girl who worships the priest, who is not disillusioned by the revelation of his loss of faith when she is older, and who works to continue beyond his death to create the illusion that the purpose of life is to be happy, contented. The priest is a martyr to the Catholic religion because he does not believe in it, but does work to make it the answer to his flock’s prayers.

Brian Moore, a Canadian, wrote a novel called The Belief of Catholics. It has a somewhat similar plot. A group of monks lives on a desolate island, but the monks have become famous for breaking with the new belief of Catholics, by saying the old Latin mass when all other Catholics are saying it in their native languages. The Latin mass has become a form of heresy and a priest from Rome has come to put an end to it. The father rector, who oversees the activities of the monks, like Manuel Bueno, has also lost his faith. He can no longer pray, but he lives to keep the monks organized and busy. “It’s a hard life, but it’s my life.” In short, he lives to be a successful administrator, not a religious believer. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 49-84.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"The Call of the Blood." Miguel de Cervantes.

Summary: Returning from a walk in the moonlit evening, a family, including a young woman, is beset by a group of young ruffians. The young woman is carried off by Rudolfo, who robs her of her honor. Eventually, she regains consciousness in a richly accoutered room and takes with her a crucifix she has found there. Released from captivity, she learns that she is with child.

Grown older, her young son is thrown from a horse, is rescued by a noble family, and helped to recover in the same room in which his mother, the young woman, had been ravished. When the ravished mother tells Rudolfo’s mother the details of her son’s disgraceful conduct, and produces the crucifix, Rudlolfo’s mother believes her and hatches a plan.

Rudolfo is summoned home from a trip to Italy, is confronted by the ravished young woman and her son, is smitten with her and, after learning that he has produced her son, agrees to marry her and they live happily ever after.

Comment: Innocence is revenged and rewarded. A just and happy ending. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 24-42.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"The Secret Miracle." Jorge Luis Borges.

Summary: Jaromir Hladik, a Czechoslovakian writer, confronts a German firing squad. He prays to God for a full year in order to complete his play. A tear starts from his eye. In the time that the tear falls, he mentally finishes, without hurry, revising as he writes, his play. When the tear finishes its fall, at that moment, he is shot to death by the firing squad. A miracle.

Comment: Somewhere, in one of the many books I have read, I remember the (true?) story of a Jewish scholar, imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, who could remember perfectly the details of every book he had ever read. Re-tracing these books was how he passed his time. That’s what I was thinking of as I read this story. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 17-23.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"My Sister Antonia." Ramon del Vade-Inclan

Note: I am resuming my summaries of short stories. 6/15/2011. RayS.

Summary: A skeletal, evil-looking, cadaverous student in love with the narrator’s sister, Antonia, puts a curse on their mother who experiences a black cat that claws her back; she screams in agony. Finally, the curse is broken. The mother has died and the student’s ears have been cut off through the efforts of the family servant and a voodoo-like snipping of symbols. After the funeral, the house is closed and the narrator and his sister Antonia go off with the grandmother.

Comment: A story of witchcraft and the effects of a curse. Frightful mood of the dark house and the emotions that accompany the strange goings on. Told from the point of view of a child who understands more than the adults around him think he does. Nightmarish. RayS.

Spanish Stories and Tales. Ed. By Harriet de Onís. The Pocket Library, 1956. Pp. 1-16.