The Low Countries Conference 2011. Translation and national images location:Antwerpen & Amsterdam date:16-18 November 2011
The image of Spain in Flanders is traditionally considered in terms of the shared history of both countries in the context of the “composite state” under the Habsburg monarchs in the 16th and 17th centuries. The cruel, reckless, arrogant, tyrannical, courageous Spanish soldier, with the Duke of Alva as the most prominent representative of this prototype, survived until the middle of the 20th century in schoolbooks (see Behiels 1992) and much later in popular literature such as the comics by Willy Vandersteen and Bob De Moor (see Behiels 2009). Many years of scientific historical research notwithstanding, the ‘Black Legend’ still survives.
Much less is known about the image of a more modern Spain that developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Therefore, it seems important to investigate whether early 20th century Flemish writers contributed to shaping a new image of Spain and what its characteristics are.
We will take as a starting point for our case study Jozef Simons (1888-1948). He was a prolific writer and translator who is remembered principally for his novel "Eer Vlaanderen vergaat" (‘Before Flanders Perishes’, 1927), based on the lives of young Flemish soldiers in the trenches serving under French-speaking officers in the Great War. In the ‘pillared’ society of the first half of the twentieth century, he was published by Catholic publishers for a Catholic audience.
Several of his books concern Spain: the travel book "In Spanje" (1926), the short survey of Spanish literature De Spaansche letterkunde in vogelvlucht (1912) and several translations: "De schoone maalderin" (1922), a short novel by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón ("El sombrero de tres picos", 1874) and two stories by Father Luis Coloma, s.j., "Een heilighe" (1903; tr. of "Era un santo", 1888) and "De kleine Pilatus" (1910; tr. of "Pilatillo", 1887). In our paper, we wish to analyze the image of the modern Spaniard as transmitted by these translations.