Review: Rereading Great Expectations

Engraving titled “Pip waits on Miss Havisham” by Marcus Stone.

A month or so ago I reread Great Expectations in the hopes that it would provide me some nice juicy quotes to pair with chapters of the travel memoir I was writing. That ended up kind of working, but in general I just found myself loving the book, as it more than lived up to my fond memories of it. I actually did review the book on this blog awhile ago, in a What I’ve Been Reading post,  but I only spent a few paragraphs on it, and a lot of stuff struck me that I didn’t really notice the first time around, so here goes.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is narrated by Pip, an orphan living in a small town in southeast England, presumably near the Thames Estuary, as he multiple times describes “the marshes” and the sight of “hulks”—prison ships. Actually, the Pip who’s narrating things is an adult, looking back on his life, mainly focusing on his boyhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.

The book is broken into three volumes, and each one is really it’s own little universe, with its own specific goals and style.

The first volume mainly focuses on Pip’s boyhood. Pip is raised by his much older sister, the abrasive, violent Mrs. Gargery, and her husband Joe Gargery, a kind, gentle, infinitely likable blacksmith. Pip is given a taste of wealth and status when Ms. Havisham, an old, reclusive noblewoman, calls him to her house to attend on her, and play with her daughter, Estella. And with that little taste, and with his sudden love for Estella, Pip quickly grows distasteful of his low, common life.

That’s really what the first volume does beautifully—it paints a portrait of the steady development of self-loathing, even of disdain for Joe, in this commoner boy. It shows the growth of his unhealthy desire to be a “gentleman,” to escape the profession of blacksmith. One terrific quote comes as Estella and Pip are playing cards:

“He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!” said Estella with disdain, before our first game was out. “And what coarse hands he has. And what thick boots!”
I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.

Towards the end of the volume though, Pip learns of a mysterious benefactor, who wishes him to go to London, and who has granted him great expectations—expectations meaning, by a now archaic definition, an inheritance. Although the benefactor works through an intermediary, not revealing their identity to Pip, all signs point to it being Ms. Havisham. These expectations only drive Pip further apart from Joe, and the volume ends with Pip setting off for London.Read More »

Last Year Comic Chronicle 04: Skeleton Truth

Okay, so this one is actually from my Junior year, while I was studying abroad in Spain, but I’m posting it because it uses a quote from Great Expectations, which book I’m posting a review of on Friday. So it’s all justified, I figure.


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TEXT: “There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did.”
—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

SKELETON: Ayy ur actually sad lol

Last Year Comic Chronicle 03: Favorite Lines from my Audition Monologue


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FRANCIS: You think I’m the only goddamn lawyer in history ever missed a court date?

FRANCIS: No you wouldn’t like La Cage. Trust me, I know.

FRANCIS: You hold I pay you to hold fuck you Harry you jerk.

FRANCIS: You see La Cage? Fabulous. Best thing on Broadway.

FRANCIS: Baby doll. Get me ahhahahahah, fuck, wait!

AL PACINO: Bad time this is a good time.

TEXT: I actually cut this one from my audition, so here’s Al Pacino doing it.

Last Year Comic Chronicle 02: Back in I.C.


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TEXT: I’m so happy to be back here. Because I was in Spain last Semester, it’s been 9 months since I’ve been in Iowa City, and I just can’t stop grinning.
Our place feels more lived in. Messy, but bustling.
The wifi name has changed, but the password is the same.
And our balcony… has even more plants!

FRANCIS: Oh my god!

TEXT: Some things, inexplicably, have stayed the same.

Last Year Comic Chronicle 01: Introduction

Holy crap I’m really doing this!

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FRANCIS: This is my last year of college, and I regret that I haven’t done much journalling during my college years (aside from my semester abroad.) So in the interest of documenting this era of my life, improving my drawing and comicking skills, and generating some scrumptious  c o n t e n t, I’m going to put out a weekly autobio comic all throughout my senior year!
The comic will run from this week to May 17. It will post at least once each week, sometimes twice, depending on if I’m posting something else that week.
Most comics will be better than this one. Whatever. I’m still getting my bearings here.

Ten Years Writing: In Sum

As of a month or so ago, I’ve been writing seriously for ten years, so I’m taking a moment to reflect with two posts looking back on those years. My purpose with these pieces is to escape my myopic focus on the present, and appreciate how far I’ve come. So my first post was a “cartographic description” of the past decade, trying to capture all that progress in a (relatively) short space. Today’s post will be even more contained, as I try to quantify all the progress I’ve made by adding it all up, looking at it all in sum.

Most of my fiction writing from the past ten years. Lots of this is multiple drafts, but also a few manuscripts that I don’t have in Tallahassee are missing, so the photo gives an accurate impression overall, I’d say. This was posed, by the way—I don’t just keep a precarious stack of writing in my room at all times.

So let’s look at everything superimposed on everything. Let’s look at the totals that I’ve kept meticulous records of (another sign of progress is that I’ve gotten less obsessive about constantly updating these things, and now only do it when I get around to it.)

In total, in the past ten years, I’ve written 6.5 novel-length works, none of them fully edited, one of them in the process of revision right now.

I’ve written twenty theatrical works: two full-length plays, eleven one acts, and seven short plays.

I’ve written thirty-nine short prose works: two (or four) novellas, eleven (or nine) novelettes, and twenty-six short stories. (The line between novella and novelette changes depending on who you ask.)

In all, I’ve written around 1,138,940 words of fiction. I’ve also written 144,820 words of blog posts (not counting the translations, or this post), which includes two short collections of essays. And I’ve written 64,790 words of unfinished fiction—that is, works that I didn’t even finish the first draft of, and which I do not think I will ever finish. (For this reason I counted the 0.5 of a novel in the former group, because I still intend to finish it.)

In all, I’ve received 193 rejections—mostly for short fiction, sometimes for plays. I’ve received four acceptances, one from Kzine, one from Playworks, two from fanzines (which I don’t really submit to anymore.) I also have one weird response that I don’t know how to categorize right now. We’ll see what comes of it.

I’m not exactly sure how many productions of my plays there have been. Two? I think? Plus a script-in-hand production and a student-directed one? IDK. A number that could fit on one hand in any case, all for the same play, The Trial of Adbot 579.

I’ve made $281.41 from my writing, about $210 from Adbot, and all in the past four years.

It’s interesting that the more I look at these numbers, the more I get used to them, and the more they don’t seem that impressive. My brain is somehow normalizing them, and now expects me to do better in the next decade. I mean, I probably will “do better”—write more, make more money, get more rejections—but maybe the lesson here is that these numbers are useful to glance at, but not to stare at. Unsure.

Hopefully these numbers give a good idea of the work-to-success ratio in the early years of being a writer (slightly skewed by the fact that they were also my early years of being a human.) And hopefully they provide some transparency, showing the enormous submerged section of the iceberg, rather than the tip that is so easy to focus on. I know that personally, it’s easy for me to see a writer (particularly if they’re around my age) who’s successful, and then get in my head wondering what I’m doing wrong, why I’m not as successful as them. In those situations, I find it useful to remind myself that everyone has taken a different path in writing, giving them certain skills, advantages, and areas of weakness. Weirdly, telling myself that someone else has worked harder for something than me actually makes me feel more secure about my own capabilities, and more empowered to achieve success.

And, if these numbers themselves don’t provide enough of an image of the iceberg, you can always read my first “Ten Years Writing” post, which is nothing if not a proverbial humongous, unwieldy mass of submerged ice.

Ten Years Writing: A Cartographic Description

Map for We’ll Tell Happy Stories (2016).

I’ve been writing for ten years now, and writing about that has proven to be quite the challenge. I’ve taken several cracks at writing this post, but I think this is the way to go—this, and another much much shorter post I’ll put up next week.

The reason this is so difficult is that it’s hard to describe what ten years of writing looks like in a post. It’s difficult to reduce it into something snappy, sharp, clear, because it isn’t. But that’s exactly why I want to write this post. In the day-to-day or week-to-week of writing, it’s easy to lose track of progress. It’s easy for me to believe that I’m not getting anywhere, that I’m not getting closer to any of my goals, that the story I’m outlining right now is actually worse than the story I wrote a month ago. Because as I move forward, my goals do too. For years I was eagerly awaiting the day when I would’ve written 1,000,000 words of fiction. I obsessively kept track of the word count of everything I wrote, updating the figures to reflect the latest revisions as I made them. But by the time 1,000,000 words neared, I’d become more focused on being able to write lots of distinct short works, rather than just lots of words in general.

Likewise, my idea of when I started writing is kind of nebulous. I’ve really been writing all my life, but when asked I usually say that I started at eleven. I say that because at eleven (actually a few months before I turned eleven) I started writing the first novel that I actually completed, and eleven is the age when I started writing regularly, usually about once or twice a week. I’ve stuck with this idea, because at a certain point I just had to stick with something, and recognize that if I let myself constantly redefine when I began my  r e a l   w r i t i ng,  I’d eventually be saying, “Now 2018, that’s when I reeeeally started writing.”

Zooming out helps me appreciate the progress that’s been made. Looking at all the fruits of my ten years of labor together, and looking at how many phases I’ve gone through, how many times I felt like I was plateauing and unable to improve my writing, when every single time I managed to get better, it helps break me out of the rut of the present. It can also be useful, in the rarer moments when I need humbling, to remember all the times I thought I pretty much understood writing, and how there was always much more to learn.

I also enjoy reading other writers describe their careers. Although everyone is different, it does provide the closest thing to a map that you can get for a writing career, which is a career without one specific Way to Do It.

So here we go. A cartographic description of the landscape of my first ten years as a writer. It’s worth noting: my first ten years coincide with my teenage years, so your mileage may vary if you’ve started writing later in life (that’s to say, you will probably do better than me, because you’ll be starting out better read than eleven-year-old me. Writing is a sport for all ages!) Also worth noting that I haven’t had to work a job in all this time, except a few part-time summer jobs, though I have been in middle and high school and college, which takes up a fair chunk of time. So factor that into your reckoning, map-readers.Read More »

New Publication: ChannelCon ’30

Right on time for convention season, my new novelette “ChannelCon ’30” is now available on Amazon and Smashwords!

0016d89f1aa203ded0e47304488df88d16e3c368With hours and hours of old movies entering the public domain every year, in the near future curators emerge as a new kind of content creator, culling all this old material and selecting personal favorites to livestream on their channels. Lindsey Xong and Amber Smith are two such curators, Amber focusing on finding movies, and Lindsey focusing on commentary and abridgment. Together, the two form Amber Linz, an incredibly popular channel, poised to sign a major deal to to get exclusive access to old movies a year before they enter public domain. To announce this deal and to engage with the curator community, the two go to ChannelCon, the biggest, greatest curator convention in the world.

But almost instantly, it’s clear that ChannelCon is coming apart at the seams, beset by the growing division between purists (who stream content completely unedited) and cureditors (who stream abridged or even completely remixed movies.) As retaliations and acts of sabotage escalate, the two sides seek to claim either Amber or Lindsey as their own, driving a wedge between the duo and jeopardizing their deal. Finding out which side is perpetrating all the chaos is not only important for purists and cureditors—it could also be the only way to save the Amber Linz deal, and Amber Linz itself.

In addition to this novelette, this publication includes an afterword in which I discuss the real world inspiration for this story, and how little fandom and conventions have changed in the past 80 years.

What I’ve Been Reading, June 2018

Currently I’m catching up on all the issues of Asimov’s that I wasn’t reading while I was over in Spain, and other short stories. As far as books, I’m mostly reading them via audiobooks, but I am still reading them.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin — Boy am I late to this party. The Fifth Season is the first in the Broken Earth trilogy, which in itself holds two Hugo Awards for best novel and one Nebula Award for best novel, not to mention three nominations for each of those awards—and it may just clutch a third Hugo Award this August. So yeah, I am late as fuck to a hell of a party.

The accolades are earned. The Fifth Season takes place in a world (Earth?) periodically ravaged by tremendous apocalypses, called “Fifth Seasons” or simply “Seasons.” These global catastrophes usually originate from seismic activity, though grow out of control from there (e.g. an erupting volcano can cause years of winter, a fissure in the earth can release hallucinogenic gas causing a “season of madness” …) The only bulwarks against these Seasons are the orogenes, a subsection of humanity gifted with the ability to sense and quell tremors in the earth, among other things. This first book in the trilogy is split into three narrative strands, each focused on an orogene at a different point in their development, the oldest of which is actually living through a Season, trying to find her daughter.

I won’t talk much more about the story/stories of Fifth Season, because I think it’s the book’s weak point—in as much as healthiness is the weak point of a cake. Fifth Season isn’t really trying to tell a ripping yarn, at least not throughout all of the book. Later on, plot developments start to thicken, but the first half of the book is largely focused on exploration of the world, and of the interior of these characters. In this, Fifth Season excels.Read More »

Recommendation Dump, June 2018

Splendor and Misery by Clipping — So I’m late to the party on this, but better late than never, right? Splendor and Misery is a sci-fi concept album by experimental hip-hop group Clipping—already, what’s not to love? The album follows the lone survivor of a slave uprising aboard a spaceship, who commandeers the vessel and attempts to escape his pursuers.

What I love about this album is the way it blends ideas and styles. For a start, it’s fascinating to see how Clipping renders common sci-fi motifs musically, making them fresh and fascinating again. It’s not just an album that utilizes sci-fi jargon and aesthetics (though it does that as well), it’s an album that is clearly born from an understanding of the genre and its tradition. A great example of this is the track “All Black Everything,” which communicates the oppressive nothingness of space through it’s skeletal production and Daveed Diggs’s continuous, monotone refrain of “All black everything.” The album also blends different musical genres, mixing in negro-spiritual-inspired songs, blending past and future to create a gritty world that’s nevertheless full of emotion, and deeply human.

Sci-fi aside, the production on the album, by William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, and Daveed Diggs’s rapping are just fantastic. The beats manage to suggest the environment, with beeps and clicks and staticky whines, while also effectively establishing different moods for each song. Diggs’s lyrics are great, punchy and complex, and his flow is phenomenal. Splendor and Misery really shows the range that this group has, from songs like “Air ‘Em Out,” a braggadocious gangster-rap-in-space type track, to “True Believer,” a song with a driving industrial beat, a spiritual-inspired chorus, and some wildly imagistic verses detailing a creation myth that offers some clues as to how these people have ended up enslaved.

The album is short, and has a lot to offer with each replay.

The Terror — This AMC series just wrapped up a few weeks ago and my god did it stick the landing. I love a good, one-season series, and The Terror does not disappoint (it may come back for a second season, though with a completely different story, American Horror Story-style.) The show, David Kajganich’s debut as a show-runner, is based off the Dan Simmons book of the same name, which tells a fictionalized account of the lost Arctic Expedition of Captain John Franklin. What little is known about the expedition’s fate after becoming trapped in the Arctic ice in 1846 is faithfully reproduced, and indeed everything that happens in the show could’ve plausibly happened in real life—except, that is, the strange, enormous bear (is it a bear?) which seems to dog the sailors wherever they go.

A shot from the second episode, courtesy of AMC.

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Escenas inéditas de viajes: Portugal

Este es el último puesto de esta serie de puestos sobre mis viajes, y trata de mi viaje a Portugal durante la Feria de Sevilla. Tal vez publicaré más secciones del diario en el futuro, o secciones de la parte en inglés (habrá una parte en inglés, mis amigos angloparlantes). Pero por ahora, este es el último. ¡Espero que les guste!

16 de abril, 13:39

Estoy en Seara Nova Cafetería en Faro con una galão, que es un café de espresso hecho con mucha leche. Es la semana de Feria en Sevilla, y no quería quedar allí toda la semana. Pensaba en viajar por el norte de España, a Galicia y el País Vasco, pero al fin decidí ir a Portugal, específicamente a Faro y Lisboa, porque quiero experimentar un viaje por un país en que no hablo la lengua predominante. Tengo un conocimiento ligero del portugués, y puedo leerlo más o menos pero hablar o incluso escucharlo es otra cosa. Cuando recibí mi café en este restaurante, le dije al barman “gracias” en vez de “obrigado,” y así debes entender mi nivel de competencia con este idioma.

Pero esto es lo que quería, un país aun más extranjero que España o Cataluña. Además, Portugal es cerca y barato.

17 de abril, 08:57

“Proximo” é o café em que escrivou. É uma cafeteria-snack bar (venga, eso es todo que puedo de Portugués) al lado de la estación de autobuses de Faro.

Ayer disfruté más las cosas que no había planificado que las que sí. Aunque me interesó la catedral de Faro con su retablo de multiples niveles, como un pastel de bodas dorado, y aunque me impresionaba el capillo de huesos de la Igreja do Carmo, me encantaba más el Jardim da Alameda João de Deus. Todos los jardines que he visto en España, o los parques, han tenido en común un carácter arreglado, con ángulos rectos y arbustos cuadrados. Aunque puedan ser bonitos, carecen de algo. Este jardín farense era diferente. Primero, tenía una variedad más amplia de especies, y los árboles exóticos se etiquetaban con su nombre científico. Segundo, el plano era más natural y orgánico, con curvas y descensos. No obstante, el aspecto más encantador del jardín era los pájaros. Había muchas palomas de tipos distintos, un grande pato blanco y muchos pavos reales.

La otra cosa que disfruté mucho, que por cierto no había planificado, era una caminata por las marismas. Después de visitar el jardín, todavía me quedaba molesto por no poder visitar la isla. De verdad, había querido ir por barco a la Ilha da Culatra, pero los barcos (esto es, los de transporte público) solo se operan en el verano, y solo me di cuenta de ese hecho hace dos días. Por eso la molestia, y por el hecho de que en Faro, un pueblo costal, tenías que pagar para visitar una playa, o incluso la Ria Formosa. Mierda, digo. Entonces, me decidí buscar la naturaleza por las afueras de la ciudad.

No lejos del jardín, llegué a una carretera de tierra que corría hasta una zona industrial. Aunque todo que rodeaba la área era propiedad privada, la calle no era así, y parecía que llegaría a las marismas. La seguí, crucé la ferroviaria y entré una zona de favelas y edificios industriales. Adelante de yo una docena metros o más, un hombre dio vuelta y caminó a una área de marismas, con largos pedazos de tierra estrechos que formaban un cuadrícula alargado en la laguna. En ese momento me di cuenta de que había caminos en esos líneas de arena y juncos.

Vista del centro de aquél cuadrícula, hacía el mar.

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Escenas inéditas de viajes: Extremadura

En este puesto, tercero en una serie de puestos basados en las entradas de mi diario de viaje, escribo del fin de mi viaje de Semana Santa en Extremadura.

1 de abril, 16:27

Ahora estoy de pie cerca de la Iglesia de Santa Marina esperando los pasos de La Resurrección, por los cuales se terminan las fiestas de Semana Santa en Sevilla.

Me ha pasado muchas veces ahora, pero siempre es un choque de grandeza y gracia acercar de una procesión, oír primero los tambores y luego los clarines, escuchar como el volumen va creciendo mientras pasas más cerca y de repente dar una vuelta y ver el enorme, demasiado grande para cualquier calle, paso que flota sobre la gente como un elefante de oro y flores.

Pues, eso experimenté dos veces en Villafranca de los Barros. La primera era cuando anduve desde la estación de autobuses hasta mi albergue; la cofradía de Nuestro Señor Jesús Cautivo y Nuestra Señora de las Angustias era a la mitad de su recorrido.

Nuestra Señora de las Angustias.

La segunda vez era cuando, después de no poder registrarme porque nadie estaba en el hostal, regresé a la calle para ver la procesión y en cuanto bajé allí estaban los nazarenos, y a la otra extremidad de la calle estaba el cristo. Es que mi hostal era justo al lado de la plaza en que se situaba la iglesia de la procesión, la Parroquia del Valle. A la plaza y las calles rodeaban niños y otros residentes, sobre todo alrededor de la iglesia. Era muy impresionante esa procesión con pasos humildes de madera y pintura. No hay que tener oro y hilo de plata y 4.000 nazarenos para ser impactante y grande una procesión, creo. La entrada en Villafranca de los Barros era un do mis favoritas de la Semana Santa, en parte por no haber habido tanta gente que no se podía mover. Todo el mundo tenía buena vista de la acción, y parecía una fiesta local, una fiesta de familiares y vecinos, en vez de la atracción turística que yo iba a ver en Sevilla.

Después de verla, subí al hostal, logré registrarme, y me dormí.


Escribo esta última entrada en mi ordenador, en mi habitación. Se ha terminado la Semana Santa ahora, y mañana las clases empiezan de vuelta. Tengo que hablar ya de Mérida.

Mérida también es como un museo grande al aire libre, pero de sitios romanos en vez de los restos medievales de Toledo. Además, Mérida, igual a Villafranca de los Barros, es mucho menos turístico que cualquier otra ciudad que visité durante mi viaje. Solo oí inglés allí una vez. Los turistas que vienen allí son españoles, o portugueses, pero no hay muchos de Alemania o Inglaterra. Eso disfruté mucho: una ciudad que no tenía que vestirse para ingleses o franceses, una España para españoles. Claro, hay lugares dentro de las ciudades grandes de España en que se encuentran pocos turistas, pero Mérida me parecía cien por ciento una ciudad ibérica. Eso no quiere decir que Madrid es menos español por ser turístico; claro, España gana mucho del turismo, entonces una ciudad turística es bastante español. Pero me alegría experimentar una parte de España distinto de la mayoría de los sitios a que había viajado.

El teatro romano con pájaros.

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New Publication: Tallahassee Ca. 2045

Remember this post about the Parkland shooting and representation of high schoolers? The play I was talking about back then is now available, on Smashwords and Amazon.

Tc2045-c-2In the year 2045, a group of politically conscious high school seniors decides to organize a youth rally—a protest to lower the minimum voting age. Just before the protest is scheduled to happen, a massive ice sheet breaks off of Antarctica, causing global flooding. The youth rally becomes a demand for radical change of climate policy, and the politics of the students are put under new pressure. Relationships between the original group of friends strain as the protest grows further and further out of control, and any hopes of changing the world look dimmer and dimmer.

Tallahassee Circa 2045 is an exploration of protest culture, shifting ideologies, and the intersection of youth and politics, set against the backdrop of global catastrophe and an ever-shifting national landscape.

Running time is approximately 120 minutes. The cast is 1M, 5F, 3NB.

In addition to the play, this publication includes an afterword (a large part of which already appeared on this blog in that MSD post) which constitutes an in-depth look at youth rights, representations of high schoolers, and the politically tumultuous period in which the play was written.

Happy summer everyone! #HotOutHere

Escenas inéditas de viajes: Madrid

Este segundo puesto de mi diario de viaje se ocupa de mi estancia en Madrid, y las excursiones que hice durante esos días a El Escorial y Toledo.

25 de marzo, 14:25

Estoy ya en Madrid sentado en una banca en el Paseo del Prado. El tiempo es buenísimo. No puedo registrarme en el hostal hasta las 15:00, entonces mientras espero contaré los sucesos del día hasta este momento.

Me dormía más o menos (o menos) en el autobús. No era cómodo, y cuando me bajé en el intercambiador de Avenida de América tenía que dormirme una hora más en una banca. Luego, empecé el paseo largo a la Puerta del Sol, en que tendría una cita para recibir un abono joven para el transporte público de Madrid. Por algún milagro, al comenzar caminar me di cuenta de que mis calcetines se habían secado. Aunque pesó mucho mi mochila, sin lluvia y sin calcetines mojados la caminata no fue horrible. Cuando llegué a la plaza de Sol, comí un sandwich y un yogur, y en poco tiempo fui a la oficina del intercambiador de Sol para comprar el abono. El proceso era muy sencillo, y después de quizás diez minutos se ha terminado.

Tener esa tarjeta en la mano me daba una sensación maravillosa de libertad. Como esa sensación romántica de tener una coche cuando eres adolescente, aunque nunca he tenido (ni querido) mi propio coche. En un instante, toda la región de Madrid —y una área fuera de esa zona que incluía Toledo y Guadalajara— era dentro de mi alcance. Cien por ciento alegre.

Puerta del Sol con falangistas.

26 de marzo, 11:28

Nunca he querido que este diario, ni este porción del diario, se convierta en lista. Hoy hice esto. Era divertido. Hacía mucho sol. Blah blah blah. Entonces, no diré todo lo que pasó ayer. No tengo nada para decir de ello. Basta decir que me disfruté, y ya. ¿Y Puigdemont se ha detenido? ¿Pienso? Será una Semana Santa intensa en Barcelona.

Pero basta de eso. Estoy en Toledo tomando café en Ñaca Ñaca, lo cual no me parece precisamente lo más auténtico de todas las cafeterías, pero no importa. Solo quería el café, y incluso los sitios turísticos o no auténticos no pueden arruinar un café con leche. (Pues, esto es, en España).

Ahora, durante toda mi estancia en España y todo este viaje de Semana Santa, he utilizado Google Maps. Lo que hago es descargar un mapa de cualquier ciudad cuando tengo conexión de wifi, y luego navegar por ella sin wifi, pero sí con la GPS (que funciona siempre) y el mapa descargado. Pues, esta mañana olvidé descargar un mapa de Toledo antes de venir aquí, cuando tenía wifi en el hostal. Así, tendré que navegar por el mapa físico de la ciudad y la ciudad en sí. Como he dicho hace unas semanas, muchas ciudades de España son mapas de sus mismas, con físicos puntos de referencia claros, esto es, edificios monumentales que orientan a la gente. Entonces, solo ahora veremos como me las arreglo en un día sin wifi.

He terminado el café. ¡Nos vamos!

27 de marzo, 16:31

Estoy en la tren de vuelta de El Escorial. No te preocupes, escribiré de Toledo (y ¡qué cantidad, las cosas que tengo para escribir de Toledo!), pero ahora quiero escribir un poquito de El Escorial.

Lo que me ha interesado más de este palacio es que representa todas las aficiones de la familia real, o, mejor dicho, los reyes españoles de los siglos XVI y XVII. Muchos monumentos muestran lo que la realeza, o la iglesia, quería imponer o evocar a la gente (“una iglesia tan grande que los que la vieren nos tomen por locos” es presuntamente cómo los que construían la catedral de Sevilla describían su proyecto). Pero El Escorial se construían para la familia real en sí. La Sala de las Batallas, una aula larga con murallas pintadas de conflictos militares entre España y otras potencias, es como un sistema de entretenimiento del siglo XVI. La Sala de Paseo es lo mismo, llena de mapas y pinturas del paisaje, me parece como el equivalente antiguo del documental de Netflix. Hay imágenes religiosos, claro, pero también se puede ver que la familia real disfrutaba los escenarios de acción y retratos de la naturaleza. No hemos cambiado, de verdad.Read More »

The War of Paraguay: Chapter XIX, The Question of Commander-in-Chief

Bartolomé Mitre, as depicted on Argentina’s 2-peso note.

(1) As we have seen from Ferraz’s letter, on 5 September it was not yet thought that the emperor would take part in the siege of Uruguaiana. Tamandaré decided to go and kiss the hand of H.M. in the city of Alegrete (on 2 September), introducing him to General Flores and perhaps General Mitre. With the issue of commander-in-chief Mitre being in one of our provinces, the emperor of Brazil determined to take part in the military operations, especially since he found himself in that province, and not far off. Six days after Ferraz’s letter sent from Passo do Rosário, the emperor reached the encampment at Uruguaiana (11 September).

The question of the allied armies’ commander-in-chief was resolved by the 3rd article of the treaty of Alliance, through which, at the same time that it gave said command to General Mitre, the treaty established reciprocity in the event that military operations took place mainly in Brazilian or Uruguayan territory. However, Ferraz sent the following confidential notice to the governor of Rio Grande on 5 July: “General Osório will always act as chief commander of the army fighting the Paraguayans on the shores of the Plata and the Uruguay. The commander of arms, or anything else, of the forces of that province, in his rank as chief of reserve forces” (it’s best to repeat this to avoid confusion) “will lend to said chief general however much he can lend and however much the general can request, and if need be both forces will operate jointly within the province, or outside of it, if it is invaded; but in this case General Mitre, in accordance with the treaty of the Triple Alliance, will assume command of all the allied forces; and if as consequence of that province’s invasion the allied armies enter your jurisdiction, again General Mitre will exercise command of them.” This notice, taking into account the italicized words, should be interpreted in the following way, according to Ferraz: General Mitre could only exercise command by virtue of the aforementioned 3rd article, outside of our territory; but, the imperial government would waive its right to command in the event that Mitre was carrying out within our borders, having crossed them in pursuit of the enemy, the execution of a strategic plan. It’s clear that the government expected reciprocity in the event that this happened in Argentine territory, according to that article.

Brazil’s generous conduct is quite self-evident. Per the treaty of Alliance, the head of the Brazilian army, Osório, should have found himself under Mitre’s orders, except in the case of war in our territory or in Uruguay. If Mitre had a plan to beat the Paraguayan army, like, for example, the plan that brought to an end the fighting at Yatay, then passing the direction of operations from one general to another, as operations took place on this side and that of the Uruguay, would equate to sacrificing the principal interest of defeating the enemy to the secondary interest of satisfying a formality.Read More »

Escenas inéditas de viajes: Barcelona

¡Me alegro decir que este es el primer puesto en español de este blog, pero el último no! Este semestre he estudiado en el extranjero en España y voy escribiendo un diario de viaje, lo cual formará parte de un proyecto escolar/memoria de que hablaré más en el porvenir. Por ahora, les presento cuatro puestos procedentes de ese diario. Su contenido tratará de dos viajes que hice este semestre, el primero durante Semana Santa y el segundo durante la Feria de Sevilla (15-21 abril). Escribía mucho durante esas vacaciones, demasiado para incluir en la versión final del proyecto; no obstante, estas entradas me parecen perfecto para este blog, y este blog, en que puedo incluir fotos, me parece un formato perfecto para estas entradas. Entonces, ustedes pueden considerar estas escrituras las escenas inéditas de mi memoria, o si quieran, las pueden leer como si fueran su propia obra. Me da igual, pero en todo caso espero que los disfruten.

Este primer puesto trata de mi estancia en Barcelona.

22 de marzo, 22:09

Estoy en el tren Renfe, en ruta al barrio Eixample de Barcelona, en que se ubica mi hostal. Estoy escribiendo estas palabras a mano, con un lápiz y un cuadernito. Todos mis entradas, desde ahora hasta el final del Jueves Santo, escribiré en este cuaderno, porque no he traído mi ordenador portátil. Pese demasiado, y estoy viajando ligero.

El plan del viaje es así:

  • Vuelo a Barcelona el jueves por la tarde. (Ya hecho. Vale).
  • El viernes irme a Montserrat.
  • El sábado andar por Barcelona, y a las 23:30 salir en autobús para Madrid.
  • Dormir en el autobús. (Con este truco espero ahorrar dinero por no pagar por una noche en un hostal).

(Ahora mismo el Renfe va entre Prat de Llobregat y Bellvitge.)

  • El domingo hacer cosas en Madrid. Tomar chocolate con churros en San Gines. Etcétera.
  • El lunes pasar el día en Toledo.
  • El martes, en El Escorial.
  • El miércoles hacer más cosas en Madrid y después salir para Villafranca de los Barros.
  • El jueves, irme a Mérida (solo duermo una noche en Villafranca para pasar el próximo día en Mérida, porque no hay hostales en esa ciudad, y el alojamiento más cerca está en Villafranca).

(Ahora mismo hemos partido de Bellvitge, y vamos para Barcelona Sants, en cual bajaré).

  • Y regresar a Sevilla el jueves por la noche.

22 de marzo, 10:41

Estoy en la tren del línea R5, con destino del Monistrol de Montserrat. Desde el Monistrol, iré por la cremallera al propio Montserrat. Pero bueno, ya debo hablar del vuelo la noche pasada.

Volé por la aerolínea Ryanair, lo que es conocido entre los estudiantes por tener los vuelos más baratos en Europa. La empresa cumple este hecho por restringir las maletas que se pueden traer, y por cargar dinero para las cosas que suelen ser gratuitas en la mayoría de los vuelos. Esto está en plena vista desde el momento en que se compran los billetes. Pero el otro truco solo va mostrándose poco a poco, y se revela por completo solo al partir el avión. Ese otro truco es la propaganda. Los ayudantes son, más o menos, adbots.

Me explico.Read More »

The War of Paraguay: Chapter XVIII, The Emperor in Rio Grande do Sul. — Letters from Ferraz and Boa Vista. — Ferraz and the Cabinet.

The Emperor’s presence in Rio Grande do Sul during the invasion, and concurrent with the allied troops’ arrival, was an act of great consequences—not only for the strengthening of Monarchist sentiments, especially in Rio Grande, but also for the strengthening of the alliance. The letters from Ferraz to Nabuco, written during the voyage, are noteworthy documents. Nabuco was Ferraz’s closest friend in the ministry, perhaps the only one to whom Ferraz could freely vent, without fear of political mistrust or memories of old disagreements. He shows himself extremely protective of his authority, clothing himself with the regalia that his position as ministerial delegate requires. What things he would’ve done, and how he would’ve had to reign everyone in, had the Emperor not been there!

Reaching Santa Catarina (1) on 13 July, Ferraz writes to Nabuco, “The minister has disappeared. The Emperor intrudes in even the most minor details, and everything revolves around him. He has at his disposal even the employees of my office, he gives orders through De Lamare (2), and through any other means. He is stubborn, but then he changes his mind. It is impossible for me to bear. There is no money here for the troops. Let us hope that Dias de Carvalho (3) does something, or takes some measure. I beg that you tell our colleague Silveira Lobo to order the authorities and subordinates in Rio Grande to obey my orders, and only my orders, or those of the governor of the province …”

On 16 July the Emperor unexpectedly arrives in Rio Grande; on the 18th Ferraz writes from that city: “Today, or better said, within two hours (eight thirty), we march to Porto-Alegre. Everything is going well. Enthusiasm has surpassed what was expected. The Emperor is satisfied and is doing well for the moment. The enemy’s plan is to stir up the Blancos … We have to be prepared for everything and we don’t even have cannons … Rest assured that these people think highly of me and are satisfied.”

On 21 July he complains from Porto-Alegre (4) about the state of the palace, and about the manner in which they were received, and on the 22nd he says:

Ângelo Moniz da Silva Ferraz, as depicted in Galeria dos Brasileiros Ilústres by Sébastien Auguste Sisson.

“They have put me in a jam. They wanted rich tack (5) of silver for the Emperor and the prince; they want for Cabral, Meirelles, and De Lamare also rich tack of three hundred to four hundred thousand réis (6) each, and all this at the Ministry of War’s expense. The demands are constant. They want horses for everyone, and even revolvers for the servants. The Emperor is fine, but he listens to these people despite the fact that he recognizes their (illegible). Caxias has comported himself discreetly and well. It’s been going around that he will be named chief general. Porto-Alegre’s appointment was done at the Emperor’s instruction, after hearing that Caxias and I were pleased with him, because this way everyone is content. Danger has silenced the partisan spirit to the point of seeming dead. ‘Good riddance,’ people tell me, ‘to arms and munitions. There is no money, our colleague who’s giving timely orders as fast as possible.’ The active troops are unpaid and unequipped.”Read More »

The War of Paraguay: Chapter XVII, The Emperor Resolves to Go to Rio Grande

Meanwhile and almost simultaneously, in Rio de Janeiro, news of the naval battle at Riachuelo (1) and the invasion of Rio Grande do Sul was received. Moved by patriotic impulses, the Emperor resolved to go immediately to the front, not without some resistance from the ministry. This happy resolution, which played out so favorably, seemed to be supported by only one minister, Silveira Lobo, to whom, for this, the Emperor would show himself forever grateful (i).

Nabuco thought that the Emperor in the South would only raise the spirits of Rio Grande province, while in the capital he would inspire the entire country to war. To the emperor, as we will soon see, Nabuco did not betray his feelings. It was necessary to yield before the strict expression of the emperor’s will. With his departure, the issue of adjourning the Chambers remained won, because absent the sovereign, the ministry’s situation before the Chambers was difficult, and it even could have become a case of governmental paralysis, arising at the same time as the invasion of Brazilian territory.

Olinda writes to Nabuco on 4 July: “I receive now a letter from the Emperor, who tells me that to announce the journey to the Chambers and read them the adjournment decree, it is necessary that we be in São Cristóvão at nine in the morning, with the goal of taking precise measures. As such, Y.E., draft the speech to discuss it in today’s conference.”

Emperor Dom Pedro II, 1865. Photo by Joaquim José Insley Pacheco.

Nabuco drew up the following draft: “I come to announce in the Senate that H.I.M. has resolved to depart immediately for Rio Grande do Sul, with the object of, with his presence, his prestige, and his example, invigorating the defense of that heroic province in case of foreign invasion. The Emperor feels—and he feels with enthusiasm—that such is his duty as perpetual defender of Brazil, and so firm is H.I.M.’s resolution that the ministry has ended up, by yielding to it, assuming the resulting responsibility. How to resist that desire of H.I.M. when every Brazilian vies for the glory of defending and saving their country, insulted and invaded by foreigners? How to leave him alone, when he should be surrounded by everyone? There is nothing to do but admire and show gratitude to this new proof of the Emperor’s refined patriotism; there is nothing to do but ask God Almighty to protect him and return him healthy and safe, and to add to the Emperor’s titles, with which he reigns over Brazilians, that of glory.”

The following letter accompanied the speech: “I am sending the draft of the speech. It doesn’t seem fit to me to announce the closure, but unwittingly we plant this issue in the Chambers, arousing grave difficulties for us. Tomorrow the decree, which we can present him when advisable, will be signed. Who knows if it will be necessary to do so tomorrow? Y.E. knows that the deliberative assemblies want to make themselves necessary, and be present in grave situations, but experience proves that in such situations they are a nuisance. The adjournment should not be debated. Besides, as the speech is only one, Y.E. should deliver it first in the Senate and then in the Chamber—I find it inelegant that Y.E. and I should say and repeat the same words. See you tonight.”

The joint legislative bodies remained closed from 8 July until 4 March of the following year. A law of the same date sets out how best to handle public business, powers of the ministry, and reciprocal succession of the ministers in absence of the head of State, and on 10 July the Emperor embarks for Rio Grande. With him goes Ferraz, Minister of War, and his accompaniment features the Duke Augusto de Sajonia, son-in-law of H.M., and the Marquis of Caxias, his aide-de-camp.


i. It is known that, to the objections made by the Council, the emperor responded: “If I am stopped from going as emperor, no one can stop me from abdicating and marching as a voluntario da patria.” Baron of Rio Branco, notes to Schneider, I, 218.

Translator’s Notes

1. A major naval battle near the city of Corrientes, on the Paraná river. Brazil won a decisive victory, and effectively secured the Río de la Plata river system up to Humaitá, cutting off the Paraguayan forces that were still in Rio Grande do Sul from any supplies or reinforcements.

The War of Paraguay: Chapter XVI, Necessity of Adjournment. — Silveira Lobo, Minister. — Saldanha Marino.

Lithograph of the Palácio do Conde dos Arcos, published in Robert Walsh’s Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829.

Furtado, resentful of Saraiva, reluctantly supports the ministry and gets his friends to contain themselves. “I will give the government,” he says in the Senate, of which he was then a member, in July, “the means of sustaining the foreign war in which the empire finds itself endeavored, and my support, until events come to disavow the words of your excellencies … While events are forthcoming, I will keep a look out to see if the political swallows migrate (1). I have nowhere to which to migrate.”

The rift, the separation between Liberals and Conservatives that they’d sealed in 1862, was evident. The Liberals were getting along better with the pure Conservatives (2), with which they united against the Olinda government, than they did with their allies of yesterday. The more this breakdown of the party affected Nabuco, the further he found himself from wanting to contribute to it; nor did it suit him to aid the opposition in eliminating the Conservative element from the party, of which element he himself was a part.

Considering both halves separately, he still preferred that which represented the doctrine of Paraná, Conciliation, which represented the earliest Liberal tradition; recognizing, however, the insufficiency of that element as a third party, he preferred the government of the Conservatives, who formed an essential party. With the fusion of Liberals and moderates to form the other party not being possible, the Conservative party should have governed, the Conservative party which, since Itaboraí surrendered power to Paraná in 1853, had not returned to power except with the reconstructed Abaeté ministry in 1859, and with the Caxias-Paranhos ministry, also reconstructed, and which even in these two cases of purification had lacked Conservative leaders.

The truth is that the Nabuco’s spirit was objective and practical enough to let itself be dominated, especially during grand crises, by traditions without tangibility, by divisions without distinction, by sides with names that had only personal scope, and by relationships that were purely negative. He considered administration to be a practical thing, that required skill, preparation, the height of vision, and a sense of responsibility; for him there was not but one mode of administration, as in the navigation of waters there is not but one course to follow. Ferraz being at the head of the war chest seemed well to Nabuco, as Ferraz was an energetic, expeditious man, with his own resources and audacious initiatives; Nabuco did not have to enter into inquiries about if in 1860 he had fought with all his might in favor of the Conservative party; he accepted Ferraz’s word of honor of not being already joined with that group, without putting forth clear motives or intentions, nor entering into the examination of the past.

The Chamber’s adjournment freed the government from political minutiae; the recess would be long and would provide time for work. Nabuco would make an effort, would work tirelessly all through this period (almost a year) and then when the Chamber reconvened, if political passions showed themselves to be unyielding, rather than ingratiating himself with one of the sides, he would abandon power. Instead of volunteering to destroy the edifice he had raised, he would leave the work of demolishing it to the architects of ruins, precisely because he was sure that the common enemy would not delay in making a sudden invasion into the house divided, interrupting the work of the internal collapse.Read More »

The War of Paraguay: Chapter XV, Speech on the “Status Quo.” — The Government.

The speech Nabuco gave in the Chamber on 26 May 1865 was, for that divided assembly, like a shining ray of patriotic eloquence. In the middle of the partisan disagreements, which only tended to worsen and become more irreconcilable, no one expected that appeal to harmony, that invitation to a political armistice in the name of the invaded country. In that moment, his speech had everyone’s assent. Nabuco’s presence beside Olinda was in itself only an agenda of political truces, since one could not forget the sacrifice that he made—his little fondness for power, and his neutrality in personal rivalries. A year later historians will come to do justice to Nabuco’s intentions to save the government and avoid internal struggle. From the first day, his attitude was such that, upon the ministry’s fall, he would continue to be the organizer preferred by the political spirits of the majority and the minority. The session had been very busy. “I have seen you shine today in the Chamber of Deputies,” the humorist Abaeté writes to him, “and I would have envied you if the feeling of friendship did not prevail over that of envy. There is nothing like being minister of the King!”

The speech was short, as fit an appeal to national sentiment, but, precisely because of this, it was vibrant. After having explained the reasons he had for not wanting to take on the task of forming a cabinet, he declares the reasons that moved him to accept his role as justice:

José Tomás Nabuco as depicted in Galeria dos Brasileiros Ilústres by Sébastien Auguste Sisson.

“My noble friend senhor Minister of the Navy has already explained the reason for my entry into the current ministry. It was a sacrifice that patriotism imposed on us all. You know the circumstances in which the country found itself: the crisis was becoming prolonged; public anxiety instantly increased; each day wasted harmed the great concern by which everyone was preoccupied, that is to say, the dream of returning our national honor and dignity. There does not exist any contradiction in my behavior, given the circumstances that suddenly arose, and besides, there is a great difference between organizing such a cabinet—being its brain—and forming a part of it. What’s more, this ministry’s agenda has been reduced to the war, not wanting to alter the political status quo. The noble deputy of Minas province (i), explaining the reasons that he has for not putting confidence in the current ministry, examined some of its members, attending only to the Liberal element, but upon doing so forgot the principle that serves as the basis of the current government. In effect, so that the noble deputy may deny the ministry his trust for such a reason, he should begin by proving that the Progressive Party, under whose government this Chamber was elected, is dissolved.”

Finally, he invoked with the solemnity of his convictions, words, and gestures, the irresistible motivation of the country’s defense, winning over the Chamber and making it forget its divisions:

“It is evident, senhores, that the same thinking that stopped me from accepting the charge to form a ministry, has brought me to enter into this one; that is, the desire to not alter the status quo during a war. Nothing is less timely than exciting political passions in these moments in which we need the concurrence of everyone to save the country, which has been invaded and bloodied by foreigners. This is not a good opportunity to divide the Chamber, making it powerless to do good and making the life of any ministry impossible.

“I believe, senhores, that with the government limited to this agenda of making war without altering the status quo of our political system, it can’t help but deserve the trust and support of this Chamber and of the whole country.

“I could say more, senhores, but I conclude by making these vows: God would not wish that the country, swayed by political passions, come to be powerless against the foreigners that have insulted our flag; God would not wish that history deplore the fluke of a young nation full of resources and life, but disgraced by its own failings … Let us take on the responsibility of the war and leave the settling of scores for after the victory.”Read More »