Thursday, January 15, 2009

Finally finishing? And then what?

I can't explain to you how very much I have put off finishing a book in Spanish lent to me by my friend in Madrid. I could drone on and on about all of the things I've had to do that get in the way, but what it really comes down to is this: I'm scared. I'm scared of the work it takes to understand what I'm reading. I'm intimidated by the fact that--although I've studied Spanish formally for 5 years and informally for 4 more, and I've spent a grand total of four and a half months of my life linguistically immersed in Spanish speaking countries--there is still an enormously great deal that I don't know. It's scary, a little depressing, slightly daunting, and maybe embarrassing even.

I watched the film The Motorcycle Diaries last night (Diarios de motocicleta), and although I lamented the fact that there was not a way to (1) turn off the subtitles or (2) change them from English to Spanish (yes, sometimes Spanish movies have Spanish subtitles for the hearing-impaired), it was probably all for the best since I never can understand movies in Spanish anyways. Telenovelas (Spanish soap operas), yes. News broadcasts, yes. Bad game shows and talk shows, mostly yes. But never movies. I can only hear what I know I should be hearing. I may give an example of this later, but anyway, this is a tangent on the frustration I feel in the reading of this book, and akin to needing training wheels to ride a bicycle, but only on really bumpy driveways. My eyes serve as a fail-safe for my ears. Does this make any sense?

And back to the book: It is called Los funerales de la Mamá Grande and is escrito por Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose house I saw this summer in Cartagena, Colombia. I will now explain how 9 years of studying Spanish can make for such a lousy understanding of quality literature. Sentences like this. Words unfamiliar to me are in bold:

En el profundo corredor central, con garfios en las paredes donde en otro tiempo se colgaron cerdos desollados y se desangraban venados en los soñolientos domingos de agosto, los peones dormían amontonados sobre sacos de sal y útiles de labranza, esperando la orden de ensillar las bestias para divulgar la mala noticia en el ámbito de la hacienda desmedida.

Rather than try to wow you with my extraordinary reading skills, I will honestly tell you what this paragraph looks like to me upon a first once-over, without looking up any of the words. The words in parentheses are my best educated guesses:

In the deep/long central corridor, with plural noun in the walls where in another time they hung adjective pigs and verb (bled?) plural noun in the adjective Sundays of August, the plural noun (peonies?) slept verb (amassed?) on sacks of salt and tools of noun, waiting the order to verb (something about sitting?) the plural noun in order to verb (divulge?) the bad news in the noun of location of the adjective ranch.

So, you can see how this might hinder a good understanding of the general story.

Really, this is what it says once I spend ten minutes looking up the unknown words (yes, ten minutes, one paragraph.):

In the deep/long central corridor, with hooks in the walls where in another time they hung skinned pigs and bled deer in the drowsy Sundays of August, the farm workers slept piled up together on sacks of salt and farming tools, waiting the order to saddle-up the beasts/animals in order to divulge the bad news in the sphere/scope/range of the excessive/disproportionate ranch.

Now you understand where I'm coming from and why it has taken nearly two years to finish this book. It's scary, ¿a que sí? Wouldn't you agree?

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