Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Food & Drink: 1 - Soberano

A good many readers enjoy the mentions of food and drink in After Goya.

They say they add not only colour, but also a certain depth to the experience of reading an adventure set in modern-day Spain.

Good, that's as it should be.

The main character, Jordi Cotelo, drinks coñac, and, more specifically, Soberano. A few readers have asked, 'Why Soberano and not, say, Veterano, or Magno, or Terry, or Mascaró?'  All very popular brands of brandy in Spain.

Well, setting aside popular associations of class (for example, Mascaró is considered a luxury brand when really it's not) there's a double-edged play on words going on, and an allusion to a missing fragment of the jigsaw that is modern-day Spain.

In castellano Soberano means the equivalent of sovereign. In  Spanglish Soberano echoes sober (sobrio) plus año - year; implying age.
This sober-older association with Cotelo's choice of drink infers he is older, more sober - he's no eager young naif.

And the allusion to a missing part of the jigsaw?

Well, much of After Goya is taken up with characters asking and placing who was where when?
Passing reference is made to the 'Monarchists' - but it's not stated which monarchists.
Passing reference is made to the 23rd of February, 1981 (23-F in Spanish history), when King Juan Carlos stayed up through the night, hustling between factions and broadcasting calls for calm, unity and, ultimately, the surrender of patsy Coronel Tejero's gang of Boschistas.

The King (and, interestingly, the medium of radio), and the institution of constitutional monarchy, came out winners of the debacle. The monarch's subsequent approval ratings prompted the old Stalinist butcher, Santiago Carillo (then posing as a Euro-communist), to say, "God save the king. Today, we are all monarchists."

Juan Carlos had proved to be a steadying, sober influence.

He may not be mentioned by name in After Goya - but Juan Carlos is there in spirit.


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