Platero and I

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Platero and I

Post  Guest on Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:42 am

PLATERO AND I

Platero

Platero is a small donkey, a soft, hairy donkey: so soft to the touch that he might be said to be made of cotton, with no bones. Only the jet mirrors of his eyes are hard like two black crystal scarabs.

I turn him loose, and he goes to the meadow, and, with his nose, he gently caresses the little flowers of the rose* and blue and gold... I call him softly, "Platero?" and he comes to me at a gay little trot that is like laughter of a vague, idyllic, tinkling sound.

He eats whatever I give him. He likes mandarin oranges, amber-hued muscatel grapes, purple figs tipped with crystalline drops of honey.

He is as loving and tender as a child, but strong and sturdy as a rock. When on Sundays I ride him through the lanes in the outskirts of the town, slow-moving country-men, dressed in their Sunday clean, watch him a while, speculatively:

"He is like steel," they say.

Steel, yes. Steel and moon silver at the same time.


* Rosa means rose but also pink... so he follows "and blue and gold"



From "Platero and I", by Juan Ramón Jiménez
Translated by Eloïse Roach


Last edited by Vera Cruz on Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:52 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Platero and I

Post  Guest on Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:14 am

Some people believe that I wrote Platero and I for children, that this is a book for children.

No. In 1913, the editor of La Lectura, who knew I was writing this book, asked me to advance a few of its most idyllic pages for its "youth series." Then, changing my idea momentarily, I wrote this prologue:

A NOTE TO THOSE GROWNUPS WHO MIGHT
READ THIS BOOK TO CHILDREN:

This short book, where joy and sadness are twins, like the ears of Platero, was written for... I have no idea for whom!... For whomever lyric poets write... Now that it goes to the children, I do not add nor remove a single comma. That's it!

"Wherever there are children"- Novalis used to say- "there is a Golden Age." Well. it is within this Golden Age, which is like a spiritual island fallen from the skies, that the heart of the poet walks, and it finds itself there so at home that its most cherished wish would be not to have to ever abandon it.

Island of grace, of freshness and of joy, Golden Age of children; I always could find you in my life, a sea of mourning; let your breeze lend me its lyre high and sometimes senseless like the trill of the lark in the white sun of the morning!

I have never written nor will ever write anything for children, because I believe that the child can read the books that grownups read, with some few exceptions, that come to everyone's mind. There are of course exceptions too for men and for women.

Juan Ramón Jiménez

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Re: Platero and I

Post  Guest on Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:25 am

Platero and I

J M Coetzee

Platero and I is usually thought of as a children’s book. In the book trade it is certainly marketed as such. Yet in this set of vignettes held together by the figure of the donkey Platero there is much that an impressionable child will find hard to bear, and in addition much that is beyond the range of interest of children. I therefore find it better to conceive of Platero and I as impressions of the life of a town, Juan Ramon Jimenez’s home town of Moguer in Andalusia, as seen by an adult who, being a poet of great sensitivity, has not lost touch with the immediacy of childhood experience, and recorded with such delicacy and restraint as is proper when by our side, accompanying us on our daily round, we have an audience whose gaze is innocent and whose souls are the impressionable souls of children.

Besides the omnipresent gaze of the child, there is a second and more obvious gaze in the book: the gaze of Platero himself. Donkeys are, to human beings, not particularly beautiful creatures – not as beautiful as (to speak only of herbivores) gazelles or even horses – but they do have the advantage of possessing beautiful eyes: large, dark, liquid – soulful, we sometimes call them – and long-lashed. (We find the eyes of pigs, which are smaller and redder, less beautiful. Is this the reason why we do not easily love or befriend these intelligent, friendly, humorous beasts? As for insects, they do not have eyes at all that we can recognize as eyes, which makes them so alien that it is not easy to find a place in our hearts for them.)

There is a terrible scene in Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment in which a drunken peasant beats an exhausted mare to death. First he beats her with an iron bar, then he beats her over the eyes with a club, as if the image of himself in her eyes is what has above all to be extinguished. In Platero and I we read of an old blind mare who is chased away by her owners but insists on returning, angering them so much that they kill her with sticks and stones. Platero and his master (this is the word our language provides for us – it is certainly not the word Jimenez uses) come upon the mare lying dead by the roadside; her sightless eyes seem at last to see.

When you die, Platero’s master promises his little donkey, I will not abandon you by the roadside but bury you by the foot of the great pine that you loved.

It is the mutual gaze, between the eyes of this man – a man whom the gypsy children mock as crazy, and who writes of Platero and I rather than of I and Platero – and the eyes of “his” donkey (though he never thinks of Platero as an item which he owns), that establishes the deep bond between them, in much the same way that a bond is established between mother and infant at the moment when their gazes first lock. Again and again the mutual gaze of man and beast is reinforced. “De vez en cuando, Platero deja de comer, y me mira… Yo, de vez en cuando, dejo de leer, y miro a Platero…” <166>

Platero comes into existence as an individual – as a character, in fact – with a life and a world of experience of his own at the moment when the man whom I carelessly call his master, the crazy man, sees that Platero sees him, and in the act of seeing acknowledges him as an equal. At this moment “Platero” ceases to be just a label and becomes the donkey’s identity, his true name, all that he possesses in the world.

Jimenez does not humanize Platero. To humanize him would be to betray him in his asinine essence. Platero’s experience of the world is closed off to human beings by its very asinine nature, and impenetrable. Nevertheless, this iron barrier is now and again shattered when for an instant the poet’s vision, like a ray of light, penetrates and illuminates Platero’s experience; or, to make the same claim in different words, when the senses that we human beings possess in common with the beasts, infused with our heart’s love, permit us, through the agency of Jimenez the writer, to intuit that experience. “Platero, granas de ocaso sus ojos negros, se va, manso, a un charquero de aguas de carmín, de rosa, de violeta; hunde suavemente su boca en los espejos, que parece que se hacen líquidos al tocarlos él; y hay por su enorme garganta como un pasar profuso de umbrías aguas de sangre.” <105>

“Yo trato a Platero cual si fuese un niño… Lo beso, lo engaño, lo hago rabiar… Él comprende bien que lo quiero, y no me guarda rencor. Es tan igual a mí, tan diferente a los demás, que he llegado a creer que sueña mis propios sueños.” <132> Here we tremble on the very edge of the moment so urgently longed for in the fantasy lives of children, when the barrier between species falls and we and the animals who have so long been exiled from us come together in a greater unity. (How long exiled? In the Judaeo-Christian myth, the exile dates from our expulsion from Paradise, and the end of exile is yearned for as the day when the lion shall lie down with the lamb.)

At this moment we see the crazy man, the poet, behaving toward Platero as joyfully and affectionately as small children behave toward puppies and kittens; and Platero responds as young animals do to small children, with equal joy and affection, as if they know, as well as the child knows (and the sober, prosaic adult does not), that we are finally all brothers and sisters in this world; also that no matter how humble we are we must have someone to love, or we will dry up and perish.

In the end Platero dies. He dies because he has swallowed poison, but also because the life-span of a donkey is not as great as that of a man. Unless we choose to befriend elephants or turtles, we will mourn the deaths of our animal friends more often than they will mourn ours: this is one of the hard lessons which Platero and I does not shirk. But in another sense Platero does not die: always this “silly little donkey” will be coming back to us, braying, surrounded by laughing children, wreathed in yellow flowers. <117>

Page references are to the edition by Michael P. Predmore (Madrid: Cátedra, 1981).

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Re: Platero and I

Post  Guest on Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:56 am

V

Fear

Large, round, pure, the moon comes with us. In the sleepy meadows we see shadowy forms like black goats among blackberry bushes. At our passing, someone hides noiselessly. A huge almond tree, snowy with blooms and moonlight, its top enveloped in a white cloud, shadows the road shot with March stars. A penetrating smell of oranges. Dampness and silence. The witches' glen...

"Platero, it is... cold!"

Platero- I do not know whether spurred on by his fear or by mine- trots, enters the creek bed, steps on the moon and breaks it into pieces. It is as if a swarm of clear crystal roses were entangled at his feet, trying to hold him...

And Platero trots uphill, shortening his croup as if someone were after him, already sensing the soft warmth- which seems unattainable- of the approaching town.



________________________________________________________

I was posting this because of the part in bold. A more literal translation would be "I do not know whether in his fear or in mine" ("no sé si con su miedo o con el mío")... but I don't know if that would be right

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Re: Platero and I

Post  Guest on Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:23 am

Platero y yo - Op 190 - "Melancolía" - Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (played by Andrés Segovia)


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Re: Platero and I

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