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Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Monday, July 20, 2015

From books to fiestas

I read something, in an electronic newspaper, yesterday that said that our President, Mariano Rajoy, isn't a big reader. It went on to say that the only complete newspaper he has left on his desk, alongside the daily news roundup written by his staff, is a sports newspaper called Marca. I'm not sure whether it's true or not but he doesn't strike me as any sort of intellectual or even a deep thinker so it may well be true.

It would certainly be in line with the last survey of the Sociological Investigation Centre - Centro de investigaciones sociológicas - which reports that 34% of Spaniards have not read a book in the last twelve months, that 10% read only one book in the last year and that just 7% read more than a book a month. Maybe this explains why many children are unsure of the name of the capital city of Spain.

Talking of books my pal Carlos, writing under the pen name of Carlos Dosel, has just self published a book on Amazon - police story with a Nazi war criminal slaughtering Jews saved from Hungary by a Spanish diplomat. And, as that's a plug for Carlos, I should mention Miguel who writes a blog about The Six Kingdoms and has had a print book published La llamada de los Nurkan. So, even if Spaniards don't read much I happen to have bumped into at least two who write.

There certainly wouldn't have been much reading going on in the village this weekend. It was the weekend of our local fiesta dedicated to Saint James with Saint Joseph tagging along. There is a religious element to the fiesta because the local priest leads a mass from the village chapel before the Saints, in effigy, are paraded around the streets of the village. Jaime is carried by the men and José by the women.  Otherwise it's all very non religious but very community. Someone I see regularly at the Wednesday morning session at Eduardo's commented on the number of people who were only ever seen in the village at fiesta time.

We had the meal on Friday evening. Catered event with metal cutlery, crockery and waiters followed by a duo with an electronic keyboard and songs from the seventies and eighties. I hear they, unlike us, went on till five in the morning. The next morning there was an organised water pistol fight and a session with drinking chocolate and toña (a sort of sweetened breadcake). A bit later, at lunchtime, there was a gacahamiga competition. Gachamiga is a food made from nothing - garlic, flour, water, oil and salt cooked into a sort of thick pancake. The procession was that evening followed by some buffet food and wine. Into Sunday the village was heaving with people taking part in the 5km or so walking and running race. There were over three hundred participants the event being rounded off with food of course. Into the afternoon there was some sort of children's entertainer - you know the sort of thing, bouncy castle and organiser with a floppy hat, baggy trousers and balloon sausage dogs. There was a bit of five a side footie going on at the same time. We got called over because there was a surprise and unscheduled vermouth session and I suppose they knew we would be attracted by the offer of alcohol. We were.

We'd left the village to go and have a very unsatisfactory meal in Aspe where we'd met one of Maggie's pals from Qatar. The after effects of that meal meant that we didn't go to the cena de sobaquillo and, in a way, that was there because we'd suggested it. What we actually suggested was a bring food to share meal but one of the neighbours shouted that down. She said that we foreigners always turned up with an inconsequential and inedible cake whilst the locals took proper food. A cena de sobaquillo is a sort of communal picnic. We'd stocked up with stuff to take but, in the end, we stayed home.

Good fiesta this time though. I tend to be a bit surly and uncommunicative when faced with people. I can hide either behind the camera or the alcohol but Maggie seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment. Her teaching sessions, and simply being here all the time, means that she knows far more people and she is neither surly nor uncommunicative. She was running from person to person chatting away so I ended up talking to people almost by default.


M said...

I also thought I could live in the middle of nowhere in Spain and meet interesting people who read books and write and think about the meaning of life and prepare kind comunity meals for friends, but that only happens in Cicely, Alaska.
I am spanish. We are neighbours, sort of.
Have you ever wondered why spanish people don't read? Have you try reading contemporary spanish literature? Pompous and pretentious, most of the time. And have you seen the price of the books? We don't have your wonderful charity shops, 3 books for one euro. Normally, we have to pay 20 euros for a translation (not always good) paperback or for a spanish book that is just rubbish. I think Spanish people would read if they had something proper to read. That's my humble opinion. But maybe I am wrong.
What wonders me is what are you doing in Culebrón? Of all the places in this world (many of them full of people who read) why did you ended here?
By the way, when the place Culebrón was created, the soap operas didn't exist.

Chris Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Thompson said...

Culebrón is hardly the middle of nowhere in relation to somewhere like Molina de Aragon in Guadalajara, huge swathes of Aragon or Castilla y León - after all the coastal area around Elche/Alicante is one of the most built up in Spain and Murcia city is something like the seventh biggest town in Spain. I take your point though, we are not exactly hemmed in here. It was no Thoreau looking for Walden. We chose Culebrón because it was within striking distance of a workplace and affordable.

And, yes, I would guessed that Culebrón, the place, predated soaps even if the term were applied to radio soaps.

As to the literature well yes I have read quite a lot of Spanish authors. Some are good, some are bad, some are indifferent - par for the course really. You do, though, have quite a pool of mother tongue language writers - Colombians, Mexicans, Argentinians and so on not to mention a good part of the population of the United States.

Price wise the cost of digital books is hardly excessive and anyway, given the Spanish penchant for stealing digital content, lots of books are available for free - there is even quite a lot of free legitimate stuff. Besides there are plenty of places to buy secondhand Spanish books too - this area is littered with car boot sales and if you cry that they are another British import then I've also bought lots of second hand stuff at book fairs.

I read Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Hugo and Allende in English translation when I was younger and the quality of the translation was never a problem for me. Are Spanish tranlators so much worse?

So I don't think it is the quality, the price or the variety that stops Spaniards reading books.