08 septiembre 2014


First published 4 September 2014 @ Listen, Learn, Read

Speaking of coincidences: the other day Tamara  mentioned the concept of wabi-sabi which, in its turn, had appeared in somebody else’s blog. “Do you know what wabi-sabi is?” — “Yes. As it happens, I am in the middle of a book entitled Wabi-Sabi”.

Incidentally, Wabi-Sabi was the first book that I had borrowed from the library of Las Palmas. I did not know anything about its author, Francesc Miralles, nor its topic, but I loved the sub-title: “Una novela sobre la belleza de lo imperfecto y lo efímero”. Also, it was the first novel which I had read in Spanish from beginning to the end without any on-line help. This is, without doubt, thanks to the author’s easy style of writing. (The fact it is short and written in short chapters helped as well.)

The adventures start when Samuel, the university professor of German in his mid-forties, receives a postcard from Japan with a picture of a lucky cat, maneki-neko, and a strange message:

I’m afraid I can’t tell you what happens next. Unlike its prequel, amor en minúscula (Love in Small Letters), Wabi-Sabi is not published yet in English. You better believe me that it’s good. Not perfect though: perfection would be very un-wabi-sabi. (Miralles’s liberal use of imperfect, I’m afraid, will be completely lost in English translation.) It has solitude, love and the end of love, songs in English, Japanese and the language of Atlantis (!), gentle humour and even some sort of happy end — again, as long as its imperfection, transience and incompleteness are accepted.

Here’s my favourite part. Samuel walks in a tiny bar in Kioto. The only other customer, an elderly gentleman contemplating an almost empty bottle of sake, all of a sudden bursts out singing.

La camarera subió el volumen para que el hombre pudiera cantar a placer sobre unos acordes sincopados que recordaban a la música popular rusa. La melodía vocal era muy repetitiva y kitsch, más aún viniendo de aquel ejecutivo que parecía haber huido de una pelea de gatos.

dokonoko no kinoko kono kinoko dokono
dokonoko no kinoko morino kinoko
morino kinoko wa rappa ni natte
onpu kumo made tondetta

puppuru pappa~ purupappa~
puppuru pappa~ purupappa~
sora niwa naisho no hanashi dayo
Algunas notas eran demasiado altas para aquel extraño personaje, que desafinaba sin vergüenza alguna. Con los brazos cruzados sobre un kimono de mangas anchas, la dueña parecía complacida ante aquel show para dos espectadores, contándola a ella.

Horrorizado, tomé conciencia de que sin quererlo había entrado en un karaoke solitario.

Tras un final ridículamente apoteósico a ritmo de polka, el hombre de los cabellos grises volvió a sentarse dignamente en su taburete.

A complete Spanish translation of the song can be found at the author’s Facebook page.

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