Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spanish Lessons

At the Bookshop, I caught sight of Herman Hesse’s “Gertrude,” (a translation, at a dirtcheap price of P70), grabbed it, put it on top of the bantam-sized, unabridged copy of DH Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” [[the 1981 and 1993 film versions of which I just watched very recently, deep in the night, while Ja and Sean snored only a few feet away from me]]. Tucking both books safely in my arms, I cast my eyes upon the rummage bin and caught sight again of Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” another irresistible sight I pretended not to see, as I kept turning some more books, inspecting their covers, and unwittingly unearthed Marguerite Duras’s “Four Novels,” and “Colette, Una Vida,” a Spanish translation of Herbert Lottman’s “Colette, A Life,” a book I suddenly desperately wanted to buy more because of my obsession with Spanish than because of my obsession with the writings of the French author Gabrielle Sidonie Colette. I remember Sengthong and Prateehba years ago, laughing, when I arrived at the Esteban Abada dorm, showing my loot of cheap Spanish books I bought on sale at the Instituto de Cervantes, complete with stems of red American roses I gave to the girl at the nearby shoe repair shop because I can’t bear to bring them on my long ride back to the dorm, where Seng, astonished to see all the Spanish books bought at dirt cheap prices, asked, “So, you read Spanish?” and me, correcting him, “I want to read Spanish, that’s why, I bought them.” Prateesh laughed as Seng, shocked, retreated to his room to read about the American Founding Fathers. After that, I started reading my basic Spanish, once in a while. Even without my six units in Basic and Advanced Spanish Lessons back in college, I thought Spanish was quite an easy language to learn for Filipinos like me, because, except for a few consonants and some subtle vowel sounds, you could not really be far too wrong about its pronunciation. Yet, I never really had enough time to keep at it, I live in what has always been a tough and tumble kind of world, always on the run, night and day, sometimes, even in my sleep, I feel I'm still running, chasing the news; so, I never had the chance to stop, think, ruminate, and learn Spanish. Years ago, when my Spanish obsession started, Ja asked, and he has been asking ever since, what kind of madness has driven me to suddenly want to learn Spanish, when it used to be the most hated subject back in college, discarded from the regular curriculum in later years because people thought it was useless? I decided my yearning to learn the language had something to do with all those Spanish authors who had some original works in Spanish, whether it be Rizal, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz or Jorge Luis Borges. They were never really “useless” to me. I came up with quite a lot more reasons: The original edicts to the colony were once written in Spanish, remember? Our early oppression had been in Spanish. Perhaps, my yearning also had something to do with my desire to know what happened. Or does it have something to do with a penchant to break the images in the mirror: how can you break them if you have never seen them intact?

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