Let me begin with a joke which may not seem very funny to you (it is a caption from the New Yorker which depends for laughter on the accompanying cartoon) but which is directly pertinent to the thesis of the present discussion. The scene is a bookstore; a sign on the counter announces that the latest and last Agatha Christie novel is on sale; the clerk is standing behind the counter wearing a black armband; the client has apparently just asked him why; and the answer is simply: «Hercule Poirot, il est mort»1. Why is this supposed to amuse us? It can only be because the booksalesman's professional consciousness -a variety which Lukàcs termed specifically «novelistic consciousness»- has become obsolete. And obsolescence, as we all know, is ridiculous.
In contrast to this, back in the 19th century when Balzac on his death-bed cried out for Doctor Bianchon or when the blind Galdós was escorted to a performance of Marianela and, upon hearing her speak, cried out, «¡Es mi Nela! ¡Es mi Nela!», nobody laughed. The two anecdotes may or may not be true, but one thing seems certain: they were told and interpreted as pathetic stories of novelists in extremis and not as cases of comic senility. Fiction was, in fact, so alive for our grandparents and great-grandparents that they not only learned lessons in how to live in their novelistic century therefrom (as David Riessman suggests)2 but also they often seemed to feel that people in books were more real and more important than people outside of them. Can any of you remember them talking about Dickens? Or about Galdós? Can you recall the way they reminisced about the characters as if they were friends of theirs? I myself was at once moved and disconcerted when I encountered that passage in To Kill a Mockingbird in which the children act out the roles of Tom Swift and his friends in a kind of communal reading. Why? Because I suddenly remembered having engaged in the same recreation, and then I realized that those prefabricated, utterly flat fictional lives are far more vivid for me now than those of my flesh and blood comrades. Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon, Erasmus... I don't need to look you up, or at least I don't think so.
It had not been so in the 17th and 18th centuries - when the new phenomenon of novelistic consciousness was conceived of as alternately ridiculous (Cervantes) or dangerous (Malón de Chaide) as compared to the theatrical consciousness shared and esteemed by almost everybody. No, those who were amused by the Quijote, by Joseph Andrews, or by Jacques le fataliste would - like the readers of the New Yorker- have found a bookseller in mourning for his merchandise to be absurd. For if we, as we are only now beginning to realize, have left behind the great period of novelistic consciousness and, if many of our novels, accordingly, have been transmuted into parables and puzzles, readers —22→ and writers before Sir Walter Scott and Balzac had not yet arrived there. But these considerations can at best only serve as a reminder of where we are now and perhaps why we understand what Cervantes was up to better than Heine, Byron, or - in an antithetical way - the young Galdós. Instead, as 20th-century «galdosistas», it is essential for us to try to comprehend the special quality of 19th-century reading, to return in imagination to a time when whole cultures - English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and belatedly Spanish- behaved as if they were Alonso Quijanos.
Let us listen to Galdós while still only a reader describing his fascination with Dickens: «la vida que existe y se manifiesta en las páginas de un libro es más importante y digna de ser conocida que los innumerables accidentes domésticos que en nada distinguen a un hombre de la vulgar multitud»3. The proto-Unamunian sound of this assertion may help explain why we are a bit wary of having our students read La vida de don Quijote y Sancho. For Unamuno, like the Lukàcs of Die Theorie, only half camouflaged his extreme «fin de siècle» novelistic consciousness with a pretense of critical objectivity. But once again it is neither our grandparents nor even Unamuno and Lukàcs -however interesting their lives and minds may be - who matter to us on this occasion. It is only Galdós, for it was he who in the tradition of his great predecessors learned to use his sublime disregard of ontological distinctions between the real and the fictional (in later years, Marañón tells us, he spoke of his characters «como si hubieran tenido existencia humana»)4 as means of creating a world. Or to say the same thing in a different way, as a matrix, a womb for the uninterrupted gestation of new novels of immeasurable importance for the survival of our perennially threatened «humanitas».
For our purposes -and for those of Galdós, naturally- novelistic consciousness may be defined in specific terms as a living treasure of accumulated reading experience. And since Galdós began to write more towards the end of its era than its beginning, he was all the more enriched therewith. Novels can be -indeed, must be to some extent- born from reading as well as from observation. Or perhaps one could propose more accurately that it is not the study of the techniques of predecessors and colleagues but intense high-speed reading and absorption of their novels that teaches the novelist where and how to observe. As we remember, the founding father of the genre had confessed that he was «aficionado a leer, aunque sean los papeles rotos de las calles», and his 19th-century disciple and fellow addict was far better provided for. Galdós, in effect could feed his equally avid appetite for the printed word with all of Balzac, Flaubert, Dickens, Zola, and later on with the Russians translated into French. The alimentary comparison, by the way, is not mine but his and was employed in the Memorias to describe his first reading of his first Balzacian novel, Eugénie Grandet: «me desayuné del gran novelador francés»5. The specially keen -Thibaudet —23→ would have called it «voluptuous»- appetite of a hungry man waiting for breakfast is indeed comparable to the voracity of the 19thcentury novel reader and specially of the novelist-reader. But the comparison is also inexact, insofar as we kill what we eat, while all that Galdós read remained inside him alive. No wonder that he and Balzac and Dickens all testified that at times they felt themselves to be inhabited!
In the creation of his own novels, Galdós' boundless repertory of assimilated novelistic experience could be utilized in a number of ways. In the first place -and entirely on the level of what my teacher of Galdós, Augusto Centeno, used to call «intention» as opposed to «intent»6- many of his novels (all of them, I suspect, in one way or another) engage in a kind of double dialogue. By the adjective, «double», I mean concretely: negative dialogue with the preceding novel of his own (since he was endemically dissatisfied with what he had just accomplished) and positive dialogue with a novel by another author which he hoped might provide a stylistic or structural remedy (or both) for what he thought had gone wrong. Other novelists often employ inter-novel dialogue to respond to each others' controversial theses (for example, Pereda counters Doña Perfecta with Don Gonzalo González de la Gonzalera), but Galdós' creative response to his outside reading was therapeutic rather than polemical. Which is to say -as both Casalduero and Montesinos have shown us- Galdós was primarily concerned with «curing» his own creative process and not with «answering» colleagues and rivals.
Let me mention briefly two typical examples, neither of which is likely to surprise you. Doña Perfecta, to begin with, was clearly undertaken as a consequence of Galdós' desire for relief from the historical narration of the «episodios». In order to understand the human possibility of the absolutist fanaticism of such semi-caricatures as Carlos Navarro and his father-in-law, d. Miguel de Baraona, dated preterites and imperfects (he did thus and so, he said this or that, he appeared here and went there) were insufficient. Instead, as Galdós says explicitly in La segunda casaca, published just three months prior to Doña Perfecta, only a sociological focus on «los pueblos del campo y las pequeñas ciudades» could permit direct novelistic experience of «la nación desnuda y entregada a sí misma obrando por su propio impulso».7 But how to go about constructing such a sinister contemporary novel «de provincias»? In answer to this question, a forthcoming article by Juana Truel8 will clarify admirably the second or positive phase of the dialogue. The structure of the narrative investigation (an attractive outsider from the capital wooing a repressed small-town girl and causing catastrophic but revealing local reactions) was adapted from Eugénie Grandet. It was as if Galdós were asking himself: not what can history tell us about the way we are but rather what is the characteristic vice of our provincial society which corresponds to the avarice of Grandet? —24→ And in addition: how can I utilize Balzac's narrative methods for effective communication of my conclusions?
Similarly I would suggest that Torquemada en la hoguera, seen from the point of view of the over-all novelistic trajectory, represents a reaction against the epistolary painlessness and the intellectual perspectivism of La incógnita. For without pain -as Máximo Manso observes about himself- Galdós' creatures do not realize that they are «hombres». Then, in order to create the missing anguish at its most extreme and most grotesque, Galdós turned to Dickens and emerged with the really extraordinary idea of submitting Torquemada, hitherto as impervious to human feelings as a piece of cork, to the via crucis of Paul Dombey. The latter, as we remember, famous for possessing the largest fortune and the hardest heart in the City of London, was afflicted by the fatal illness of his only son (there was an older daughter who did not matter to him), a child of singular intelligence and sensitivity. What would a Spanish Dombey be like? Or, conversely, how would our old acquaintance Torquemada react to the agony Dickens had devised for the English merchant prince?
There are two other examples of such «double dialogue» which I could mention had I the time: that of León Roch and L'Assommoire with La desheredada and that of Lo prohibido and La Regenta with Fortunata y Jacinta. And there are surely others of which I am unaware. The more we contemplate Galdós as a reader, the more we realize how crucial that experience was to his growth as a writer.
Another sort of indication of the virtual identification of novelistic consciousness and novelistic creation in the case of Galdós is furnished by individual novels which, like certain characters, appear and reappear in the course of his labors. The maximum example which all of us here have studied in one way or another (and which don Joaquin was first to comprehend both in its profundity and in its superficiality) is, of course, the Quijote. It was, appropriately enough, Galdós' Amadís de Gaula. Nevertheless, because its presence is at once obvious, medullar, and endlessly complex, I shall limit myself now to the presence in both series of «novelas contemporáneas» of Balzac's Splendeurs et misères des courtisans. Which is more surprising than Eugénie Grandet and Dombey and Son, insofar as its ebullient and unrepentant Romanticism appealed undeniably not only to Galdós but also to Clarín9. In fact they must have talked it over together in the same way our aforementioned grandparents -or at least mine- used to talk about Bleak House.
To begin with, the Café known as «La Fontana de Oro» is at once historical and literary in its origins. One of the crucial milieux of Les Splendeurs is the Café David, a rendezvous for politically subversive young men presided over by a caricaturesque government informer known as «le Père Canquoëlle». That he was indeed the inspiration of Coletilla (and not just of the nameless and corrupt proprietor of La —25→ Fontana) becomes clear when we learn that, under his real name of Peyrade, he formerly held the ironical title of «Espion Ordinaire de Sa Majesté»10 and that behind a prison-like door he keeps his beloved daughter, Lydie, and a single maidservant secluded in a more or less camouflaged «mansard». As Balzac describes father and daughter, their resemblance to the inhabitants of «la calle de Válgame Dios» is itself indicative: «Aucun désir n'avait troublé la vie pure de cette enfant si pure. Svelte, belle... Sa mise chaste, sans exageration d'aucune mode, exhalait un charmant parfum de bourgeoisie. Figurez-vous un vieux Satan, père d'un ange, et... vous aurez une idée de Peyrade et de sa fille».11
Advancing now some 12 or 13 years, we discover in the second part of La desheredada that the unhappy consequences of Isidora's seduction resemble the fate of poor Esther Gobseck. Both of them have been abandoned by Romantic lovers who are «plein de tendresse dans le coeur et de lâcheté dans le caractère»12; both furnish their dwellings with an «ensemble de choses lugubres et joyeuses, miserables et riches, qui frappait le regard»13; both are forced to sell themselves to rich but repulsive and avaricious protectors; and both experience seizures of their personal property as the result of unpaid debts. Balzac sums up the situation of all those who live such lives as follows: «ces femmes tombent donc avec une effoyable rapidité d'une opulence effrontée à une profonde misère. Elles se jettent alors dans les bras de la marchande de la toilette, elles vendent à vil prix des bijoux exquis, elles font des dettes... Ces hauts et bas de leur vie expliquent assez bien la cherté d'une liaison presque toujours ménagée...»14 Clearly if it had been Esther who had ended in prison instead of actually committing suicide (like her final «death», Isidora's «suicide» is metaphorical), the parallel would have been closer. But in any case, both novels do finish by submitting their protagonists to the lowest depths of society in that particular milieu. And both authors shock us by gloating at the degradation of lives which in spite of ourselves we have come to cherish: one in his closing «moraleja» and the other in the title to Part III of the novel «Où mènent les mauvais chemins».
Finally (although again there must be more examples of which I am unaware) the echo of Splendeurs et misères in Fortunata y Jacinta is distinctly audible. I shall limit myself to describing the Balzacian scene since those here present are eminently capable of recognizing the Galdosian corollaries. We are near the beginning of the novel. Vautrin, disguised as a Spanish Abbé, don Carlos Herrera, is intent on guarding his protegé, Lucien de Rubempré (for whom he hopes to arrange a rich marriage), from the scandal which his love for the prostitute, Esther Gobseck, has already begun to create in Parisian society. However, when he visits her and, in spite of himself, is impressed by her beauty and simplicity, he gives up the notion of persuading her to relinquish —26→ Lucien and proposes instead a sojourn in a «maison religieuse» where she will be prohibited from seeing him until she emerges «chaste, pure, et bien élevée».15
The interview is lengthy, and during it the false Abbé, in spite of his real identity and hidden motives, gets so pleased with his role of soul-saviour that he becomes fatuous: «N'est-ce pas ressembler un peu aux anges chargés de ramener les coupables à des sentiments meilleurs, n'est-ce pas créer que de purifier un pareil être? Quel allèchement que de mettre d'accord la beauté morale et la beauté physique! Quelle jouissance d'orgueil, si l'on réussit!»16 Esther in her portion of the conversation reveals her abysmal ignorance of the most elementary matters; she is a «fille qui n'a réçu ni le baptème de l'Eglise ni celui de la science, qui ne sait ni lire, ni écrire, ni prier...».17 Such ignorance is, of course, a form of innocence, and, once the outer layer of social corruption has been removed and the temporary incarceration is completed, Vautrin himself has no hesitation in proclaiming her to be an angel. He announces to the impatient Lucien: «Esther, cet ange qui voulait monter au ciel, y est descendue et t'attend».18
Similar to these lasting recollections of a few favorite novels are certain scenes, episodes, or incidents which are sharply etched in the novelist's mind and which, like reappearing characters, seem free to adapt themselves to successive fictional organisms. One such is «The Flight of Florence» Dombey through the streets of London, a flight manifestly similar to those of Clara, of Isidora, and of a number of other Galdosian heroines. That it is indeed Florence Dombey's frantic passage through urban geography and not that -say- of poor Gervaise at the end of L'Assonmoire that first etched itself on the novelist's mind is indicated by her typology. For, as we remember, far from being a flabby and querulous street-walker (in both senses of the term), Florence is what Virginia Woolf was to call «the Angel of the House» turned out of doors by parental cruelty. That is to say, she is an archetype of those self-sacrificing good girls whom the young Galdós was so fond of portraying and the old Galdós -at least in Tristana- so fond of betraying. Furthermore, unlike the aimless and rejected Gervaise, she has a destination. It is the quaint commercial establishment known as the «Little Midshipman» where, like Sola, the heroine of the second series of «episodios», she installs herself as Captain Cuttle's housekeeper. After their «flights» are over, both girls convert their helplessness into helpfulness by taking care of old men -in Sola's case a veritable series of codgers.
However, lest you conclude that I am tacitly defending the old-fashioned sport of source hunting («source fishing» would be a more accurate comparison, insofar as one drifts down narrative streams and waits for bites) as a self-justifying form of scholarly endeavor, let me state categorically that I am less interested in textual resemblances for —27→ their own sake than I am in what they can tell us about the creative potentiality of novelistic consciousness. As in the case of Lope, the real problem here is fecundity. How was it possible to write a novel not just as long but as massive as Fortunata y Jacinta in a few brief months? To call Galdós a genius («monstruo de la naturaleza») is to evade the question, and to attribute his speed to borrowing from others would be a gratuitous insult. No, the real significance of these examples of intentional inter-novel dialogue and of complacent reappearance of given episodes and situations is their indication of how Galdós' voracious reading helped to accelerate his writing. To be conscious in novelistic terms is to possess a reservoir to be tapped, a wealth of assimilated types, gestures, phrases, reactions, and events all immediately at one's creative disposal. Judging by my own velocity, had Galdós «hunted» his sources he would have finished at most two or three novels.
Words -and, above all, metaphors of the sort I have been forced to lean on- are treacherous, insofar as they tend to create the realities they describe. Thus, the phrase, «novelistic consciousness» posits a new kind of consciousness characteristic of the age (from the Quijote on for Lukàcs but from Le Père Goriot on for our present purposes) which gave birth to the new genre. But is not this historical and social definition far too vague? Could we not with equal validity describe the 19th century as characterized by Romantic consciousness or -at least for a while- epic consciousness? Let us retreat, then, to a more specific definition: the consciousness of individuals -both readers and writers- who were shaped by their addiction to that form of literature. The advantage of this personalization of the critical metaphor is that it allows us to think -as Freud has taught us to do- in terms of the interaction or interplay of novelistic consciousness with what might be called the «novelistic unconscious».
Again we must be very careful with the intended significance. I am not proposing to replace an historical concept with a psychological one. By the notion of the «unconscious» I mean very simply that, even more than those patterns and episodes which Galdós knew he was exploiting, it was what he didn't know he had in mind that enabled his incredible accomplishment. Long afterwards, when Galdós himself remembered those fervent years, he describes himself as having been delirious, possessed by «la plenitud de la fiebre novelística»,19 controlled by forces he could not rationally explain. Nor can I, but there can be detected in the on-going process of his writing a constant welling up from below (or from within) of a stream of human raw material emergent from his reading and eager to be adapted to its new context.
The notion of the novelist not being in charge of his novel -or only partly in charge- is a familiar one and is usually attributed to the autonomy of the characters. Thus, in the same Memorias Galdós rather archly describes Ido del Sagrario (his Tomé de Burguillos, a comic alter ego representing feverish novelistic productivity) visiting him after a —28→ vacation and bringing him news of the inhabitants of Fortunata y Jacinta. Whereupon «estas figuras, pertenecientes al mundo imaginario, y abandonados por mí en las correrías veraniegas se adueñaron nuevamente de mi voluntad». But these were of course, lives which were familiar to him and which (like those which reappeared from novel to novel) had, as it were, signed the guest register of his interior lodging house. Perhaps even more important for the problem which now concerns us -how was a novel like Fortunata y Jacinta possible?- was the vast nether warehouse of narrative possibilities (I refuse on principle to call them narremes)20 which seemed to summon each other, to invoke each other, in the process of composition. The comparison is risky, but I would at least propose the Galdós' creative process has a certain resemblance to the epic recitation of those South Slavic «singers of tales» described by Millman Parry and Albert Lord.21 If we can conceive of a repertory of human formulae derived from reading taking the place of metrically regular verbal formulae and constituting a kind of private «novelistic language» we may attempt to diagnose Galdós' peculiar and fecund fever.
Many of these potential formulae would either be rejected or completely forgotten; in other cases the critic (who is himself a reader) may dimly suspect an earlier avatar when indistinct echoes of other novels accompany his absorption of Galdosian persons and places; and in still others the formulaic resemblance is sufficiently patent to support my hypothesis. However, the interesting thing is that -unlike the foregoing example- in no case dare we assert the existence of one indubitable and unique source. Galdós did not return physically or consciously to a given passage or person; instead he drew on a seemingly endless repertory of novelistic topics so complex and so interlocking as to prevent us from reconstructing a critical model of the creative process.
Because of the exigencies of time I shall have to limit this second and far more speculative part of my discussion to a few examples of unconscious creative recall to be found in Fortunata y Jacinta. The first and perhaps the most incontrovertible is that of Camille Raquin at the beginning of Part II. Readers of «la admirable epopeya de Maxi Rubín» will find much that seems strangely familiar in Zola's sketch of a typical Naturalistic cuckold: «Il était petit, chétif, d'allure languissante; les cheveux d'un blonde fade, la barbe rare, le visage couvert de taches de rousseur, il ressemblait a un enfant malade et gaté». In addition, he does his unsatisfactory best in a «cours d'un école de commerce», and he is prey to «toutes les maladies imaginables» in spite of the solicitous care of Madame Raquin. At home reads pedantically and attempts in vain to communicate his poorly digested learning to Thérèse. In so doing he displays that special complacency, at once presumptuous and inane, that is so irritating in Maxi: «Moi je suis de l'avis de Monsieur Grivet, dit-il avec une importance bête».22—29→
Yet how can the equally complacent source hunter be sure that Camille is Maxi's predecessor and not his look-alike (Zola had his own inner population), Théophile Vabré, who plays the same wretched role in Pot Bouille? Galdós had probably read the latter (it appeared in 1882) more recently than Thérèse Raquin. And, in addition, there are such suggestive similarities as Théophile's grotesque scenes of jealousy and his brother's recurrent attacks of migraine. It would indeed seem likely that Maxi was conceived from a confluence of the two in Galdós' mind -a supposition which immediately suggests the possibility of other unknown tributaries. Even a critic who had annotated everything Galdós is known to have read could not be certain.
The case of the «matrimonio», don Baldomero, doña Barbarita, illustrates even more tellingly the perilous pleasures of these games of erudite solitaire. At first glance, their blissful bourgeois matrimony and their years of well-deserved commercial success recall César Birotteau and his wife. The former, distinguished for his «probité et bonté», for his language «farci de lieux communs», and for his kindliness to subordinates seems particularly suited as a tacit model. But, when we learn that, along with uxoriousness, Birotteau has been a military hero, things get more complicated. Perhaps he had earlier contributed to the creation of Galdós' affectionate caricature of the «bon bourgeois», don Benigno Cordero, «el héroe de Boteros». As we remember, the latter was first presented as an ideal husband (when widowed, his role changes to that of don Diego in El sí de las niñas) and he possessed the additional similarity of being a drygoods merchant rather than a «parfumeur». Could not both Cordero and Birotteau have been present when don Baldomero and his wife were conceived?
The question becomes even harder to answer, if we move backwards in fictional chronology to the earliest novel to be included in the Comédie humaine, La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote, in which M. and Mme. Guillaume also present a convincing claim to participation. Although Balzac does not stress their cloying marital bliss (Mme. Guillaume «était laide»), Guillaume, like don Baldomero and don Benigno, is a drygoods merchant «dont la probité commerciale ne souffrait pas le moindre soupçon».23 And the secondary clues are even more telling. Just as in the case of Fortunata y Jacinta, this miniature novel deals with two generations of proprietors and examines their changing relations with their employees and apprentice salesmen («commis» in the one case, «horteras» in the other) as well as the historical evolution of the retail cloth trade. M. Guillaume's «antique despotisme» and paternalism represented a school «de moeurs et de probité», whereas his successor who «marchait avec son siècle» (we all remember don Baldomero's complacent «el mundo marcha») relaxed the rules to the extent of allowing his dependents to talk during meals and to stay for dessert. It would thus seem more than probable that this exemplary «maison» contributed directly to the firm of «Sobrinos de Santa Cruz». —30→ However, when we realize that it must also have played its part in the gestation of the «grand magasin» called «Au Bonheur des Dames» which in its turn suggested to Galdós that he undertake an extensive in-depth exploration of the economic history of the Spanish cloth trade, we begin to appreciate just how labyrinthine this approach can be.
A third character to exhibit the same plurality of origins is «el falso Pituso». His most obvious precursor is Muche, the veritable sprite of the immense market of Les Halles which is the scene of Le Ventre de Paris, insofar as he displays the same combination of innocence and the external corruption of profanity: «Muche, à sept ans, était un petit bonhomme joli comme un ange et grossier comme un roulier. Il avait des cheveaux châtains crépus, de beaux yeux tendres, une bouche pure qui sacrait, qui disait des mots gros à écorcher un gosier de gendarme».24 Of course, being older, Muche is more adept; so that, instead of merely screaming «putain» at his grandmother (Galdós surpassed himself in linguistic daring when «el Pituso» calls Jacinta a «putona»!), he insults her with far greater expertise: «Alors les 'salopes', les 'catins', les 'va donc moucher ton homme', les 'combien qu'on te paye, ta peau'? passaient dans le filet de cristal de sa voie d'enfant de choeur».25 But it is above all the childrens' Renoir-like complexions that both authors admire. If «el Pitusín» is described as possessing «ese rosicler puro y celestial que tiene la infancia al salir del agua»,26 the arms of Muche's friend, Pauline, extending from her infantile short sleeves, are «nus et roses... adorables d'enfance». A few moments later she is as smudged as the «diablillos» who had painted themselves with Ido's «betún».27
There is, however, another child described in another language who also plays a part in the conception of «el Pitusín» -or at least in the invention of his assigned role. I refer now to the orphaned grandchild of Betty Higden in Our Mutual Friend whom the newly rich Boffins wish to adopt. As you may remember, Mrs. Boffin and her husband's Secretary (the «mutual friend», John Rokesmith) undertake a journey to one of London's many versions of «el Cuarto Estado», «muddy Brentford», where they had been told of a suitable recipient for their charitable instincts. However, the word gets around Brentford with results that allow Dickens to display his genius for humorous exaggeration:
[...] it was found impossible to complete the philanthropic transaction without buying the orphan. For, the instant it became known that anybody wanted the orphan, up started some affectionate relative of the orphan who put a price upon the orphan's head. The suddenness of an orphan's rise in the market was not to be paralleled by the maddest records of the Stock Exchange. He would be at five thousand per cent discount, out at nurse, making a mud pie, at nine in the morning, and (being inquired for) would go up to five thousand per cent premium before noon. The market was rigged in various artful ways. Counterfeit stock got into circulation.
[...] the uniform principle at the root of all these various operations was bargain and sale.28
This curious coalescence of Dickens and Zola is, I think, characteristic of the novelistic unconscious performing -in the way it should perform- as the indispensable partner of novelistic consciousness. Galdós may have been dimly aware of one of these precedents, but surely not of both in their intimate combination.
Finally let me refer to a single situation, to that familiar emblematic situation which, like Don Quijote and the windmill, over intervening generations has come to represent Fortunata y Jacinta as a whole. I refer, of course, to the initiation of the action when Juanito sees Fortunata through a doorway from a landing above number 11, Cava de San Miguel. It is a very Naturalistic glance, and not just because of the raw egg. Juanito as the predatory male animal has a whole series of predecessors whose behavior is as «natural» as his (Joaquinito Pez, José María Bueno de Guzmán, don Álvaro Mesía), but the one who concerns us now is Zola's Octave Mouret. For at the beginning of Pot Bouille his first encounter with a future mistress -in its structure it not in its content- is identical to the one we all know. Octave's friend, the architect, Campardon is engaged in showing him the new apartment house where he plans to live and which will be the scene of his sordid erotic adventures:
A partir du troisième, le tapis rouge cessait et était remplacé par un simple toile grise. Octave en éprouva une légère contrarieté d'amour propre. L'escalier peu à peu, l'avait empli de respect; il était tout ému d'habiter une maison si bien, selon l'expression de l'architecte. Comme il s'engageait, derrière celui-ci, dans le couloir qui conduisait à sa chambre, il aperçut, par une porte entr'ouverte, une jeune femme debout devant un berçeau. Elle leva la tête, au bruit. Elle était blonde, avec des yeux clairs et vides; et il n'importa que ce regard, très distinct...29
The Zolaesque origin of Juanito's love at first sight is further confirmed by a complementary episode in Le Ventre de Paris; the attempted seduction of «la belle Lisa» in the «caves» beneath Gavard's pavillon de la volaille». There the description of the «milieu», as you must have already guessed, is remarkably similar to the «tienda de aves» which Juanito had passed through on his way upstairs: «les femmes, assises, plumaient»30, and afterwards the naked creatures «montraient leur poitrine charnue, tendue par l'arête du bréchet». Furthermore, in the underground storage place various concessionaires kept their still living future merchandise in «des boîtes plates à claire-voie» through which one could see their pathetic «coups de bec» -or in Galdós' Spanish, «picotazos». The next department was the «abatoire» where blood flows copiously and where a woman performs the murderous task of Galdós' «sicario».31
To the argument that these admittedly minor details of resemblance can be dismissed as the result of parallel Naturalistic observation, I would reply that is, of course, the case but that, the notion of such documentation was almost surely suggested to Galdós by his reading of Zola. Like Au Bonheur des Dames and the dry goods trade, Le Ventre —32→ de Paris was not so much a source as a model. That is to say, it was an invitation to complete Galdós' economic history of Madrid with a survey of its «vientre». The fact that this particular organ was bloated only at Christmas time and that it was nourished for the most part by marginal middle men and poverty-prone retail vendors clearly differentiates it from the lush prosperity of «les Halles». But this inferiority in no way belies the relationship. That Zola's novel did indeed suggest to Galdós exploration of every aspect of Madrid's alimentary milieu is supported by the fact just alluded to: their hardly coincidental presentations of the commerce in domestic fowl as the Naturalistic overture for an erotic encounter.
In Zola's case not surprisingly the goings on are pretty zoological. Young Marjolin, Gavard's assistant (whose complexion is again worthy of Renoir), escorts «la belle Lisa» on a guided tour of the premises. As they enter ever deeper into the connecting caves which lie beneath the market, Marjolin's hands begin to tremble and his breath quickens:
Marjolin se tut, dans ce coin empesté par l'afflux des odeurs. C'était une rudesse alcaline de guano. Mais lui, semblait éveillé et fouetté. Ses narines battirent, il respira fortement, comme retrouvant des hardiesses d'appetit. Depuis un quart d'heure qu'l était dans le sous-sol avec la belle Lisa, ce fumet, cette chaleur de bêtes vivantes le grisait. Maintenant, il n'avait plus de timidité, il était plein du rut qui chauffait le fumier des poulaillers, sous la voûte écrasée, noire d'ombre.32
In order to find out what happens next I can only advise you to read the end of the fourth part of Zola's novel. In fact, I cannot think of a better way to realize and to appreciate the virtual miracle of Galdós' narrative art than by a comparison of the two episodes. Juanito -like Marjolin- may have been stimulated by the unfamiliar earthiness of the «olor de corral», but the author and his heroine react by soaring heavenwards -the one on wings of style and the other on wings of devotion.
Let us now pause for a moment of meditation on the remarkable phenomenon with which we have been concerned: novelistic consciousness historically more than half a century old and incarnate -nourished on a book a day- in an author at the height of his creative powers. That is to say, although shared collectively by a thousand and one colleagues and by generations of readers literally driven out of their minds by fictional history and fictional biography, the consciousness of Galdós when Fortunata y Jacinta was in prospect was unique in its concentrated intensity and fecund potentiality. Like Fernando de Rojas' «palabra del hombre sciente», it was about to burgeon -and on a scale that was unprecedented even for him. Using narrative formulae supplied by the bulging warehouse of the unconscious -formulae which in their turn stimulated fresh observation of urban reality -Galdós was now to create at top speed a world at once familiar and astonishingly new. So new, in fact, that, unlike the nameless and quintessentially Castilian city of La Celestina —33→ (it just couldn't have been Seville!) where perdition was inevitable, the virtual Madrid that was about to be born would be a place where spiritual salvation would be at least conceivable.
However, our present concern is with Galdós' creative process and not with Fortunata y Jacinta as such. And because I have spent so much of my time on details of inter-novel relations, in closing I should like to stress the antithetical aspect of novelistic consciousness that was just referred to: the way reading can retrieve half-forgotten observation and even stimulate new documentation. When Florent, the hero and victim of Le Ventre de Paris, enters the café of M. Lebigre, Zola's description of his intimate feelings will once again be recognizable to all of us:
L'odeur du cabinet, cette odeur liquoreuse, chaude de la fumée du tabac, le grisait, lui donnait une béatitude particulière, un abandon de lui-même, dont le bercement lui faisait accepter sans difficulté des choses très grosses. Il en vint à aimer les figures qui étaient la, à les retrouver, à s'attarder à elles avec le plaisir de l'habitude... Ils entraient dans sa vie, y prenaient une place de plus en plus grande. C'était pour lui comme une jouissance toute sensuelle. Lorsqu'il posait la main sur le bouton de cuivre du cabinet, il lui semblait sentir ce bouton vivre, lui chauffer les doigts, tourner de lui même; il n'eût pas éprouvé une sensation plus vive, en prenant le poignet souple d'une femme.33
What is important here are not the specific resemblances of Florent's subliminal satisfaction to the «querencia» of Juan Pablo Rubín (the familiar smell, the reassuring faces of the «parroquianos fijos», the milieu with its assortment of artifacts in a state of friendly, Pomboesque animation) but rather the apparent fact that this unobtrusive and unemphasized passage from Zola's novel was the seed of nothing less than Galdós' marvellous full-length exploration of Madrid café life. A minor narrativa «formula», suitably enriched, with remembered experience and refreshened observation, grew into some of our most treasured chapters.
At this point we may be enlightened by contrasting Galdós' way of writing a novel with that -say- of an Ernest Hemingway. The raw material of the latter, as we know, was the widest possible assortment of milieux: Northern Michigan, Paris, Pamplona, the trenches of Italy, the waters of Cuba, central Africa -almost everywhere but the North Side of Chicago. These alien sources of experience had to be observed closely, scanned for misinterpretation, evaluated, and only then transformed with excruciating care into language. Consciousness -which is to say, the world of words- had to correspond exactly to the world of the senses. Galdós, on the other hand, was nourished to a great extent on experience derived from reading, experience which enters the mind without mediation, as a whole, shaped and prepared for residence by prior verbal existence. There it may lie dormant for an indefinite period, but when one fragment or another is, as it were, summoned, in the course of novel fabrication, it incites him to rediscover with wide-eyed —34→ appreciation the Madrid he already knew so well, the Madrid he had savored for so many years. Certified by Zola's or Dickens' authority, remembered reading confers new value on remembered living. Unlike Hemingway's constant awareness of schism, there is no real distinction between the two for a writer whose consciousness resembles that of Alonso Quijano. Basically Galdós could not tell -or could hardly tell- the difference between Estupiñá and José Luengo.
«Amplificatio» of inherited narrative formulae was, of course, immensely facilitated by the oral quality of novelistic consciousness. Which is to say, by the fact that from Cervantes through Fielding and Sterne to the major 19th-century masters, an accelerated current of printed speech has flowed through the main channel of the genre. Unlike Hemingway who had to content himself with tasting, smelling, looking, and touching, because he understood imperfectly the languages spoken in most of the places he wrote about, Galdós and his predecessors observed through their ears as much or more as they did from the rest of their senses.
Thus, when, Galdós having «recalled» Zola's brief description of Florent's «jouissance» upon entering the Café Lebigre, proceeded to a full portrayal of the same institution as he himself had experienced it, he went on to recall the innumerable conversations he had listened to threin night after night. The inherited fragment, reshaped in the unconscious and without doubt translated into potential Spanish, found narrative language ready and waiting. To sum up, instead of having to search for the one right word to communicate a sensory impression of an unfamiliar place, words originally read mesh immediately with words originally heard as together they reconstruct reality from memory. Or to turn the explanation around, once titillated by Paris, Madrid speaks for itself in Galdós' steady stream of penmanship. No doubt, too, that once the process was under way, the writer, having accomplished his full day's labor, would sally forth to one café or another in order to refreshen his novelistic consciousness. And it does not take much imagination to visualize his half-smile at some particularly pungeant and usable overheard interchange. In his own way he must have shared the private pleasures of his creature.
The metamorphosis just proposed in the familiar -but ultimately misleading- critical dichotomy of literary «sources» as against documented «reality» inevitably modifies another and equally familiar dichotomy: that of intention as against inspiration. Once again the interaction - the essential interdependence- of novelistic consciousness with novelistic unconscious is decisive. As remarked earlier, when Galdós in his Memorias tried to recapture the lost time when he was most aware of being aware as a writer and a reader, he had recourse to two physiological comparisons: fever and appetite. Compulsion from within, hungry assimilation of words served from without -both comparisons allude to the participation in the creative process of under —35→ world at the service of intention. Fever is the product of unperceived and unavoidable contagion (other novels being the carriers) while appetite, having been awakened by the tempting taste of the printed page, has as its result the more lasting -pythonlike- pleasure of digesting it alive. As against inspiration which supposedly descends from above, Galdós suggests that his intention -conscious intention- is implemented by the welling upwards or outward of the unconscious.
Undoubtedly, as was suggested earlier certain large patterns from individual reading experiences were kept clearly in mind and so could be used as points of departure for intentional inter-novel dialogue premised on what Percy Lubbock was to call «the shape of the whole». But most of what was absorbed seems to have been dismembered into fragments of life and of living situations: unstrung narrative beads whose thread has been broken. Or to change the image again: flotsam from lost derelicts adrift in the Sargasso Sea of the unconscious. And then, as we observed, when recalled by the needs and opportunities of the ongoing story, they would emerge, not just one at a time as if stored in a card catalogue, but tangled together and sea-changed from within. During their hibernation an unsuspected process of reclassification and metamorphosis had been going on, and it is in this state that they enter the creative flow. The result was many novels, but now let us contemplate only the greatest and most mysterious of all: Fortunata y Jacinta. Let us contemplate the paradoxical truth that, in spite of its elaborately calculated structure and in spite of the fore-ordained conclusion that is explicit in the manuscript, -it is as fresh on every page as the morning snow on the Plaza Mayor.