Ramón Pérez de Ayala - what's weird about this one is that it doesn't read like a parody. Even though it was published in 1921 and has about as much characterization=depth as a novel out of the Eighteenth Century


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Ramón Pérez de Ayala, Belarmino and Apolonio, Trans. by Murray Baumgarten and Gabriel Berns, University of California Press, 1971. [1921.]





Belarmino and Apolonio (1921) marks the beginning of the stage of fullness of the novel by Pérez de Ayala, an intellectual novel that raises human problems of universal scope. It presents a dualism - Belarmino, cobbler "philosopher", Apolonio, shoemaker "dramatist" - that, more than an exemplification of two opposing theories, assumes different perspectives to interpret the small universe in which the characters move, whose humanity and complexity is contemplated by the author with a critical and at the same time humorous lens.


Another BURIED gem.
Yes. Everything BURIED is good. Is a gem. That's because "good"/"Great"/ETC is included in the concept of the BURIED. Its circularity is proof of its truth. And so it goes.
But what's weird about this one is that it doesn't read like a parody. Even though a) it was pub'd in 1921 (with a University Press translation into English in 1971) and b) has about as much characterization=depth as a novel out of the Eighteenth Century. Or maybe it's the Seventeenth I have in mind, since this here seems to be written within the pages of something like Cervantes' Exemplary Tales. That is, what a relief stuff like this is from all that stodgy Psychological Realism. I agree that a thing The Novel does really well is probe consciousness --> but that's just Modernism. There's so much more that can happen, that The Novel can do. Like a good tale. -           



Excerpts:


The duchess was very frank and occasionally...how can I put it? – well, she swore a lot, although, being a woman, she would give the words a slightly feminine form by changing the final o to a final a. She also smoked like a chimney. All the Valdedulla family were eccentrics. As for the duchess’s heart – I’ll use one of my father’s phrases to describe it – it was made of Hyblan honey and was larger than Mount Olympus.

The beneficence that great lady bestowed on my father and myself is of the kind than cannot be repaid. I think she must have been over forty at the time and she was what you might call a fat, middle-aged woman; frankly speaking, she was ugly. But she had a love of life, an openness, and a sense of humor that made her far more attractive than beauty itself. I assure you that when she let loose with one of her obscenities, which in her case was really a sign of contentment, you would just stand there fascinated and smiling, as if you had been listening to a nightingale’s song. Where words are concerned, structure isn’t as important as tone and intention. Words are like containers. Although they may have a similar form, some are made of clay whereas others are of pure crystal and contain a delicious essence.

And now the image of Belarmino takes shape in my memory. He was a shoemaker-philosopher, quite a fabulous character, who, naturally, also lived in Ruera Street. As a matter of fact, the previous theory on words belonged to him. ‘A table,’ he used to say, ‘is called a table because we feel like calling it by that name; it could just as well be called a chair. We use the same word for both of them when we say they are pieces of furniture; but we could also call them houses. Just because we feel like it, we use the same word for furniture and houses when we say they are both things. The problem of philosophy lies in searching for one word that will express everything we feel like expressing.’ I don’t know if he was a mad wiseman or a wise madman. I’ve gotten off the track.

**************************

The dictionary was his favourite book. At times, completely cut off from external reality, following the strange forms that took shape in the air and were visible only to him as he meditated, he felt that this particular way of reading was based on an extremely original method. For him, the dictionary was the epitome of the universe, a concise compendium of all things terrestrial and divine – a key by which to decipher unexpected enigmas. The whole idea was to penetrate that secret code, to open up the compendium, and see everything in it at a glance. The dictionary contains all there is, because all words are in it, and it follows that all things are in it because word and thing are one and the same. Objects are born when words are born, because without words there are no things and, if there are, it’s as if there weren’t. For example, a table doesn’t know that it exists, nor does a table exist for a chair, because the chair doesn’t know about the existence of the table. An object doesn’t exist by itself, nor in relation to other things, but only for the Intelet which, on comprehending it, gives it a name and affixes a word to it. To know is to create and to create is to know.

Such was one small fragment of the Belarminian speculation. It just goes to show the kind of thing that can come from being in a sitting position over a long period of time while leisurely exercising one’s discursive faculty! Philosophers are squatting types, even the peripatetic ones. Although they do most of their talking on their feet, they erect their philosophical systems once they assume a squatting position. - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2352820.Belarmino_y_Apolonio




Ramón Pérez de Ayala, (born Aug. 9, 1880, Oviedo, Spain—died Aug. 5, 1962, Madrid), Spanish novelist, poet, and critic who excelled in philosophical satire and the novel of ideas.
Pérez de Ayala studied law at Oviedo University and philosophy and literature at the University of Madrid. During World War I he covered France, Italy, England, South America, and the United States as a correspondent for the Buenos Aires periodical La prensa. He was Spanish ambassador to England (1931–36) and voluntarily exiled himself to South America because of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). He was elected to the Spanish Academy in 1928.
After writing a volume of poetry, La paz del sendero (1903; “The Peace of the Path”), he produced a series of four largely autobiographical novels: Tinieblas en las cumbres (1907; “Darkness at the Top”), describing an adolescent’s erotic awakening; AMDG (1910; i.e., the Jesuit motto “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” or “To the Greater Glory of God”), a bitter satire about the author’s unhappy education at a Jesuit school; La pata de la raposa (1912; The Fox’s Paw); and Troteras y danzaderas (1913; “Trotters and Dancers”), a novel about literary and Bohemian life in Madrid.
Pérez de Ayala’s later novels, which are considered his finest works, show a greater mastery of characterization and novelistic technique. Belarmino y Apolonio (1921; Belarmino and Apolonio) is a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between faith and doubt. Luna de miel, luna de hiel (1923; Moons of Honey and Gall) and its sequel, Los trabajos de Urbano y Simona (1923; “The Labours of Urbano and Simona”), treat the contrast between idealistic innocence and the realities of mature romantic love. In Tigre Juan (1926; Tiger Juan) and its sequel, El curandero de su honra (1926; “The [Quack] Healer of His Honour”), Pérez de Ayala continued to create characters of a universal nature and gave free expression to his delightful and wry humour. Pérez de Ayala also wrote short stories and essays. - https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ramon-Perez-de-Ayala#ref205043

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