Colombia’s gem

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn called the Colombian aphoristic philosopher Nicolas Gomez Davila (1913-1994) “the brightest thinker on the Right.” It is perhaps no coincidence that his writings have been altogether unavailable in English. Nikos Salingaros just did English speakers a service by translating some of his thoughts on artistic, architectural, and urban matters. They’re an interesting mixture of things.

Some are eternally applicable. For example,

A properly civilizing task is to revisit old commonplace things.

puts me in mind of Confucius.

External influences enrich solely those with an original mind.

is the same as Emerson’s “The greatest genius is the most indebted man.”

Others deal specifically with modern times, and modern abuses:

What is deceiving about the aesthetic quality of certain new works is that their manner of being bad differs from the traditional manner of being bad.

Still others are in between. They are eternally applicable, but particularly to the point in a time of verbal fog and half-baked ideas:

Clarity of text is the sole incontrovertible sign of the maturity of an idea.

They’re all worth reading. Still, I can’t help but think that his best thoughts are on politics and religion. Here are a few of my own translations of translations from a somewhat over-the-top German site:

Prejudices save us from stupid ideas.

The realities of the 20th century are less terrifying than the ideals by which it hopes to justify them.

In contrast to the angel of the Bible, the Marxist angel doesn’t let people flee his paradise.

No-one holds the idiocy of yesterday in so much contempt as the idiot of today.

I can’t help but think that translations directly from the Spanish would be better. Also, the aphorisms gain by cumulative effect—the more of them you read the better they seem. Is there a Spanish speaker willing to pitch in and make more of them available to us Anglos?

5 thoughts on “Colombia’s gem”

  1. If you can point me to the
    If you can point me to the Spanish originals, I would be happy to have a go at translating some. HRS

  2. A short selection in French
    A short selection in French can be found at
    Mourir en exil est la garantie que l’on n’a pas ete tout a fait mediocre.

    A handful of the Salingaros translations is at
    charmingly prefaced by the statement “I need to warn the reader that Nicolas Gomez-Davila was unashamedly conservative, even reactionary”. Made me think that having to be introduced as a kind of toxic spill is a sign that one has truly arrived.

    Also found this:
    “Modern history is nothing but an inventory of bankruptcy declarations.”


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