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October 3, 2013

Sin Tapujos (Openly)

Oscar-Wilde

This small, yet fascinating Spanish-written little book was a real enjoyment to read. Sin Tapujos (Openly Speaking) was published by Errepar, in Argentina, in 1998. The prologue, selections and book organization was done by Virna Köble. Of course, how could it not be fun, since it is the best compilation of Oscar Wilde’s witticisms that I have seen? And why not start by saying that I truly recommend this book? Well, I do indeed!

It took me a couple of months to read this book. Not because it is long. One could easily read it in a few hours, if one wished to do so. However, for me it became like a ritual. It was almost like reading an inspirational witticism of the day. Let me explain.

Early in the mornings, I go to my local town center club to swim. I always made sure I had my swimming gear, an apple, water and of course, this wonderful little book. After having finished swimming more laps than what I care to count, I would lie basking in the sun and begin reading it, while eating an apple, at the same time. Fortunately, not too many people would join me, particularly during work week days, for more often than not I would laugh out loud, by my lonesome self!

Sin-TapujosOh, there is also the case of a good friend of mine, Reverend Torres. On several occasions he has picked up the book and often enough, an ensuing belly laugh would follow. And there were even several entries related to religion that were quite enlightening, too.

I loved the way in which Mr. Köble organized the book. Not only is there such a logical progression but it also captures Mr. Wilde’s mood, throughout his life, via his writings. Although, most of Wilde’s outrageous witticisms, epigrams, dialogs, etc. are in and of themselves hilarious or simply outlandish, as we get towards the end of the book we start seeing an Oscar Wilde who becomes more somber and quite poignant.

But for those of you that are not familiar with Wilde’s biography, towards the end of his short life, he spent time in Pentonville Prison and then Wandsworth Prison. This period had a dramatic impact on his life, and Wilde’s writings became more serious.

To give you an idea how difficult it must have been for him, a suave, aesthetic, sophisticated, urbane, decadent and cultured individual who was used to the good refined life of London and Paris, as per Wikipedia: “the transfer itself [to Reading Prison] was the lowest point of his incarceration, as a crowd jeered and spat at him on the railway platform”.

You see, Wilde had reached immense popularity in Britain, continental Europe, and America. Not just because of his masterful work, but because of his, at times, extravagant public persona, as well. He wasn’t accustomed to hard labor and this took a severe toll on his health.

In a way, Wilde’s life is a testament that the path to glory is hard, difficult and often tragic. However, although I am being presumptuous, I suspect that if you were able to ask him, was it all worth it? His answer, and possibly a witty one, would be a resounding yes! Fortunately for us, his body-work lives on, to entertain us, to teach us, to inspire us and certainly to enchant future generations.

Although this book is not meant to be a biography, how better can we get to the soul of a writer, than through his writing? The quotations came from his body work, i.e. poems, short stories, plays and novel. I have a feeling that I will come back to it often. The book is organized into five categories. And since today I am feeling quite cheerful while writing this piece, I will enumerate each of the five sections, throwing a few of Wilde’s sayings, to boot.

ON WOMEN

“Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood”.

“Women treat us just as humanity treats its gods. They worship us and are always bothering us to do something for them”.

“Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship”.

ON MARRIAGE

“The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer”.

“Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance”.

“Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious. Both are disappointed”.

LIFE AS A SPECTACLE

“To become a spectator of one’s own life is to escape the suffering of life”.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”.

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live”.

ON PLEASURES

“There were poisons so subtle that to know their properties one had to sicken of them”.

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it … I can resist everything but temptation”.

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes”.

MISCELLANEOUS

“Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer”.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.

“Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime”.

“I want to get to the point when I shall be able to say quite simply, and without affectation that the two great turning-points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford, and when society sent me to prison”.

 

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