The ambiguous and controversial character of D. Nazario Zaharín, protagonist of Galdós' novela contemporánea Nazarín (1895), has been the subject of considerable critical discussion. A manchego with Semitic features, he displays traits of both Jesus and Don Quijote.118 His relationship to the Spanish mystics has been suggested,119 but he may also owe some part of his personality to the ninth century Arab mystic Al-Hallay.120 The influence of Russian writers -particularly of Tolstoy- has been seen in this work,121 and Renan may also have contributed to the complex personality of the itinerant priest.122 Galdós himself, at the end of the first part of the novel, poses the question of Nazarín's true identity, recognizing the enigma his personaje represents.123 While the novelist takes pains to describe the physical appearance of his character, clearly there is more to Nazarín than meets the eye.
The names which D. Benito assigned to certain of his fictional creations have aroused considerable interest, «because it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the names Galdós gave to his principal characters were not incidental tags, but carefully chosen appellations designed to reflect essential attributes of the character and frequently to carry symbolic connotations as well».124 Although these symbolic values are often quite apparent, this is not always the case; and if Nazarín is to be seen as a reflection of the Nazarene, he should also be considered as a descendent of the Hebrew Nazirites.
The role of Nazarín as imitator of Christ cannot be disputed, and the similarity of his name to the word nazareno is evident. The term refers both to the city of Nazareth and to a particular image of Jesus («vistiendo un ropón morado»125). But nazareno, both adjective and noun, has several additional definitions including the following: «Dícese del que entre los hebreos se consagraba particularmente al culto de Dios: no bebía licor ninguno que pudiera embriagar, y no se cortaba la barba ni el cabello».126 While obviously directing the reader toward the New Testament, the name Nazarín also points to the Hebrew Bible.
The laws concerning the Nazirites are stated in Numbers, vi. The Hebrew word nazir () is derived from the root n-z-r (), «to separate or dedicate oneself». In Hebrew tradition, the Nazirite is a «person who vows for a specific period to abstain from partaking of grapes or any of its products whether intoxicating or not, cutting his hair, and touching a corpse».127 Variations in the observance of the laws are frequent: Samuel and Samson were life-long Nazirites, and the latter did not observe the rule forbidding corpse contamination. These practices are not unheard of in the New Testament; St. Paul made a vow of this kind at Cenchroe. Some think John the Baptist was also a Nazirite.128 The Talmud devotes a tractate to the Nazirite vows, and the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus also describes the custom. Nonetheless, the practice was generally discouraged since Judaism does not normally condone asceticism.129—102→
Nazarín clearly displays some of the characteristics of the Nazirite. He abstains from wine and is thus also tied to Moslem tradition. Before leaving Madrid, he has decided to let his beard grow.130 The reader does not see him shaven until he appears once more in conventional clothing in Halma. Like many Nazirites, his vows are not perpetual although he remains an ascetic.
Galdós was a careful reader of the Bible, and his indebtedness to the Scriptures is apparent in a number of his works. Not only does the Bible provide Galdós with models for some fictional characters and for certain episodes in his novels; it influences his literary language as well, whether by direct quotation or paraphrase. These Biblical references are not restricted to the New Testament; in Misericordia, for example, the Old Testament is amply represented.131 In this novel, the mixture of Hebrew and Christian sources is seen concretely in the character Almudena, who is a synthesis of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Mordejai is one of several Sephardic types who appear in Galdós' novels; and although the various characters serve different literary ends, it can be said that Galdós is sympathetic to the Jew and recognizes in Judaism a source for the two other major western religions.
Nazarín does not fall precisely into the category of Daniel Morton, Almudena, and the Sephardic characters of Aita Tettauen and Carlos VI en la Rápita. He is clearly a Christian, seeking to imitate Jesus in his life of poverty and charity. Nonetheless, Galdós draws attention to his Semitic appearance, thus emphasizing Spain's triple heritage from the East. As a Semite, Nazarín is tied to Judaism, to Islam, and to primitive Christianity. As we have seen, his abstinence from wine reflects both Hebrew and Moslem traditions; and his role of Nazirite, while rooted in Old Testament scripture, can be seen in the New Testament as well. This additional facet of Nazarín's composite portrait approximates him to other Galdosian characters who embody the three faiths which flowered in medieval Spain and provides yet another answer to the question, «But whom say yet that I am?»132. At the same time, the physical and spiritual evolution of the clérigo semítico in Nazarín and Halma reminds the reader that «The very heart of Galdós' vitality is his view of individual personality and of life in general as a continual becoming».133
Douglass College, Rutgers University. New Brunswick, New Jersey