—103→ —104→ —105→
Much has been written and speculation abounds concerning the genesis of the colorful blind beggar Mordejai-Almudena in Galdós' Misericordia (1897).134 One important source, however, appears to have completely escaped the attention of galdosistas: Rodrigo Soriano's book Moros y cristianos / Notas de viaje (1893-1894) / La embajada de Martínez Campos.135 This work appeared in its second edition in 1895, only two years before the publication of Misericordia, and its author gave Galdós an autographed copy «en prueba de verdadero cariño y de admiración».136
Galdós and Soriano served together in the Cortes. The latter wrote at least two laudatory articles concerning Galdós and also attempted to organize a national tribute to Don Benito.137 Further evidence of their friendship is preserved at the Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós in three letters by Soriano to Don Benito, and in a photograph of the two men together.138
Morocco was a subject of common interest to Don Benito and Rodrigo Soriano. When fighting broke out between Spaniards and Riffs near Melilla late in 1893, Galdós repeatedly wrote about the conflict in his column for La Prensa of Buenos Aires.139 Soriano, however, played a more active role in Moroccan affairs. At the conclusion of the fighting, he was asked by the Spanish government to join General Martínez Campos' delegation seeking to negotiate a new treaty with Morocco. Moros y cristianos, a description of that experience, tells of the overland caravan journey made by this large military-diplomatic mission from Casablanca to the Sultan's court at Marrakesh; after the mission arrives in the former Moroccan capital, Soriano devotes a large part of his book to the customs, types, and incidents observed during his stay of several months in Marrakesh.140
Although Rodrigo Soriano was a rabid anti-Semite,141 he was intrigued by the Jews of Morocco from the very beginning of his journey. Marrakesh, in particular, had always had -and still has- a very large Jewish population, and Soriano spent considerable time in the mellah.142 He mentions visiting at least one Jewish home and attending a Jewish wedding, but what most concerns us here is his scurrilous second-hand account of a Marrakesh Jew who allegedly exploited his wife for prostitution, selling her favours «ya al cristiano, ya al moro, o a Lucifer mismo si Lucifer no desconfiara de los judíos» (p. 276).
The following quotation from Moros y cristianos, although lengthy, is probably the best and quickest method of demonstrating the richness of elements that are subsequently reflected in Galdós' Misericordia.
The above quotation shows that in Moros y cristianos, as in Galdós' Misericordia, we have a vivid description of a Jew from the Marrakesh region of southern Morocco who has dedicated himself to commerce, traveled to Marseille, and been abandoned by his beloved travelling companion.143 Moreover, this man also speaks a broken Spanish characterized by humorous and colorful mispronunciations and a constant use of the infinitive for all verb forms. Some of his italicized mistakes also appear -still italicized- in the speech of Galdós' Moor in Misericordia.144 His wife's name, like that of Almudena's mother is Rimna (p. 277). He tends to be violent with women (as Almudena is with La Pedra, p. 1890 and with Benina, p. 1940) and he likewise has a knife for this purpose (p. 276 and p. 1940). While in France Soriano's Jew was a diamond seller and he repeatedly refers to his wife as «diamante fino» (pp. 276-77), Galdós keeps this same expression but makes his own character's speech even more colorful in this respect; he retains the italics but changes the gender. Thus he has Samdai («rey de baixo terra») show Almudena (among other precious stones), «diamanta fina en tal cantidad, que había para llenar de ellos sacos mochas» (p. 1913).
Significantly our citation from Moros y cristianos ends with a reference to the difficulties of finding hidden Jewish treasure (Benina's great temptation in Misericordia) and the challenge: «novelistas... ¿no habíais soñado nunca con este —107→ increíble tipo?» The latter sentence would have delighted Galdós and could easily have stimulated him to creative activity.145 We have noted in other studies that Galdós continually reversed the usual stereotype of the Jew and frequently refuted his own anti-Semitic source materials. (In Gloria, 1876-77, for example, he makes the Jew Daniel Morton, the clean-cut altruistic hero and the Christian mayor, Juan Amarillo, is a villainous money-grubbing usurer stigmatized by the color yellow, as were the Jewish victims of the Inquisition.146 In Aitta Tetauen and Carlos VI, en la Rápita -both 1905-, Galdós clearly rejects the anti-Jewish bias of Pedro Antonio de Alarcón's Diario de un testigo de la guerra de África and writes key passages of these Episodios nacionales from the Jewish point of view, utilizing the Hebrew calendar and even inventing his own brand of Judeo-Spanish).147 Thus in Misericordia we see the principal premise of the episode quoted from Soriano's Moros y cristianos -that to a Moroccan Jew money is more important than love- completely reversed. King Samdai offers Almudena the choice between fabulous wealth and the love of a good, true woman -and Galdós' Jewish character chooses the latter.
In addition to the episode of the mellah Jew we have been discussing, Galdós also used many other aspects of Moros y cristianos. For example, he identifies Almudena as being from «Sus tres días de jornada más allá de Marrakesh» (p. 1882); in Moros y cristianos a group of people are seen arriving in Marrakesh from Sus just after Soriano has been speaking of local «judíos... y las sinagogas ocultas en casuchas blanquecidas» (p. 181). We know from Galdós' creation of Aitta Tetauen and Carlos VI, en la rápita that he frequently combined very disparate items of this nature simply because they happened to be on the same page of his Jewish reference sources.148
Galdós has Almudena correctly describe the region around Marrakesh as a rich, verdant agricultural oasis, and there are similar references in Soriano's book (pp. 170-71, 244, 264). We have already noted that Soriano's mellah Jew, like Almudena, has travelled to Marseille. In addition to the latter city, Galdós' Almudena has also travelled to Argelia, Fez, Mequínez, Tlemcén, Constantina, and Oran (p. 1914). All these are mentioned in Moros y cristianos, except Constantina, which Galdós may have substituted for Constantinopla (p. 118).149 Beggars abound (pp. 245, 270, 377), there is repeated talk of hidden Jewish treasure (pp. 141, 277), thieves are punished by having their sight taken away (p. 404; compare with Almudena, p. 1912), and people play two-stringed guitars (pp. 110, 412; as does Almudena, pp. 1952, 1953).
In addition to Jews, Soriano found hashish one of the more exotic aspects of Morocco and repeatedly observed people smoking this narcotic (pp. 45, 168, 330, 350). Galdós' Almudena is also a smoker of hashish, and, most importantly, he has his vision of Rey Samdai (Hebrew, Asmadai; Spanish, Asmodeo) only after he has smoked several pipefuls (p. 1913). This fact (plus Galdós' earlier description of Almudena's vision as «su oriental leyenda», (p. 1910) seems to establish Almudena as a most unreliable narrator. Thus it is not surprising that Almudena's descriptions of Samdai (the latter correctly identified as the king of the Jewish underworld),150 are certainly not in the Jewish tradition,151 but seem more typically Arabic -and with specific echoes of material from Moros y cristianos.152
Other examples could be cited, but the above clearly demonstrate that Moros y cristianos was an important source for Misericordia.153 Moreover the friendship —108→ of Galdós and Rodrigo Soriano (attested to by the photograph and letters preserved by the Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós) also leaves open the possibility that Soriano could have supplied additional material after returning from Morocco. This new evidence, when considered along with previously identified printed reference sources (including the Hebrew prayerbook Orden de Rosh Ashanah y Kypur and the novel Doña Francisca, el portento de la caridad),154 seems at last definitive proof that Galdós cannot be taken at his word when he says that the character Almudena derives faithfully and almost exclusively from a blind beggar who told him his life story in a series of Madrid taverns.155
Further work remains to be done concerning reference sources and their utilization by Galdós in the writing of Misericordia. However there is now no doubt that the character Mordejai-Almudena must (more than ever before) be seen not primarily as an example of Galdós' use of realistic observation and precise documentation, but rather a manifestation of the powerful creativity that allowed Galdós to combine and imaginatively transform material from very disparate inspirational sources.156
University of Kansas Lawrence