The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez - Reverte


The Fencing Master is a historical novel set in the 19th century Spain. Don Jaime Astarloa, the fencing master lives his everyday life teaching fencing to the sons of wealthy families. He isn't much interested in revolutionary events going on in Madrid, until one day a note summons him to the home of a mysterious woman wishing to learn Don Jaime's secret "two hundred Escudo" thrust. At first he declines but later changes his mind. What follows profoundly changes his peaceful existence.

Don Jaime is fascinated by Adela de Otero, her fencing ability and her mystery. However, I didn't find her easy to like. I didn't quite know why, until she was described as having something cruel in her eye at one moment during fencing. I realized there was a cruel undercurrent about her, something intangible, but present all the time.

I rather liked Don Jaime. There's something nostalgic about him, an older man in his fifties with lean figure and white hair, as Pérez - Reverte describes him. We get a glimpse at him as a young man having a military career and and later in his life, loving a woman and ultimately losing her. I would like to read more about him in a separate book, a sort of a prequel. Don Jaime takes fencing extremely seriously. He doesn't consider it a sport, but an art, connected with honour and ideals lost to the younger generations. Pistols are different to fencing, you can shoot an opponent from a distance, without confronting him in a man to man fight and look him in the eye. It's similar to our everyday communication, it's much easier to e-mail or text a person or just not to say anything, than resolving a conflict face to face. I saw Don Jaime as a symbol of past. Times were changing, someone said in the novel. However, sometimes I get the impression that we use this phrase to condone forgetting "old-fashioned" ideals and replacing them with new ones, not necessarily better.  


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The Fencing Master (Učitelj sabljanja?) je zgodovinski roman, ki se dogaja v Španiji 19. stoletja. Don Jaime Astarloa sinove bogatih staršev uči sabljanja in tako živi svoje vsakdanje umirjeno življenje. Ne zanima se posebno za dogajanje okoli sebe, niti za revolucionarne dogodke, niti za trače. Nekega dne pa prejme sporočilo skrivnostne ženske, ki ga vabi na obisk, da bi ga prosila naj jo nauči nepremagljivega udarca, vrednega dvesto eskudov. Sprva odkloni, potem pa si premisli, kar obrne njegovo mirno življenje na glavo.

Don Jaime je navdušen nad Adelo de Otero, še posebej nad njenim sabljaškim znanjem in njeno skrivnostnostjo. Ni mi bila všeč, čeprav sprva nisem vedela zakaj, dokler nisem prebrala, kako je Don Jaime med sabljanjem v njenih očeh opazil nekaj okrutnega. Točno to je bilo, kar me je motilo. V zvezi z njo je bilo vseskozi komaj zaznavno prisotno nekaj okrutnega.

Don Jaime mi je bil všeč. Nekaj nostalgičnega je na njem, na njegovih staromodnih elegantnih oblačilih, vitko postavo in belih laseh. Starejši moški pri petdesetih, kot ga opiše Pérez - Reverte. V pri polovici romana dobimo vpogled v njegovo mladost, vojaško kariero, ki jo je bil prisiljen prekiniti in kasneje ljubezen z žensko, ki jo je na koncu izgubil. Rada bi prebrala še kaj o njem, v posebni knjigi, ki bi bila predzgodba te. Don Jaime zelo resno jemlje sabljanje. Zanj to ni šport, ampak umetnost, povezana s starimi vrednotami kot so čast, dostojanstvo in pogum, nekaj, kar mlajše generacije na razumejo več. Pištole so nekaj drugega. Človeka lahko ustreliš z daljave, ni se ti treba soočiti z njim v boju moža na moža, ni ga treba pogledati v oči. Podobno je danes, ko ljudje napišejo e-sporočilo ali sms ali celo ne rečejo ničesar, raje kot da bi se soočili s človekom in se pogovorili. Don Jaime je bil zame simbol preteklosti. Časi se spreminjajo, je rekel nekdo v zgodbi. Res se spreminjajo, vendar se mi zdi, da te besede vedno bolj uporabljamo zato, da bi opravičili dejstvo, da smo na stare vrednote pozabili. Zalepili smo jim etiketo staromodnosti in jih zamenjali z novimi, ne nujno boljšimi.

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