Thursday, 15 December 2016

El mundo amarillo

by Albert Espinosa

Incidentally, in case anyone is interested, my favourite colour is yellow. Brandy-bottles, buttercups, cowslips, crocuses, daffodils, dandelions, sunflowers, yellow chrysanthemums and yellow roses. Sun and sand, lemons and bananas, beer and cider, honeycomb and corn on the cob, Cornish clotted cream and tortilla española, yellow leaves, chanterelles and, since we discovered them three years ago in Finland, yellowfoot mushrooms. Spanish post boxes; scooters that postmen and postwomen ride here; padded envelopes with new books and CDs that they deliver. Free rental bikes in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The smiley face. And this happy Chinese character:

Yellow Brick Road. Yellow Submarine. And now, The Yellow World.

I thought this book could make anyone happy, just by virtue of its name. For me, it turned out to be as frustrating as it was fascinating, with insightful and original sitting quite comfortably next to incredibly trite.

I have to note that I read it in original Spanish — by the way, very well written and easy to read — and I guess a lot of it is lost in translation. For example, the similarity of words amor, amistad and amarillo. The very concept of amarillos, those special people who touch our lives, might suffer from literal translation, not least because of all those negative/dangerous/derogatory connotations (yellow card, yellow fever, yellow journalism, yellow star, jaundice, ambulance, various hazard symbols, giallo films, жёлтый дом, жёлтый билет...) Tricky, tricky. I myself don’t particularly like the words yellow, gelb, jaune, giallo, жёлтый, žut... Amarillo is good though. Translators, leave it as is!

The most touching, funny and inspiring part of the book is the one describing the happy (!) ten years that Espinosa spent in hospitals fighting cancer. He divided his experience into 23 lessons — lessons for him, that is. There’s no guarantee that any single of them is applicable to anyone else’s life and death. Paradoxically, it was the chapter dedicated to the amarillos that really disappointed me. Where the author’s sense of humour has gone? But don’t take my word for it. Read the book, its flaws notwithstanding. It won’t be a waste of time, I promise.

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