Revista de Libros: “«Ispanistas y hanglófilos»” by Dolores Payás

We’re all used to dealing in national stereotypes, but what happens when an Englishman turns his lens on himself, only in a foreign language? Revista de Libros has a delicious review of a recent book called El viajero impertinente: Andanzas por España de un excéntrico inglés (The Impertinent Traveller: the Spanish Wanderings of an English Eccentric, 2010) by ‘Percy Hopewell,’ an English writer resident in Spain. According to Dolores Payás, one of the book’s virtues is that ‘ la mímesis del autor con el alma ibérica es casi perfecta’ ‘the author’s imitation of the Iberian soul is almost perfect,’ but she blasts its prologue, by the Spanish writer Tomás García Yebra, as so constrained by lazy stereotypes that, she says, he can’t possibly have read the book before putting pen to paper.

I’m pretty sure Payás is in on the joke of Hopewell’s origins, although she certainly made me pause a couple of times, taking García Yebra to task for accusing Hopewell of ‘”chapurreando” el español’ (speaking broken Spanish), when, se reminds him, ‘estas crónicas no han sido traducidas del inglés, sino escritas directamente en castellano, un castellano impoluto que a ratos parece beber en fuentes tan prestigiosas como puedan ser Josep Pla o Benito Pérez Galdós’ (these chronicles haven’t been translated from English, but written directly in Castilian, a pure Castilian that at times seems to drink from sources as prestigious as Josep Pla or Benito Pérez Galdós). Anyway, here are the first few lines of the review, which I am quoting as a wonderful impetus to self-reflection (just like the book, which is certainly a prompt for self-examination); for the rest (in Spanish), just follow the link:

Percy Hopewell pertenece al prestigioso club de estudiosos y viajeros británicos enamorados de España. Intrépidos exploradores que nos abruman, acogotan y avergüenzan con sus desmesurados conocimientos sobre nuestro país. Caballeros que, desmintiendo el famoso tópico sobre la flema inglesa, se entregan con pasión a su deporte favorito: recopilar informaciones que los nativos consideramos irrisorias (es bien sabido que los nativos demostramos un notorio desafecto por nuestras cosas, salvo en algunas zonas periféricas, donde en los últimos años se ha desarrollado una repentina y voraz devoción por la patria). Estos catedráticos oxonienses han captado a la perfección las esencias patrias. Y no vale restarles méritos haciéndose eco del malicioso rumor: a saber, que no serían ni intrépidos ni aventureros ni amantes de Iberia, sino cobardes que han puesto pies en polvorosa, huyendo de la temperamental climatología y otros rigores que aquejan a su herética isla. Desde luego, no es este el caso de Percy Hopewell, quien demuestra ser tan buen conocedor de su país de adopción como amante del de su origen

[Percy Hopewell belongs to the prestigious club of British scholars and travellers who are in love with Spain. Intrepid explorers who amaze, grip and shame us with their excessive knowledge of our country. Gentlemen [!!! – K] who, far from the famous stereotype of English phlegm, devote themselves passionately to their favourite sport: gathering information that we natives consider ridiculous (it’s well known that we natives show notorious disregard for our own things, apart from in some peripheral regions, where in recent years a sudden, fierce devotion for the fatherland has emerged). These Oxford professors [!!! – K] have captured the essences of our fatherland to perfection. And don’t try to do them down by giving heed to the malicious rumour: namely, that they aren’t intrepid or adventurous or lovers of Spain, but cowards who have taken to their heels, fleeing the temperamental climate and other rigors that afflict their heretic island. Of course, this is not true of Percy Hopewell, who reveals himself as knowledgeable about his adopted country as he is attached to his country of origin.]

via Revista de Libros: “«Ispanistas y hanglófilos»” de Dolores Payás – Revista de Libros: crítica cultural a través del libro.

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