This week’s issue is a special one. Really. From henceforth The Grail will no longer be known as a solely English-language document. That’s because this issue includes articles written in French, Chinese, Latin, and Spanish all by Reed students. Our contributors have gladly offered their time, energy, and experiences for the development of this issue. These authors offer up personal experiences, stories, and commentary surrounding language, culture, and identity. English translations are also included for all those poor monoglots out there (two editors included).
Lauren, Jordan, and Vikram
News & Features
I love Latin because it is able to be simple. Not easy, but concise. Latin has fewer words than Greek has, which allows for the most beautiful poems to be written. The first poem that I read was written by Catullus. He wrote, “odi et amo” (“I hate and I love”). When it is read out loud “odi et amo” sounds like one word. “Odetamo,” as if it were one feeling. Vergil wrote, “vasto rex Aeolus antro” (“King Aeolus in a vast cave”). This placement of the Latin words paints a picture. The picture is of little Aeolus enveloped by a big cave just like the words themselves are. Latin remains so beautiful that it can create the most beautiful poems.
I grew up in a small town playing with the children of university professors, white, rich and liberal (not unlike life at Reed). This environment did not hate the Mexican within me (at least not consciously), it simply could not relate to it. My grandmother’s fantastic stories, the smell of tortillas made by hand and mornings painted with dust and punctuated by the cry of the rooster did not have a place. I never thought much of the parts of my identity that hid from the society around me. I never thought that maybe my environment was not simply denying my identity but the identity of millions of other people and ultimately its own.
You know all of Edith Piaf's songs by heart. You're sick of Maître Gims' operatic voice, and even your cats don't want to watch "The Aristocats" anymore because you've been pissing them off by singing Maurice Chevalier in the shower for six years. Face it, kid: it's high time you discover some new French singers. Luckily, there are loads of hidden gems in the French repertoire, artists of nearly mythic status whose melodies are just as captivating as their glamorous (or woefully bleak) lives. I present to you three musical superstars in the French tradition who have offered me endless inspiration. Give them a chance. Your cats will thank you.
Let's begin with the Master. No! I'm not talking about Maître Gims! Stop bringing him up! I'm referring to Serge Gainsbourg. Famous for his provocative songs (so very provocative!) and for his high-profile love affairs, Gainsbourg was also incredibly talented as a lyricist. I cite an example of his exquisite wordplay: in the domain of sonority and lovely extended metaphors, "Coffee Color" attests to Gainsbourg's poetic genius:
Oh, how wild is the effect
The effect that it makes
To see you roll thus
Your eyes and your hips
If, like coffee, you do
Nothing but bother me
Nothing but arouse me,
Tonight will surely be sleepless
In the city of Tainan there is a bustling night market called the Flower Night Market. It is open three days in a week, and each there it is filled with people who come to try out the foods there. Stinky tofu, grilled chicken, oyster omelets, it seems they have all kind of food there. You can also find all kinds of people there. Every street is filled with hawkers selling their wares, though whether they’re selling junk or precious goods is up to you to decide. Pick a street and walk down; you’ll find busking musicians. Their music isn’t bad, though sometimes it’s drowned out by the noise of the crowd. I’d like to say something about the crowd of people in this night market, but it’s a little difficult for me to sum it all up for you in a few sentences. Let’s see, I’ll start with one person then.