Revulsed by Pérez-Reverte, updated
Last Friday evening I posted in Spanish about Pérez-Reverte, but didn’t translate the particulars, which upset Kathleen. Kathleen doesn’t do well with foreign languages, which is understandable, since I know I wouldn’t do well with foreign languages if it hadn’t been that Spanish was my first language and I was hearing English daily from the day I was born. (I didn’t do well in Italian, but that’s for another post. I read French and understand most spoken French, but demure at trying to speak it, too.) At least Kathleen likes me, for which I’m thankful.
In any case, aside from laziness, the reason I didn’t translate the item on Pérez-Reverte was because I was completely irate over his bigotry. Irate enough to post about it but not patient enough to translate this article correctly.
For those of you who don’t share my addiction to thrillers, Arturo Pérez-Reverte‘s a Spanish writer who’s written dozens of brilliant, hugely popular action/adventure novels, almost all of which have been translated into English, and some have been made into films, plus a young-readers’ series on Captain Alatriste that had me addicted from the first installment, which he wrote with his then teen-aged daughter. Being a serial reader, I’ve spent $100+ lining Pérez-Reverte’s pockets, since the local public library doesn’t share my enthusiasm. Imagine my dismay when I read the above article, Reyes Magos y Magas: La verdad es que este año sus majestades de Oriente lo tienen crudo (Magi Kings and Queens: This year their majesties have their work cut out for them), and found out APR’s a bigot.
The article was published in El Semanal, the weekly mag of major newspaper ABC. (ABC used to be a mouthpiece of right-wing news back in the days of facist dictator Franco). The article’s a satire on modern “trends” like equal opportunity quotas, multiculturalism, the impulse to democratize the royals, non-violent toys, and liability lawsuits. The article’s written in the form of a letter to his nephew Juanchito. AP-R’s intent is to be funny comparing how the Three Kings (not the George Clooney movie, but the Magi) back in the olden days were revered and little kids were able to play with the toys the Magi brought them on January 6, but now the Magi have to go through a lot of hassle. One could say AP-R’s was straining to come up with two pages of humor, but who am I to complain. What is offensive is this:
Pero figúrate, esta temporada. Para llegar a España los reyes deben pasar por Oriente, como siempre. Y eso está un pelín jodido. Tienen que cruzar el Tigris y el Eúfrates sin que los marines norteamericanos los liberen de sí mismos, como al resto de Iraq, dándoles matarile cuando pasen cerca. Pero es que, si los reyes magos sobreviven a esos hijos de puta, todavía tendrán que vérselas con otros hijos de puta un poquito más acá, cuando pasen por Israel, en las variedades hijo de puta ultra con trenzas, kipá en el cogote, escopeta y tanque Merkava guardándole las espaldas, o hijo de puta con chaleco de cloratita en la variedad Alá Ajbar y hasta luego Lucas.
(my translation:) But just take a look at this season. In order to arrive in Spain, the Kings must cross the Orient, as always. And that’s all f*ck*d up. They have to cross the Tigris and the Euphrates without having the American Marines liberate them from themselves, as the Marines have done with the rest of Iraq, and spraying them with bullets as they ride by. But then, if the Magi survive those sons of b*tch*s, they’ll still have to deal with other sons of b*tch*s a little nearer to us here; as they [the Magi] cross Israel they’ll deal with the sons of b*tch*s with side curls, and yarmulkes on their noggins, and rifles and Markava tanks protecting their backs; or the son of a b*tch who’s wearing a munitions vest of the Allah Akbar variety, and so long suckers.
(side note: Spaniards are very loose with their swear words. Latin Americans, who are more restrained, are always amazed to find that out the first time they travel to “the Old Country”.)
Where do I start to describe why I find the above paragraph offensive? Do I start with the cultural note on the Iraqis being “saved from themselves”, as if murderous dictators were exclusive to that country? Do I look at the murderous Marines statement? Do I wonder about any depths to that anti-Americanism? How about that anti-Semitic, Judeophobic cliché, lifted right off the worst propaganda? In the interest of fairness, do I bother wonder what the average Palestinian would think of that portrayal? Do I show annoyance at the gratuitous mocking of a religious holiday? Or do I ponder the moral equivalency of it all?
José Cohen, of Desde Sefarad, blogged about it: (my translation)
I accept that in APR’s point of view one must criticize the Jewish state. The European intelligentsia can’t do much else. I also accept that it must be done in the worst terms, that is, through the insults, innuendo, and hateful comparisons all of us who follow the subject are already familiar with. One gets used to it, what are you going to do. What I don’t want to get used to is seeing how the hatred towards the Jews shows itself in such an explicit, filthily intolerant way.
By calling the wearers of the side curls and yarmulkes sons of b*tch*s, APR calls every Jew a son of a b*tch; even if he himself has worn a yarmulke once in his life. He insults Jewish values and millennia-old traditions. Just because. Because the Jews are to blame, and that’s that. That’s one way to win a debate. The accusations are kept under a safety blanket; They are so absolutely false that (APR) prefers to resort to what always brings a big applause and smiling faces: the easy insult. After all, insulting Jews is not “bad form”; in fact, “judío” (Jew) is, as of itself, an insult. So, since we’re insulting, let’s do it in the politically correct way, like the Nazis. Since so much hate had been fermented beforehand, since so many absurd arguments had been planted by force in the minds of the people before, the Nazi pamphlets already had the work done ahead for them. Now it was their [the Nazi’s] turn: insult, insult, insult. But not just any insult. Because they were talking about Jews, [the Nazis] had to insult their customs and traditions, their history, and one does that by mentioning that odd little hat they wear, or those characteristic curls. But look, APR’s sin is greater. Unlike the Nazis, he’s got a nice genocidal country to which he can direct his hate. Not a petty guy, he can rely on 5,000 years of anti-Semitism.
Linking the State of Israel and Jewish orthodoxy is, at the very least, a brainless exercise in falsehood more worthy of Arab and Nazi propaganda than of presumably democratic intellectuals. However, the anti-Semites continue to devilize the Jewish state. Even when a curl-and-yarmulke-wearing Orthodox might oppose wearing military garb. Even when demonstrating the most exemplary separation of church and state, Israel will continue being the Jew among nations. And I don’t think that’s all bad, after all, Israel is a Jewish name. What repulses me is that Israel is insulted and branded in such a way. That Israel is debased and humiliated. That Israel, definitively, inherits all the Judeophobia.
Mr. Cohen attracted more than his share of moral-equivalent trolls and ignoramuses, among them one who says that Cohen’s post might convince “the yanki population” (I guess the troll would count me among them) “whose knowledge of the world comes down to thinking that Spain’s in South America”, but not the worldly Europeans.
In another blog, Pere Bonin points out that, in Jewish tradition, a child is his mother’s, and by calling Jews SOBs, Pérez-Reverte insults not only his own mother, but Catholic tradition itself. He concludes by saying that “The peril of ant-Semitism is its stupidity, because stupidity doesn’t reason or discuss, it only generates verbal or physical violence”. That post brought out even more vile stuff from underneath the proverbial rock. I was amazed at their virulence.
Anti-Semitism’s alive and well, and living, in Europe.
That said, I find the outrage being expressed in Britain and Europe quite sickening in its hypocrisy. Anti-Jewish prejudice is rampant; newspaper columnists, MPs and TV presenters chatter about the global Jewish conspiracy; the Jewish state is defamed daily and Israelis compared to Nazis; anti-Israel boycotts are organised by academics; a lionised literary critic calls for Israeli settlers to be shot and writes about the ‘Zionist SS’; and yet all this passes virtually without comment, indeed is even endorsed by a large section of the population, but when silly, spoilt Prince Harry puts on a swastika armband as a joke suddenly everybody starts screaming about Auschwitz and ignoring the suffering of the Jews and gross disrespect to the war dead and so forth.
Which all goes to underline the point that people are very keen to stand up for the Jews as long as they are safely dead and a tragic chapter in history over which to wax indignant. It’s the live Jews they can’t stand.