Saturday, April 29, 2017
If I've mentioned Azorín a couple of times I have mentioned my terror at speaking Spanish hundreds of times. Terror is definitely the right word. In fact my Spanish nowadays isn't too bad and, under certain circumstances, I talk without too much effort or I laugh off my mistakes. One of the worst situations though is when I participate in something that isn't really designed for someone with defficient Spanish. Go and stand in the crowd to watch a procession and nobody is surprised that there is a foreigner there taking snaps. Go to a concert and it's the same. But, if you go to a poetry reading or a political rally then, obviously, if you're there you must be able to speak Spanish; if not why are you there and not curled up safe on your sofa watching the BBC?
It's worse if Maggie isn't there for two reasons. The first is that if we are spoken to she is much, much braver than me and she does the speaking. All I have to do is make gutteral interjections or laugh at the appropriate time. The second is that it means I'm alone with nobody to talk to about what's happening or why.
So I turn up at the appointed time for the public reading of Las confesiones de un pequeño filósofo. The reading was going to be in the street outside the Azorín museum but the weather has been miserable for the last two or three days (probably because it's a bank holiday weekend) so the event was moved inside. I was cold sweat anxious in that irrational way that I have when I may be called upon to answer questions in Spanish. It was fine though, all I had to do was say hello and then I was able to skulk against the wall. The organisers had a list of names and just before everything got under way they asked me if I was Chris Thompson. They asked me first, they knew. My tiny joke about me looking English went down well. A few minutes later they asked me if I would like to be the first to read. It wasn't a public reading in the sense of someone with nice intonation and a good knowledge of the novel reading selected passages; it was the public taking turns to read some of the book! At least I understood the question enough to be forceful, definite, resolute and clear in saying no.
The reading was interesting enough. I didn't know the book but, after hearing the early chapters, I thought I might give it a go. Azorín has two modes - in one he gets all philosophical and talks about writers and political theories unknown to me and in the other he writes descriptions. I don't care at all for the philosophical stuff but the descriptions are often splendid.