Friday, 27 April 2018


by Prosper Mérimée
translated by Mauro Fernández Alonso de Armiño
illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe

The last time I read Carmen was more than thirty years ago, in Russian, in a paperback collection of Mérimée’s selected works. Right now, I don’t remember what else was in there. In any case, I was not planning to reread it until I saw this gorgeous edition in our library among the new books, right next to graphic novels. So I took it and embarked on reading, this time in Spanish.

I loved it. I don’t speak (or read) French, so the chances of me reading it in original are slim. And what is “original” anyway? After all, the narrator is in Spain and talks to his heroes in Spanish. Moreover, it is speculated that Carmen was inspired by Pushkin’s poem Цыганы (The Gypsies), which Mérimée read in Russian and translated it into French in 1852. In the meantime, I want to say that the translation by Mauro Armiño is masterful, although it would be so much easier to read if the whole text of the novella were not printed in white on a black background.

Here’s something that I completely forgot since 1980s: the story of Carmen is told to the narrator by don José who is condemned to death. Throughout, we hear not only misogynist and racist notes but the whole (all too familiar) song of an abuser and murderer blaming his victims for their fate. Striking illustrations by Benjamin Lacombe reflect this: handsome José is presented as a victim of a spider-like femme fatale. I think this Carmen in 3-D would make an excellent Falla.

♦ ♦ ♦   Frankly, José is pathetic. He appears to lack any sense of humour. Carmen, on the contrary, has a lot of it.   ♦ ♦ ♦

— Escucha, Joseíto — dijo —, ¿te he pagado? Según nuestra ley no te debía nada, porque eres un payo; pero eres un mozo guapo y me has gustado. Estamos en paz. Adiós.

Le pregunté cuando volvería a verla.

— Cuando seas menos idiota — respondió riendo.

Luego, en tono más serio:

— ¿Sabes, mi niño, que creo que te quiero un poco? Pero esto no puede durar. Perro y lobo no hacen buena pareja mucho tiempo. Quizá si abrazases la ley de Egipto gustaría convertirme en tu romí. Pero son tonterías: eso es imposible. ¡Bah!, créeme, muchacho, has salido bien librado. Has topado con el diablo, sí, con el diablo; no siempre es negro, y no te ha retorcido el cuello. Aunque visto de lana, no soy cordero. Vete a poner una vela delante de tu majarí; bien se la ha ganado. Bueno, adiós otra vez. No pienses más en Carmencita, o hará que te cases con una viuda con pata de palo.

The Annex contains one of Letters from Spain. Published some 13 years before Carmen, not only does it provide insight into the evolution of Mérimée’s (anti)hero (from José María el Tempranillo, a real-life noble bandit à la Robin Hood, to don José) but also is a jolly good read in its own right.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Queen Symphony in Las Palmas

I hever heard about Tolga Kashif’s magnum opus, Queen Symphony (2002), until the concert of GCWO earlier this year. And there you go, two months later they’re back to Auditorio Alfredo Kraus together with the Choir and the Children’s Choir of Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria. Timur and I went to see the show. (Tamara excused herself saying that “It won’t be real Queen anyway”.)

As symphonies go, this is on a longer side, about one hour. It is as epic as one would expect, to the degree that at times I wished it was less so. Who Wants To Live Forever appears in three movements. The first time, in the third movement, as a beautiful interplay of violin (Preslav Ganev) and cello (Marisa Roda). It comes back in the fifth movement and lasts, well, forever (or so I thought). Then, when you’d think you’ll never want to hear it again, it is reprised in the final movement.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

El desorden de los números cardinales

by Vicente Marco

I blame Francesc Miralles (the author of Wabi-Sabi) whose praise graces the cover of this slim volume of short stories for the fact that I read it in the first place. It took me a couple of months. No, this is not difficult reading per se, but I find all the stories here at least mildly disturbing. So I took breaks because I wanted to sleep some nights. And I am still not sure what to make of it.

The first (Rob y el conserje) and the last (Los cimientos frágiles) bookend the rest of the stories into some sort of conceptual whole although do not work on their own. El ojo y las vidas extintas, Los almacenes Tonyhebe and Su otro padre seem to be three rather inventive variations on the same theme; once you read one, you can predict how the others will end. Un plato demasiado frío almost made me sick. The title story and especially Un sobre para Rández are simply brilliant.

I spy many influences of, and references to, other masters of short fiction, from Borges and García Márquez to Bukowski and Nabokov, however what this collection reminds me most is Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.

Strangely enough, I can’t find a table of contents anywhere in the book. So I made it myself.

Vicente Marco
El desorden de los números cardinales
  1. Rob y el conserje (p. 9)
  2. Un sobre para Rández (p. 21)
  3. El desorden de los números cardinales (p. 35)
  4. El peluquero (p. 45)
  5. Los almacenes Tonyhebe (p. 57)
  6. Por gentileza del Sr. Midas (p. 71)
  7. La mujer de la clínica (p. 81)
  8. Su otro padre (p. 93)
  9. Un plato demasiado frío (p. 101)
  10. El ojo y las vidas extintas (p. 111)
  11. Invadiendo el hemisferio vertebrado (p. 123)
  12. Los cimientos frágiles (p. 137)

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Vinila Von Bismark and Flor de Canela in Las Palmas

I first saw Vinila alongside La Mari at the Chambao farewell and loved her performance. And what a stroke of luck, she makes a detour from her Motel Llamado Mentira tour to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria!

I’m sure Ms Von Bismark could easily fill the whole Plaza de Santa Ana with dancing and singing crowd. Anywhere else, one might think, this concert would be sold out in hours. But not here. (On the bright side, that means, I was able to get in!) Is it a lack of publicity or what? The show started just after midnight and the venue was half (or more) empty. The little audience that was there looked like they came here as an afterthought, or were too tired after a week, or something. Little by little though, Vinila got them energised.

Now Motel, released last November, is an eclectic collection of well-crafted songs; my favourites are Sólo Para Mí, Vinila Masagua and Quiero Decirte al Oído. But it just did not sound as a coherent album to me, at least on the first listen. You have to see Vinila live to appreciate what powerful voice and stage presence she has. Then it all starts to make sense, as she flows quite naturally from rock’n’roll to cumbia, from reggae to blues, from ¡Ay, pena, penita, pena! to La Llorona, in her marvellously singular style.

As for the venue: this is the second time I am in The Paper Club (the first time was a year ago, to see Mr. FeedBack) and must say that the acoustics of the place leave much to be desired. OK, I expect there is a sweet spot somewhere, it’s just me who was consistently not there.

After the show, at half past one I reckon, I spotted a tiny merchandise table with, like, one CD, a couple of vinyl(a)s and some T-shirts. The sole CD was immediately bought by a fan in front of me. Luckily, I came prepared because I brought my own copy (to sign).

And now for something completely different and yet very much related.

Isleta Sunset is a series of open-air music events organised by Fabrica La Isleta. They take place on Sunday afternoons, predictably enough, in La Isleta, so people could enjoy the music and sunset. Tonight I came there to see in action Flor de Canela, a project of our very own (where “our”, you understand, refers to all places where I ever lived) Grancanarian drummer and percussionist, Xerach Peñate. Apart from her, this band features Núria Balaguer (vocals and percussion), Marta Bautista (bass, vocals, percussion) and Paula Vegas (keyboards, vocals, percussion), all of them young and almost frighteningly talented. I couldn’t see much of a sunset, what with all this drizzle, but the concert was well worth braving the elements. Their music ranges from Latin folk (like the song that gave its name to the band) to jazz and swing, with tasty bits of salsa and samba throughout. A bit more chamber act than Vinila’s perhaps but as happy and inspiring.

Why do I write all this? Because the country should know its heroines, and this weekend I just met five of them.