Monday, February 19, 2007


How To Start the Day

Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 231:
M. de Lassay, a very gentle man but with a great knowledge of society, said that one must swallow a toad every morning, when one had to go out into the world, so as not to find anything more disgusting during the day.

M. de Lassay, homme très doux, mais qui avait une grande connaissance de la société, disait qu'il faudrait avaler un crapaud tous les matins, pour ne trouver plus rien de dégoûtant le reste de la journée, quand on devait la passer dans le monde.
Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Notas, 210 (tr. Michael Hendry):
The reading of Homer every morning, with the serenity, the tranquillity, the deep sensation of moral and physical well-being which it instills in us, is the best provision to endure the vulgarities of the day.

La lectura matutina de Homero, con la serenidad, el sosiego, la honda sensación de bienestar moral y físico, de salud perfecta, que nos infunde, es el mejor viático para soportar las vulgaridades del díia.
By the way, I've noticed a few more translations of Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994) by Michael Hendry recently at Dr. Weevil. I hope he continues this project. Reading the master aphorist is also a good way to start the day.

A few years ago I tried my hand at translating a few aphorisms from Nicolás Gómez Dávila's Escolios a un Texto Implicito (1977). Unfortunately I didn't transcribe the original Spanish. Here are a few of my translations:
The individual shrinks in proportion as the state grows. (I, 21)

Confused ideas and muddy ponds appear deep. (I, 40)

All literature is contemporary to the reader who knows how to read. (I, 57)

Violence is not necessary to destroy a civilization. Each civilization dies from indifference toward the unique values which created it. (I, 70)

Civilization is a poorly fortified encampment in the midst of rebellious tribes. (I, 268)

I distrust every idea that doesn't seem obsolete and grotesque to my contemporaries. (I, 353)

The cultured man has the obligation to be intolerant. (II, 58)

He who speaks of his "generation" admits that he's part of a herd. (II, 81)

For the myth of a past golden age, present day humanity substitutes the myth of a future plastic age. (II, 88)

The imagination is the only place in the universe where it is possible to live. (II, 132)

A cultivated soul is one where the din of the living does not drown out the music of the dead. (II, 195)

The modern world seems invincible. Like the extinct dinosaurs. (II, 226)

To be unaware of the putrefaction of the modern world is a symptom of contagion by it. (II, 451)

There is an illiteracy of the soul that no diploma cures. (II, 469)

The genuine reader is the one who reads for pleasure the books that others only study. (II, 486)

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