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Showing posts from September, 2016

City of death

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Whilst exploring Sicily we went to the cemetery at Pozzallo to lay flowers for relatives. I had just assumed it would look rather like a British cemetery, and was intrigued to find out that it was much more akin to an ancient Roman burial ground. There wasn't a patch of grass to be seen, but (in the richer areas) a whole series of mausoleums with varying degrees of elaborate detail some of which had to be seen to be believed. I'm told that some families spend more on their tombs than on their houses.
These works of art are laid out in Roman grid-style, roads lined with houses for the dead, at once beautiful and boastful - declarations of the status and grandeur of both the ancestors and their survivors. Many are heavily influenced in their design by classical architecture, and given that each contain altars (with statues of the Virgin, various saints etc.) along with the names and icons of the lost generations, and receptacles for the offerings of flowers, these are each fund…

Lost in translation

Over the summer I spent a week holidaying in Sicily - the first time I have been on a plane in about 30-ish years. My brain has been rather all over the place since getting back, and it has taken me a while to marshal my thoughts sufficiently to share the experience. There are a number of different angles I shall approach over the next few posts.
We met up with many relatives and friends of Francesco, and dined out a great deal. At one particularly impressive meal I was asked to conclude the evening with a story. Only a small number of the people at table spoke any English, and I currently have only about a dozen words of Italian. So the story of Pomona and Vertumnus was conveyed by a combination of Francesco's translation of my words, a sprinkling of what little Italian I do know, and even more body language than usual.
Edward Sapir claimed that language shapes thought (a concept now known as linguistic relativity)- people thinking in Dutch will do so very differently from someon…