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ArribaAbajoDoña Perfecta as historiographic lesson112 113

Lee Fontanella

I wish to suggest that Galdós' novel of 1876 exists on a level of expression not fully anticipated until this hundredth anniversary of its publication. Doña Perfecta is as much a lesson in historiography as it is social commentary or just a fictional exposition of interacting characters. (Now, this is not to say history, rather historiography.) It should become clear that to understand Doña Perfecta as representative of a historiographic mode is to understand the novel as an interrelation between literary artist and total cultural event.

Some essayists on historiography are convinced of an intimate relation between ordered, scientific thinking and historiography. R. G. Collingwood, whose interest is the «historical imagination», made it clear in a milestone essay that natural-scientific technique was the «elder sister» of historical thought.114

Although Galdós was attracted by the natural-scientific foundations of krausismo, Doña Perfecta is a clear indication that Galdós did not conform to a belief in the sacrosanct priority of natural-scientific technique in historiography. Galdós is no more the technician historian in Doña Perfecta than is the krausista blindly devoted to the world of natural science, solely or even principally.

As a matter of fact, Don Cayetano de Polentinos is our technician historian in Doña Perfecta, and Galdós pits his own methodology against that of Don Cayetano. This narrative approach indicates an advancement away from the technical mode of natural science and toward the rather poetic mode of speculation. Some may choose to call it a Platonic approach to history, rather than a Aristotelian approach to the subject. It allows for illogicality and the subjectivism which characterize humanity, and it is not hinged upon tight, categorical logic, first and foremost. This is in accord with the astute observation by Miguel Enguídanos that «la musa inspiradora de Galdós no es la fría, formal, y académica, Clío; sino la humana y callejera Mariclío».115 So, the implication is that Galdós is probably passing out of a rationalist approach to history, and into a more «modern» historiographic poetic. In this sense, he is ahead of most of the earlier historical novelists of the nineteenth century.116

Especially for the critic who thinks in terms of clearly distinct genres, the proposition that Galdós was moving out of a rationalist approach to history may sound questionable at first glance. For one thing, Galdós had given up the writing of novels proper from 1871 through 1875, while he occupied himself in the composition of the first and second series of episodios nacionales. This makes ft appear as if Galdós had traded off the writing of novels proper (La fontana de oro [1870], La sombra [1870], El audaz [1871] for the writing of historical novels (the episodios nacionales), just before publishing Doña Perfecta in 1876. I prefer to think,   —60→   however, that Galdós moved in and out of literary modes, not that he jumped from genre to genre, as if these could always be perceived as distinct entities. By this proposition, Galdós is always some sort of narrator (in his novelas and episodios), but he is not some times novelist, then historian at others.117 Why, even in the realm of the episodios nacionales alone, there are varying historiographic modes, which depend in some part on the distance of the subject from Galdós' own life, and in some part on the resources to which Galdós referred in the composition of the various series.118 Quite naturally, Galdós' other novelistic efforts should involve similar modal questions, which imply overlap between historiography and novel writing, just as between history and fiction.

The character Don Cayetano de Polentinos is the vehicle by which Galdós means to imply questions of narrative mode in Doña Perfecta. Don Cayetano, Perfecta's brother-in-law, is the town bibliophile and antiquarian; most important, he is the would-be historian who is often present in the novel, but not at all of the right moments. Oddly, Cayetano escapes the attention of most critics. It is conceivable that Cayetano may be comparable to another fictional character, such as Saturno Bermúdez in Clarín's La regenta (1884-85), or else to some real-life historian, in the manner of a satire. Nevertheless, I insist on seeing Cayetano as representative of a mode of literary expression, thereby not to reduce him to a rather narrow purpose. Let us have him stand for a modality in the vast area of historiography. As representative of a historiographic mode, Cayetano turns out to be the opposite of Galdós. We shall see that it is the arrangement of the novel, as well as the personality of Cayetano, that allows us to spot the historiographic contention that Galdós wittingly sets up in Doña Perfecta.

Throughout the novel, Don Cayetano comes off as a type. His behavior is characteristic; his responses are predictable. He is most concerned with matters that are past, not present; socially unimportant, not important; small talk, not decision-making; etc. He is continually attempting withdrawal to realms that do not pertain, really, to his immediate circumstances -or, if I may force the issue, to his self. Furthermore he will do all he can to coax others into that alien realm of relative irreality, which is to say not real to most and only possibly real to Cayetano himself. For example, after a heated discussion between Pepe Rey and Don Inocencio (in Chapter VII), at the point where Pepe Rey deems it most polite to call it quits, Pepe Rey directs a question to a lethargic, perhaps drowsy, Cayetano, in order to put a halt to the tension. Immediately, Cayetano hastens to make reference to considerations that are remote from the touchy subject at hand (namely, traditionalist versus «modern» doctrines):

[...] [Cayetano], despertando del vaporoso letargo que tras los postres le sobrevino, ofrecía a los comensales los indispensables palillos clavados en un pavo de porcelana que hacía la rueda.

«Ayer he descubierto una mano empuñando el asa de un ánfora, en el cual hay varios signos hieráticos. Te la enseñaré», dijo don Cayetano; gozoso de plantear un tema de su predilección.119

Cayetano cannot bear being forced to give an opinion about the situation at hand. Similarly, Pepe Rey cannot mean to him an ideology; Pepe Rey can only mean to him what Pepe Rey thinks about the statues at Mundogrande;   —61→   specifically, whether or not these date from, the Phoenician invasion. In fact, when the alarums of civil war sound in the background, Cayetano is off to Mundogrande, investigating who knows what.120

Nothing happens for Cayetano, just as nothing happens in Orbajosa. The stagnant atmosphere of Orbajosa is symbolic of anti-progressive nature, which Galdós attributes to traditionalist Spain. (Madrid is the notable exception.) In historiographic terms, there is no «event» from Orbajosa's point of view, just as there is none from Cayetano's. Cayetano views past events, but he incorporates none; none is a part of his self. His is an «un-Romantic» approach to history and the past.121 We could say, in twentieth-century terms, that for Galdós, Cayetano is morally wrong for being dégagé. Now, since it appears that for Galdós, proper historiography must be in considerable part a function of the historian, Cayetano is also a bad historiographer because he is dégagé.

We already know that the arrival of Pepe Rey could have amounted to an event for Orbajosa and for Cayetano, but that it did not. Cayetano and Orbajosa did not let it be. Likewise, the murder of Pepe Rey could have been understood as event. In fact, we might say that these two items -the arrival of Pepe Rey and his murder- are the only instances in the novel that even qualify as event. They are the only instances in which something occurs which might have changed significantly (i. e., philosophically and psychologically) the uneventful pattern. The appropriate interpretation of Pepe Rey's arrival and the appropriate comprehension of his monologues escaped Cayetano. He also fails to comprehend Pepe Rey's murder. Naturally, there is nothing about the coming or the demise of Pepe Rey that Cayetano could appreciate. Still, Cayetano is supposed to be our historian.

What we end up with, of course, is a paradox. In one sense, there is a meaningful occurrence in the murder of Pepe Rey. But the meaning of that occurrence is the ultimate confirmation of a sad fact: namely, that Spain will not progress from that point on, because she does not recognize the meaning of the murder. What appears to be our only historic event yields an uneventful future, as far as provincial Spain (Orbajosa) is concerned. Instead, this kind of intellectual recognition is fruit, really, for the reader, as distinct from the characters in the book, similar to the way in which the death of a hero in classical dramatic tragedy is fruit for the audience. If this is true, the final historic event signifies a moment of enlightenment, but only for the reader, and not for the characters.

In grasping the ultimate ideological significance of the novel, many readers miss Galdós' implicit commentary with regard to historiography. If you ask the reader who has just finished the novel what happens in the final chapter, he will usually give you the hotch-potch that Don Cayetano gives the reader in Chapter XXXII, entitled «De Don Cayetano Polentinos a un su amigo de Madrid». This is the chapter in which Don Cayetano, in a series of five letters, offers a variety of versions concerning the end of Pepe Rey.122

But let's note right away that the last chapter in the novel is not this one. This one is the penultimate chapter. The last one is number XXXIII, which has no title, as the other chapters do, but it does retain the status of a full-fledged chapter, by virtue of its consecutive numbering. Here, the   —62→   narrator utters a mere two sentences, to constitute the entire content of the chapter. He says, «Esto se acabó. Es cuanto por ahora podemos decir de las personas que parecen buenas y no lo son». So, this is what happens in the final chapter: not the transcription of five letters from Don Cayetano, which comprise the penultimate chapter, rather the brief utterance on the narrator's part. I would like to propose that this final intervention of the narrator is not purely gratuitous, as the reader who let it slip by unnoticed might at first have taken it to be. It is a frame arrangement by virtue of which Galdós pits himself (as proper historiographer) against Don Cayetano (as erroneous historian). Backing up just a bit, if Pepe Rey's death comes to this -that is, to this open contention between two narrative modes- then his death might very well be considered «event», an event with a lasting effect, not a momentary, fleeting one.

Let's take a close look at the content of Don Cayetano's five letters according to the revised version. In the first, date April 21st, Cayetano is primarily concerned with securing a particular sixteenth-century volume. Next, he expresses a false modesty with respect to the work he himself is about to publish, Linajes de Orbajosa. The purpose of this work is to replace what Cayetano labels wrong-headed doctrines, and for itself to reveal the model figures and deeds of a supposedly exemplary Spain. Don Cayetano's eye is on the past, exclusively. He fears, ironically, that Spain will grow disfigured to a point where she will not recognize herself. Thirdly -but only thirdly- Cayetano relates a tale of Pepe Rey's death -«a» tale, for he will come up with others before his series of letters is over. And the fourth item: merely a sentence or two on Spain's civil war, then in progress right in Cayetano's own town.

Cayetano's priorities are thus established in his first letter. Here is the rundown, in rank: (1) a musty volume, (2) the aggrandizement of his own book, about to be published, (3) Pepe Rey's death, and (4) Spain's civil dissent. The rank order is not maintained in the next letter, written on the following day, but the tone and self esteem are. In keeping with his established priorities, Don Cayetano no sooner mentions the burial of Pepe Rey than he feels obliged to mention, also, that the place of burial was the same general site of his archaeological discoveries. The death of a fellow is thus relegated to the background for the moment. And when Cayetano mentions Rosario's dementia, he again comes around to himself, in the manner of a self defense, naturally. He sets himself apart from his family by pointing out that he is the only family member to have succeeded in keeping his judgment sound and totally free from dementia. A couple more details: Don Inocencio has fallen ill, and more gunshots from the war are audible.

The third letter is from Barcelona (dated June 1st), since Cayetano was visiting his niece, Rosario, who is diagnosed as incurably insane. Cayetano is still preoccupied with details registered in his Linajes de Orbajosa. He is also with the fact that the supposedly true report he had once given his friend concerning the death of Pepe Rey has leaked back to Orbajosa. (Of course, «truth» amounts to a fiction, at least according to what we readers have already gleaned prior to Cayetano's letters.)


And, there is a war report of one item only: Pepe Rey's murderer has defeated a leader from Madrid. Symbolically interpreted, this is an emphasis of the lament for the death of the progressive ideal.

The last two letters are from Orbajosa, and dated December 12th and 23rd. On the 12th, Cayetano reports the recent social withdrawal, as well as the physical and temperamental degeneration of Don Inocencio, who may leave for Rome. For Cayetano, the disaster rests primarily in the fact that Orbajosa will be losing an eminent Latin scholar, and this, for him, is a sign of the death of a glorious Spain. On the 23rd, Cayetano speaks to his correspondent on behalf of Jacinto, whom he has sent as aide to the correspondent. María Remedios will go along, we learn. Their ambitions are so characteristically apparent that even Cayetano sees them for what they are; however, probably most important with respect to a definition of Cayetano as historian, he belies them in understated expression. And Doña Perfecta, although she is wasting physically, has gained new vigor in her religious practices. For Cayetano, this symbolizes new-found splendor of the Faith as seen in Orbajosa. Cayetano could not close without mention of his Linajes proofs. Even as he closes, remarking how he is about to send off the proofs, he is adding new material to the work. This useless historical detail is the last we hear from any character in the novel. Only the narrator will break in with his two-sentence, final chapter. Cayetano has ended his series of letters where he began them. The frame for the content of his correspondence is his preoccupation with either musty tomes or historical data of no import.

Cayetano's letters are designed -structurally and thematically- to horrify the reader. But they can only horrify the reader who sympathizes with the narrator's point of view. For the blind, erroneous historian like Cayetano, there can be nothing at all shocking about the letters. Ideally speaking, Galdós' reader would have had enough social and philosophical conscience to be mortified by Cayetano's letters. Galdós' ideal reader would be, for one thing, an enlightened krausista.

The Galdós sympathizer should spot mistaken priorities in the letters. For example, the social-revolutionary fact of imminent civil battle ought to have mention above and beyond a musty, sixteenth-century tome. Most importantly, it concerns the difference between what is historically removed, in the past, and what is historically immediate. But the fact of imminent civil battle does not have priority in Cayetano's correspondence. Civil war amounts to very little for Don Cayetano. Similarly, Pepe Rey's death amounts to little, even when the circumstances of his death smack of evildoing, and when the reports of his death are fraught with self-contradiction. Our token historian appears not to be so interested in resolving such contradictions as he is in making sure he gets the right sixteenth-century book. Priorities are erroneous in Cayetano's exposition of the goings on in Orbajosa. Just as we are horrified by such mistaken priorities, we shudder to think that Don Inocencio might well end up in Rome -the seat of Church power- or that Perfecta indeed grows more vigorous in the religious realm. At this stage in the novel, that is, after we have seen the real-life applications of Orbajosan faith, the turns of events amount to moral questions.


But if we ask ourselves now, what are the most frightening notes in the letters, we cannot neglect the detail that in a way overshadows all the rest: the imminent publication of Cayetano's book, Linajes de Orbajosa. This is how Cayetano threatens maximally, with the most long-term consequences. It is all the more frightening that he does so ingenuously; for had he recognized what he was about, he might be ripe for correction. But he is totally unknowing. Cayetano's closing («Mañana irán las pruebas...») is that terrifying sign that there will persist not only historical misinterpretation, but worse yet, the propagation of mistaken historiography. Cayetano's historiographic threat -if we may call it that- is reinforced by the fact that the misinterpretation will grow quantitatively, for Cayetano is adding still more information to the Linajes proofs.

For Galdós, a liberal progressive in nineteenth-century Spain, it must have been painful to think in terms of the death of ideals, which is what Pepe Rey's outcome signifies, of course, and which is what the defeat of a Madrid officer at the hand of a blindly obedient traditionalist signifies. On the other hand, if we see Galdós as the historiographer of Spain's nineteenth century, the moral-sociological concerns which these deaths signify, and which Perfecta's new-found religious vigor signify, are no more terrifying than bad historiography itself. Cayetano's Linajes publication is as disastrous as Pepe Rey's death. It may be more so, since it is an incident which, by virtue of its mediation in the press, could be more far-reaching than the unpublished fact of one man's death. However Galdós structures the exposition of the letters and his last two chapters in such a way as to imply a possible ray of hope, a subtle hint of historiographic redemption. Chapter XXXIII is truly the last word. It does not displace Cayetano's claims and priorities, certainly; but, by virtue of its location in a chronologically exposed sequence, it does remind the reader that our character historian is not the voice in control of the whole picture.

The content of Cayetano's letters, followed by the narrator's final words, makes it clear that Galdós wants to reject Don Cayetano as valid historiographer, not only because he reports inaccurately, but in some considerable part because Cayetano does not have his eye on the present, only on the past. In so doing, Galdós rejects a whole historiographic esthetic, one which posits the past as more historic. The fact that Galdós devoted undying efforts to forty-six episodios concerning his own century should be proof enough that Galdós did not believe in the remote past as a more proper subject of history than the present. In dropping the historiographic esthetic that insists on attention to the past above the present, Galdós shows himself as a clear extension of the freshest nineteenth-century thought. Galdós is the proper alternative to Cayetano; Cayetano is «out of style», so to speak, as far as our narrator in concerned.

The historiographic discrepancies which we have been discussing, as we focus on Don Cayetano in contrast to Galdós himself, become clearer in the light of an idea which was set forth by Américo Castro some twenty years ago. I am referring to the theoretical essay on description, narration, and historiography, as three modes in narrative reportage.123 For Castro, these three kinds of expression are clearly different, first of all. Furthermore, they exist in a   —65→   hierarchy, whereby mere description is outranked by narration, which in turn is outranked by historiography. The hierarchical relation among three kinds of expression is determined in part by how occurrences are talked about, in part by what sort of events are talked about, but in equally significant degree by the effect of the expression. We might chart the hierarchy in the following manner: 1) Mere description has to do with the record of behavior that can be easily related to particular motives, whatever these motives may be. It is a rather simple, unimportant sort of record. It has little or nothing to do with the realm of clearly distinguished events. Probably most characteristic of description is the fact that the behavior which constitutes it is repeatable, maybe even apt to be repeated. 2) Narration, in contrast, deals with important events. It takes the expressive shape of a chronicle of events or, as Castro has phrased it, eventografía. Castro, however, is partial to a richer brand of historical expression, one which chronicle is too small to embrace. It concerns not only narrative importance, but also the historian himself, who is a subject of the life that is composed of important (narrative) events. So, at the top of this modal hierarchy there rests a kind of historical expression which surpasses mere description and even noteworthy chronicle, by taking into account the affected life which develops among, and in relation to, important events. What historiography is not, according to this interpretation by Américo Castro, is factual knowledge, however «important».

This amounts, in other words, to a new estimation of importance, whereby supreme historic importance must involve life, which is the true subject of history. But what is most meaningful from our present point of view is the fact that historiography is, for Castro, «una forma de conversación, de convivir con quienes en alguna forma dejaron expresiones vivientes de sus vidas...»124 Now, the scientific historian, that is, the describer and especially the chronicler, thinks in terms of petrified occurrences, as opposed to historical becoming. Obviously, Don Cayetano, Orbajosa's presumed historian, does not qualify as true historiographer. At best, he qualifies as chronicler. «At best», because were he to qualify as chronicler, he would have to have the knack of historiographic editing; in other words, he would have to discriminate between what is important enough to enter into chronicle and what is merely describable. However, Cayetano, if he does attempt historiographic selection, does this editing badly. At this rate, Cayetano cannot hope for top rank as historiographer. Most likely of all possibilities, Cayetano is the describer, indiscriminate, hackneyed for all of the repetitious (therefore undistinguished) incidents that he records as «history».

Galdós, in contrast, stands for the truly proper historiographer, an intermediary between a total historic reality and the perceiver of that reality, in this case the reader of Doña Perfecta. Galdós, as truly proper historiographer, is under no obligation to transmit data, as long as he communicates a vital sense of history. Thus, fiction-versus-fact has relatively little bearing in this particular modal question, which allows for -even encourages- the poetic. What is essential is that history be beyond humdrum description and chronicle.

An esthetic of this nature admits confusion between novel and history. It also duly aggrandizes the novelist. We should tackle each of these corollaries separately.


First, if history perceived is so much a part of the historiographer, then of course the historiographer becomes automatically as significant as history itself. The maker is as significant as product. This is a poetic attitude toward historiography, whereby the literary result stands out in large part for the vital forces (past and present) that are reflected in it.125 However, this is not a poetic attitude in the sense that the historiographic result may be considered objet d'art. It is not an art-for-art's-sake approach to historiography. It does not hypostatize the historiographic product and choose to divest it of its vital components. On the contrary, it insists upon these, to the effect that both historian and history are interacting forces.126 It negates by comparison the supposition that history can be objectified in terms of scientific data to be studied, then unaffectedly transmitted. As it turns out, there is no such thing as historical data which exist for record, properly speaking; as a consequence, there exits no mete description or scientific chronicle that is proper historiography. Historiography is a drama between historian and history, and it remains for it to be expressed as such.

On the basis of these distinctions, Cayetano and Galdós are opposed in esthetic approach to reality. That is, Cayetano is not a part of the drama that characterizes proper historiography. He cannot be and still be the writer that he is. His greatest apparent failure comes at the end of Doña Perfecta, but his Linajes de Orbajosa is the foreboding evidence that Cayetano may rise to the level of what Castro would call eventografía. The mode of the Linajes is built right into that title. It is a chronological account, which in itself implies a false logicality that is uncharacteristic of poetic approaches to history. Also, it is positivistic to the extent that it posits its end result prior to its beginning. It is designed to prove a point; it ends before it begins, and as such, it is consummately non-dramatic. It does not belong to the realm of proper historiography.

Before closing, let us give Don Cayetano a tag: let us call him a falso cronista, which would be very much in the tradition of mid-nineteenth-century historiographic criticism. The label is timely, by which I mean to say that it was created that the term falso cronista achieved special notice. It had to do with the falsos cronicones (or historias fabulosas) written in the sixteenth century, primarily, but the term was revived exactly at the time when Galdós began his literary career. My speculation would be that the nineteenth-century interest in re-exposing the falsos cronicones corresponds not only in time, but also philosophically, with Galdós' creation of a falso cronista.

To explain further, José Caveda y Nava called attention to the term falso cronicón by way of a review which he presented to the Real Academia de la Historia some time before late 1877.127 José Caveda was himself the author of at least two books of related interest: La poesía castellana como elemento de la historia (1852) and Historia de los historiadores españoles (1867), the latter of which concerned, really, one of Caveda's favorite topics, the history of his native Gijón, Asturias. (It did not concern exclusively the broad province of historiography in the fashion of Benedetto Croce or Harry Elmer Barnes, as the title might imply.) Caveda's review was published in the very first number of the first volume of the Boletín of the Academy, in the issue   —67→   dated November 1877. It is most probable that his informative book report was presented some time between January 1875 and early 1877, just when Doña Perfecta was being written, then coming out first in serial issue and later in book form. Now, the presentation to the Academy was in relation to a book entitled Historia crítica de los falsos cronicones; sus autores; fuentes históricas de que se valieron; errores que autorizaron. The book, which was the subject of Caveda's review, had already received the prize of the Real Academia de la Historia in 1868, and it brought fame to its author, José Godoy Alcántara. Godoy Alcántara went on to write another title of interest to us here, Verdadero concepto y teoría de la historia; he died early in 1875, before Caveda's report, and just over a year before the publication of Doña Perfecta.

Why make so much of this Caveda/Godoy Alcántara incident, which at first glance amounts to nothing more than one more step in the annals of the Real Academia de la Historia? The incident defines a philosophical attitude, while it may indicate what sort of history was in fashion and what sort was not, in the last third of Spain's nineteenth century. Godoy Alcántara's Historia crítica de los falsos cronicones was a résumé of the work of certain former historiographic critics (eg., Kircher, Flórez, Mayáns), and it was a justification of their work. As such, the efforts of Godoy Alcántara were, in some part, a justification of rationalist historiography. The so-called history under scrutiny here was the intentionally erroneous histories that had been written by individuals such as Miguel de Luna, Alonso del Castillo, and especially Jerónimo Román de la Higuera. These are historians of bygone days (the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries) who, in a time of moral, political, and economic decline, attempted to restore to Spain's historical reputation the glory which it might have deserved. Glorification came by way of falsification of civil history and ecclesiastical data, thus it is easy to see the connection with Don Cayetano's brand of history. As a result, we rightly associate with individuals such as Román de la Higuera the propagation of contrived legend, nationalist myth, and the topics and themes of undue balladry and romance. We can associate the same things with Don Cayetano.

How curious that all this might have again interested Caveda or Godoy Alcántara, two centuries after it infuriated Nicolás Antonio, when he struck the first significant blow against the falsos cronicones of Román de la Higuera.128 The concern for true history, as opposed to false history, was not new in Galdós' time, of course. Nevertheless, one thing that is striking from our point of view is that this concern should become such an active one in the Academia de la Historia at the time when Galdós is writing in newspapers in the late sixties, when he is publishing his first episodios nacionales in 1873, when he is writing Doña Perfecta, and shortly before his «novelas contemporáneas».

Naturally, when concern for an abstract notion, such as the nature of historiography, arises after two centuries, it does not necessarily have to reappear in the same (original) terms. We can suppose that for Caveda and Godoy Alcántara the concern did reappear in more or less the same terms. I am thinking now of the historiographic esthetic that holds that facts and data can indeed exist as incontrovertible, and that these facts and data, when correct,   —68→   represent Truth and the Real. This is the same historiographic esthetic which must have guided critics of the falsos cronicones in the eighteenth century, for example. Our nineteenth-century members of the Academia de la Historia are very likely close to that way of thinking. Probably, precisely the same did not hold true for Galdós. Galdós surely could appreciate the negative connotation that rested in the historiographic phenomenon of the falsos cronicones. After all, he as narrator wages implicit battle with Don Cayetano, a falso cronista, author of historias fabulosas. However, Galdós is not in the traditional line of rationalist historians. Were he strictly in that line, I would venture to say that he could never have composed the episodios nacionales or the «novelas contemporáneas» at least not with any serious intent of historical record. It is this, quite simply: What means «real» at one historical period does not necessarily mean «real» in another, and, by extension, «realism» cannot be an abstract constant.

I am insisting that there is a moral to historiography that is not necessarily the moral implicit in the content of history. And here is where we connect with Galdós; he has set up the fiction Doña Perfecta as historiographic model, and as historiographic model, the novel carries a historiographic moral. In calling Don Cayetano falso cronista, we posit by extension a better historiographic mode than the one which Don Cayetano represents. More directly, we posit a figure in contrast to the falso cronista. If Galdós is going to be the opposite of falso cronista, what then should we call him? Historiógrafo fidedigno?

This labelling would serve to underscore the divisions of historiographic propriety that Américo Castro once set up. By the same criteria, Galdós is not «historian»; he is more complete than that. He is the individual through whom history is filtered before it is recorded, through whom it lives. The proper historiographer is the poetic historian, the individual who gives to the past a relation to the present, and by implication, to all moments of time to come.

University of Texas, at Austin

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