Friday, July 13, 2012

Did Dr. José Rizal use a Cuss Word in Any of his Works?

Title:  Did Dr. José Rizal use a Cuss Word?
any of
Question:  Did Dr. José Rizal ever use a cuss word in any of his letters and works?
Answer:  Yes, not in Tagalog, Spanish or French, but in German: Donnerwetter! (Damn it)!  Well, he surely did,  not in his letters, but in a comic strip that he created for Pastor Karl Ullmer’s young son, Fritz.

In Wilhelmsfeld, Germany, 13 kilometers from Heidelberg through a walk across the Odenwald, (forest) in the summer of 1886, Rizal was a guest lodger at the Protestant vicarage of Pastor Karl Ullmer and his wife and children, Etta and Fritz.

Fritz, the boy was a curious lad who often must have gotten into Rizal’s private space. How did we know this? As a national guest during the Rizal Centennial in 1961, Pastor Karl Ullmer’s great grandsons, Fritz and Hans Hack said their grandfather, Fritz, told them Rizal had a large Philippine map tacked on to his bedroom wall and that this map attracted his interest so much that he studied it several times (maybe he would sneak into Rizal’s room when Rizal was out in Heidelberg doing his opthalmology practice and attending lectures at the University). Sometimes finding Rizal in his room, Fritz would usually drag him out to gather strawberries, hunt for mushrooms, or pick woodruff flowers  (a twining lily flower that grows in circles around its stem).

Rizal at that time (summer, 1886) was also busy finishing the last chapters of his novel Noli me Tangere. So, in order perhaps to occupy Fritz time, and amuse himself, he created a six-frame comic strip depicting young Fritz and his friend.  In the cartoon the boys are shown concocting naughty plots and reaping the natural consequences of their boyish pranks.

Picture yourself as young Fritz Ullmer.  You’re an overactive 13 year old lad, not yet a grown up, but trying to behave like one in a minute and reverting to being a child in the next. That’s the developmental condition of a newly minted teen. Rizal knew this prototype real well. He had many years of practice with his nephews and nieces by Saturnina, Narcisa, Lucia, Maria, and Olympia.  Rizal drew accompanying pictures of his translations of the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales for his young relatives.

Rizal created a six-frame comics page exclusively for Fritz. If you had ever been lucky to be the subject of a comic strip before, you would have been thrilled to death if you had.

Well, in this cartoon, Rizal had one of the boys utter a mild curse!  This answers my question at the top of this page blog. However, you won’t find this “factoid”  if you simply rely on the translations offered to Philippine readers.  You see, Big Brother has edited out the cuss word so We (plebians)  won’t ever get see this offending part, to forever perpetuate the image of a clean national hero in the spirit of high hagiography.  

I, too, am enamored of this charming comics.  So are my friends, the Knights of Rizal members from Germany (Sir Rainer J. Weber) and from Belgium (Sir Lucien Spittael.)  I believe this cartoon is also Dr. Ambeth Ocampo’s favorite otherwise he wouldn’t have selected this particular image as a cover to his latest edition of  “Calendar of Rizaliana,” UST press, 2011).

 [Ambeth Ocampo’s Calender of Rizaliana UST Press, 2011]

However, my two KOR gentlemen friends alerted me to the mis-translations of the comics text. It appears to me however, that the Rizal’s Centennial Commission may somehow have altered Rizal’s true intentions by editing out Rizal’s actual words.  Why do I say this?  In a conversation with Ambeth Ocampo during the last Filipino Book Festival held in San Francisco, Oct 1st and 2nd 2011, he informed me that in publishing Rizal’s letters, Maximo Kalaw suppressed several documents (letters from a girl friend deemed perhaps damaging to Rizal’s clean national hero image).

Now, let’s peruse the Rizal (un-expurgated) comic strip. Each frame is action-packed—a sure boys’ winner!

To paraphrase, the two boys plot some naughty undertakings. They march off , they steal apples, they throw the apples in the water. In the drawing, Rizal draws the boys horsing around. Fritz warns his friend to pay attention because he might fall into the water. Sure enough, R. Pfeiffer falls in.  He utters a cuss word-- “Damn it!” That’s a cold bath.  Help! Help!  Fritz fishes his friend out of the water, and Pfeiffer says, Brrr, brrr, the water is wet!”


Rainer J. Weber, and Lucien Spittael noted the “whitewash (my words, not theirs)” in the English translations.  They politely called it “mis-translations.”  Rizals title: “The Baptism of R. Pfeiffer  of Holy Cross in Steinach” was translated as “The Baptism of the Two Brothers.”  That’s incorrect, they both say. They weren’t brothers, they were buddies. To wit:  one lived in Wilhelmsfeld, the other in Steinach. Only one got his baptism in the water; and it wasn’t Fritz.   “Damn it!”  was translated as “In heaven’s name!”  That’s to put it mildly. Rizal, in his sense of correctness,  made the naughty prankster utter the cuss words— not the pastor’s son’s naughty accomplice.

Rizal did not say, “picked” apples but he used the word “pinched,” “stibitzen.”  Pinched has a subtle connotation of having been “stolen,” surely a prank: one of the many naughty plots hatched by the boys. Rizal’s choice of word is so delicately nuanced as to loose something in the proffered English translation.

Let me share with you the communication between my two Rizalista friends:

Sir Lucien to Sir Rainer: Nov. 2, 2011. 
The text on the comic:" The baptism of the two brothers" is… not correct. In German it says: "Die Taufe des R. Pfeiffer zu Heilig†steinach". The translation is "The baptism of R. Pfeiffer from Heilig†steinach"
While I was in Heidelberg I've done some research in Wilhelmsfeld and Steinach for the name R. Pfeiffer". No such name was to be found in the archives. We do not know where he got this name.
Rizal wrote Heilig†steinach. Rizal just made an abbreviation. Rizal wrote that he went to a neighboring village with the name "Heiligkreuzsteinach". He just replaces kreuz (cross) with the cross sign.

Sir Lucien is unrelentless.  He presents Rizal’s original words and his own translation.  Lucien’s translation to Rainer: 2011.

1.Wie sie schlimme Streiche beschließen.
How they are plotting naughty tricks.

2. Wie sie fröhlich Apfel  “stibitzen“ um sie ins Wasser zu werfen.
How they happily ???? apples to throw them in the water.

3.Achtung! Sagte Fritz. Du kannst ins Wasser fallen!
Attention! Said Fritz. You can fall in the water!

 Ha! Ha!

5.Donnerwetter! Das war ein kaltes Bad! Hilf! Hilf!  
Damn it! That was a cold bath! Help! Help!

6.Hu! Hu! Ist das Wasser naß.  
 Hu!Hu! The water is wet.

Rainer to Lucien: Nov. 9, 2011.
This is now correct.

1.Wie sie schlimme Streiche beschließen.
How they are plotting naughty tricks.

2. Wie sie fröhlich Apfel  “stibitzen“ um sie ins Wasser zu werfen.
 How they happily pinched apples to throw them in the water.

3.Achtung! Sagte Fritz. Du kannst ins Wasser fallen!
Attention! Said Fritz. You can fall in the water!

 Ouch! Ouch!

5.Donnerwetter! Das war ein kaltes Bad! Hilf! Hilf!
Damn it!!! Blimey!!!That was a cold bath! Help!Help!

6.Hu! Hu! Ist das Wasser naß.
Brrr! Brrr! The water is wet.

Rainer explained that since Rizal used old word spellings no longer used in contemporary times, this may have contributed to the mis-translations. Since my German is totally kaput I could not join their discourse. But what I miss in the dialogue I compensate in the art sense. I looked at the 1961 picture of Fritz and Hans Hack (Fritz Ullmer’s great grandsons).  When I superimposed Rizal’s Fritz Ullmer’s cartoon image, on Hans’ profile an uncanny Ullmer four generations apart profile seemed to come alive!   Rizal must have had a future Hans Hack profile  (1961) as his model in the original cartoon (1886) !!!

[Picture 1]   Fritz comics 1886               [picture 2] Hans and Frtiz Hack,1961)

Blimey!!! See for yourself.  Or in the spirit of the language of Rizal’s comic book, Donnerwetter!!!