sábado, 13 de noviembre de 2010

La vida del Buscón, libro segundo y libro tercero y último

La vida del Buscón (Crítica, sin fecha)
por Francisco de Quevedo
España, 1626

Aunque tuve algunos problemas entiendo Quevedo en castellano (la mezcla de sus juegos de palabras con la germanía de sus personajes, aunque divertida, fue realmente difícil a veces) y después descubrí que la traducción de la obra en inglés era de poca confianza, tengo que subrayar que vale la pena de leer al Buscón en cualquier lenguaje.  Es escandolasamente chistoso.  Al pensar en esto, me gustaría concluir este mini ciclo sobre el clásico con una mirada dirgida a unos ejemplos de su humor provocador.  En libro II, capítulo 3, por ejemplo, el buscón Pablos casi blasfema al contar la historia de cómo, contra todas las expectativas, un ermitaño estafa a él y a un soldado en un juego de naipes: "Nuestras cartas eran como el Mesías, que nunca venían y las aguardábamos siempre" (83).  En libro III, capítulo 3, el aire sacrílego con la descripción de un impostor que se gana la viva por pretender ser un penitente en busca de limosna.  "No levantaba los ojos a las mujeres," escribe Pablos, "pero las faldas sí" (123).  En otra parte, Pablos amenaza la frontera entre el buen gusto y el mal gusto al opinar que la "conciencia en mercader es como virgo en cantonera, que se vende sin haberle" (85) y al decir que sabe que su madre, una presa de la Inquisición en Toledo, "hará humo" a la hoguera (95).  Aunque Quevedo ha sido criticado por los eruditos modernos a causa de los elementos antisemíticos y misoginistas en esta novela, yo pienso que es importante recordar que nadie escapa sin daño en esta vida de un criminal impenitente del siglo decimoséptimo listo para viajar al Nuevo Mundo.  Sumamente chistoso.
Even though I had some problems understanding La vida del Buscón in Spanish (the combination of Quevedo's frequent puns and the characters' criminal slang, while amusing, was truly difficult at times) and then felt swindled by Michael Alpert's unreliable English translation of the work, I'd like to second Amateur Reader in acknowledging that the experience of reading the Buscón [The Swindler] in any language is well worth the effort.  It's just scandalously funny.  With that in mind, I'd like to wrap up this little miniseries on the Spanish classic with a look at some examples of its edgy humor.  In Book II, Chapter 3, for example, the swindler Pablos comes awfully close to committing blasphemy in telling  the story of how, against all expectations, a hermit cheats him and a soldier out of all their money in a game of cards: "Our cards were like the Messiah--since they never turned up, and we were always waiting for them" (83).*  In Book III, Chapter 3, the sacrilegious tone continues with the description of an impostor who earns a living by pretending to be a penitent in search of alms: "He wouldn't raise his eyes to look at women", Pablos writes, "but their skirts were another matter" (123).**  Elsewhere, Pablos flirts with the boundaries of good taste by describing how a "good conscience in a merchant is like virginity in a streetwalker since it's peddled without being possessed" (85) and follows it up with a remark about how he's sure that his mother--imprisoned by the Inquisition in Toledo--will "make sparks fly" at the stake (95)!***  Although Quevedo has been criticized by some modern scholars for the anti-Semitic and misogynistic elements in this novel, I think it's important to remember that nobody gets off unscathed in Pablos' crude vita of an unrepentant 17th century criminal ready to ship off for the New World.  Hilarious.


*My more or less literal translation of the line, "Nuestras cartas eran como el Mesías, que nunca venían y las aguardábamos siempre" (83). This definitely anti-Jewish and possibly anti-Christian dig doesn't appear in Michael Alpert's English translation of the work.
**My loose translation of the line, "No levantaba los ojos a las mujeres, pero las faldas sí" (123).  Alpert translates this as follows on page 169 of The Swindler: "When it came to women he didn't raise his eyes, but that didn't apply to their skirts."
***My translations of the following: "Conciencia en mercader es como virgo en cantonera, que se vende sin haberle" (85) and "hará humo" (95).  Although the latter remark actually expresses the notion that Pablos' mother "will make or create smoke" at the implied stake, I've followed Alpert's lead on page 147 of his translation ["she will make sparks fly"] to bring you a more vigorous rendering of Quevedo's Castilian in English.

Más sobre el Buscón

Otras opiniones

6 comentarios:

  1. After reading this entry, I think I'm going to have to add La vida del Buscón to my list. (I may have snorted at one of those jokes, how impolite!) I think I'll probably stick to the English translation here, however, as, from your description the Spanish is beyond my level.

  2. Hola, Richard!
    A mí me gusta mucho la picarezca española. De ahí directo en la modernidad están Hasek y Naipaul, dos genios también.
    Te mando un abrazo!

  3. The fun shouldn't stop here. I was impressed by Quevedo's lyric poems, as featured in Edith Grossman's The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance. And his Los Sueños is amazing - the dreams are of hell, death, and the like. There's a loose 17th century translation by Roger L'estrange that is a classic of English prose. No idea how it mangles the poor Spanish, but it's sure good in English.

  4. Although the translation issues worry my in theory, unfortunately I'm unlikely to notice them in actuality... I like the idea of "scandalously funny" very much though, so I'm guessing I'll read this one someday.

  5. *Amanda: I was a little depressed at first over my struggles with the work in Spanish, but I've since seen multiple academics refer to it as a "difficult" work in terms of its language. Go figure! The English version can be polished off in a breeze, though, and should provide lots of snort-worthy humor for your reading delectation!

    *Ever: ¡Hola! No he leído Hasek o Naipaul, pero me interesa ese vínculo con la novela pícaresca. ¡Saludos!

    *Amateur Reader: I've read very little of Quevedo's poetry and nothing of it recently, so maybe I should check out one of those two works you mention. Very encouraging news! Am seriously tempted to give Pablo Jauralde's 800-900 page Quevedo biography a whirl next year, but I'll prob. come to my senses before then. Cheers!

    *Sarah: Reckless, untrustworthy translation issues aside, you should find lots to laugh about here. For a good time, though, it's definitely worth reading at some point!

  6. I'm also going to add that to my list, though I think I will skip reading it in Spanish. It sounds quite difficult and I don't think I'm up to the challenge. I'm looking forward to the humor.