Currently reading: Platero y yo by Juan Ramón Jiménez

Platero y yo

I bought Platero y yo on a whim after picking it up whilst browsing the Spanish literature section in a bookshop in Costa Rica – this thin paperback with its unassuming book cover.

Perhaps my impulsive purchase did have something to do with the fact that I had previously been told by our librarian that this slim volume of lyric prose would be too challenging, too difficult a read, especially in Spanish. I was resentful. And pretty damn arrogant I’ll admit, because it is too difficult.

La noche cae, brumosa ya y morada. Vagas claridades malvas y verdes perduran tras la torre de la iglesia. El camino sube, lleno de sombras, de campanillas, de fragancia, de yerba, de canciones, de cansancio y de anhelo. De pronto, un hombre oscuro, con una gorra y un pincho, roja un instante la cara fea por la luz del cigarro, baja a nosotros de una casucha miserable, perdida entre sacas de carbón. Platero se amedrenta.

Extract from Chapter IV

Yet, at the same time, it’s gorgeous and lyrical and surreal. Each chapter almost reads like a separate poem. You drift from one little snapshot in their life to the next and the loose, vivid, fragmented images make it all the more intense . The rhythm of the lines is hypnotic, heightening contrast where it exists, producing subtle, lingering moments when the pace slows.  

I’m making imperceptible progress. Sometimes I find myself reading simply for the sound, forgetting to process the words themselves. I get so caught up in the idea of the Spanish that I lose my understanding of the language. Or maybe the understanding was never there to begin with.

But the dictionary’s out, and once I’ve started something, I don’t like to stop. Besides, this must be doing wonders for my vocabulary. I’ve never read lyric prose before and I think I’m on my way to enjoying it, if not a little overwhelmed.


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