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This article is taken from PN Review 136, Volume 27 Number 2, November - December 2000.

An Encounter Without Words Rafael Nadal

London 1943. The Babylonian wartime canteen of the BBC at Bush House. She sat with colleagues of mine two or three tables away. Our glances crossed twice. When she left I hurried to find out who was that fascinating lady.

- Funny, my friend said, she also wanted to know who you were.

We both remember that day.

London 1953. But our first encounter took place ten years later when a common friend took me to a party at her house in 9 Paulton's Square. That day marked the beginning of a friendship now forty-seven years old, one of the most precious gifts destiny bestowed upon me. So only space here to dwell on one aspect, practically unknown: her interest in Spanish poetry and drama.

One day, talking with some friends about early religious plays, I quoted a few lines from the Nativity Play of Gómez Manrique, the Spanish fifteenth century poet and dramatist. 'If you help me I might attempt a translation', she exclaimed. And two weeks later, a note: 'I am delighted with this beautiful tragic little Nativity Play, I could hardly translate it without tears. It is symbolically perfect, and I have never seen anything so moving as Our Lady's prayer for understanding of the God-child she has to bring up.'

Other translations followed. Among them, several pieces from Lorca beautifully published by the Enitharmon Press. The translation of the famous Calderon's Life's a Dream however ...


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