JUNE/JULY 2005

LA ZONA FANTASMA

A MONTHLY COLUMN

by Javier Marías
“BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD”

Twenty years ago, while teaching a series of seminars in oral Spanish at Oxford University, I asked my students to perform the following exercise: after reading a newspaper article out loud to them in Spanish, I asked them to write a summary, in English, of what they had just heard. The purpose was to gauge their comprehension of a text in the language they were in the process of learning. Nowadays, however, it seems that all across Europe—and most especially in Spain—an extremely high percentage of secondary school students are having a difficult time comprehending short texts written in their own—not a foreign—language. If this is in fact true, we should not be too surprised if we start to observe a variety of other phenomena that demonstrate our rapid regression to the most primitive of mentalities.

Translated from the Spanish by Kristina Cordero

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Javier Marías was born in Madrid in 1951. English-language translations of his novels include All Souls, A Heart So White, Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, and the short story collection When I Was Mortal.

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