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Why did Galdós hardly write about his land?

2020-10-27T00:18:15.681Z

The novelist from Las Palmas only published a text with his city as the setting; a disapproved affair and his journalistic work in Madrid distanced him from the Canary Islands, which he never forgot



The most popular Spanish writer of the 19th century painted with his last name an entire city that was not his own.

The language in which he wrote so much ended up coining an adjective that still defines Madrid today: Galdosiano.

But Benito Pérez Galdós had been born a long way from the capital that served him so many times as a setting, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, some 1,800 kilometers that could only be saved with a heavy train journey from / to Cádiz and a three-day journey Boat.

His city, today the ninth of Spain in population, barely had 17,000 inhabitants the year Galdós was born, in 1843.

He spent the first 19 years of his life in it, but Canarias hardly appears explicitly in his work.

Only in a story signed with a pseudonym in the Las Palmas press, in the newspaper

El Ómnibus,

in 1866, when he had already settled in Madrid.

Obituary of a prototype

describes with sinister airs the lever of the organ of the Cathedral of Santa Ana, near the place where young Benito lives.

"He is a kind of Maese Pérez the organist [character created by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer], but more monstrous, caricatured, who could well have been inspired by a real person," explains Professor Yolanda Arencibia, emeritus professor at the University of Las Palmas and author of

Galdós.

A biography

(Tusquets, 2020), Comillas Award for History, Biographies and Memories.

An early mess of skirts had something to do with her distance from the Canary Islands.

María Josefa Washington,

Sisita

, was the natural daughter of Benito's maternal uncle.

He had had it with Adriana Tate, an Anglo-American, two other of whose children would in turn marry two of Benito Pérez Galdós's brothers.

Adriana and Sisita, born in Cuba, settled in Gran Canaria.

It is not difficult to imagine the shock that that tangled family of cosmopolitan Indians provoked in the pacata society of Las Palmas;

all the more in the young Galdós's mother, Dolores, a

religious and sentimentally austere

Doña Perfecta

, who also had idealized the future as a lawyer for her pretty boy, her tenth child, the youngest.

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“Sisita and Benito were the same age and it was sung that they were going to fall in love.

It was also sung that Galdós's mother saw that as a huge problem, ”explains Yolanda Arencibia.

Between classes and English classes that Adriana Tate gave to that young man, "tall, handsome, witty, intelligent", as the biographer describes it, Benito met Sisita.

"An early relationship would have been a huge upset for the future of the young man", believes the expert, especially with the girl who for Dolores Galdós was the living memory of her brother's sinful love affairs.

Whether it was only out of the desire to distance him from the young woman or not, the family sent Benito to Madrid to study law.

Regarding the ultimate cause of that march, the family kept an iron discretion.

But years after the death of the writer, María Teresa León wrote the confidences that a great-nephew of Galdós shared with her: he had told her that Sisita had become pregnant and that she later miscarried.

He died at the age of 28.

In Madrid, Benito discovers a better-looking city than the one he imagined.

It is true that it is the scene of the repression against the students of the military on the Night of San Daniel, that of the thousands of deaths due to the cholera epidemic, that of the haggard unemployed who lost their jobs as soon as the tables turned. in government.

But it is also the enterprising city that the new Barrio de Salamanca draws clean, the lively city full of parties brought by immigrants who are swelling the census, some of them Canaries.

Galdós seeks the company of his countrymen in the gathering that brings them together at Café Universal, in Alcalá, 1. “There he goes, although he was so shy that he almost never intervened, with a notebook in which he draws his companions, including his intimate Fernando León y Castillo, the great Canarian politician of the time ”, illustrates the professor and literary critic Germán Gullón, author of the biography

Galdós.

Master of modern letters

(Valnera, 2020).

enlarge photo Sorolla Room of Galdós' birth-house in Las Palmas, with a portrait painted by Sorolla on the wall.

Benito Pérez Galdós Birthplace

That shy "lone ranger", as Gullón calls him, never forgot his Canarian land.

If he did not just mention it in his writings, he did dedicate drawings and paintings showing La Orotava or Mount Teide to it.

He returned to Gran Canaria some of the first summers after his departure to Madrid, and then he would not do so until 1894, when he was already 52 years old, to settle an inheritance issue.

On that last trip, he took a photo dressed in civilian clothes at the Los Lirios family farm.

As he leaves, he will never set foot on the islands again.

"The boat trips were brutal, he had a very bad time, vomiting," says the biographer, who points out another important cause: "He wrote in the newspapers, he could not stay away from Madrid for long, he had to be where he was", abounds.

Yolanda Arencibia specifies this dependence on writing, which was equivalent to a dependence on Madrid: “Galdós neither had much money nor his family titles, he was not a professor, like Clarín, nor a landowner, like [José María de] Pereda.

He was a boy who made his way with the pen in the big city ”.

He was not going to the Canary Islands, but he took a good part of the Canary Islands with him.

Several relatives ended up living with him in the capital and also those who remained on the islands often sent them typical products, well wrapped in cans.

"He had a very sweet tooth: he loved mole eggs, a dessert made with yolk, sugar and syrup", describes the expert.

He was very fond of gofio and even asked to be sent Canarian potato and tobacco seeds to plant at his home in Santander.

Nor did he completely lose his accent, although there are no recorded testimonies to remember him.

The editors amended, out of ignorance and an excessively unitary vision of Spanish, a linguistic use of his that was more correct than that of Madrid: he was not a reader, but his host city was.

"They corrected the

you

used in the second person of the plural", majority among Spanish speakers, adds Yolanda Arencibia as an example.

"And he had to conform."

They also uncovered his rich Canarian vocabulary, with his

sorimba

("fear or shame"),

desguangilado

("ungainly"),

drawer

("drawer"),

refistoleador

("criticón"),

ferruge

("oxide", "rust),

dating

("lock"),

guachafisco

or

cochafisco

("roasted corn"),

abanador

("soplillo") ... There remains in his writings an expression, apparently anodyne, which, on the other hand, is revealing to his biographer of the

canariety

: the "Well ..." to qualify statements that are too forceful, without throwing them completely to the ground.

“The narrator uses them very often when faced with a historical event.

It is a way of questioning, a maybe, a maybe, but always without arguing.

It is something very Galdosian and at the same time very typical of the island character, ”explains Yolanda Arencibia.

And, although he was never a professional politician, when he was older he became a deputy for Las Palmas.

By then he has become an omnipresent figure in Spanish cultural life, the most famous of writers.

"He was very popular, a great support for Juan León y Castillo, but with a more symbolic than political presence," says Gullón.

Arencibia points out that one of his efforts was to provide his hometown with a secondary school - he had had to go to Tenerife to revalidate his baccalaureate - but that was only achieved years after his death.

Madrid offered him something that Las Palmas could not, Gullón believes: the wide setting to develop his novels.

Like London to Dickens, like Paris to Balzac.

Of course, no one dared to doubt its origin.

"Where am I from? ... But man! ..., if everyone knows that. From Las Palmas!", He exclaimed in an interview in 1914, six years before he died.

An exhibition about his life,

The Human Truth,

returns Galdós to his hometown these months, after being exhibited at the National Library in Madrid.

On the 100th anniversary of his death, the manuscripts, photos and memorabilia of Don Benito —as the visitors from Palma who attend the guided tour call him, thus maintaining a use of respect that has been lost in other parts of Spain— are added. to the many that the birth-house treasures, where they are exposed.

Some of his words have been embedded in metal on the ground a few meters away, on Cano street.

They are a quote from the very Madrid-born

Fortunata and Jacinta,

 but in the place where she was born they do not sound misplaced: "Wherever a man goes, he carries his novel with him." 

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2020-10-27

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