“Thinking about the immortality of the crab”

Via the Wikipedia page devoted to Miguel de Unamono, I came across this  wonderfully evocative Spanish idiom: 


Thinking about the immortality of the crab (SpanishPensar en la inmortalidad del cangrejo) is a Spanish idiom about daydreaming. The phrase is usually a humorous way of saying that one was not sitting idly, but engaged constructively in contemplation or letting one’s mind wander

The wikipedia page also features two poems entitled Immortalidad del cangrejo, one by Unamuno:

El más profundo problema:
el de la inmortalidad
del cangrejo, que tiene alma,
Una almita de verdad …

Que si el cangrejo se muere
todo en su totalidad
con él nos morimos todos
por toda la eternidad


translated (on the same wikipedia page) as:


The deepest problem:
of the immortality of the crab,
is that a soul it has,
a little soul in fact …

That if the crab dies
entirely in its totality
with it we all die
for all of eternity


The other is by the Mexican poet José Emilio Pacheco:

Y de inmortalidades sólo creo
en la tuya, cangrejo amigo.
Te aplastan,
te echan en agua hirviendo,
inundan tu casa.
Pero la represión y la tortura
de nada sirven, de nada.

No tú, cangrejo ínfimo,
caparazón mortal de tu individuo, ser transitorio,
carne fugaz que en nuestros dientes se quiebra;
no tú sino tu especie eterna: los otros:
el cangrejo inmortal
toma la playa.




Of all the immortalities, I believe in
only yours, friend crab.
People break into your body,
plop you into boiling water,
flush you out of house and home.
But torture and affliction
Make no apparent end of you. No…

Not you, poor despicable crab –
brief tenant in this mortal carapace
of your individuality; fleeting creature
of flesh that quails between our teeth;
Not you but others of your eternal species:
infinite crab:
take over the beach.


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