A review of Russian connections to Galdós discloses the presence of Turgenev and Tolstoy: Doña Perfecta (1876) appears associated with Fathers and Sons (1861), while Virgin Soil (1877) bears the impress of Doña Perfecta; certain Episodios nacionales recall a Tolstoyan view of history; the theme of adultery in Realidad (1889) echoes the dilemma of Anna Karenina (1879), and in Nazarin (1895) the character Don Pedro Belmonte is modeled on Tolstoy, and his estate on Tolstoy's own at Yasnaya Polyana.13 Little, however has been said about Dostoevsky, whose novels appear in French, German and English translations around 1884. Dostoevsky receives no mention in Stephen Gilman's «Colloquium of Novelists», nor does Galdós himself do more than note that «En las obras notabilísimas y conmovedores de Dostoevsky hay un fondo de tristeza y desesperación, un vigor trágico que concuerda admirablemente con el actual estado de todas y cada una de las Rusias» (Cronicón 36). The darknesses of novels like Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) or The Brothers Karamazov (1880) seem remote and unreal from Spain; scattered references depict Dostoevsky as a strange, satanic writer, known abroad in Spain as elsewhere as «el 'orgullo luciferiano'» (Portnoff 22).
One notable exception in this fitful panorama is Galdós, novelista moderno (1960), Ricardo Gullón's revision of major works that includes the early, so-called «thesis novels» -e.g. Doña Perfecta (1876) and Gloria (1877)- and pivotal, experimental fiction -La desheredada (1881), El amigo Manso (1882)-; these novels initiate a new departure -Galdós's «segunda manera»- that culminates in the series of contemporary social novels, dramatic productions and the later Episodios nacionales. Marking the literary analysis of novels like Fortunata y Jacinta (1886-87), Miau (1888) and Misericordia (1897) is Gullón's emphasis on the interest of Galdós and Dostoevsky in perspectivism -«la visión multiforme de los personajes» (53)-, on their preoccupation with the darker sides of the human psyche -«los ámbitos oscuros» (160)- and on the recognized difficulty of representing those movements in the shadows that lie beyond the reach of ordinary narrative discourse: «El mundo de Dostoyevski está bañado en sombras, envuelto en sombra» (54), writes Gullón, working by analogies as he explicates the features of Galdós's own metaphorical style; in effect, such is the pervasiveness of metaphor in both novelistic creation and critical commentary that each, in their reciprocal relations to one another, appear to affirm, as I. A. Richards has pointed out, the absolute necessity of metaphor for expressing «all of the subtler states of emotion» (Brooks 36).
In his comparison of the exploration that Galdós and Dostoevsky make of the recesses of character, Gullón takes the words of the protagonist of Ángel Guerra (1890-91) as Galdós's defining view: «En el mundo de nuestras ideas hay zonas desconocidas, no exploradas, que a lo mejor se abren, convidando a lanzarse por ellas; caminos oscuros que se aclaran de improviso, atlántidas que, cuando menos se piensa, conducen a continentes nunca vistos ni siquiera soñados» (168). In effect, while the Russian writer goes deeper —42→ -«las iluminaciones de Dostoyevski parecen más penetrante» (53)- the paradoxical reach of Galdós's excursions into obsession and madness always retains a footing in the ordinary and everyday; thus it perforce inscribes the irrational within the boundaries of what is represented as real, Dreams, hallucinations, manic reasoning and every other kind of aberration function mainly to alter perception, taking their being both as signs of illness and signs of inclusiveness, the hallmark of Galdós's new realist project: «Para Galdós, soñar no es separarse de la vida, sino entrar en ella por otra puerta, a través de cámaras sombrías, un instante iluminadas por el rayo de luz del soñado» (169).
Gullón leads us to see that the dreams and hallucinations of characters who actually suffer psychotic breaks with reality -Don Anselmo in La sombra, (1871); Maxi, Ido del Sagrario, and Mauricia la Dura in Fortunata y Jacinta; Abelarda and Luisito in Miau- differ neither in structure nor in content from the dreams of «normal» characters, as evidenced by Don Anselmo's delusion that half-persuades the narrator, by Jacinta's dream that correlates to deeper facts of her marriage, or by the metaphors that summon from shadows the real motives of her husband. It is precisely here, in what passes for a supremely «normal» mind, that we witness the kind of thinking that twists down darkened alleyways, «callejuelas oscuras» or «sombrías revueltas» (49), sketching out a pathology, both individual and social, which is far more injurious than the antics of the scrofulous Ido or of the manic Maxi or of the demented Mauricia.
Thus the full spectrum of metaphorical thinking -on the part of Galdós's narrator as well as the characters, and, correspondingly, in the intuitive style of critical commentary- clearly implies that between «normality» and «abnormality» there is not a qualitative but only a quantitative difference, based largely on the practical question of whether or not one is deemed fit for survival in a particular social world.14 Dostoevsky, on the other hand, breaks that connection, making his way «Por extraños y retorcidos vericuetos, trochas ignoradas y callejones perdidos, por donde nadie transitó antes, descubriendo al paso espectáculos insospechados, logrando fulgurantes revelaciones» (53). At the same time, while the parallel drawn between Galdós and Dostoevsky «no es inadecuado» (54), Gullón expressly limits his comparison to the representation of extremes in character, which, in Galdós, are seen as relatively less distorted or profound than those in Dostoevsky: «salvo dos o tres personajes, los galdosianos más oscuros resultan claros al lado de Iván Karamazov o Raskolnikov» (54).
When we peruse the works of Russian critics, however, the picture changes, and in the case of Mikhail Bakhtin, further comparison becomes critical in a most creative way. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1963), Balchtin's analyses of Dostoevsky's fictional innovations appear to correlate in profound and fundamental ways to the basic features of Galdós's narrative art. Among these are the professed limitations of the narrator, marked by his use of the free, indirect style, by exclamations and asides that allow the characters to speak for themselves in dialogue and monologue, by the imprint of voices, which manifest character as consciousness and create a polyphonic discourse. Reading Dosteovsky as mediated by Balchtin lends further insight into those artistic functions of Galdós's own narrative style, which were first identified and explicated by Ricardo Gullón.
In this essay, conceived as a tribute to Galdós, novelista moderno, Gullón's landmark study that contains, among others, an expanded version of his earlier analysis of Miau —43→ (1888), I take up Bakhtin's idea of the polyphonic novel, not to rehearse his theory of discourse that concentrates on «the plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses and the genuine polyphony of full-valued voices», which he finds characteristic of Dostoevskys novels (Baklitin 4). The Baklitinian model for Galdos's dialogical novel has already been proposed by Alicia Andreu, who gives an analysis of the specificity and expressive richness of its intertextual «collage» (xvi). Her concluding chapter indicates the residues of the carnavalesque alive in the speech of Mauricia la Dura. Rather, I discuss polyphony in relation to another Bakhtinian idea: that of «liminality», the cultivation, in narration and in live speech, of the image or represented experience of thresholds and borders, brinks and edges. In the Galdós novel the phenomena of unmerged voices, «standing alongside their creator, capable of not agreeing with him and even of rebelling against him» (Clark and Holquist 240), lend to ordinary conversational exchange and to speech itself an unbidden dimension of spatiality. This dimension stands articulated further in the notion of interfaces, sites of confrontation, where one experience or perception, voiced in dialogue or monologue, comes into contact with another. It is here, at such linguistic edges, that particularly vital and less visible exchanges and transformations occur.
My aim, then, is to analyze briefly how Galdós works with these twin ideas of liminality and polyphony, first as manifested in his theoretical statements, then as fleshed out in the representation of character and of dialogue in Miau. We may consider Miau perhaps Galdós's most intricately structured novel, one, moreover, in which structure itself, integral to the ruling concept of hierarchy in the social order, appears to compel completion (Villaamil's suicide), even as it gives an ironic sense of something undone, something unfinished, that is quite similar to the «unfinalizability of things» that builds the specifically Dostoevskian world.
As an avowed realist, Galdós starts with ordinary things, «res» -facts, concepts and objects- such as hens clucking in a crate on the station platform in Doña Perfecta, Fortunata's raw egg on the great stone stair, or children hopping like sparrows on the pavement in Miau. The realism of things and events includes also perceptions and feelings, reports and rumors- whatever, once recorded, represents or «reproduces» («reproducción» is Galdós's word) the wholeness of something, complete in all its parts. As I have remarked elsewhere, Galdós's theory of mimetic realism posits a definitive tension between part and whole, as well as between a contingent, analytical perspective and the notion of absolutes, of the very concept of wholeness itself, either in reference to something ideally conceived or fully realized, to something complete in all its parts. Further, and by implication, his theory posits that any notion of wholeness or completeness must take this tension in accountl for nothing is ever whole or complete without it, without this paradoxical sense of something unfinished, something continuous, chafing and unresolved, even when speech is uttered, actions are completed, the gun fires, and the story is done.
For Galdós, this tension emerges as intrinsic to the representation of what is real. It prompts speech acts, animates gestures, and causes events to happen, thus altering even —44→ as complete or global a «thing» as atmosphere or environment, scene or setting. In his theoretical statements Galdós specifies how such a tension arises precisely from frictive, in-between spaces, intervals bounded, as it were, either by the intertextuality of differing speech codes, as, for example, «la del folletín y la realista» or other, multiple «textos subyacentes» cited by Andreu (xvi) or by the artful weaving of two rhetorical modes, the metaphoric and the metonymic. On the one hand, as a realist, Galdós makes prodigious use of what Jakobson has called the «positional similarity» (1115) of metaphor -figures of speech that seek to mirror directly, replacing the thing with a reflection, an image, such as the description of Villaamil as a toothless tiger, the flour- faced Abelarda as a «calabaza» gone soft at the edges, or the benevolent but impotent image of God the Father, protagonist of Luisito's visions. On the other hand, he develops a metonymic discourse, emphasizing «semantic contiguity» (1115)- what seeks to «surround» the thing, so to speak, by the technique of singling out details and causing them to recur as motifs, examples being the embedded signs for labyrinthine structures and the series of nested «cajas, cajones y casillas» that draw the stratified and suffocating enclosures of Miau.
In his famous speech to the Spanish Royal Academy (1897) Galdós articulates these two rhetorical modes in a single sentence, condensing this two-in-one formulation into the dialectical image of an equation. In the following quotation, in order to indicate the division of this one, definitive statement into two parts, I use a double line break in boldface:
This theoretical statement, often cited as the summation of Galdós's realist aesthetic, specifies a numerical play of two-in-one-in-three: two parts of one sentence combine to formulate a third figure that is a single equation; now the sentence, recalling Brooks's statements about paradox, becomes «an instance of the doctrine that it asserts; it is both the assertion and the realization of the assertion» (38-39). The equation, then, appears both to «state» an idea about balance and to «build» that idea substantively, shaping a linguistic balance with mathematical precision. In this way a statement «about» realism in the novel «becomes itself» a linguistic artifact, that is, something real, sequential, and by inference, verifiable. The numerical play also encapsulates a further paradox that suggests a kind of oxymoron: what appears to equate, balance and bring to rest actually incites tension; the equation, a «finished» figure, never can be done, for «unfinalizability» is precisely its aim.
In the first part of the sentence Galdós advocates a realism that is all-embracing: «totalizante». Marked by inclusiveness, this mode relies for representation on mimetic, metaphorical images: «Imagen de la vida es la Novela», he says, «y el arte de componerla estriba en reproducir los caracteres humanos, las pasiones, las debilidades, lo grande y lo pequeño, las almas y las fisonomías, todo lo espiritual y lo físico que nos constituye y nos rodea, [...]» (my emphasis). However, as the second part of the statement winds toward —45→ a conclusion, «finishing up» the idea, Galdós shifts intuitively to the second mode, the metonymic; now as an advocate of realism, he seeks not to replace or substitute objects or minds but to sketch dot-like images in the manner of an impressionist painter. Whereas the first half of the sentence takes up metaphoric representation, the second focuses on metonymic «events» -«synecdochic close-ups» (Jakobson 1115)- that bring into play what actually remains unrepresented, hence unfinished. Thus the perfected image of the equation evokes what is essentially «unnamable» within the whole -a whole, it must be said, which refers even to language itself. For if, on the one hand, a realist writer like Galdós seeks to name the thing, he seeks also «not» to name it, attempting rather to «surround» it by establishing metonymic patterns that build a sense of the innermost nature of its character.
Thus it follows that metaphors themselves, as well as the signs of ordinary speech, are, in a sense, reified: they are to be taken as «objects» or «events» in themselves as they participate in a complex, interlocking system of motifs that continuously modifies meaning. Now Galdós alludes not only to the capaciousness of language, its capacity for inclusiveness, but to its inevitable partiality, singling out metonomy as he speaks of «el lenguaje, que es la marca de la raza, y las viviendas, que son el signo de familia, y la vestidura, que diseña los últimos trazos externos de la personalidad» (my emphasis).
In this way Galdós, in an ironic sleight of hand, develops his theoretical statements about realism by privileging the interface between two complementary modes. He emphasizes the primacy of language, but only insofar as language appears to bear witness to its own insufficiency, even as insufficiency, unfinishedness, is essential to completion, to the communication of a sense of the whole. The power of language to depict and describe is affirmed; at the same time that power seems to inhere in a kind of curious, back-bending recognition of its own, limited capacity to name, for as Galdós implies, the language of realism, which is «la marca de la raza» (my emphasis) must perforce select, leave out, suppress. At the same time, in the manner of a poet, a metonymic use of language «parlays» this limit of linguistic utterance into something else -something unstable and changing- in a word, something beyond language itself Taken together, polyphony (the sounding of full-valued voices) and liminality (the cultivation of places where those voices merge, entwine, maintain their separateness or stop, finishing in silence) articulate the spatialization of the flow of narrative; they convert time into space through the capacity of language to summon presence and absence simultaneously. These new, specifically spatial forms inscribe something real into the text, even if we cannot see or name it but only feel it.
Galdós rounds off the paradoxes of polyphony and liminality by formulating his theoretical equation. He joins the two modes, metaphoric and metonymic («todo esto»), into the image of scales in balance, thereby uniting the opposite notions of faithfulness and free invention, and of «justicia y justeza». Gathered around one pole, which he terms «exactitud», are those inclusive elements required for accurate depiction. Around the other pole, designated as «belleza» turns the expressive beauty of a selected, figured speech. Between them, hovering at the balance point, is the tension requisite to the realist novel. Galdós insists on this balance, now a kind of charged space, as critical to his equation for realism: always, he says, in creating a realist novel, «debe existir perfecto fiel de balanza entre la exactitud y la belleza de la reproducción» (159). What is real now —46→ emerges as a «process» unfinished and unresolved; it is not a product, even though Galdós's terms, «reproducir» and «reproducción», imply fixed, measurable results. Realism is perforce dialectical: fiction, an image of life, is, in fact, life «as it is»; novels are neither faithful mirrors nor pure invention but something in-between, something simultaneously real and invented, something, therefore, supremely unfinished.
Villaamil's story ostensibly begins in the cafés of Part III of Fortunata y Jacinta: his appearance is spectral, like an Egyptian mummy: a «cavernous» voice sounds Markly' as from a bottle; hunger and neediness without end fill the holes he has for eyes; yellowed skin, like parchment, hangs in folds on his face, creasing like a tiger's stripe. His whole bearing is marked by timelessness, by an unfinished career -he needs only two more months of employment to retire with a pension. But, as the image of the bottle suggests, he's all washed up, finished, emptied out, done.
Villaamil's initial appearance in Fortunata y Jacinta merges with his entrance in Miau: the same tall, shadowy figure appears from a constricted space, a «reducida estancia» that is limitless in darkness and want. Images «bleed», as it were, into one another, as the narrator in Miau evokes that self-same «momia» known as «Ramsés II»' whose voice sounds as from a bottle; the image of an emptied bottle «finishes out» the description at the beginning of Miau to depict Villaamil's loss of self-respect: «El decoro era ya nombre vano», says the narrator, «como la inscripción impresa en la etiqueta de una botella vacía» (591). Images of emptiness, of exhaustion, of things being used up echo within the juncture of one novel and another; they establish that in-between space so critical to Galdós's understanding of a realist representation. This empty space, so full of echoes, reverses the notion of beginnings and endings, marking in Miau a new beginning of the end; «unfinalizability» gestures in the instability of sameness, nothing has changed, nothing stands still, and everything teeters on the brink of disaster, yet all is one and the same.
Paradoxes of unfinishedness characterize the Villaamil family and the individual plot lines of Miau, merging them, entangling them, yet all the while causing them to retain their separateness; the spaces in-between are always jagged, always felt to be irreconcilable. Thus we may say of Galdós's novel what Russids great cultural historian, Dmitri Likhachev, has said of novels by Dostoevsky, as cited by Fanger:
This formulation suggests the unusual artistic function of Dostoevskys and Galdós's style, which is oriented toward an incompleteness that provokes the reader into supplying —47→ what each writer withholds by way of interpretation and explanation. Novels that are networks of inner stories, told by the characters and retold by a more or less omniscient narrator, the cultivation of words that mean different things in different contexts, like the multi-voiced catcall of Miau, tags and nicknames and vacillating structures like the braces of the «either... or» locution that qualify thought and action with indeterminacy, as well as the jokes, asides and exclamations that jostle a knowing narrator into a scene where he loses control of his story: these are some of the features that depict Galdós's exceptionally fluid, «unfinalized» world.
The «vice-versas» of Miau, however, offer a further paradox that turns the twin notions of completion and unfinishedness into heightened forms of stress. On the one hand, visible structures, perfected through the enlacements of Luisito's, Villaamil's and Abelarda's stories, delineate completeness; on the other, syntax, grammar and vocabulary determine a language of gaps and holes -«agujeros», «negras simas», «pozos»- that perforates the perfectly executed text. Now our sense of artistic execution resonates with a double meaning, and the notion of «structure» itself turns into the idea of a «scaffold» -hence the name of Victor Cadalso, Villaamil's murderous son-in-law, who in his own way represents the triumph («victor») of art, of what we know as «gallows humour». Structure sums up, scaffolds cut down, artistic perfection is a tease, and parody is the order of the day, as Luisito's visions feed upon the impotence of his grandfather, as Abelarda unwittingly plays in reverse the role of her romantic namesake, and as Villaamil, like Dante, descends to the depths of the Inferno and, like the Faithful Servant or Prodigal Son, returns again and again to «la Casa» in search of the Father, the Minister of Finance. A palimpsest of mythic figures, the one merging into the other, denotes the specifically repetitious quality, the sense of closure that paradoxically informs the concept of unfinishedness.
Events and visions, gestures and utterances always appear related, they overlap, merging with one another to form a perfected, unified, artistic whole. At the same time, people live their lives as if unmerged, their minds are in exile, absorbed in visions, like Luisito's, alienated and self-dramatized, like Villaamil's, split and sprung, like Abelardds. Self-alienation and distance yawn between members of the same family, who, nonetheless I live crammed into overlapping spaces, such as the makeshift bedroom, «estrecho cuarto» (624), which Luisito and Abelarda share, he, moaning in his sleep, she, tossing on her cot, «rebelde al sueño, conciliándolo breves minutos, sintiéndose acometida por bruscos estremecimientos, que la hacían pronunciar algunas palabras, de cuyo sonido se asombraba ella propia» (625).
The scene enacts a dramatized kind of «crossed dialogue» that illustrates Bakhtin's notion of the «plurality of independent and unmerged voices», while, at the same time, the voices structure a jagged, fiercely ineluctable, tragic entanglement. Secrets -Luis's fear of death and Abelardds obsessive love- swim into view among lattice-like spaces that emerge within the «double-cross» of words, the scene resonating with betrayal as monologue shifts unwittingly into dialogue, and as the resultant interplay of voices sketches out the imprint of unnamed, unconscious forces, shaped now as a series of paternalistic, punitive figures: God the Father, the scourging schoolmaster, and those vomited black rats that Victor catches by the tail. Abelarda and Luis are talking in their sleep:—48→
In Miau Luis is taken from the family, Abelarda sinks to murderous rages, Victor walks away with the job, and Villaamil puts a bullet in his brain. Every resource is exhausted, every person feels «finished», yet the suffering is not done, nothing is finished, not even suicide puts an end to a miserable life without a twist, for it is only in suicide that Villaamil's negative reasoning stands affirmed: «Pues si...», he says as the gun fires, his body starts rolling, and nothingness rushes in, encoded by final suspension points that put an end to the notion of finality itself.
These paradoxes of what is unfinished in Miau illustrate to perfection how the Balchtinian notions of liminality and polyphony work through the frictive crossings of merged and unmerged voices and through the interrelatedness of metaphoric and metonymic modes. These voices and modes provoke among interfaces the tension that is so alive in Galdós's writings, both in his theoretical statements and in his realist art. Thus what is represented as «real» appears not to exist but to «happen», and is bound up with processes of exchange and transformation not always susceptible to naming, as —49→ shown in the above monologues that transmute into «star-crossed» dialogues. We watch the thing «Precipitate», as it were, from the conjunction, the consequence, of one voice or mode or term in uneasy confrontation with the other.
In Miau the terms or poles of Galdós's «equation» are always changing or, at the least, becoming relocated at further removes or in closer proximity; yet the «thing», the «res», the representation of the real always comes into being at the interface, the point of contact between two or more voices or phrases, as if living in a novel mirrored the basic transformations of chemistry. In effect, there is a sense in which Bakhtids notions of liminality and polyphony in novels correlate, not only to the life-likeness of fictional invention, but also to the basic propositions of science, just as a numerical principle structured the syntax of Galdós's theoretical statement about realism and, by means of a selfreflexive kind of concordance of form and content, «reified» the idea of realism itself Galdós called this perplexing combination of fact and fiction «naturalismo espiritual». Dostoevsky, as D. Fanger notes, «called his method 'fantastic realism' to indicate the juncture of the most real reality and the most utter fantasy, of the most mundane and the least mundane things in the world» (46). This «juncture» forms the principal Russian connection to the Galdós novel, even if Galdós himself had never read the master Dostoevsky.
University of Nebraska
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