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Much of the time when I read newspapers in Spanish I see very long sentences and the correct meaning seems beyond my ability to understand / interpret them. How would an expert translate the following for example? Because I can't. Gracias.

No es posible comulgar, en lo más mínimo, con una izquierda neofascista, retrógrada, pero, tampoco un mínimo de aceptación, frente al accionar de una derecha, si es que todavía puede llamarse así, a los movimientos cívicos y extremistas, amarrados a la lógica del latifundio, como ocurre en algunas regiones del país.

  • Posted Jul 23, 2009
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Much of the time when I read newspapers in Spanish I see very long sentences and the correct meaning seems beyond my ability to understand / interpret them. How would an expert translate the following for example? Because I can't. Gracias.

No es posible comulgar, en lo más mínimo, con una izquierda neofascista, retrógrada, pero, tampoco un mínimo de aceptación, frente al accionar de una derecha, si es que todavía puede llamarse así, a los movimientos cívicos y extremistas, amarrados a la lógica del latifundio, como ocurre en algunas regiones del país.

Ian, many Spanish newspapers are written in a very deliberately complex style, using long sentences, many subordinates, and unusual word choices whenever possible. It is a very artificial language, if you ask me.

Your paragraph is particularly twisted, hard to read, and in my opinion, badly written from a literary point of view (that's how I see it, of course). I had to read it several times to see its internal structure and logic, and I still haven't found it. It is either a mess, the punctuation is wrong and confusing, or I can't read properly. I think I understand the main idea, but I can't even connect the phrases in a coherent way. If I had to teach syntax, I'd give this "sentence" as challenge for students to analyse.

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No es posible comulgar, en lo más mínimo, con una izquierda neofascista, retrógrada, pero, tampoco un mínimo de aceptación, frente al accionar de una derecha, si es que todavía puede llamarse así, a los movimientos cívicos y extremistas, amarrados a la lógica del latifundio, como ocurre en algunas regiones del país.

I think the length of the sentence is only part of the problem. Without a good understanding of Latin American culture and politics the meaning of some words may elude you. In particular:

comulgar = literally it means to take communion in the Catholic mass, but it is often used to mean "to share ideals" or sharing something of a philosophical nature.

izquierda = left-wing politicians; in Latin America this usually means "communists".

retrógrada = backward-thinking; attached to political ideas that are out of fashion.

derecha = right-wing politicians; in Latin America this always means the rich and powerful who fight hard to preserve the status quo from which they are the only beneficiaries.

latifundio = literally this word means "a huge amount of land owned by a single family". It represents one of the basic problems in Latin America: the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a very small minority.

See if you can make sense of the sentence now. If not, here is a loose translation:

It is not possible to agree in the least with neofascist, backward-thinking leftists. However, neither is it possible to partially accept them, even considering the attacks, if they can be so called, against the civic and extremist movements by the Conservatives, who are tied to the logic of the concentration of land in the hands of a few. These attacks by the Conservatives have occurred in some regions of the country.

I have no problem with the sentence at all, this is the common writing style in the more "sophisticated" newspapers and magazines in Brazil. (even though we don't speak Spanish, we share the same flair for sophisticated language; very much like the British, I suppose)

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Thank you Lazarus and Heitor for responding - much appreciated.
I often see these very long sentences here in Bolivia. Even if a native speaker of English tried to do something similar in English the sentence would become unintelligible or at least ambiguous.
Heitor, it is interesting to see that your English interpretation is in 3 sentences and even then the middle one is unusually long. I did get the general idea of the original Spanish but could never have written or said it even with all the time in the world. I have checked what I wrote and it is exactly as written in the newspaper.

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I often see these very long sentences here in Bolivia. Even if a native speaker of English tried to do something similar in English the sentence would become unintelligible or at least ambiguous.

So what do you think of this sentence, from Pride and Prejudice:

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week"

It does take more concentration to get the full meaning, but to me it's clear, unambiguous, and a perfect example of how English is not intrinsically limited as a language.

Heitor, it is interesting to see that your English interpretation is in 3 sentences and even then the middle one is unusually long.

Well, English is a lot more "simplistic" than Spanish or Portuguese. Most writing is done in a piecemeal manner so that it is easy to digest. I don't particularly like the obsession with practicality that is a hallmark of Anglo-Saxon culture, but I recognize that is just a matter of taste (and, possibly, upbringing).

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So what do you think of this sentence, from Pride and Prejudice:

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week"

I think it is a lot more simple, clear, and logically constructed than the Spanish sentence. I didn't have any problem following it at all. To me, it is not the length of the sentence that makes it hard to follow, but the construction and the path of logic.

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Pride and Prejudice was written some while ago and it was written by one of our most respected authors, in a novel that was intended to be read at a leisurely pace and not in a newspaper.

I was just trying to show that long sentences are perfectly possible in English, and that whether they should be used or avoided is a matter of personal preference rather than some limitation of the language.

It is not impossible to write long sentences in English. For me however, a learner of Spanish, it seems that Spanish writers take a delight in writing long sentences

For me, as a foreign speaker of English, it seems that English writers do not take delight in their language at all. Which, from my cultural background, I find rather strange.

I believe that our most famous writer, Shakespeare, used as few words as possible in most cases, resulting in elegance rather than practicality, but that was also a long time ago.

Well, that is sort of the point I was trying to make, although I was not explicit. I don't know about Spain and Portugal, but to me it is a fact that Latin American culture is between one and two hundred years behind the modern world. We still believe that things like beauty and elegance are more important than efficiency, speed, sometimes even accuracy.

Are we Anglo-Saxons now so practical (unromantic)?

That question begets an entire new discussion, but in any case as far as language is concerned, I would say that contemporary English writing is strangely devoid of beauty, imagination, flourish, things that add flavour to writing. Any newspaper, magazine, or book originally written in English appears to have been written with the specific purpose of making money, and that requires targeting the largest possible audience.

Contrast that with the greatest writer of our time, who happens to be Colombian. I recently watched an interview with Gabriel García Márquez in which he talks about the huge success of "Cien años de soledad", and how he felt intimidated to write another book because he knew his audience was expecting more of the same. He didn't think it honest to do that and wrote his next book in a completely different style. ("El otoño del patriarca")

Had García Márquez been born somewhere else, he would have followed up with "Doscientos años de soledad", then "Trescientos ...", and only stop until he couldn't make any more money out of it.

(for anyone interested, here is the link to García Márquez's interview, in Spanish:
http://video.globo.com/Videos/Player/Noticias/0,,GIM1065737-7823-GABRIEL+GARCIA+MARQUEZ+COMENTA+CEM+ANOS+DE+SOLIDAO,00.html)

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Heitor - you wrote
Any newspaper, magazine, or book originally written in English appears to have been written with the specific purpose of making money, and that requires targeting the largest possible audience.

For newspapers and many magazines "targeting the largest possible audience" is their prime objective. Plus being easily read and conveying information. Of course that could be done with style as well but often is not. For books I think you have some more reading to do.
However I think you are generalising too much about writers of English and your observations are more valid when one thinks about what happens in the USA and not in England / Britain / Ireland. Someone said that the citizens of the USA know the price of everything and the value of nothing - I don't think that is true of my countrymen but the "success" of Harry Potter might indicate something else.
I have read the book you refer too (in English because I would never be able to "tune into it" in Spanish). I bought the book three times because I lost the first two before I had finished reading it. I learned a lot about South America from it. I guess the author, having won the Nobel Prize for literature, could afford to try something else. I have a friend here in Bolivia who has met that author and talked with him. Her opinion of him as a person is less than complimentary. That does not of course make him any less a great writer but maybe arrogant enough to think he could write another great book in a completely different way. Did he succeed? Or did he make money from it just because of the success of the first book? Did he know that would happen? Was he more altruistic than any writer of English literature?
I am not trying to provoke or annoy you but maybe your tag "simplistic" annoys me a little.

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Fred Reed wrote (the last sentence)

I do not see how a Vivaldi or Corot or Milne can exist under such conditions. And they don't.

How does he know they don't exist?
May I say that maybe they do exist today but that they are rarely seen or heard because of the "noise" of commercialism that surrounds us constantly? In the past many great artists were not seen or appreciated in their own time either.

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I haven't followed this whole thread, but I started reading Heitor's last comments, and I couldn't help but agreeing with him. Particularly, when it comes to "art", among other things. Without having read other people's comments on this thread, I strongly subscribe to Heitor's ideas, written in a very persuasive, thoughtful and intelligent way. The whole thing reminded me of those Kantian's conversations I used to have in College. Very interesting!

Ah, even though I agree on most points, I am agnostic, by the way. grin

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This thread has moved, interestingly, from my original post and now we are discussing religion and belief. I would enjoy being a believer in God because it would comfort me but can't do so with any honesty. One aspect of most religions I can't accept is the concept of sin or original sin. I can think of no greater sin than convincing someone that they or those that they love might end up in a hell being tortured for eternity. That must surely be the ultimate sin but is committed by religious leaders. Any comments'

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One last comment from me.
That people are not all virtuous does not mean they are sinful. We can not all be saints by definition.

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Heitor
Pride and Prejudice was written some while ago and it was written by one of our most respected authors, in a novel that was intended to be read at a leisurely pace and not in a newspaper. It is not impossible to write long sentences in English. For me however, a learner of Spanish, it seems that Spanish writers take a delight in writing long sentences - but point taken. I probably could not / would not have written the sentence you quoted in that way either. I believe that our most famous writer, Shakespeare, used as few words as possible in most cases, resulting in elegance rather than practicality, but that was also a long time ago. Are we Anglo-Saxons now so practical (unromantic)'

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I have a friend here in Bolivia who has met that author and talked with him. Her opinion of him as a person is less than complimentary. That does not of course make him any less a great writer but maybe arrogant enough to think he could write another great book in a completely different way. Did he succeed? Or did he make money from it just because of the success of the first book? Did he know that would happen? Was he more altruistic than any writer of English literature?

I don't know. When I think of Latin American literature, I don't see it as a primarily commercial phenomenon. Authors such as García Márquez and Vargas Llosa are small potatoes compared to the likes of Dan Brown and J. K. Rowling.

Of course we have Paulo Coelho, who is enormously successful and a source of shame to my Brazilian pride...

I am not trying to provoke or annoy you but maybe your tag "simplistic" annoys me a little.

I realize you are British and I'm not as familiar with British culture as I would like to be. Here in Canada all we get is American junk, so please forgive my prejudices when I speak of "things in English" (as opposed to "things English")

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Here in Canada all we get is American junk, so please forgive my prejudices when I speak of "things in English" (as opposed to "things English")

Heitor, you are certainly entitled to your opinion/classification of "things American," and when it comes to modern literature and entertainment, I must, for the most part, agree with you.

However, I should hope that you would qualify what you are referring to by "American junk," for most Canadians I know welcome things American in general, including, unfortunately, pop culture and entertainment (that is not to say that Canadians don't have a culture of their own, or that they are not proud of it; quite the contrary). They certainly don't have a problem accepting the stuff we print on green paper with presidential pictures, or the jobs provided by American companies that locate factories/facilities in Canada. Where would Canadian TV and radio be without the American influence? Where are the Canadian authors and producers in this conversation?

Don't get me wrong. I am fond and appreciative of Canada, the country and the people. I am not firing shots. I would just like a clarification of your reference to "American junk."

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Heitor, you are certainly entitled to your opinion/classification of "things American," and when it comes to modern literature and entertainment, I must, for the most part, agree with you.

However, I should hope that you would qualify what you are referring to by "American junk"

Dan Brown. Nora Roberts. Robert Ludlum. Anne Rice. Basically anything that shows up in the "best-selling" wall of any major bookstore.

You see, there is a whole industry behind the production and sale of low-quality culture. It's not a particularly American phenomenon, it's just that Americans are better at it than any other country. But I mentioned, in this very thread, that I have a very low opinion of the popular Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

The reason I admire writers such as García Márquez or José Saramago so much, is that they haven't sold themselves to this corrupt system. Maybe they do it out of arrogance, as Ian has suggested, maybe they do it out of honesty, but whatever their motives, they are the only ones carrying the great Western cultural tradition forward. Everyone else is just interested in making a lot of money by dumbing themselves down to the lowest denominator possible.

I'm not very good at writing, so I can't really explain the problem well. This guy makes a much better job:

http://www.fredoneverything.net/DarkAge.shtml

An American, by the way; I'm quite fond of his blog. This paragraph alone is, to me, a masterpiece:

Once we were specks on the landscape. The mountains were vast and forbidding; one walked in them with a sense of awe, or at least of being small in a large place. You could lie beside a brook babbling through a forest and reflect that the world contained things other than the trivialities of human existence. This produced I think a tranquility that made for contemplation, a frame of mind conducive to what we call tiresomely "creativity."

Maybe the internet will save us from the dumb cultural industry? I hope so, I have great faith in the individual and no faith at all in corporations.

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