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Review: A Thousand and One Stories of Pericón de Càdiz (translation) by John Moore

With the exception of a small number of centuries old classics, not a lot of books written in foreign languages have actually made it from their native language into the English language.  Thus, many American or English speaking readers aren't exposed to translations of books that originated in other languages.  That's a shame, because now more than ever in a global world, we need to be more open to exploring all that this new world of literature has to offer.  Inverted-A Press released earlier this year, one very noteworthy translation, entitled:  A Thousand and One Stories of Pericón de Càdiz  by José Luis Ortiz Nuevo - translated and annotated by John Moore.


By all accounts and qualified opinions, John Moore has brought this classically best book of all on flamencological literature to English speaking peoples in a manner that is completely faithful to the book that  José Luis Ortiz Nuevo wrote.  

The original book by José Luis Ortiz Nuevo was published in 1975 and at the time of publication was an instant success.  Later, as books often do, it fell out of print.  The genius of José Luis Ortiz Nuevo's book was that he had the foresight to drag his tape recorder to a series of meetings with the great flamenco cante artist, Pericón de Càdiz, and the help of some liquid persuasion, encouraged this great master of flamenco art to regale him with all the stories behind the world of some of the most famous flamenco artists Càdiz, Spain ever produced.  The end result gave the world a look into a world like no other.

Pericon de Cadiz in his youth.

Pericon de Cadiz in his youth.

The stories that he told within this book are numerous, each a delightful spoonful mix of history, the world of flamenco, his view of life, and so much more.  To quote any of them would be a spoiler and it is best left up to the reader to savor on their own as they partake in the tales of his wild and pleasure-filled nuances in the lifespan of a master performer.  


In case you've never explored the world of flamenco dancers, guitarists, and singers, or the life of Pericón de Càdiz, he actually was born Juan Martinez Vilchez (b: in Càdiz 1901; d: 1980).   Growing up poor and quite street smart as a child, surviving a lifetime that spanned some of the most historically difficult times in Spain and all European countries -- he is considered to be among the all time greatest singers of flamenco and story-tellers Spain ever produced -- a true national treasure.  He is an important part of flamenco history and the evolution of that great Spanish art.

aurelio pericón chaqueta.jpg

Two Significant Quotes from A Thousand and One Stories of Pericón de Càdiz  by José Luis Ortiz Nuevo - translated and annotated by John Moore.

"Cante flamenco is the only thing on planet Earth that, if you learn it without compàs, you sing well, but still can't sing because you lack the most important thing -- which is compàs.  It's like writing well but not knowing how to spell . . . . "


"Finally, there is afición.  If you don't have afición, you have no business in flamenco.  Afición requires you to be a slave and a martyr to the trade -- always thinking how to sing better, learn more, to know more, and to do it better . . . ."

So if you know that having compàs , which is rhythm, particularly flamenco rhythm and also having afición,  which is enthusiasm; meaning a deep interest in flamenco afición  --  you will discover what the great Pericón de Càdiz had -- that others didn't and why his stories are a must read for anyone wishing to understand the world of flamenco artists.

John Moore's translation really shines a spotlight for a whole new world of flamenco enthusiasts and offers another good read.  He is a linguistics professor at the University of California, San Diego and a flamenco guitarist.