—81→ —82→ —83→
The son of Gloria and Daniel Morton is described as follows in the last paragraphs of the novel that relates their tragic history:
The similarity of names and the close association with Christ in both cases (thirty-three was, according to tradition, Christ's age at his death) lead us to expect at Nazarín is the promised story of Gloria's son, but there is nothing in the novel to support this. Nazarín is described as «un árabe manchego, natural del mismísimo Miguelturra, y se llama don Nazario Zaharín o Zajarín», «su edad entre los treinta y los cuarenta, su origen, que era humilde, de familia de pastores».132 Instead of attempting to realize Daniel's dream of a single religion that would unite men in love by suppressing the conflicts engendered by creeds, Nazarín attempts to put into practice the precepts of a single creed and engenders a new conflict in the process. None-the-less, Nazarín clearly is the Christ-like figure envisaged in el Nazarenito eighteen years previously, and if his story is not now what Galdós then thought it would be, this is because Galdós himself has changed: he no longer looks for the religion of love in a naive religion of humanity set in opposition to Christianity,133 but seeks it in Christianity itself. Nothing marks more clearly the difference between the Gloria and the Nazarín periods than his presentation of the priests: the hard, uncharitable, intolerant, self-seeking clerics of the early novels give way to the Christ-like Nazarín and to the Don Manuel Flórez of Halma, who though already a good and exemplary priest at the beginning is converted to «sanctity» at the end.134
Galdós would doubtless have developed in this direction without the help of any outside influence; nevertheless the change is plausibly accounted for by the impact of Tolstoy.135 Translations of his works into French abounded from 1877. The Russian novel was brought to the notice of the Madrid literary public by Pardo Bazán, who lectured at the Ateneo in 1887 on La revolución y la novela rusa. Galdós wrote two reports on these lectures for the press, which were —84→ formal in nature and showed no particular interest of his own in this subject as yet.136 But the religious philosophy of Tolstoy, which made him one of the greatest spiritual forces in the European literature of his age, could not leave Galdós untouched. Tolstoy expounded this philosophy in Confession (1882), What I believe (1884), On Life, a Critique of Dogmatic Theology (1891), The Kingdom of God is within you (1893) and What is Art? (1898). The library of Galdós contains French and Spanish translations of five works of Tolstoy, including the 1885 French translation (Ma religion) of What I believe, in which certain sections have been marked by dog-earing the pages.
The differences between Nazarín's conception of the Christian life and Tolstoy's are outweighed by their basic affinity. Both believe that if Christ's teaching were actually put into practice it would transform the world: for this end Tolstoy constructed a «rational» Christianity, humanitarian, pacific, utilitarian and «social», which is essentially the same as Nazarín's. Both see property as the root of evil, both take literally the evangelical precepts of not resisting evil, of turning the other cheek, of giving the man who sues you at law for your coat, not only your coat but your cloak also. In view of this basic affinity it matters little that Tolstoy rejects dogmas and the Church, while Nazarín remains an orthodox believer, submissive to ecclesiastical authority; especially since Nazarín never at any time performs the regular pastoral duties of his priesthood within the normal ecclesiastical framework. He does not preach; he says Mass «siempre que me la encargan», which does not imply every day or offering the Sacrifice for its own sake (the stipend for saying Mass is his only source of revenue though he never seeks it); he does no parish work at all, and while he would accept a parish if one were offered him he knows that one never will be (V, 1732, 1733 b). Clearly Nazarín is on the «fringe» of the institutional Church, as much outside it as it is possible for a priest to be while still within it.
The critics who note the affinity between Nazarín's ideas and those of Tolstoy also quote Galdós's own rejection of any influence. Not only was he annoyed at being coupled with Tolstoy in this respect,137 he also makes Nazarín himself surprised to learn that he could have derived his ideas from a foreign literature he had never read;138 and immediately afterwards Don Manuel. Flórez is made to point out, scornfully and indignantly, that to bring in Russian «mysticism» to explain Nazarín is to carry coals to Newcastle:
This of course is not mysticism in the proper, meaningful sense of the word, and far from mysticism being the air Spaniards have always breathed it has only been a characteristic of their religious life during a mere half-century of their long history. Galdós had no understanding of mysticism proper: the characteristics here given are only those of a fatalistic or Stoic asceticism, which has indeed been a characteristic of much of Spanish life. That, however, is not the point. What has not been emphasized is that this eulogy of Spanish tradition -«somos místicos a rajatabla, y que como tales nos conducimos sin darnos cuenta de ello»- must to some extent be intended ironically, for it is made before Don Manuel is converted to nazarismo, and therefore before he has his eyes opened to the nature of the true Christian life. This «misticismo a rajatabla» is in fact only the complacency (ranging from innocent shortsightedness to conscious hypocrisy) out of which Nazarín has emerged to shake a society of believers. What Galdós could not have found around him or in the history of nineteenth-century Spain was the uncompromising determination to fulfil in practice both the letter and the spirit of Christ's teaching, come what may: this is what Nazarín owes to Tolstoy, because in the form in which it is presented by Galdós it is essentially a social gospel. What Nazarín is not, and never could be, is an eremitical contemplative.
The most interesting of the contemporary reactions to Nazarín bears out this distinction. Ganivet, in a letter of October 8th, 1895 to Nicolás María López, referring to «la evolución literaria de Galdós», writes:
En cuanto a sus últimas tendencias místicas dile a Diego que no las tome por reflejos de un despertar del sentimiento religioso. Ese misticismo anda cerca del anarquismo social de Tolstoi, e hizo sus primeras asomadas en un tipo tan curioso como el del ciego Rafael, de Torquemada en la Cruz y en el Purgatorio, cuyo suicidio no es más que una furiosa protesta contra la grosería irrespetuosa y la dureza de corazón de los usureros enriquecidos, que hoy más que nunca, aniquilan todo esfuerzo espiritual con sus patas de ganso. ¿Qué arte puede prosperar en una sociedad que aplaude el discurso borrica de Torquemada, y donde el dinero que los artistas necesitan para comer (operación preliminar del concebir) está en manos que no le sueltan si no es para recogerlo muy pronto y con grandes creces? No quedaba más solución que el suicidio de Rafael, o el martirio de Nazarín, o una tercera que el ciego no empleó por ser ciego: ¡la bomba!»;139
A protest against crude materialism and against the selfishness of the rich, rather than a religious awakening, is what Ganivet saw in Nazarín. A religious awakening should indeed include such a protest, but the protest need not in fact imply this awakening. Galdós, however, makes no such distinction. In his discussion with Don Pedro de Belmonte, Nazarín claims that the failure of science, philosophy and politics to solve the problems of life points to the need for religion. But what their failure amounts to is principally the failure to eradicate poverty.
Against this failure, continues Nazarín, all the signs point to religion as the only cure for the ills of humanity -but to religion as he understands it:
|(V, 1773 a)|
This is a spiritual gospel inseparable from and determined by a social gospel of a special kind. There are two types of poverty in Nazarín. There is the sordid squalor of the lodging house run by tía Chanfaina in which Nazarín lives in Parts I and II («nos hallábamos en medio de lo más abyecto y zarrapastroso de la especie humana», V, 1728 a). There is the joyful poverty which he exemplifies, from Part III onwards, in a voluntary detachment from property and from a fixed abode and livelihood. The squalor of the lodging house is in part redeemed by tía Chanfaina own charitable spirit: she scolds abusively and grumbles unceasingly but never fails to help the needy. Nazarín's detachment is a sign of a complete selflessness that leads to a total dedication to a spirit of charity. Love is the only thing that can brighten the wretchedness of human existence. Practical religion in Nazarín is at bottom simple: it is Christ's basic teaching that men should love one another. But practical religion also entails, on this basis of charity, an uncompromising protest against social injustice, which in Nazarín takes the form not only of turning his back on society but also of an ardent desire to suffer both in a penitential life and through persecution.
Ganivet was right to distinguish in Nazarín between «el anarquismo social de Tolstoi» and «el sentimiento religioso». For Ganivet a social protest of this kind found its fullest expression in martyrdom or suicide; in the passage previously quoted from his letter he therefore saw Galdós expressing his protest in the «martyrdom» of Nazarín, by which he meant not only Nazarín's acceptance of persecution by the law but also his yearning to suffer in the cause of his ideal. As Ganivet's most recent interpreter puts it:
Es, pues, central en Ganivet el concepto de que la fe auténtica se expresa en el sacrificio y que éste culmina en el martirio. Es más: el martirio es condición esencial para la propagación de toda gran idea: «[...] la muerte de Jesús era una condición profética, esencial, necesaria y complementaria de la doctrina del Evangelio».140
One of the contrasts between Nazarín and the religious ideas of Tolstoy, which Mrs. Vera Colin sets against the similarities, is the protagonist's desire to suffer. Tolstoy was opposed to asceticism. So, for the most part, are the forms of Protestant Christianity. This feature of Nazarín's character and conduct is, however, not just a part of the Catholic tradition. It is, of course, one element in the parallel that Galdós shows between Nazarín and Don Quijote, corresponding to the latter's eagerness to face danger and hardships. But much more important is the fact that it is required by the presentation of Nazarín's mission in terms of the life of Christ.
All critics, alleges Francisco Ruiz Ramón, are agreed that Nazarín is a failure because of its excessive symbolism: Don Quijote and the Christ of the Gospels weigh too heavily on the novel's structure and make the work too abstract.141 This criticism has been put most forcibly by Casalduero:
Este buscado paralelismo [with the Gospels] puede parecer innecesario e ingenuo en extremo. No sólo la novela no lo exige, sino que hubiera ganado sin él; pues fatalmente el peso del Evangelio puede más y arrastra a la novela, aparte del riesgo que se corre de que el lector se divierta y distraiga viendo la mayor o menor habilidad con que el autor hace coincidir los dos perfiles.142
The transposition, continues Casalduero, is due to a tendency at the end of the nineteenth century to renew religious themes by expressing them in contemporary terms: painters, for instance, presented Christ as a modern worker among the modem poor. Such paintings were rejected by the public because Christian iconography was too well-established to be susceptible to change. All such efforts were doomed to fail, Nazarín among them. It and Halma are consequently no more than sketches for the two masterpieces of this period, Misericordia and El abuelo, in which Galdós is fully in control of theme and form together.143 Ruiz Ramón is less condemnatory in that he recognizes the potential greatness of Nazarín as a literary character:
Galdós no ha creado una gran novela, pero nos ha dejado un personaje inolvidable. Hubiera hecho falta al novelista meditar más despaciosamente el rico material contenido en Nazarín, profundizar el conflicto planteado entre el sacerdote y su mundo, adentrarse en la intimidad del personaje, historiar a más hondo nivel el fracaso del «santo» en la sociedad contemporánea, eliminar todo lo accesorio, para que la novela se convierta en una creación de primera calidad... Nazarín será, por los siglos de los siglos, ese personaje que dolorosamente excede los límites de su propia novela, capaz de codearse con las grandes criaturas del arte, y sin poder hacerlo, irremediablemente preso en un mundo novelesco a medio hacer. He aquí una estupenda meditación para las horas tristes: la del ente de ficción condenado a no ser cuanto pudo ser.144
Left with so little to praise on literary grounds, the critics have looked for the novel's significance in its religious message. Nazarín is «la criatura religiosa por excelencia», making the divine tangible in the world through his existence as a man of flesh and blood, thus actualizing and making real the remote figure of the Christ of the New Testament.145 The traditional type of sanctity is incompatible with the modern world, in which there is no place for hermits and contemplatives; the «vulgar» and «mediocre» world requires a «practical» type of sanctity expressed in a Christ-like charity, which is what Nazarín exemplifies; —88→ the fact that his message is rejected shows what would happen to Christ if he returned to the world today: he would not be crucified but confined to a madhouse, not a tragic, still less a dangerous, figure but an inoffensive lunatic: Nazarín is thus also a counterpart to Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor.146 These are the principal reasons that have been adduced to explain the identification of Nazarín with Christ. While all are valid it is possible to offer yet another explanation that gives the novel a new structural dimension and throws further light on its meaning.
The influence of Don Quijote is predominant in Parts II and III. It establishes Nazarín as a «quixotic» character. The pattern of the Gospels is followed in Parts IV and V. In order to indicate the full range of New Testament symbolism it is necessary to enumerate all the instances that convey it.147 The first hint of the transformation of Nazarín occurs in III, iii, when before the «miraculous cure» of the dying girl he enunciates the doctrine of the Atonement as he prays to be allowed to carry on his own shoulders
On this level of meaning the girl's «restoration to life» and the peace that will come to her relatives is, of course, the life of Grace. After the entry into the pest-stricken village in IV, i, the novel begins to follow the stages of the Passion. This is preceded by the Transfiguration (Matthew, xvii, 1-2; Mark, ix, 2-3; Luke, ix, 28-9):
The conversation that opens IV, vi, in which Nazarín assures the two women that he and they will always be one despite the separation that will come, and the protestation of Beatriz that she and Ándara will never permit themselves to be separated from him, echo Christ's discourse at the Last Supper and Peter's protestation of loyalty (John, xiii, 36-7; xiv). When «Beatriz dejó gravitar su cabeza sobre el hombro de Nazarín, y se quedó dormidita, como un niño en el seno de su madre» (V. 1793a), Galdós is recalling «Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved» (John, xiii, 23). In the complaint of the hurt Ándara that he loves Beatriz more because «a Beatriz le dice usted siempre las cosas más bonitas» (ibid.), Galdós is perhaps echoing the earlier Gospel episode of Martha's complaint about Mary (Luke, x, 38-40).—89→
The Arrest follows immediately. Earlier, before the «Supper», the Agony in the Garden had been suggested as Nazarín, on his hill-side, waited at night for Pito's threatened attack:
En los flancos del monte profundísimo reinaba... [Nazarín] resolvió que velaran los tres toda la noche... Ordenándoles que se acostaran, Nazarín se quedó en vela, y estuvo en oración hasta el amanecer.
Él rezaba, porque su enérgica voluntad a todo sentimiento se sobreponía; pero ellas, azoradas, inquietas, temblorosas, no hacían más que correr de aquí para allá, y tan pronto pensaban huir como gritar pidiendo socorro.
The arrest follows the Gospels closely. Nazarín is surprised that «un ejército» should have been sent out to take them (Luke, xxvi, 51-2). Brought before the Alcalde for interrogation, Nazarín is Christ before Pilate (a more jesting Pilate than the Roman one):
[He] saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
|(John, xix, 9-10)|
Beatriz, in prison, asks the guard to let them go free, urging him not to offend God by persecuting a good man («[Pilate's] wife sent unto him saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man» [Matthew, xxvii, 19)). The guard replies, «Nosotros, los guardias, nada tenemos que ver. Eso el juez... ¿Sabes tú lo que es la Ordenanza?... Pone uno su honra en esto, y no es uno, Beatriz, es el Cuerpo... El Cuerpo no sabe lo que es compasión, y cuando el alma, que es la Ley, le manda prender, prende, y si le manda fusilar, fusila» (V, 1799a). This is Pilate's washing his hands of the execution of an innocent man in order not to cease to be «Caesar's friend» by releasing him.148 During the first night in prison on the via crucis of the march to Madrid, Nazarín endures the mockery, buffeting and scourging that Christ suffered at the hands of the Roman soldiers. His companions scoff at his priesthood as the soldiers mocked at Christ's kingship:
The «menos uno» is the Good Thief, el Sacrílego, who with el Parricida had been added to the train of criminals marching to their trial. He alone comes to the defence of Nazarín, declaring that «este buen hombre es un santo de Dios». The whispered conversation with Nazarín after the tumult is stilled is his confession. «Today shalt thou be with me in paradise» becomes:
-Yo quiero estar con usted, señor.
-Es muy fácil. Piensa en lo que te digo y estarás conmigo.
-¿Nada más que con pensarlo?
-Nada más. Ya ves qué fácil.
The Alcalde had told Nazarín («el Jesucristo nuevo», he had called him) not to worry, they would not crucify or even scourge him; being nowadays too enlightened for such punishments they would only confine him in a madhouse: «Sacrificios higiénicos, es decir, sin azotes... Pasión y muerte, con chocolate de Astorga... ¡Ja, ja!» (V, 1798 a). Nazarín's Passion and Death are thus an internally experienced allegory, externalized as the delirium of fever in imprisonment. There is a return to the symbols of the Agony in the Garden.
His refusal to let Ándara and el Sacrílego lift him to freedom through the roof is a refusal to let «this cup be removed from him». All the incidents of the ascent to Calvary are there, including the pain of the Crown of Thorns and the weight of the Cross:
An unsuccessful novel? May one not be unorthodox enough to wonder exactly why? It is a powerful and moving presentation of the anguish of existence in the world of men's own creating -a world in which the gooness, charity and —91→ compassion to which men are called are racked and broken by the brutal selfishness and callous cynicism that they in fact embrace. It cannot be a question of too much religion weakening the human, for there is a beautiful balance between the two: there is nothing «dogmatic» or «supernatural» about the way in which charity, compassion and suffering are presented; on the other hand, these are not purely humanistic values since they are imbued from first to last with an overriding sense of purpose -the sense of a «calling», which when faithfully followed gives to experience a joy and a strength that can transfigure a man. This is the self-command, the balanced self-security that right from the very start make Nazarín an impressive and consistent character. But, it is argued, this character comes from outside, imposing itself ready-made upon a narrative that it then channels towards a determined end, thus violating the vaunted autonomy of art. If there is a weakness in the novel's structure, it is to be found, in my opinion, in its relation to Don Quijote. No doubt Galdós had the same veneration for the mad knight that Unamuno was to reveal eleven years later; but for some of us it may be a rather distracting effort to confine the meaning of quixotry to the unpractical and the unworldly, and to exclude, as Galdós bids us do, the comedy and irony we associate with that particular «calling». Do not the Gospels, then, set up a stronger tension in the opposite direction by making us accept a saintly perfection and a redemptive suffering that we do not associate with the human? Do we not have either an idealized, and therefore false, Quixote or a «conventional» lay-figure saint?
The question becomes irrelevant if the relation of Nazarín to Christ is put on a level different from the usual one. The parallels between the Gospel Passion and Nazarín are, of course, neither exact nor complete; none-the-less they range wide enough, and above all deep enough, to be obsessive. Galdós is under a compulsion to emphasize the Passion far more than is necessary, as Casalduero saw, if his aim is only to symbolize a modern-type saint; far more than is necessary, also, if his aim is only to present a fable along the lines of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor or, pace Ganivet, a protest against social injustice. The character of Nazarín as a whole justifies Ruiz Ramón in saying «en Galdós me parece ver siempre como una intensa nostalgia de ese cristianismo perdido»,149 but this falls far short of being an adequate explanation of the intense concentration on tragic suffering that is here revealed, which is too controlled to be morbid; the terror is kept under the surface but it is felt all the time. The key, I suggest, lies in the closing paragraph to Part I:
This insistence on the historicity of the events narrated while at the same time doubting the objectivity of their presentation is a very odd departure from the conventional way of establishing «reality» within fiction by detaching it from its author. This is no subterfuge of the Cide Hamete type: there are, in fact, four possible narrators including Galdós himself, and he is at a loss to determine who the narrator actually is. The mystification is unnecessarily elaborate if it is only a question of giving credibility to the eccentricity of the protagonist: Nazarín may be a «singularísimo personaje», but surely not lacking in verisimilitude to that extent. Nor does the explanation given by Ruiz Ramón fit all the facts. The interest this passage has is, according to him,
|[Halma, V, 1859a]|
He aquí otro rasgo que le emparenta con Don Quijote: leer su propia historia, impresa en libro, y corregir al autor de ella.150
This is not really the case, for Galdós says he took Nazarín to pieces and in writing his story put him together again; what is in doubt is whether in reconstructing him he has correctly interpreted him. This is one fact that this explanation does not fit. Another is that this statement comes only after Nazarín has been presented as a historical person whose existence is not in doubt -he is observed and interviewed, and then discussed between Galdós and the reporter:
No hay para qué decir que todo el resto del día lo pasamos comentando al singularísimo y aun no bien comprendido personaje, con lo cual indirectamente demostrábamos la importancia que en nuestra mente tenía.
This is not just the chronicler Cide Hamete making his appearance, after eight chapters of his chronicle have been «published», in order to give it historicity. This may be the source, but it does not explain why Galdós should present his chronicle as a Part I of observed reportage followed by four Parts that are the result of concentrated and preoccupied meditation on the observed phenomena. A further fact that is not accounted for by Ruiz Ramón's explanation is the difficulty of deciding which of four persons is the actual «author».
There is only one explanation that makes sense of every detail in this passage. In the novel that follows, Nazarín becomes associated with Christ to an extent that is more than symbolical. Galdós is in fact telling us here that he is writing a Life of Jesus the Nazarene in order to try to make up his mind exactly what this historical, «singularísimo y aun no bien comprendido personaje» means for mankind. Jesus «asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son —93→ of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?» (Matthew, xvi, 13-15). The haunting question sounds insistently down the centuries and every intellectually honest heir of our Christian civilization should face and answer it for himself. Galdós seeks to do so in his own way -through his novelist's imagination. Early in the lives of all of us the figure of Christ is brought to our notice as he is to that of Galdós and the reporter. Like them we interrogate him, examine his actions and listen to his teaching. «Corre el tiempo» and some of us forget or dismiss Christ; others of us are compelled, like Galdós, to continue to meditate on the Semitic Prophet in order to «posesionarnos intelectualmente del verdadero y real personaje», which means stripping away the various layers of exegesis, and perhaps of superstition, that the centuries of institutional Christianity have wrapped round the heart of the Christian message. Galdós, in dismantling tradition and reconstructing the «real» Christ in his novelist's way, cannot be certain whether he has arrived at objective truth or distorted it by his own personal preoccupations. There are so many reconstructed Christs, so many interpretations of his person and life. There are the intellectuals, men of the world, economists, etc., who, like the reporter, see Christ as a fanatic, a parasite on society, preaching a doctrine of passivity and thus denying human personality and corrupting politico-economic man (V, 173). There are the «workers» like tía Chanfaina, who ground down with poverty and unceasing toil see no hope in Christ's message because he no longer works any miracles which might relieve their lot, yet who nostalgically admire his perfect goodness.151 There are, finally, the believers, like the old gipsy, for whom he is divine -«el príncipe de los serafines coronados» (V, 1736b). Has any of these three, rather than Galdós himself, written the story that follows? In other words, is Galdós's view of Christ coloured by other interpretations or is it his own? He cannot tell («el narrador se oculta»). Nor can he be sure of the legitimacy of his own procedure in reconstructing the life of Christ novelistically («no respondo del procedimiento»); all he can be sure of is his fidelity to the spirit of the events themselves as recorded in the «histórica verdad» of the Gospels.
It is thus not so much a question of imposing Gospel «symbols» on the story of Nazarín as of making his story something close to an «allegory». The attempt to imagine Christ as a real man by remaining faithful to the simplicity of the Gospel story explains the change that comes over Nazarín's appearance in Part III. What the reporter and the author find so incongruous about him in Part I is the discrepancy between his Arab features and his clerical dress. Without this dress on his wanderings, weather-beaten and with his beard grown, «La fisonomía clerical habíase desvanecido por completo, y el tipo árabe, libre ya de aquella máscara, resaltaba en toda su gallarda pureza» (V, 1766a). His clerical garb was a mask hiding his real beauty, which is that of a Prophet: the «real» Christ can only be reached by unmasking the «official» Christ made «respectable» by ecclesiastical tradition. Faced with this uncovered Christ, faced with his teaching in its starkness, stripped of all compromise (as Tolstoy had tried to present it to the world), whom do men say that Christ is? All but his —94→ tiny band of converts, Ándara, Beatriz and el Sacrílego, together with Don Pedro de Belmonte (who is a speciatl case), think him mad. These four are «outsiders», unrepresentative of modern civilization; «la ilustración» is represented by the Alcalde of Part IV (V, 1795-8), as it had been by the reporter of Part I. The Alcalde is a man who had begun to study for the priesthood but, being a practical man in a practical age, had come to realize that the Church's doctrines cannot be taken seriously (V, 1796). He thus represents what is in effect his age's apostasy from Christianity, despite its and his assurance that he «respects the beliefs of his ancestors» and recognizes the necessity of the Church as an institution -«Pero no me saque usted de ahí, de la consideración que debemos a lo que fue». Christ, in his day, was a genius and a Great Social Reformer, but his teaching is nowadays impracticable because it has no relevance to industry, agriculture, commerce, public administration, transport, working class suburbs, education, state charity and, above all, hygiene. «Y yo me permito creer..., es idea mía..., que si Nuestro Señor Jesucristo viviera, había de pensar lo mismo que pienso yo, y sería el primero en echar su bendición a los adelantos, y diría: 'Este es mi siglo, no aquél..., mi siglo este, aquél no'» (V, 1797 b).
Galdós allows the cynical crudity of this type of «ilustración» to condemn itself, setting the dignity of Nazarín against the smug vulgarity of the Alcalde, in the same way as Cervantes makes us reject the attack of the Duke's ecclesiastic on Don Quijote because of the ill-tempered and insulting way in which it is delivered. But this does not mean that the Alcalde may not, in principle, be right to some extent, just as the ecclesiastic's standpoint is, in essence, sensible. By making Nazarín «quixotic» Galdós is intending to exalt both Nazarín and his ideals, but also to acknowledge that he is «mad» in so far as his message is impractical if taken literally. From this we may conclude that the attitude of Galdós to Christ is similar to that of the most respectful, as distinct from the aggressively propagandist, rationalists of his age. To Renan, for instance, Christ seemed to overstep the bounds of sanity;152 despite this, and despite his refusal a priori to admit the possibility of the miraculous, Renan conceded to Christ the status of a demi-dieu: «Cette sublime personne, qui chaque jour préside encore au destin du monde, il est permis de l'appeler divin, non en ce sells que Jésus ait absorbé tout le divin, ou lui ait été identique, mais en ce sens que Jésus est l'individu qui a fait faire à son espèce le plus grand pas vers le divin» (473-4). This, I suggest, is what Galdós is expressing in his closing lines. In his delirious «visión» Nazarín thinks he has died on the Cross: «Un ardiente anhelo de decir misa y de ponerse en comunicación con la Sagrada Verdad le llenó todo el alma». But as he takes the Host into his hands «el divino Jesús» says to him: «No puedes celebrar, no puedo estar contigo en cuerpo y sangre, y esta misa es figuración insana de tu mente. Descansa, que bien te lo mereces» (V, 1814 b). On the «human» level this means that Nazarín is denied his desire to offer the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom; but on the level of the «allegory» the denial of his belief that he has ascended into heaven means the denial of his «consubstantiality» with the Father. The belief that he could be «en comunicación con la Suprema Verdad» in this way is an illusion of his quixotic «madness»; but all through the novel his character and conduct have exemplified a holiness that are —95→ certainly the greatest step towards the divine made by the human world as Galdós presents it.
The closing lines of the novel are the last words spoken to Nazarín by the heavenly voice: «Algo has hecho por mí. No estés descontento. Yo sé que has de hacer mucho más». If the novel is no more than a human story these words must point to a series of continuations that do not exist, for Halma certainly does not present Nazarín as doing much more for God. Clarín never wrote a critique of Nazarín because he waited in vain for its theme to be completed. The two novels we have are, however, complete as a pair on the level of the «allegory», which makes these words mean that Christ will do more for God after his death than he did during his life. The question «Whom say ye that I am?» cannot, in the modem world, be dissociated from the claim of the Church to have the true answer. If Nazarín is an allegory of the life of Christ, we must expect it and its continuation to contain some sort of allegorical presentation of the Church. This is indeed the case. Nazarín's delirious vision of the battle between his enemies and his supporters before his «crucifixion» is meaningless unless interpreted in this way. To make this point it is necessary to quote long sections of this passage:
The battlefield is the history of Christianity, persecuted by the pagans, attacked by infidels, undermined by heretics. Ándara is the crusading and persecuting Church Militant, imposing by force the doctrine that her Master is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Beatriz is described in terms that unmistakably suggest Our Lady, who must have represented for Galdós the Christian message of compassion and love obscured by the battles fought and the punishments inflicted in her son's name. Because the militant, inquisitorial spirit is inseparable from —96→ the history of institutional Christianity, Nazarín's true beauty was only revealed when he discarded the mask of his official clerical garb.
There is a person in the novel who seems to me to be connected with this. When Nazarín beards the ferocious Don Pedro de Belmonte in his country house he is following in the footsteps of Don Quijote, challenging the lions and being later entertained in the home of Don Diego de Miranda. Don Pedro's character and behaviour are paradoxical: he is a very religious man, courteous, affable and generous to those he approves of, but a tyrant to his servants and cruel to everybody else. Nazarín is amazed at his pigheadedness. Stubborn in holding to his own convictions, he persists, despite Nazarín's reiterated denials to which he refuses to listen, in considering him to be an Armenian Patriarch travelling through Europe incognito. I suggest that this Don Pedro (the name itself is a tiny piece of additional evidence) symbolizes for Galdós the Church -or at least the Spanish Church.153 His refusal to accept Nazarín as the mendicant he claims to be, and his insistence that Nazarín is in reality a high ecclesiastical dignitary, are the Church persisting in deforming the essentially simple image of the historical Christ. The whole of the novel makes it clear that in order to reach the real Christ of history we should strip him of dogmatic tradition and ecclesiastical authoritarianism: only thus will he re-emerge as the divine element in human life -the supreme exemplar of charity and compassion. The Galdós of this period must have been close in spirit to the Liberal Protestantism of his age, which preached that for salvation it was necessary to believe not in the divinity of the Son of Man but only in his teaching, which reveals the divine, in as pure a form as it can be revealed on earth.154
Nazarín, therefore, is not a novel that attempts to portray a latter-day saint by means of a «quixotic» and evangelical symbolism, but a novel constructed on two dimensions which are both separable and skilfully unified. It is the story of a man who puts Christ's social teaching into practice with uncompromising literalness, as Tolstoy commanded; in doing so he poses Christ's question, «Whom say ye that I am?», with such urgency that the author is compelled to «deshacerlo y volverlo a formar en [su] mente, pieza por pieza» in order to arrive at a truthful answer. Since the seriousness and urgency of this theme are not in question; since the intellectual honesty and emotional sincerity that Galdós brings to its examination are plain for all to see and feel, the depth that is added to the human story by this extra dimension ought not to be minimized. When Galdós says «No respondo del procedimiento», we should acquit him of doing violence to the novel as an art-form and praise him for enriching it instead.
If, pursuing the line of allegory, we expect Halma to be to Nazarín what The Acts of the Apostles are to The Gospels, we are not proved entirely wrong. «Halma» is of course «alma», and the novel clearly deals with the theme of «salvation». It is in Five Parts and Nazarín does not appear till the Fourth. Till then, none-the-less, he dominates the action though absent from it. He is a «Célebre apóstol» and the founder of a movement called «el nazarismo». The account of his mission (his «Gospel») is in everybodys hands. The subject of heated —97→ controversy, he is either denounced as an impostor and lunatic or revered as a saint. The incidents, however, do not suggest any of the episodes of the Acts, and when the Countess of Halma, in her search for the Good Life, comes under Nazarín's influence and bears the practical fruit of his teaching by founding a community in which the profligate Urrea is «born again» and finds redemption, it becomes clear that this sequel to Nazarín is a loosely fitting allegory of the Christian Church.155 When Nazarín eventually appears, he is strangely altered both in appearance and in behaviour. He ceases to look like a prophet after he has, without a murmur, allowed himself to be brought under a roof, shaved and dressed «respectably» (V, 1883-4); he has renounced liberty for obedience to authority («No soy libre, ni quiero serlo, si los que saben más que yo deciden que no debe dárseme libertad», [V, 1883b]), and has become passive, almost servile, in the subordinate rôle he plays in subjection to the Countess. All this means that the Christian Church has «tamed» Christ, removing the quixotry and extremism from his doctrine and making it more acceptable to a society organized in a hierarchy of class and wealth. It is not that the Countess of Halma forgets either the poor or sinners (her unconventional manner of exercising charity scandalizes her relatives, who represent the established order of socio-economic man); it is that the teaching and spirit of Nazarín are restricted within the spirit of obedience. He is entrusted to her care to be cured of his «madness», which is diagnosed as a form of religious mania or hysteria; although she never ceases to venerate him she seems to be convinced that his mind does need curing, and Nazarín himself passively accepts this too. So, in fact, does Galdós; for though the subdued Nazarín of the second novel is inferior in strength of personality and energy of spirit to the mendicant prophet of the first, Galdós does not suggest that this change is a calamity that could have been prevented. The Sermon on the Mount, as a practical guide to social living, is a quixotic ideal, and its literal implementation must, pace Tolstoy, lead to disaster; it must be re-interpreted in a way that fits it for the modern world. This does not mean adapting it to the «English» economic virtues of the Marqués de Feramor (whose name like so many others is significant), and it is against the inhumanity of that cold and hard world that the Countess makes her stand, as Nazarín had made his against the vulgar materialism of the world of «ilustración». If the Countess symbolizes the Church she symbolizes the best side of it, for there is nothing disrespectful, much less scornful, in the way Galdós presents her and her ideals; none-the-less, the purpose of the novel is to present a fundamental criticism of her and of Don Manuel Flórez, the good and worthy representative of the ecclesiastical establishment. For there is a limit beyond which the adaptation of Christ's teaching to modern life must not go. Christ himself can be made «respectable» only up to a point. There must be no departure from his precept of love and no restriction of its universality. Galdós understands the primacy of the law of love in two ways: first that the poor and wretched are its principal object, and secondly that love between man and woman must not be sacrificed to the claims of religion.
The death-bed conversion of Don Manuel, after a period in which his conscience is deeply troubled by the example of Nazarín is, for me, the most moving —98→ part of Halma.156 It re-affirms Galdós's basic point, that the Christian Gospel is a Social Gospel. From the start Don Manuel sees that the distinction between Nazarín and him is a social one:
Él es bueno, yo también. No digamos santos, porque la santidad en nuestros tiempos ¿dónde está? Yo soy social, él individual; mi esfera es el mundo de los ricos, la suya el de los pobres. En ambas esferas se sirve a Dios, ¡vaya!
This is true, but eventually he comes to admit that in one sphere God is served better and that Nazarín has on that account been nearer to Christ than he:
Huyo de lo que fui... no quiero verme, no quiero oírme. Hay un hombre que en el siglo se llamó Manuel Flórez. ¿Sabéis cómo le llamaría yo?... El santo de salón. Yo no soy él; yo quiero ser como mi Dios, todo amor, todo abnegación, todo caridad...
And he bequeaths to his relatives with his estate the rule of the Christian life, learned from Nazarín:
Atended a vuestras necesidades, reduciéndolas a la medida de una santa modestia, y lo demás empleadlo en servicio de Dios; socorred a cuantos menesterosos estén a vuestro alcance, sin reparar si lo merecen o no.
Nazarín's influence on the Countess (as against hers on him) is the only occasion when he emerges out of submissiveness into self-assertion. As in the first novel he asserts himself against the «respectability» of the established order. Halma, has been planning a life of religion and charity along conventional lines -a life of celibacy in the service of the poor in an institution under the rule of the Church. Nazarín commands her to break with convention: to preserve her freedom by keeping her charitable foundation outside the Church's control, and to serve God by accepting the authority and control of a husband. It is a delusion to search for the supernatural against the natural: «Los señores de Pedralba no fundan nada; viven en su casa y hacen todo el bien que pueden. ¡Ya ves cuán fácil y sencillo! Para discurrir esto no se necesita la intervención del Espíritu Santo» (V, 1918b). As a result of the unexpected direction he gives to the Countess's plans, Nazarín, in the eyes of the world, not only reverts to his madness but infects with it the person entrusted with his cure. His madness thus consists in asserting against tradition an aspect of the doctrine of love which the Church has, if not denied, at least obscured: «Nada conseguirá usted por lo espiritual puro; todo lo tendrá usted por lo humano. Y no hay que despreciar lo humano, señora mía, porque despreciaríamos la obra de Dios, que si ha hecho nuestros corazones, también es autor de nuestros nervios y nuestra sangre» (V, 1916 b).
Any reader who, impressed by the attempt to reconstruct and re-examine the figure and message of Christ in Nazarín, expects its sequel to unfold on the same level of significance and to show insight into the nature of the Christian spiritual life, will be sadly disappointed by Halma. By comparison with its predecessor the climax is a descent into bathos. Hopes having been raised by incidents of the plot and by the imagery which depicts them that the Countess —99→ of Halma symbolizes the Church, the repository of Nazarín's spirit and the source of new life for men, we are fobbed off with her marriage to Urrea. That the Agony and Passion of Nazarín should lead only to this is ludicrous. Such a novelistic commonplace as an unconventional marriage and a consequent «happy ending» are incommensurable with the intensity with which Galdós felt, and depicted symbolically, the fact of redemptive suffering and the drama of the «madness» of the spirit in a materialist world. Nazarín needed for its completion a religious experience of an altogether deeper kind than Halma gives it. It is, in consequence, best read alone.
This is not to belittle its «thesis» as such. The assertion that love of God means essentially an active love of the poor and destitute, and that God is served by turning towards, not away from, the human in submission to the authority not of dogma but of nature -this assertion can command our respect, though not, in the context of Nazarín, our admiration. But in any case, the thesis is now rather dated: what was revolutionary for the Roman Catholicism of the times -or at least for Spanish Catholicism- is so no longer.157 Galdós could not have foreseen the emergence in our day of groups who proclaim themselves Marxist Catholics.158 While there is nothing positive in our two novels that can be called anti-catholic, one must guard against the tendency, to which Ruiz Ramón inclines, of presenting the Galdós of this period as a Catholic at heart or at least in sympathy with Catholicism. What Galdós refrains from saying is as important as what he states. It has long been emphasized that he conceived religion as practical social action and had no conception of contemplative prayer.159 It should also be emphasized that while there is nothing unchristian and uncatholic in his affirmation of human and natural values against a puritanical asceticism, he yet never shows anything that could indicate that man has an allegiance to heaven as well as to earth and that there is an infinite disparity between the two. For the Christian these allegiances are not incompatible but complementary; none-the-less, the two realities of heaven and earth are totally distinct. Nazarín shows us powerfully the serious danger there is to religion in forgetfulness of human suffering and sorrow. Galdós nowhere shows us or tries to show us the equally serious danger of forgetfulness of divine transcendence, whereby religion declines to mere humanism. This seems to have had no meaning for him, and Halma suffers from this limitation.
University of Edinburgh