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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The real Gas Natural

(… no, not another boring political post about the Endesa/Gas Natural scandal … leave that to the pundits ...)

A curious and forgotten appendix at the end of Salvador Dali’s Diary of a genius is illuminating if you want to learn about the Spanish mentality. In this appendix, the Catalan artist behind such paintings as The Grand Masturbator and The Persistence of Memory explains one of his favorite pastimes: breaking wind, that is, farting.

In the pompously titled appendix, The Art of Farting or The Manual of the Mischievous Artilleryman by the Count of the Trumpet, doctor of the Bronze Horse, for the use of constipated people, he goes into lengthy explanations on what a fart is, its origins in literature, and the etymology of the word fart.

Then he relates the somewhat dubious myth of a man who outwitted the devil in a very peculiar way.

Here’s my translation (it gets knotty, but that’s Dali’s style):

For a long time the devil tormented a man so he would give himself up to him. This man, not being able to resist any longer the persecutions of the malignant spirit, consented finally with the following three conditions that were immediately granted:

1st He demanded a great quantity of gold and silver, which he received immediately.

2nd he demanded that he be turned invisible; the devil showed him how to do it and accompanied him while he carried out the experiment.

"It’s said that, at this critical moment, he ripped a diphthong fart, whose eruption was reminiscent of the firing of a musket."

The good man, in a dilemma, didn’t know what to ask of the devil for the third condition that [the devil] would not be able to please, and as his ingenuity didn’t offer the help that he expected, a great fear empowered him whose excess, by coincidence, saved him by luck from the claws of the devil. It’s said that, at this critical moment, he ripped a diphthong fart, whose eruption was reminiscent of the firing of a musket. Then, taking advantage of the agility of the situation, the man said to the devil:

- I want for you to thread all these farts in a needle, and I’ll be yours.

The devil tried to thread them; but for as much as they gathered on one side of the eye of the needle and stretched to the other [...] he could never finish the task. Furthermore, frightened by the horrible roar of that fart - that the echoes of the surroundings had multiplied - and confused, even furious, that someone had fooled him, he fled not without before ripping an infernal zullón [fart] that infected the whole vecinity, freeing the unhappy man in this way from the imminent danger that he was facing.

According to Dali: the diphthong fart "is a small thunder of the pocket, and is accessible by all; its virtue and healthiness are active and retroactive; they have an incalculable valor and have been appreciated as such in the most remote antiquity; from there the roman proverb: 'A good fart is worth a talent'".

The zullón, from what I read, probably means in modern English what is abbreviated as the SBD, or Silent But Deadly, also known as the Ninja Fart. These, as everyone knows, are the most insidious and foul of all farts.

He goes on to categorize several more types, some of which follow (again, my translation):

Farts of the province: people with experience assure us that these farts aren’t as contaminated as those of the capital, where everything is more sophisticated […] [Their farts] are natural and have a certain saltiness […] They open up the appetite agreeably.

Virgin farts: they say, on the island of the Amazons, that the farts have a delicious taste and are very sought after. It’s said that they’re only produced in this land, but many don’t believe it; in any case, they are, it seems, very rare.

Farts of the young lady: they are delicious dishes, above all in the big cities, where they’re taken for a good almond cake with essence of flower blossom.

Farts of the old woman: the commerce of these farts is so disagreeable that they don’t find merchants with which to trade. Nevertheless, no one impedes one who wants to dedicate himself to it; trade is free.

Farts of the wiseman: these are very valuable, not for their volume, but for the nobility of their origin. They are also very rare, because the wisemen, aligned in their academic seats, when they are not able to, in a public assembly, interrupt an important lecture to rip a fart, find themselves obligated to effeminize them to release them […] They are, on the contrary, vigorous when they are the fruit of solitude and liberty, because, in this day and age, wisemen eat more beans than meat […]

Farts of the cuckold: these are of two types. Some are smooth, friendly, soft, etc. They are farts of voluntary cuckolds: they are not malignant. The others are abrupt, without reason, and furious; one must watch out […]

But, I must add one new category to his list, which was demonstrated to me by a couple of Spaniards, no less.

It’s called the Llama Azul.

To properly explain what it is, I need you to take a trip with me down memory lane, back to a trip I made to Morocco about 5 years ago. I was a lonely young backpacker, fresh off the Algeciras-Tangier ferry. After dodging pickpockets and cunning con artists in the Tangier medina I decided to get the hell out of that godforsaken city and took a taxi straight to the Tangier rail station. After getting ripped off by the cabbie, I bought a ticket for the next train to Marrakech.

It as on this train that I met a couple Spaniards, and one Norwegian girl, all about my age. They were also travelling to Marrakech. The three had met on the ferry, but somehow I hadn’t seen them. Maybe I spent too much time in the bar. Really, I don’t remember.

"All in all, the Norwegian girl and I managed to communicate with the Spaniards through gestures and monosyllabic grunts, like good modern primitives."

Even though I could hardly speak Spanish at the time, they allowed me to join their group, and we ended up travelling together for the next three weeks. The Spaniards’ English wasn’t much above my Spanish, and the Norwegian girl knew less Spanish than I did – but she and I could communicate in English. All in all, the Norwegian girl and I managed to communicate with the Spaniards through gestures and monosyllabic grunts, like good modern primitives.

Ah what memories! Backpacking through Morocco, through the gorges of Toudra, the western Sahara while white-knuckling the roof of a shabby old diesel, everything covered with a fine reddish dust … the purple sunsets and silence of the dunes … the prayer calls at sunset, the sundry stalls of the Fez medina … the cacophony and chaos of the Djem el Fna, the smell of burning oil and roasted lamb … and above all, the incredibly sonorous and incessant gas passing of these Spaniards!

Since our diet consisted mainly of harira and tagin, with ample amounts of alubias (beans), they had no problem fueling a veritable battery of farts. Nonstop diphthongs, for the most part. I couldn’t understand it, because the Norwegian girl and I had eaten exactly the same meals, yet didn’t have the constant need to break wind. In fact, I felt pretty normal (not constipated, I mean), and judging from all outward signs, these were two perfectly average Spaniards, except of course, for their unsavory predilection. One reason for their loose-cheek symphony, and this is mere conjecture, could have been their excessive eating habits. I remember the bemusement on the Moroccans’ faces when we would sit in a stall and eat … these Spaniards ate a lot, very fast, and talked constantly. I have a feeling the disproportionate amount of food and the intake of air while talking produced their excessive flatulence.

So one fine night the Spaniards introduced us to what they called the Llama Azul.

"They would roll back with their legs bent as if in a crouching position – looking, in a way, like upside down toads."

This is how it went. They would roll back with their legs bent as if in a crouching position – looking, in a way, like upside down toads. They would then hold a lit lighter up to the seat of their pants. Then, typically, the conversation would go like this (their real names are used):

Julio: Ostia! Look!!! Look!!!!

Tino: O! Ooooo! Yo tambien!!!

BaaaaaaaaaaRRRRUUUUUUM

BababaRRUUUUUUUUM

A trail of fire sputtered forth from the seat of their pants and quickly spread upward, dying out somewhere near the waistline of their pants.

Both: Haaaaaaa ha ha ha ha ha. HA HAAAAA HAAAAA HAAA HA!

Julio: O tio, my ass HURTS!!!!!!

Tino: ME TOO! Oh mierda! Otra vez!

And so on, ad infinitum.

Incredible as it may seem, they were able to repeat this impressive feat for hours on end. The Norwegian girl, I suspect, thought this behavior was "typically Spanish" and quaint. It was pretty funny for the first 30 minutes, but afterwards we had to evacuate the room (would this then be considered a Hostile Takeover?). These were, after all, an unfortunate combination of the diphthong, or thunder fart, and the zullón, or SBD. Not even igniting them could diminish their effect.

As I stated above, I hardly knew any Spanish at the time, and when they called it the Llama Azul, my immediate (and bad) translation was "The Blue Call" – and this perplexed me for months on end until I found out "llama" could also mean flame. So - my monolingual readers - this was the mythical Blue Flame, Spanish style.

§

A post script: And there’s more, if you can handle it - an International Farting Contest in Catalunya. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

Sant Llorenç de la Muga. – The first edition of the International Fart Contest of Sant Llorenç de la Mugam, celebrated yesterday at the 7th annual Congress of the bean, you can well say has broke wind. Not because it created expectation, and there had been quite a lot, rather because of the name of the participants. Only one person, Blas Romero, neighbor of Figueres, dared to take part in the contest, and he won the prize needing only one try, with a fart that slightly surpassed 102 decibels of potency.

[after some quick internet research I found out that 102 decibels is equivalent to – ironically enough – the sound of those annoying Spanish racing scooters]

Sant Llorenç de la Muga.- La primera edició del Concurs Internacional de Pets de Sant Llorenç de la Muga, celebrat ahir dins el marc de la 7a Fira de la Mongeta, es pot ben dir que va fer llufa. No pel que fa a l'expectació, que en va aixecar molta, sinó pel nombre de participants. Només una persona, Blas Romero, i veïna de Figueres va gosar prendre part en el concurs, i es va endur el premi necessitant tan sols un intent, amb un pet que va superar lleugerament els 102 decibels de potència.

Sadly this year el Concurs International de Pets de Sant Llorenç de la Muga was cancelled due to wind.

For next year’s festival I’m going to call my cuñaooooo who’s a fearsome thunder farter, especially after copious amounts of allioli.

§

For the translation I used the 2004 Tusquets edition of Diario de un genio.