Páginas brillantes de la literatura inglesa -1

Mis queridos seguidores y amigos: Es Navidad, y no es cosa de ponerse a estudiar gramática o fonética. La Navidad es tiempo de reunirse y comer con familiares y amigos, de ir de tiendas para comprar regalos, etc. Pero la Navidad es también para mí tiempo de recuerdos y, entre esos recuerdos están los libros que leí en mi juventud y que tanto me hicieron disfrutar. Es por esta razón por la que, durante las vacaciones navideñas, es mi propósito subir a mi blog algunas páginas brillantes de la literatura inglesa para que disfrutéis leyéndolas, si os queda algún hueco entre las actividades típicas de estas fechas.
Pero como dicen los ingleses "once a teacher, always a teacher", que podríamos traducir como 'un profesor no deja nunca de ser profesor' (puede aplicarse también a otras profesiones, vocacionales principalmente como, por ejemplo, la de cura: 'once a priest, always a priest), y a mí, como profesor que fui y que quiero de algún modo seguir siendo, se me ocurre que estas lecturas, a la vez que placenteras, podrían servir también de reading comprehension, por si a alguno de vosotros le apetece practicar un poco la comprensión lectora, e incorporo, por tanto, algunas comprehension questions.
Empezaré con el arranque del capítulo 1 de Travels With My Aunt, de Graham Greene, que me parece un ejemplo de fino humor inglés y que espero os guste tanto como me gustó a mí la primera vez que lo leí, en mis años jóvenes. Graham Greene es uno de mis autores ingleses favoritos y he leído la mayoría de sus libros. Conozco algo de su vida (escribió varias autobiografías, la primera A Sort of Life, en 1971, la segunda, Ways of Escape, en 1980  y, la tercera, A World of My Own, en forma de diario, publicada póstumamente en 1992, un año después de su muerte). Además, en más de una ocasión, he tenido, gracias a mis queridos monjes cistercienses, el privilegio de dormir en una habitación del Monasterio de Oseira, en Orense, donde el gran escritor durmió cuando fue a Galicia, para supervisar el rodaje de un film televisivo, basado en su novela Monsignor Quixote, con Alec Guinness como actor principal:

I met my Aunt Augusta for the first time in more than half a century at my mother's funeral. My mother was approaching eighty-six when she died, and my aunt was some eleven or twelve years younger. I had retired from the bank two years before with an adequate pension and a silver handshake. There had been a takeover by the Westminster and my branch was considered redundant. Everyone thought me lucky, but I found it difficult to occupy my time. I have never married, I have always lived quietly, and, apart from my interest in dahlias, I have no hobby. For those reasons I found myself agreeably excited by my mother's funeral.
My father had been dead for more than forty years. He was a building contractor of a lethargic disposition who used to take afternoon naps in all sorts of curious places. This irritated my mother, who was an energetic woman, and she used to seek him out to disturb him. As a child I remember going to the bathroom - we lived in Highgate then - and finding my father asleep in the bath in his clothes. I am rather short-sighted and I thought that my mother had been cleaning an overcoat, until I heard my father whisper, 'Bolt the door on the inside when you go out.' He was too lazy to get out of the bath and too sleepy, I suppose, to realize that his order was quite impossible to carry out. At another time, when he was responsible for a new block of flats in Lewisham, he would take his catnap in the cabin of the giant crane, and construction would be halted until he woke. My mother, who had a good head for heights, would climb ladders to the highest scaffolding in the hope of discovering him, when as like as not he would have found a corner in what was to be the underground garage. I had always thought of them as reasonably happy together: their twin roles of the hunter and the hunted probably suited them, for my mother by the time I first remembered her had developed an alert poise of the head and a wary trotting pace which reminded me of a gun-dog. I must be forgiven these memories of the past: at a funeral they are apt to come unbidden, there is so much waiting about.
Not many people attended the service, which took place at a famous crematorium, but there was that slight stirring of excited expectation which is never experienced at a graveside. Will the oven doors open? Will the coffin stick on the way to the flames? I heard a voice behind me saying in very clear old accents, 'I was present once at a premature cremation.'
It was, as I recognized with some difficulty from a photograph in the family album, my Aunt Augusta, who had arrived late, dressed rather as the late Queen Mary of beloved memory might have dressed if she had still been with us and had adapted herself a little towards the present mode. I was surprised by her brilliant red hair, monumentally piled, and her two big front teeth which gave her a vital Neanderthal air. Somebody said, 'Hush', and a clergyman began a prayer which I believe he must have composed himself. I had never heard it at any other funeral service, and I have attended a great number in my time. A bank manager is expected to pay his last respects to every old client who is not as we say 'in the red', and in any case I have a weakness for funerals. People are generally seen at their best on these occasions, serious and sober, and optimistic on the subject of personal immortality.
The funeral of my mother went without a hitch. The flowers were removed economically from the coffin, which at the touch of a bottom slid away from us out of sight. Afterwards in the troubled sunlight I shook hands with a number of nephews and nieces whom I hadn't seen for years and could not identify. It was understood that I had to wait for the ashes and wait I did, while the chimney of the crematorium gently smoked overhead.
'You must be Henry,' Aunt Augusta said, gazing reflectively at me with her sea-deep blue eyes.
'Yes,' I said, 'and you must be Aunt Augusta.'

Comprehension questions

1.- How long was it since Henry hadn't seen Aunt Augusta?
2.- How old was Henry's mother when she died?
3.- What was Henry's profession before he retired?
4.-Why did he retire?
5.- What do we understand by 'a silver handshake'?
6.- What was Henry's hobby?
7.- Was Henry married or single?
8.- Where did Henry's father use to take his catnaps?
9.- What is Aunt Augusta like?
10.- What did Henry wait for after the funeral?

Suggested answers

1.- Over 50 years.
2.- Eighty-six.
3.- He was a bank manager.
4.- Because there had been a takeover by the Westminster and his branch had been made redundant.
5.- A silver handshake is a sum of money, more modest than a golden handshake, which is given to someone who is made redundant or retires early.
6.- He didn't have a hobby, apart from his interest in dahlias.
7.- He was single.
8.- In all sort of curious places, for instance in the cabin of the giant crane of a block of flats that was being built and which he was responsible for as building contractor.
9.- She had brilliant red hair which she wore monumentally piled, and two big front teeth which gave her a vital Neanderthal air.
10.- His mother's ashes.


3 comentarios :

  1. Very pleasant reading.

    I confess I'm not even half as well-read as you are, although I intend to change that at the earliest opportunity by building up my own library.

  2. I suggest you include that in your New Year resolutions.