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Reading Galdos

It troubles me that I once knew a little Spanish. Even read a little Benito Perez Galdos, a very prolific writer whom some rate as No. 2 behind Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra. I say read a little Galdos because he wrote quite a lot, a whole lot more than I could ever accomplish.

My favorite work of Galdos is El Abuelo, a stage play. El Abuelo is about a grandfather who discovers that one of his two granddaughters was adopted. But which? He loves them dearly, but they are different in their treatment of him, one very loving and kind, the other distant and remote. Which one was the adopted granddaughter?

While I remember that work of Galdos very clearly, I have only a very sketchy memory of his novel, Misericordia. In my memory, it’s about a bunch of hard scrabble (I wonder how that would translate back to Spanish) individuals who live at the city dump. Somehow one of them receives a little money, and what do they spend it on? The reader would never guess — they traipse off to the photography studio and have their pictures taken.

I’ve just started reading. They are at a church in the barrio San Sebastian in Madrid, a building so extensive it has several entrances. Of course, instead of trying to guess what the Spanish words mean I could use a dictionary — there are plenty on the internet — but I fear that Galdos has used a lot of slanguage which will not appear in a dictionary. I’ve requested an English translation by interlibrary loan, but it probably will not arrive for several days, if at all.

I read this book after I’ve tucked myself in for the night. Three nights after it arrived in my mailbox I’ve gotten to page ten. It may be a long time before I figure out why the money was spent on photographs instead of basic necessities.


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I have been connected with journalism, one way or another, most of my adult life, beginning with a newspaper no longer in existence, the Upland (CA) News. Deliriously happy to be a Kansan.

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