Hotel de las Letras

We’re staying at the Hotel of Letters. Our room has passages from the Odyssey in Spanish on the walls. We have lines concerning Ithaca, which was Odysseus’s home. When I was in my teens I had read the Aeneid in Latin and wanted to try to learn Greek so I could read Homer untranslated. I didn’t succeed. One of my favorite books about the Iliad is by Simone Weil. The Iliad, or the Poem of Force, written in 1939 on the eve of World War II, is part translation, analysis and meditation on war.  Weil was a pacifist but not quite. She fought, rather ineptly, in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. She spent most of her life championing the working class and the poor. For a very short time she lived not far from where I live in Harlem. Weil died at 34, mostly because she starved herself in a misguided embrace of asceticism. I could say so much more about her but I’ll just pause here and get out on the streets of Madrid, where it’s been snowing all morning.