Portraits from another Europe

Literary works

About Clarin, a Spanish writer (by Martin Cid)

“Spain is not a country of novelists”. In recent times, it is a strong sentence which could keep some truth if we forgot that not only would be Tolstoi but Clarin, a Spanish author, who would join the 19th century literary achievements, establishing the next century fiction basis.

Clarin was born in Zamora in 1852 but he lived in Oviedo many years. Here, in this wet town, surrounded by mountains, near Bay of Biscay, he wrote his important novel: “The Regenta”. It tells Ana Ozores’ life, a beautiful woman full of feelings and passions, trapped in Vetusta’s hypocritical and conservative society. Vetusta is Oviedo’s literary name and since I am from there, I have breathed from the very beginning the same air as Clarin did and I remember my childhood meeting similar priests, civil servants, pensioners and military men that the book describes: people who walked along ancient streets, far from modern times, near from extinguished memories.

In fact, the whole Vetusta smells of Clarin because, in fact, Oviedo was reborn from this great writer’s pen. From every balcony, Ana Ozores is still calling for freedom behind iron railings. In the cathedral, Fermin de Pas, a bitter priest, is trying to win her heart. In the club, Alvaro Mesia is cheating an old, impotent, dizzy husband.

The novel is Vetusta but also Spain skeleton as well as London, Paris or a broken Berlin. In Vetusta, the old Europe is dialoguing with the new one and Ana Ozores is every woman’s reflection. She is a mirror, nothing more… noting less. “The Regenta”, however to be called with the dreadful name of regionalist, is an international story, a landmark in fiction development. It is an innovative island in the middle of a traditional country; it is a new world which sings old lilts.

ClarinClarin sets up from realism (he had constantly correspondence with Galdos, the writer of Madrid’ life and Spanish contemporary history). Galdos goes and comes quickly among a big amount of characters, able to solve adventures and become heroes. Clarin reduces the frantic sequence of happenings to analyze deeply each one of them. He writes slowly and smartly… he arrives at the psychological novel.

This novel goes without teller to be conscious of itself -the point of view-. It claims for its own voice, ethic and atheist… wonderful. From the highness, flying over Vetusta, a vulture introduces us Ana. She is our heroine, muse and cruel goddess; she is the Babylonian myth, the three White goddess’ manifestations fighting secretly and constantly. Nevertheless, our world is different and now she is not a divine creature but a sensitive woman who rememberes old readings, dreams and journeys on a boat. Pages pass as well as years and we see her face at the foreground: “The Regenta”. The nickname comes from his husband’s job, a high authority in the deep town, an old tired man called Victor Quintanar.

Ana is a typical woman from last nineties but she is also a goddess willing to face her fate, beyond Fermin de Pas –the bitter priest- and Alvaro Mesia –a new Don Juan-. She goes far from herself, the same as Madame Bovary did. Flaubert wrote lyrics to a goddess who feelt lost; Clarin, the professor, wakes us up with sharp sentences.

Vetusta is Don Quijote and El Buscon but is Manhattan Transfer too. Clarin mixes Henry James’ brilliant dialogues with Zola’s descriptions. He is a Zaratustra at the top of a mountain, looking proud at a Spain full of knights who fight giant mills, full of kidnapped ladies, poets and dragons. He is the vulture, able to discover new lands and futures.

We are there, walking along the streets of whatever town. We turn a corner and meet the old colonel, the parish and a deformed slave. The vulture smiles. Quasimodo and Esmeralda are following Victor Hugo’s steps. Rabelais is visiting Spain… old dreams always return. Maybe we are beside a woman -married with a civil servant-; perhaps we are a seducer or a priest… but it is sure that we have a place among these old, modern pages.

Leopoldo Alas Clarin. April 25th 1852- June 13th 1901. 




September 12, 2010 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment