Selecciona una palabra y presiona la tecla d para obtener su definición.
Anterior Indice Siguiente


ArribaAbajoH. Hinterhäuser's re-examination of the Episodios Nacionales

Joseph Schraibman and Alfredo Rodríguez

Hans Hinterhäuser's Los Episodios Nacionales de Benito Pérez Galdós,245 focuses on the least studied segment of the novelist's large output and is a firm foundation for all future work on Galdós. The book, which appeared before some more recent ones on the Episodios (Regalado, Rodríguez), offers a penetrating and cohesive analysis of Galdós as historian, political educator, and artistic creator. History is viewed in the Episodios as the fusion of the polarity between historical fact and fictional creation into the historical novel.

Here we shall not concentrate on the excellences of Hinterhäuser's book which is to date the most serious study devoted to the Episodios. He has left few stones unturned in analyzing the genesis of Galdós' historical novels, in tracing their sources, in discussing their political content and in appraising them as works of art. Hinterhäuser's labors have already borne fruit in the acknowledgment they have received in the pages of professional journals of repute.

There are, however, several points in this study which need to be debated. Therefore, our aim is to create a «dialogue» around several findings and conclusions by Hinterhäuser which, in our opinion, either need correction or further elaboration. Instead of debating his book as a whole we shall concentrate on the salient features of each chapter.

Chapter I

Hinterhäuser begins with the genesis of the Episodios Nacionales and embarks upon a thorough study of the young novelist's intellectual, literary, and historical environments. Though in each of these areas he offers important data and interesting observations, the chapter does not provide a clear picture of the genesis that one is led to expect. Above all, it does not underscore a central factor in Galdós' conception of the Episodios; namely, the genetical perception of the present in terms of its dynamic 'becoming' from the immediate past.246 Hinterhäuser plays down the XIXth Century's historical appreciation of reality and stresses instead a different concept: «historia magistra vitae» (p. 29). The XIXth Century's historical perception of reality need not be related primarily to the classical, cyclical, view of History, with its emphasis on the exemplary parallels that can be drawn for understanding the present. Its historical interest is genetical rather than exemplary: its central assumption is that the present, the result of a process of development, can only be grasped through an understanding of the process itself.

As for the relationship between the writer's intellectual formation and his expression of it in literature, Hinterhäuser searches among the historical sources of the epoch for some possible model which Galdós may have used and thus undercuts the causal relationship between European realism (which Galdós assimilated) and the genesis of the Episodios.247 Since Galdós read carefully Balzac's novels shortly before conceiving   —170→   the Episodios, it would seem that Balzac's realism is the logical bridge between the novelist's intellectual perspective and his practice in literature. Yet the realism of the French novel does not by itself explain the situation of Galdós. For in the troubled years of crisis following the Revolution of 1868, Galdós is confronted with a Spanish reality whose explanatory roots could be directly traced to the revolutionary impact of the Napoleonic Wars. The genetical presentation of that historical reality presented for Galdós a problem not confronted by Balzac -a historical novelization of a period through which the author himself had not lived. Balzac, closer to the sources of his epoch (mainly the French Revolution), could offer characters whose very lives, within a single generation, coincided with the social evolution he wished to transcribe. In this way, a 'historical' novel was unnecessary as such. Galdós, of course, faced the problem of describing an evolution that had taken place over a period of nearly seventy years.

Thus Hinterhäuser's insistence on the «rather» arbitrary nature of Galdós' choice of Trafalgar as a starting point (pp. 32-34, 92) is debatable, because Galdós, as one can judge from his newspaper and magazine articles, was interested in reconstructing the «becoming» of modern Spain. The novelist could hardly have made a better selection: Trafalgar stands for the first «great» event of the century, a natural demarcation between epochs, and, above all, for the simultaneous and disastrous culmination of a century-long naval engagement with England and a century-long adherence to French interests. Trafalgar represented for Galdós a unique «borrón y cuenta nueva», a simultaneous beginning and ending which expressed in historical terms what he strove to emphasize in the symbolic structure of his novel: Marcial, the scarred personification of Spain's frustrated Eighteenth Century direction, who finds a glorious but inevitable end; and Araceli, the youthful image of an emerging new Spain, who survives and strikes out in a new direction after the disaster.

Hinterhäuser insists that the first series of Episodios is «exemplary» in character (p. 139), much like La Fontana de Oro and El audaz, Galdós' early historical novels. One should not forget, however, that the «espejo ideal a su propia época» is speckled throughout all the Episodios with the depiction of the deep political struggles which harassed Spain throughout its modem history.248

The chapter ends with Hinterhäuser's interpretation of Galdós' decision to abandon the «historical» genre after the second series (pp. 50-51) in favor of a more Balzaclike novel.249

Chapter II

Here Hinterhäuser examines Galdós' historiographic: approach such as his sources, objectivity, historical perspective, and basic criteria. Concerning textual sources, Hinterhäuser concludes that «Galdós utilizaba generalmente para cada episodio una obra histórica como fuente principal» (p. 57). This is too broad a generalization given the scarcity of source studies.250

In any case, all the source studies cited by Hinterhäuser represent but a fraction -and not a very good cross-section sampling- of the Episodios. For example, there are several items in the Galdós-Mesonero Romanos correspondence which suggest that   —171→   the formula proposed by Hinterhäuser does not correspond to the actual process of composition of the Episodios Nacionales.251

Hinterhäuser asserts that most of Galdós' textual sources for the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Series are readily available in the catalogue of his library (p. 58). However valuable that catalogue may be for ascertaining Galdós' reading habits, it is surely no measure of his extensive readings and is generally acknowledged to represent no significant limiting factor in determining his textual sources.252

After a valuable summary of Galdós' use of memoirs, witnesses, newspapers, and -in the late Series- of his own experience, Hinterhäuser makes a truly significant contribution concerning possible «pictorial» sources. He suggests, for example, that the African Episodios, which recount so important an aspect of Spanish history that it has never been thought necessary to justify their presence in the Fourth Series, might have been prompted by the 'Arabic' fad in the painting of the day (p. 87).

Hinterhäuser's approach to the question of Galdós' historical objectivity is practical, asserting that the novelist's attitude -as revealed in his selection of sources, his presentation of events, and his characterization- is a far cry from the absolute impartiality that some have applauded. But Hinterhäuser could have approached the just middle-ground he appears to seek -between the advocates of absolute impartiality and those of utter and complete partiality on the novelist's part- with a more thorough analysis, at this juncture, of the «liberal» position with which he identifies Galdós. For the liberal philosophy that determines Galdós' political identification is, paradoxically, that which guarantees a fair measure of openmindedness. The paradox only exists, of course, for subsequent generations, which have substituted a new dogmatism for the uniquely tolerant liberalism of Galdós' age.253 What is more, the novelist's driving goal in the Episodios, a genetical description of the «becoming» of his present, was not even conceivable without a measure of intended objectivity.

Hinterhäuser successfully explains the novelist's self-imposed limits on his historical vision -always circumscribed to the 19th Century- within the context of the author's genetical intent, as part of a historical perspective in which «toda clase de entusiasmo por lo antiguo queda excluido». But Hinterhäuser deduces a radical alteration in Galdós' approach to history from the fact that elements from a more remote Spanish past are stressed progressively more beginning with the Third Series (pp. 98-101). Perhaps Hinterhäuser's interpretation ought to be qualified somewhat by noting that many of the interpolations under discussion -which in fact fail to disturb Galdós' overall genetical presentation- have a specific «non-historical» function in the work. It is no mere coincidence, for example, that this «broadened» historical perspective appears in the Third Series, just as Galdós re-creates Spanish Romanticism. Many of the historical allusions, including much of the novel «archeological lyricism» that Hinterhäuser notes, serve the function of projecting a definite pattern of «romantic» nostalgia. A number of these interpolations result, as well, in anachronistic parallels to events reconstructed by the novelist, a studied anachronism that Galdós obviously manipulates to elicit specific responses from the reader: Santiago Ibero's confusion between Cortés and Prim, between the conquest of Mexico and the latter's Mexican expedition, produces so intense a feeling of Spain's modern decadence that Prim's later attempts at revolutionary change, and Ibero's identification with those aims, acquire a positive meaning.

Another basic aspect of Galdós' historical perspective, his presentation of an «historia interna», might have received even greater attention. Hinterhäuser's clear and   —172→   precise analysis of «historia interna», as the necessary result of the «democratized» historical criteria that underlie modem historiography, is quite convincing, but its comparison and contrast with the following generation's «intrahistoria», with which it is so often erroneously identified, is vague.

In dealing with the philosophical criteria that underlie Galdós' approach to history, Hinterhäuser ranges over the many facets of a complex question made infinitely more so by subtle changes effected in the writer's thought over a period of forty years. Hinterhäuser denies a dialectical approach in Galdós (p. 117). First of all, it seems to us that a dialectical rhythm of change is not altogether inseparable from the concept of progressive alteration with which he identifies the novelist.254

And secondly, the very structure of the Episodios -the inter-linkage of historical epochs in the Series' sequence presentation and the conscious overlapping re-appearance of the human elements- suggests a dialectical approach. And Galdós' language, finally, is itself often unmistakable:

Cosas y personas mueren, y la Historia es encadenamiento de vidas y sucesos, imagen de la Naturaleza, que de los despojos de una existencia hace otras y se alimenta de la propia muerte. El continuo engendrar de unos hechos en el vientre de otros es la Historia, hija del Ayer, hermana del Hoy y madre del Mañana.255

Hinterhäuser feels that Galdós, lacking an overall philosophical apparatus for his presentation, relied almost exclusively on a «heroic» vision of the past, in which the «great» figures invariably appear as prime movers and makers (pp. 122-123). This conclusion rests, however, on Hinterhäuser's refusal to consider a complete picture, for a very basic historical problem of the 19th Century -one undoubtedly encountered by Galdós in historians like Michelet, thinkers like Carlyle, and novelists like Tolstoy- was precisely that of determining the prime mover and maker of History, whether «heroes» or «people».256 When the question is focused in this manner, as a basic problem of the age, it becomes clear, we feel, that Galdós' position -syncretic, as were many other positions he took on the vital questions of his epoch- is clear as early as the First Series. The juxtaposition of Zaragoza and Gerona, for example, placed beside one another despite the fact that they deal with precisely the same historical situation, is best justified as Galdós' conscious resolution, in novelistic terms, of the problem under scrutiny: each focuses simultaneously on a «hero» and the «people», but the emphasis of each work is on a different one of the two indispensable -and equally important- elements.

Another position taken by Hinterhäuser concerns Galdós' avoidance of any and all economic criteria in evaluating History (p. 122). Hinterhäuser is correct, of course, in removing any doubt concerning a Marxist interpretation on the part of the novelist; but his absolute rejection of economic criteria may be too extreme a conclusion. There is little doubt that Galdós' perspective is essentially political (differing in this from Balzac just as Spain's development in the first half of the nineteenth century differed, in this respect, from that of France), that economic factors play a secondary role, overall, in the Episodios; but at least two qualifications should be emphasized: 1) that the subordination of economic factors, rather than an arbitrary matter, is, by and large, a true reflection of the forces that shaped modern Spanish history, with political ideology the main bone of contention at least until the crystallization offorces that provoke the Revolution of 1868;257 and, 2) that in the late Series, which reconstructs   —173→   a period in which economic factors have gained a great ascendancy, Galdós emphasizes them more and more.

Chapter III

Hinterhäuser gives here a detailed account of Galdós' political attitudes and affiliations. Focusing on hitherto little-used biographical facts, especially valuable in that they underscore the novelist's apprenticeship as political commentator, Hinterhäuser fixes on an attitude that suits Galdós throughout most of his life, that of a «liberal conservador». The chapter often contains a running explanatory parallel between the subtle changes that occur, over the years, in Galdós' political views -very difficult to follow and document in themselves- and their supposed reflection in the text of the Episodios.

Hinterhäuser occasionally tends to overuse Galdós' political biography, too often seeing the Episodios as a direct outgrowth of the novelist's shifting political moods -a misleading procedure in dealing with a historically motivated realist writer. It can be especially dangerous, of course, if the main guideline -the biography itself- has shortcomings. This is the case, we feel, in all that stems from Hinterhäuser's criterion concerning the late phases of Galdós' political evolution: «el radicalismo de la madurez de Galdós contiene una dosis de senilidad prcmatura» (p. 144). As worded by Hinterhäuser, this criterion becomes a license to obviate the obvious. In effect. Hinterhäuser occasionally rejects biographical facts that belie the fixed political image that he projects of the novelist, often leading him to express untenable conclusions: that Galdós became a socialist without ever having understood Socialism (pp. 122, 142), or that his last word on the Spanish question is summed up in his allegory «trabajo-educación» (p. 222).258

Hinterhäuser's presentation of Galdós' stand on the matter of «two Spains» needs some commentary. There is little doubt that, as he suggests, Galdós' position is clear on the matter, holding to a liberal position throughout his life. But his insistence on the novelist's uncompromising rejection of any possible future synthesis (p. 184) is perhaps somewhat exaggerated, for it must be noted that, at its most radical stage, Galdós' view of Spain's future entailed no fundamental alterations of the traditional fabric of Spain that the «other» personified: social structure, religious institutions, etc.

The last chapter focuses on the literary qualities of the Episodios, with a series of studies that touch upon every important aspect of Galdós' artistic elaboration: 'genre,' novelistic form, plot development, literary technique, characterization, and style. Together, these incisive analytical probes constitute a major contribution to our understanding of the Episodios.

Hinterhäuser's detailed study of the aesthetic problems inseparable from the 'historical genre' is an enlightening introduction to the artistic difficulties encountered and surmounted, for the most part, by Galdós' creative genius.

Although he touches but sketchily on any given plot developed in the Episodios (except for that of the First Series, with which we shall deal later), Hinterhäuser convincingly adapts Kayser's principles to Galdós' plot development: a purposeful combination of «novela de acontecimiento», «novela de personaje», and «novela de espacio» (pp. 231-232). The formula is undoubtedly valid, but there is nothing explicit   —174→   in Hinterhäuser's analysis to suggest recognition of what might be Galdós' most important creative factor: the correlation between the quality of the history reconstructed in any given Series and the emphasis placed on one or another of the novel-types mentioned.

A significant contribution to our understanding of plot development in the Episodios is Hinterhäuser's analysis of the «novela popular» outline of the First Series. The discovery, of course, is not his, but no one before him so clearly documents the parallel. More important, perhaps, than the documentation itself is the procedure followed, for Hinterhäuser takes pains to present the main characteristics and attributes of that much maligned and often misunderstood 'genre.' This allows him to point out -without risk of devaluation- the very precise relationship that exists between the «novela popular» and the much more ambitious literary effort that the Episodios represent.

Conspicuously missing from Hinterhäuser's study, however, is an aesthetic justification of Galdós' creative direction. It should perhaps be pointed out, therefore, that the novelist's incorporation of the «novela popular» outline is well calculated, that no other novelistic form could satisfy Galdós' needs in the First Series: the quasi-independent presentation of a myriad different historical elements, but all managed within an overall framework of unity. In this sense, some objection can be raised to Hinterhäuser's notion that the plot structure of the First Series is totally unhistorical (p. 291), for the protagonist's omnipresence, which the «novela popular» outline permits, and the unipersonal cast of the narration, again by allowance of the outline mentioned, projects the unified impression that Galdós intended for his reconstruction of the War of Independence.259

Hinterhäuser summarizes his study of form, plot, and literary technique with two negative evaluations: that Galdós is too overt, too ready to explain his novelistic technique, and that he never completely succeeds in his attempts to fuse history and fiction (p. 245). Although a concensus of critical opinion would probably agree with him on these matters, it is only just to point out a number of possible discrepancies. Hinterhäuser's main focus in this area of his work, and that from which he deduces his evaluation of Galdós' overt procedure, is pretty much fixed -as indicated by his examples and references- on the First Series. If this is the case, Hinterhäuser's criticism might be somewhat watered down by 1) noting the experimental character of the first Episodios, a groping for size, form, and content reflected in the work itself, and 2) observing, that if Aesthetics is not so much a matter of what but of how, then Galdós' narrative technique in these novels -an old man's whimsically condescending recollections of his inexperienced youth- cannot be improved upon for it makes possible the interpolation of running commentary. Hinterhäuser's negative evaluation of Galdós' fusion of history and fiction is, it should be remembered, the result of a purely academic approach to the question, for the reader's vantage-point -that which interested the realist writer, creator of the modern reading public- is invariably overlooked. From that vantage-point, that of the overwhelming majority of those who approach Galdós' Episodios, the facile academic distinctions between source material and imaginative filling become meaningless. And if the Episodios represent a «vulgarización» of history, and few pretend that historically they are anything else, then the vantage point of those for whom the «vulgarización» was intended becomes the paramount criterion.

Aided by the novel «pictorial» approach, an important discovery of his own, Hinterhäuser offers an exceptionally complete study of Galdós' historical characterization. Our single objection concerns Hinterhäuser's notion that Galdós' presentation of these   —175→   characters -even on a «primer plano»- differs significantly from that of the classical, 'Scottian,' novel (p. 248). The term, «primer plano», is quite justified in a strictly characterizational sense, meaning that the historical personage is focussed upon directly and in detail; but it is thoroughly misleading if it means to imply that these historical characters have a correspondingly «primary» role in the plot development, that they are quite literally, and in every sense, «personajes de primer plano». They are not, and Hinterhäuser's remarks must be accordingly qualified, to the point, we feel, that Galdós' innovation represents no truly radical departure from that of Scott.260

Hinterhäuser's most significant addition to our knowledge of Galdós' characterizational technique is related to this theory concerning the novelist's «pictorial» sources. This derivative process, as source determination in dealing with historical personages, is elevated, when dealing with fictional characters, to the level of creative technique. And Hinterhäuser is very convincing in his many illustrations of Galdós' «portrait» technique for introducing main characters. In dealing with other aspects of the novelist's characterization in the Episodios, Hinterhäuser quite naturally proposes a number of controversial views, such as his generalization concerning the late protagonists' freedom from economic concern (p. 298), which appears to overlook a major crisis in the life of García Fajardo and to discount the effects of economic dependence on Liviano; or his bewildering statement to the effect that the author supplies Araceli with historical data (p. 293), in a Series that is a first-person narrative throughout! Hinterhäuser's study of Galdós' feminine characterizations also incorporates a number of judgments which might properly be qualified: that feminine characters have no true political function in the Episodios (p. 318), that they are seldom historically representative (p. 325), and that they rarely succeed in projecting the requisite degree of sensuality (pp. 328-330).

So many and so varied are the characters appearing and reappearing in the Episodios that a precise cataloguing formula is imperative. We feel that Hinterhäuser's study might have gained much -although allowing that the general nature of his work does free him somewhat from detail- from a finer differentiation between secondary characters. With novelistic independence as a general criterion, many more characters who enjoy an important degree of development -within the independent or quasi-independent plots that abound in most Series- might have been studied, and, what is more important, different criteria might have been used in those that are analyzed by Hinterhäuser.261 These characters, with an orbit of their own within the fabric of the Series (Pipaón, Pepe Armengol, Sor Teodora de Aransis, Trijueque, etc.), are some of Galdós' finest creations, sufficiently developed to reflect one or another of the novelist's characterizational techniques and without the limiting and diluting demands made upon Series protagonists, who must appear in volume after volume and in situation after situation.

Hinterhäuser's enumeration and analysis of Galdós' manner of characterization, speech, tics, physical traits, personification, re-appearances, etc., is complete and well illustrated. Our only objections concern Hinterhäuser's study of name symbolism, a characterizational mannerism very justly identified with the novelist. Little attention is drawn by Hinterhäuser to the built-in humor of the device, a factor of great importance for understanding Galdós' use of it. Exception must be taken, as well, to Hinterhäuser's generalization that Galdós, so much the disciple of Cervantes, uses no phonetically meaningful names (p. 288): «Falfán de los Godos, Pipaón», etc.


There are two areas of Galdós' characterization that Hinterhäuser, well aware of their existence, decides to omit from his study: abnormal characters and literary characterizations. With respect to the first of these, Hinterhäuser's judgment is very clear: Galdós offers nothing new in the Episodios (p. 312). It is hard to see, nevertheless, how parallels to such characters as Fago, Churi, Santiuste, Leandra Carrasco, and even García Fajardo, can be so readily found in Galdós' Novelas contemporáneas. In the matter of characterizations drawn from literary sources, Hinterhäuser's omission might well be occasioned by a failure to observe just how many of the novelist's creations are in fact drawn from literary models, especially from such prototypes as Don Juan, Don Quijote, and Celestina.

In general, Hinterhäuser's methodic, almost scientific approach to the Episodios pays off handsomely. His book is a major contribution precisely because it penetrates, through objective criteria (some of which he contributes himself, such as the parallel development of the graphic arts),262 into unexplored areas of Galdós' creative process; but such a methodology has its shortcomings too, very often displacing the intimate, subjective, compenetration that produces insights into the creative artist. This general weakness becomes apparent on those occasions in which Hinterhäuser misses the full relational significance of elements brought to light by his own methodical investigation, or when he fails to identify with the writer's probable frame of mind. An example of the first of these is Hinterhäuser's judgment concerning the «romantic» character of the First Series: «[...] carece de todo fondo histórico concreto; y tiene aquel carácter inferior y extravagante que... encantaba al 'pueblo' del siglo pasado» (p. 356). We believe, however, that the romantic atmosphere that Hinterhäuser points out is intended to convey Galdós' view -which transcends any concrete historical moment- that a fundamental, innate, romanticism is the essential ingredient of Spain's greatness, invariably coming to the fore in its most authentic expressions of vitality. There is little doubt, and Galdós makes it perfectly clear in the Series, that this element of greatness is, simultaneously, its tragic flaw as a nation. This dual perspective -which is Cervantine, as well, in seeking expression through an ironic dimension- is best understood in the subtle irony which underscores the novelist's interpolation of two «romantic» figures, characters who proceed from a society momentarily undergoing what is endemic in Spain: Lord Gray and Miss Fly. The former's Byron-like image of a Spanish (romantic) myth-figure is countered by Araceli's easy and natural projection of Don Quijote, the other great «romantic» myth-figure of Spain. And Miss Fly's preconditioned, «romantic», vision of Spain is not only confirmed but heightened at every turn.

Still another example of Hinterhäuser's occasional inability to penetrate Galdós' artistic intention is his criticism of Zumalacárregui: «[...] Galdós -debido, quizá, a la presión de sus preocupaciones económicas- trabajó, efectivamente, su Zumalacárregui con un apresuramiento poco frecuente en él, y que por ello este volumen es uno de los más flojos de la serie» (p. 57). The fact is, however, that the very first pages of Zumalacárregui are a masterful introduction to both the volume and the Series, a goal achieved by the writer with an economy of words, images, and overt commentary that is unusual in the Episodios: one scene fixes the barbarity of the civil conflict, its peculiar anachronism in the religious perspective of Carlism, and serves, as well, to introduce the peculiar abnormality of José Fago, whose psychotic attachment to the past comes to personify the critical flaw of Carlism. This presentation is offered, as well, within a concatenation of events that is extremely romantic in its juxtaposition   —177→   of coincidences, thus setting up the «romantic» façade that characterizes the entire Third Series.

In sum, that one can argue with Dr. Hinterhäuser so straightforwardly is some indication of the extent to which his investigation has clarified many issues of the Episodios and opened new fields of investigation.

Indiana University. Rutgers University

Anterior Indice Siguiente