‘Cartas De Inglaterra’ (‘Letters From England), Eça de Queirós
I thought my blogging was done for the year, but for the past few days I have been reading one of the greats of Portuguese literature, (or so they tell me, and who am I to judge: I’d only heard of one Portuguese author before I got here, and I thought he may have been Chilean or something!), and wanted to share him with you.
Since I am:
b) living in Portugal;
c) enjoy travelling, and;
d) like a good laugh, I can’r resist sharing with you an extract from the excellent late-19th century author Eça de Queirós‘s views on the British, (although, bear in mind, this may have been influenced by the fact that he was stationed a lot of the time in Newcastle, apparently). They could just as easily be written today as 125 years ago, and I found myself walking the gorgeous, hilly, be-cobbled streets of Lisboa laughing out loud at some of the descriptions.
I merely reproduce, word for word, part of his views on Brits abroad, taken from the second chapter of this compilation of letters, translating freely with my limited four-week old Portuguese for those who don’t parlez this beautiful (if slightly slurred) lingo.
Enjoy, and Happy 2014!
“Temos ainda a Travelling-Seaon, a estação das viagens, quando o famoso touriste inglês faz a sua aparição no continente. Nesta época, (Setembro e Outubro), todo o inglês que se respeita, (ou que, não podendo em sua consciência respeitar-se, pretende ao menos que o seu vizinho o respeite), prepara umas dez ou doze maletas e parte para os países do sol, do vinho e da alegria…”
“Then you have the ‘Travelling Season’, when the famous English ‘tourist’ makes his appearance on the continent. At this time, (September and October), every Englishman who respects himself, (or, if his conscience doesn’t allow him to respect himself, wishes at least for his neighbour to respect him), packs some ten or twelve suitcases and departs for the lands of sun, wine and happiness…”
“A verdade é que o inglês não se diverte no continente: não compreende as línguas; estranha as comidas; tudo o que é estrangeiro, maneiras, toilettes, modos de pensar, o choca; desconfia que o querem roubar; tem a vaga crença de que os lençóis nas camas do hotel nunca são limpos; o ver os teatros abertos ao domingo e a multidão divertindo-se amargura a sua alma cristã e puritana; não ousa abrir um livro estrangeiro, porque suspeita que há dentro coisas obscenas; se o seu Guia lhe afirma que na catedral de tal há seis colunas e se ele encontra só cinco, fica infeliz toda uma semana e furioso com o país que percorre, como um homem a quem roubaram uma coluna; e se perde uma bengala, se não chega a horas ao comboio, fecha-se no hotel um dia enteiro a compor uma carta para o Times…”
“The truth is that the Englishman doesn’t enjoy himself abroad: he doesn’t understand the language; he misses English food; everything which is strange to him, from their manners, to their ‘toilette’, to their ways of thinking, shocks him; he is sure they are trying to rob him; he has the vague impression that the hotel sheets are never clean; seeing theatres open on Sundays, and the crowds enjoying themselves, offends his Christian and Puritanical soul; he doesn’t dare to open a foreign book, as he suspects that it contains obscenities; if his Guidebook tells him that in so-and-so cathedral there are six columns, and he only finds five, he is miserable the rest of the week, angfurious with the country in which he is travelling, like a man from whom someone has stolen a column; and if he loses a walking stick, or if he doesn’t make it to the train on time, he locks himself in his hotel for an entire day composing a letter to the Times…”