Sobre Days of Hope

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Reading Malraux for me has been a very different experience than that of reading Sender and Cela for a number of reasons, most of which are obvious, but nevertheless worth mentioning in my opinion. The first and most obvious reason why my reading of this text has been different from the previous two texts is that it is in English. Even though English is my native language, over the past six years I’ve grown accustomed to reading almost exclusively Spanish literature, and every once in a while I find that switching back to literature in my native language can be tricky, for whatever reason.

The second reason why my reading of the Malraux has been different than that of the Sender and Cela is that it is not just a work in translation (from French to English), but I’m very aware of the fact that it is so. Having just taken a course in translation studies theory, I approached this text with a different perspective than I might have otherwise, had I not taken that course. Even though I cannot speak or read French (and therefore cannot compare this English translation to the French original), the Malraux to me reads like a translation. It’s not all that evident at first glance, but there were several times during my reading that I felt the English rendition was awkward (again, even though I can’t compare it to the French original). What’s more, not only is the Malraux a translation from French to English, but that very English is the English of the late 30s (the translation in English was published the same year as the original was published in French, in 1938), which of course is going to read differently from the contemporary English we use today. Either way, despite it being in English, I do get a sense of foreignness from this novel, but a foreignness different from that which I experience reading a Spanish text. Not only is the English foreign to me, but it feels “foreign” or perhaps odd reading about happenings in “Civil War”-Spain in English, especially after having just read Sender and Cela.

Despite these (and other) differences I’ve noticed between my reading of those two and Malraux’s text, there are also several things I felt these “Civil War” accounts had in common. Perhaps the most pointed recurring theme is the sense of ambiguity and ambivalence that we’ve been able to tease out of the various characters’ experiences of the events. In the Sender, we saw how the cura’s very faith was challenged in the face of Paco’s life being at stake. In the Cela, we saw throughout the confusing narrative how characters were ambivalent towards the idea of fate. And in the Malraux, as Jon further elaborates in his interesting reflection on the first part, we are confronted with the idea of hope and its inherent ambivalence, how hope in and of itself both “resists and recognizes doubt.”

These and similar musings of mine reminded me of our discussion from last class, about whether these authors we’re reading present us with a choice or not as to the right or wrong, the blame, the justification, of the war. It’s interesting to me, then, that despite the fact that all three texts acknowledge the ambiguous nature of the war and the ambivalence of those affected by it, each text ultimately presents a distinct reading or “take-away” of the events they portray therein. I think there was a general consensus about the Sender leaving no room for interpretation, with Cela doing the exact opposite and leaving the question of the blame for the war (among other matters) open to interpretation. I’m interested to see what people think about the Malraux once we’ve finished it for this Thursday.