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Gerald Erichsen

Popular Novel Opens With Poetic Language

By February 25, 2013

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Partly because bestselling author is a finalist for the Readers' Choice Award for favorite entertainer, I chose the opening paragraph of his well-known novel La sombra del viento as the translation exercise in the newest installment in the Real Spanish Grammar series. The lesson, focusing on use of the imperfect tense, turned out to be a more challenging selection than most because of its poetic language. As usual, you're invited to take a peek at the top of the lesson and see what translation you can come up with before proceeding further.


February 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm
(1) Margaret Nahmias says:

Never understood the phrase desgranar el dia.

February 26, 2013 at 2:37 pm
(2) Spanish Guide says:

Margaret — To be perfectly honest, I won’t claim to be 100 percent certain I have it right.

February 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm
(3) sfree says:

I still remember that dawn
when my father took me for the first time
to visit the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books
(Cementerio de los Libros Olvidados).

Summer 1945 was then beginning to dehisce her early days
and we were trapped in the streets of Barcelona
walking under ashen skies and a steamy sun
spilling [ through like] a garland of liquid copper
over the Boulevard [Avenue] of Santa Monica.
(Rambla de Santa Monica)

It appears that I did a paraphrase and am afraid that I may have taken too much liberty.

Note: Words in square brackets are alternates.
Those bound by parentheses are my notes to clarity because I’d like to
preserve the original names.

Rememoró aún aquel amanecer
Que por primera vez mi padre
Me llevo a visitar El Cementerio
De Libros Olvidados.

Desgranaban los dias primeros
del verano del año mil nueve cientos cuarenta y cinco [1945];
Y por las calles de Barcelona caminábamos
atrapado bajo los cielos pálidos
y sobre la Rambla de Santa Mónica, un sol vaparoso
derramando una guirnalda de cobre líquido.

Thanks again.

A Student

February 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm
(4) sfree says:

Mr Erichsen,

I like in particular the imagery from “unfolding” and “wispy”.
To me, the unfolding of the early days of summer conjures an image of a scroll where the scene slowly presents itself (unroll) or of something folded so that the hidden picture is gradually revealed as each fold is lifted. The same is said as each pages of a book is turned.

Wispy, as used in this context , gives me an imagery of threads of sunshine (or of shafts of sunlight) streaming through the cloud cover.

As to desgranar, my thoughts turn to a plant shedding its seeds from their pods. Summer, I think, is likened to a fruiting plant whose seed pod(s) are dispersing its contents, the shell having been broken off. In fact, I believe, in Argentina, one meaning of this word is exactly this. Another interpretation of mine is that summer is a seed pod dispersing its seeds … This is the reason I used dehisce in my “translation”; or is it paraphrase?

As always, I welcome comments on my translation. I know something is definitely wrong but have not been able and willing to wrap my arms around it.


– A Student

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