When I was a child, the dining room table at my home in Barcelona was divided into two opposing bands:
The English side, led by my grandmother —whose greatest pride was, as a student in England, to have attended the Jubilee of Queen Victoria— and the French one, my father’s. He could have commanded other sides but he elected the French one because French was his first language, the one in which he had been raised and in which he spoke to us at times, although he wasn’t French in the sense of having a French passport. I suspect that he also chose this side, above all, for that healthy and immemorial pleasure of contradicting one’s mother-in-law.
And I chose that side not only because I liked my father more than my grandmother —he was a bon vivant and a traveler, and my grandmother was prey to all the Victorian superstitions— but because my brother and rival was on the English side. This was because they sent him to a school in England, while I stayed in Barcelona studying at the french school.
In any case I stayed home because I had a very weak throat and would not have been able to resist the rigors of a boarding school, or at least that’s what my mother claimed. I recall this language thing because it seems the most graphic way of reflecting a world that has disappeared today, and nevertheless it’s the world I come from...