Zhang Weijie commented on "Broken Country" – Spain is a doughnut

author:The Paper
Zhang Weijie commented on "Broken Country" – Spain is a doughnut

"Broken Countryside: Walking Through Spain Never So Hollow", by Sergio del Molino, translated by Zhu Jinyu, published by Zhejiang People's Publishing House in March 2022, 370 pages, 58.00 yuan

Perhaps every country of a little size has two sides of each other's appearance, opposites and unity, which are presented both as geographical features and as human characteristics corresponding to geographical features, the so-called "customs and customs". In many countries, the contradiction is made up of coastal and inland contradictions, and in the process of modernization, this contradiction will be entangled with the increasingly tense opposition between the city and the countryside. Don't think that Macondo in "One Hundred Years of Solitude" represents the whole picture of Colombia, Márquez himself admits that the Caribbean coast where Macondo is located and the highland capital of Bogotá are very different, and the giggling Caribs and the overly serious citizens of Bogotá are like people from two worlds. In Argentina, the capital on the coast and the inland provinces that occupy a vast hinterland have despised each other from the nineteenth century to the present day, and the two seem to be almost two countries. Similarly, it can be said that there are "two Spains". In La España vacía: Viaje por un país que nunca fue (hereinafter referred to as "Broken"), the author defines the two Spains as follows: "One is an urban, Europeanized Spain, no different from any European society in appearance; The other is inland, barren Spain, which I call the Spanish Uninhabited Village. "This book revolves around the second Spain.

Spain is a very special presence in Europe. The history of being conquered and ruled by Islamic civilization has made Spanish culture show obvious cultural hybridization characteristics. The diversity of geography has created a wide variety of customs and customs in different regions of Spain, and Spaniards who identify with the region more than the national identity form a "bulk Spain". The book reveals another characteristic that distinguishes Spain from the rest of Europe: Spain's population distribution is extremely uneven. A map of Spain's population density that looks like a doughnut with a small piece of bread in the middle of it – Madrid and its surrounding satellite cities. Today, more than eighty percent of the country's population lives in cities along the coastline and in the central capital strip, while less than two-in-ten live in the hinterland, which accounts for more than half of the country's land, some with a population density similar to the Arctic Circle, the so-called "Spanish uninhabited village". The author lives in the inland region of Zaragoza, the only city in the "Spanish Uninhabited Village" region with a population of more than half a million.

Zaragoza, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Aragon, is a must for land transport between Madrid and Barcelona, the two core cities of the Iberian Peninsula. I remember when I first visited the city, looking at the walking path of the river beach outside the city, the slowly flowing Ebro River glowing with earth, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Pilar towering in the distance, and Zaragoza like an oasis in the desert under the scorching sun. When I first went to Spain, I took the high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona northeast, passing through the Aragon region, and I was surprised to realize that Spain also has deserts. Later, I traveled south from Madrid, through the wilderness of La Mancha, where Don Quixote once roamed, and once again into the desolate territory of the "Spanish No Man's Village". No wonder Don Quixote walked all day on his first trip without encountering a single thing worth mentioning, because the long wasteland was too monotonous and boring, and the scorching sun "roasted his brain pulp, if he still had a brain." This land suitable as a heroic epic scene and the dreams of heroes in this land were well mocked by the old Cervantes.

Zhang Weijie commented on "Broken Country" – Spain is a doughnut


Cervantes was a city man. He also falsely stated in Don Quixote that he had bought the manuscript of the novel on a commercial street in the city of Toledo. Cervantes, a city man, made the poor squire Don Quixote and his old hat attendant Sancho appear in the book. The authors of "Break" argue that in Spain, the urban-rural antagonism existed long before the Industrial Revolution. The process of modernization will inevitably exacerbate the antagonism between the two. The mass influx of population from the countryside to the cities is almost an iron law of "historical progress". The problem with Spain, in the author's view, is that its countryside was decaying before the massive modernization process began. The industrialization and infrastructure development between 1950 and 1970 gave Spain the material basis to become a modern country, but it was a fatal blow to the Spanish countryside, and these two decades of rural exodus greatly exacerbated the hollowing out of the Spanish interior. This is the "fruit" of Franco's dictatorship. Many people cite the achievements of economic construction to justify this thirty-six-year-long era of autocracy in Spanish history, and some even believe that without the violence, iron-fisted, and efficient of Generalissimo Franco, Spain would not have become one of the developed countries in the second half of the twentieth century, so his shooting of dissidents is forgivable. "Break" reveals how Franco's rule destroyed the Spanish countryside: the slippery Fuhrer extolled the preservation of the pure soul of the Spanish Motherland while sacrificing the countryside to develop the city, making the imbalance between the city and the countryside irreparable. Under his orders, people built reservoirs to provide water and electricity reserves for the expanding megacity, submerging the land that many farmers had lived on for generations. Farmers who did not accept land requisition were forcibly dragged out of their homes by the National Guard. The Spanish peasants who had lost their homes had to squeeze into shantytowns around the city, and had to do all kinds of work that the city people disdained to do in order to get a bite to eat. In this way, Spain underwent a deformed modernization: on one side the glamorous and ever-changing Madrid and Barcelona, on the other, the devastated and lifeless countryside. One Spain is in the limelight in the eyes of the world, the other is abandoned and forgotten.

This other Spain, however, has gained a solid presence in literature. The author mentions several contemporary Spanish literary works on the theme of abandoned countryside, in particular the 1988 novella La lluvia amarilla (Julio Yamazáles, Chinese translation by Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House, 2016, translated by Tong Yaxing), an elegy for the mountain village of Aragon: a lonely old man forgotten by the whole world in a deserted village in the field of mourning, lying in bed on his deathbed imagining his death and reminiscing about his past life. The author believes that this super bestseller activates a delicate emotion hidden in the hearts of many Spaniards. At the end of the eighties, Spain joined the European Community, received a large amount of money from Europe for modernization, built high-speed railways, highway networks, and organized the Olympic Games and World Expos, as if to break with the poor and backward past. It is precisely because of the fear of such a rapid pace of development that people tend to prefer the past, constant things, so there is a wave of nostalgia in bookstores and cinemas. Nostalgia is the other side of modernity in addition to seeking innovation and change. In fact, compared with Chinese cities, Spanish cities have not changed much, the layout and architectural style of many neighborhoods still retain the old appearance, and people's lives still maintain many historical traditions. I remember the first time I took my wife on a trip to Spain, I asked her, what was your impression of Spain? Her answer was interesting: "Reminds me of when I was a child." "In the growth process of our generation, our country is going to take decades to complete the road that the developed countries of the West have traveled for hundreds of years, the speed of change, the huge change, sometimes make us dizzy, often too late to nostalgia, new high-rise buildings are rising in front of the house. When we return to our hometown, the house of the past is gone, the school of our childhood is gone, and we cannot find a trace of the past. The slow-paced life of drinking tea and reading newspapers and shaking fans to cool down has also been replaced by a fast-paced life dominated by KPIs. So, in Spain, which has not yet been transformed beyond recognition by the modernization process and the pace of life is more relaxed, we have the illusion of going back to the past, and we enjoy this illusion. This may not be the case for Chinese who are a generation or two younger than us. My students go to Spain as exchange students, often complaining that life is not as modern and convenient as in China, the online shopping experience is a long wait, and you have to struggle to dig out cash and identify change to buy things in the supermarket, and Madrid, one of the most modern cities in Spain, is called the "horse village" by them. Our older generation may have been more nostalgic than we are. Every time the TV broadcast of the kind of TV series in which almost all Chinese people wear blue pants and black shoes, they watch it with relish, immersed in the illusion of an era that cannot be repeated. Yu Bin's essay collections "Not Far From Now" and "Time Passes" both record various details of life in the past era, counting all kinds of old objects, and things that we found inconvenient and could not be discarded in the past, but today it seems that not only no longer resents us, but is a little cute. The word "nostalgia", which is nostalgia in Spanish, is etymological combination of the words "return" and "pain", which has a tragic meaning, just like the gloomy tone of the novel "Yellow Rain". And the Chinese "nostalgia", "nostalgia" and "nostalgia" have no bitter taste, but also have the sweetness of love.

In the view of the author of "Broken", the bitter and tragic desolate landscape of Spain was also constructed to some extent by literary scholars. While he spoke out for the problem of the uninhabited village in Spain, he also admired the legend of the uninhabited village. He saw two sides of the modernization process: the construction of the modern state and the construction of the landscape went hand in hand, when a unified language and a unified civil code were implemented throughout the country, railway stations, National Guard posts, provincial banks, schools and post offices gradually spread throughout the remote corners of Spain, and a mythological system gradually spread out in the vast uninhabited villages of Spain, blending with the landscape. From Cervantes in the seventeenth century to Ashorin and Serra in the twentieth century, Spanish writers either sneered at Spain's barren lands, sighed or sang high-pitched praises, but often saw only the scenery and did not see the inhabitants in the landscape. After pointing out these problems, the author of "Broken" reveals the redemptive complex of Spanish intellectuals: "The Spaniards need to save the people who are suffering in the wasteland, they need to make it full of trees, they need to modernize it, build highways, use canals and reservoirs to ensure irrigation." The Spaniards must do something, because their landscape is not a landscape, but an urgent problem to be solved. ”

On the other hand, he also unearthed the ideological sense of Spain's no-man's village, that is, Carlosism. This trend of thought originated in nineteenth-century Spanish political movements that supported Prince Carlos and absolutism, against Queen Isabel II and liberalism. The author argues that nowhere in Europe is Spain as attached to the Ancien Régime. Anti-urbanization, defending traditional Catholic values and monarchical orthodoxy, which has maintained a strong presence in Spain, especially in the country's rural areas, has maintained a strong presence since the nineteenth century to the present, acting as a counterweight to radical modernization and restoring self-respect to those who feel marginalized and humiliated by the modernization process. The author illustrates the adaptability of Carlosism in the process of national transformation with the experience of a radio announcer who is a household name in Spain: this person came to Madrid from a hinterland that attached great importance to tradition and became the gold medal host of the hottest pop chart program; In the bustling streets of the capital, he can swagger through the city in the rustic clothes of his hometown. Compared to more democratic and pluralistic countries such as the United States and France, Spain's popular culture is moderate and likable, without the kind of fierce conflict or rupture associated with street protests. This observation of the author once again reveals two sides of modernity: on the one hand, the confrontation between the old and the new, and on the other hand, the compromise between the old and the new. In fact, the author does not mention that there is another country in Europe that is similar to Spain's situation in this regard, and that is the United Kingdom. It is precisely in this country that made the modern transition earlier that conservatism has been a powerful force. British society, while retaining many of the disgusting things of the Ancien Régime, also avoided radical bloody revolutions, and its modernization process experienced much less social unrest than in continental countries such as France and Germany. British historian Eric Hobsbawm saw an artificially established continuity between modernity and past in the Gothic antiquity of the British Parliament Building and in the wigs of English lawyers, and he proposed a concept that is important for understanding modernity: "invented tradition". To a certain extent, Carlosism also manufactures and sells such "traditions". "Break" puts it very clearly: "Tradition is just a lie shared by everyone, and everyone treats it as if it is real, and let it be passed down in a religious way, and Carlosism is well versed in this mechanism." ”

The "shelf-ready proposals" in the translation of "Break" are written as "social chronicles", but the book also has characteristics of literary criticism, historical works, anthropological ethnography, and other literary genres. In general, this is a work of prose. The word "prose" (ensayo) also means "experiment, rehearsal" in Spanish, from this point of view, prose means experimentation, experimentation, exploration, so it can be eclectic, indefinite, take the most free form, but the goal is clear, because experimentation, groping, always to a goal, we understand in Chinese the essence of "prose" - "form scattered and not scattered", to some extent also this meaning. "Broken" is an attempt to get closer to the Spanish no-man's village, and the "god" of its prose is a deep emotion that connects modern Spaniards with the ancient land of Iberia.

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