Review: A History of Spain

A History of Spain
A History of Spain by Simon Barton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a concise, comprehensive history of Spain which reads very easily and seems to cover most aspects of Spanish history, if only glossing over parts without going into heavy detail. It does recommend further reading and as a general work I found the text very accessible. It provokes interest in further study of specific areas. I found that sometimes the author Barton, could be a bit imposing and over-generalistic in his views. I have read certain parts of Spanish history in detail and sometimes, in particular, regarding the Arab conquest and the Spanish Civil War, I feel that his views and general summary of events was a bit over-vague and inconsistent with the facts that have been presented by other authors. Having said that, with such a vast history to take on in such a short space, this History of Spain does work and fills the necessary gap of knowledge that newcomers to Hispanic Studies require. Whilst reading the book I made use of literary references to dig out future reading in specialist areas of Spanish history. the book concludes nicely with a well-written glossary and chronology that will be very useful for reference.

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Review: On Paris

On Paris
On Paris by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This very brief work is a collection of Hemingway’s writings as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. The author’s bright prose lights up what I believe to be the most fantastic city on earth, during the turbulent times of the 1920s. Paris was in a post-Versailles dilemma, the politicians fighting for German reparations and dangerously questing into the Ruhr valley. Hemingway vibrantly details the glamorous life in the French capital. The post-absinthe hedonism, the cafe culture, the nightlife of the Moulin Rouge. He contrasts the French joie de vivre with that of other European capitals and with a flamboyant passion for Paris, he brings to life this exotic city for all his readers.

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Review: Derrida: A Very Short Introduction

Derrida: A Very Short Introduction
Derrida: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Glendinning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The philosophy of Jacques Derrida keeps cropping up on my reading in Translation Studies. I’m getting a vague idea of deconstruction but really need to tackle the works of the man himself to truly understand his philosophy. I thought I’d try this short introduction as a taster to better familiarise myself with his ideas. I think that Derrida is slightly more complex and difficult to understand than more traditional philosophers. He gathers poles of thought within the philosophical movement. It seems that either you love or hate Derrida. I think the fundamental precept of Deconstruction is to reevaluate one’s ideals, to tear apart more traditional modes of thinking and to analyse a subject from a completely different, new perspective. This introduction left me, at times, feeling as though I was beginning to understand Derrida, yet at other times things went flying over my head and removed what knowledge I thought I had gained. I think the Derrida work on language is more accessible and I look forward to tackling ‘On Grammatology’. His work with words and language seems more logical and accurate and easier to digest than some of the less direct musings on philosophy or the nature of animals. From reading this book I can see why some people could easily dismiss Derrida. His ideas do provoke strong reactions and nowhere more so can this be seen than the reaction to his honorary degree at Cambridge University. think that what is certain about Derrida was that he was a true intellectual, a clever man with original ideas, who wasn’t afraid of ruffling the feathers of the established ways. The twentieth century was an era of vast change and there is no reason why new ways of dissecting the world should not arise. I anticipate building a deeper relationship with Derridean philosophy once I enter into his actual works. This introduction was enlightening in a sense but can be deconstructed into equally maintaining an illusion of confusion about this complicated man.

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Review: Roads To Santiago

Roads To Santiago
Roads To Santiago by Cees Nooteboom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Dutch author is, most certainly, an admirer of Spain. He writes passionately about his travels across the land, traversing history, culture, and the role of Spain in the modern world. The style is erratic and it takes a while to get used to the author’s jumpiness, but it all seems to weave together nicely. There are deep forays into the world of art and I found the detail on Velasquez most interesting and it is clear that Nooteboom holds a special place in his heart for the work of Zurbaran. There is a constant flicker of images of old rustic villages and a barren landscape as the author makes his undulating way in a series of neverending detours in his quest to reach Santiago de Compostela. I think one of the giveaways in the book is when our Dutch narrator reveals how he almost joined a monastery. He obviously has deep religious feelings and these manifest in his detailed depictions of the art and architecture of the religious buildings which seem to dominate the direction of his meanderings. The history of Spain can be detailed in the construction of these temples. From the deep antiquity of the Romans through to the Visigoths and Arabs and on into the post-reconquista emergence of a unified state under Ferdinand and Isabella and future Habsburg monarchs up to the tragedies of the Civil War and Francoist Spain and its post-Franco entrance into modern Europe. I think that the translator from Dutch has done a wonderful job and the book reads most freely. It has a deep elegant manner, is of the most floral and descriptive prose and it never fails to produce a deep impression on the imagination of the reader. This genuine work of literary art embeds the image of Spain on the mind and one can feel and breathe the deep-seated knowledge and embracing love that the author has for this mysterious land.

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Review: The Spanish-Speaking World

The Spanish-Speaking World
The Spanish-Speaking World by Cl Mar-Molinero
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an introductory text to sociolinguistic issues in the Spanish-speaking world. As part of my Spanish Studies classes I felt this would be a good text to introduce me to the importance of Castillian Spanish as a global language. The book never goes into much depth and in that sense I was a little disappointed. It does, however, introduce you to many of the key themes and provides a lot of wider reading. There is a big focus on the situation of minority languages within Spain, ie. Catalan, Basque and Galician. I found this interesting and the relationship between these tongues and Castillian Spanish is interesting, in particular within the context of the Diglossia which develops in minority language areas, particularly within the educational environment. The book details the role of Spanish in Latin America and with the growing population there, this is the largest Spanish-speaking area of the world. I found it interesting looking at the role of Spanish in Latin America in terms of post-colonial studies. It was nice to see the resurgence of such important indigenous languages such as Quechua. The book has many questions interspersing the text. The are exercises which aim to further study and provoke response in the student. Some of them were very useful and did indeed provoke thought. However, on the whole, I found these interruptions to be counter-productive and slightly annoying. I felt that when they offered useful information, this could quite have easily formed part of the main text. The book is useful as an introduction to some of the key themes and ideas relevant to the global status of the Spanish language. It could be a useful textbook for a undergraduate course although I feel that it’s lack of depth in general doesn’t assist in the development of the true knowledge of the topic at hand.

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Review: Translation, History, & Culture

Translation, History, & Culture
Translation, History, & Culture by Susan Bassnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book comprises of a selection of 12 essays illustrating elements of translation studies. Each chapter usually covers an analysis of a detailed example and to what context this example illustrates an element of the emerging discipline that is Translation Studies. There is a global reach of contributors with perhaps an overemphatic balance of Eastern European academics. Some of the chapters are more appropriate for entry level students although I feel that some of the papers go into deep complicated ideas on translation that will require further examination. There is a broad range of topics. I found the chapters which focussed on the history of translation to be enlightening. The establishment of ideas within the discipline usually arise in a historical perspective. The introduction looks at the exciting example of 1001 Nights and the intricacies of transmitting an ancient oral tradition into foreign cultures. It is clear that translation is very much a cultural exercise that widens the view of the world and throughout this book the cultural implications of translations are assessed in detail. Translators have a deep responsibility to remain faithful to the author and source culture, yet to transmit in line with the target culture without subverting too much the original content or the culture into which the translation is entering. The final example in the book, of the difficulties and challenges Milan Kundera’s ‘The Joke’ presented, illustrates how difficult it is for a translator to fully grasp the source language culture and to not betray the original author’s intentions. There is more to translation than a simple metaphrasing, especially where deeply cultural challenging literary works are the subject. Paraphrasing in line with cultural values of both source and target culture is critical. This book introduces some very good examples of translation theory at action in the field. I am sure that I will refer back to it in my ongoing studies of Translation.

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Review: The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered this book in the Cardiff University library and thought it would provide a valuable insight into translation in history. I am interested in general history of the Renaissance and Middle Ages and found that this book helped to transfer pre-existing knowledge to the field of Translation. The book is a selection of academic papers from primarily North American institutes, There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on the French language as a vernacular and also, more obviously, Latin. I suppose that this reflects the importance of French as a cultural language at the time. It precedes English as the global lingua franca by some distance.

The general introduction chapters were very useful in terms of setting into context the role of translation during the epoque and the political implications that a translator would consider.

The stand out chapter for me introduces the subject of Etienne Dolet, a translation martyr who was sentenced to death and executed as a result of his work. The Dolet tale was an intriguing one and demonstrates clearly how a target-language’s cultural attitudes have to be taken into consideration when working as a translator. I feel that Dolet is a person upon whom I would like to follow up research throughout the course of my Translation degree.

I am a keen fan of Montaigne and it had previously eluded me that a lot of his great work was inspired by his activities as a translator. There are two chapters covering his translation of Raimond Sebond and the detailed critique that has ensued regarding the fidelity of his translation and the speculation of the true political motives behind his methodology. I think that very often, in translation, some of the reasoning and suppositions of translation critics fail to address the actual linguistical differences between foreign tongues. There are massive style changes at work that are bound to change the register of the original author and the translator would often introduce new ideas and themes only at a subliminal level, although that could very reasonably be done within the culture and political / historic climate of the current prevailing target-culture.

This book covers a wide variety of other topics, some of which are more relevant and interesting than others. I enjoyed The Alfredan Boethius chapter. The work of Eusebius on Vergil’s 4th Eclogue and also there was a certain romance to Leo Africanus’ story.

I think that this book is quite specialised and obviously could be very much more enlarged with further examples. It is a nice, neat text to furnish a translator with examples of some of the perils his journey might face. I’ll definitely refer to this book in future studies.

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