“I cannot rid myself of the idea that certain tributes which are tendered to living authors who are still enveloped, one might say, in the heat of battle, preset this danger: that posterity, which is always infallible, may revoke them in time, modifying or even nullifying the quite premature judgment of contemporaries.”
Most of what he wrote was a first draft. The only thing he would really change was repition, and he would change any repeated words for their synonym.
I assume his revising was all done beforehand in his preparation for writing. Yet he didn’t outline and he left behind few notes. He did have lots of maps, train schedules, and even family trees for his National Episodes, bhishe just wrote.
He had a straightforward process to writing. He did a lot of reserch – he preferred living documents over all – and then once he gathered all his notes he could write a novel very quickly, from 2 weeks to a month in some cases, but even Fortunata and Jacinta too only about a year.
Trafalgar was a large success. And it’s success was even literary in its retelling in that University Medical students were smuggling the book into lectures and so instead of learning the science of healing a Spaniard, they were learning the morality of healing one (at the expense of malpractice).
Putting the National flag on the cover was a clever marketing touch.
The narrator of Trafalgar is his humble father.
The National Episodes (Episodios nacionales ) were his cycle of Spanish history, fictionalized but grounded in real events and realized through major research and interviews with eye witnesses. A sort of precursor to Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote and those sorts of writers.
He believed that revolutions could never really bring about change, only through human reform (education, really), by reforming the national conscience could he really bring about change. He would focus on people, not so much institutions.
The two works [LA fontana de oro, and El audaz] made him realize that human institutions are fundamentally only concepts and abstractions, and that the basic reality of society is the individual.”
“It was so pleasant to dream that he was reluctant to come into contact with reality.”
He very much is a person who drinks in everything around him, filters it in his own way, then transforms it to the page. His minatures, his journalism , his wanderings around Madrid taking in the “flavor”, he’s been soaking this up for a long time.
Glados was interested “hat the novel could be converted from an agency for mere artistic pastime into a powerful instrument of social and moral education.” Like Dickens, Balzac, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky , and others from around this time.
Don Eugenio de Ochoa: “… the past is a sepulcher; we should venerate it, but as for burying ourselves alive in it – never!”
He privately published his first novel, La Fontana de Oro because he didn’t want to publish in subscription installments as we’re popular at the time.
2 separate demonstrations: one in which the leaders could not understand what the crowd was yelling, the other where the crowd could not hear what the leaders were saying. Thus Spanish political tumult.
He joins a society club, but only for its library! Well done, Benito.
“In art imagination should function as a faculty and not an aberration or an organic vice.”
“In general, the novelist’s chief concern is the study of human behavior as a resultant of man’s inability to distinguish the real from the imaginary.”
This is what he explore in La Sombra (The Shadow).
Survivors of the clash were shot against the wall by artillery officers the next day. He was so horrified by this he ran home and took solace in his books.
He describes one of the revolutionary clashes as (the sounds of) “the groans of victims, raging oaths, bloody exaltations, hateful voices.”
Very clear, concise language that still gets across the anger and violence of the scene
“In his worship of the indigenous and the popular Glados often finds sublimity where someone less [though I’d word it as “more cynical”] prejudiced might see only bad taste.”
What I find unique about Glados is that he can see both extremes – he loves Spain and is able to see the reasons even in Spain’s bad behvaior, but he can also see the ridiculous and banal in it, too. He’s uncommonly fair and observant.
Not just being well read, but also (barring an occasional youthful severity) “His fundamental preoccupation is with the distortion of values, with the distressing distance between things as they are and things as they shoul
He tried to be a dramatist but he didn’t think much of his work – even wanted it burned. Seems he really learned how to be a writer as a journalist – would make sense since you have to be able to communicate clearly and with style to be successful – which he was.
I love the description of his “spiritual hygine” as he wanders the more humble, working class sections of the city (and the churches, too). The one street with the 88 taverns with red-painted fronts, the rhythm of speech from washer women, collecting rents and seeing the poor.
“He discovered that language was the spice of life for the humble people – and he never forgot that discovery.”
His ability to be a good sport among his friends and some musical talent loosened up his crowd and allowed him to catch the flavor of cliche and peach around him as well as the mood about events. He could break the ice then pick up the cubes.
We only see Benito through his mother’s fears here as he skips University. He must be getting his knowledge from the cafés and then publishing all that in the newspapers that the government shuts down. He’s shy but involved (with his pen, no doubt).
We mostly only see Benito through his mother’s fears of him not studying law. He’s shy so how is he getting all his knowledge of the day? Probably spending all his time in the cafés and then writing it all down for the liberal newspapers (that the government shuts down).
How does Benito know so much about life in Spain to write in the papers? We sort of see him through his mother’s eyes at this part while he skips University to write for the newspaper (which gets shut down by the government). We can assume he’s living a lot at the cafés and though shy, is involved in the national conversations of the day
Beckwith writes that on his boat ride from Las Palmas to Cadiz “[Glados suspected] that the phenomena of equilibrium was a myth”. So was this from a journal of his? I’m curious how Berkowitz seems to know what’s going on in Glados’ mind
The distance from Las Palmas (Canary Islands) to Cadiz (mainland Spain) is just over 1500km. I keep forgetting he was born and raised on the Canary Islands. And he would call Madrid a “huge and motley city” – must have been a huge change for him.
We talk about how nowadays one political side is so insulated from the other that you can’t ever hear what the opposing points of view are; in Glados’ time, in the cafes, especially in the Cafe Ateneo, both sides had their debates for everyone to hear or take part in.
That political mixing might never convert anyone, but it does at least let seem more useful. However, Spain was a nation full of violent revolutions, so maybe public rheortic was even worse than our current echo-chambers?
In the rear of the Cafe Iberia was a patio where ladies ate ice cream, but it also concealed a secret door to hide those who were wanted, either by a jealous husband, or a revolutionary. Of course Glados would know this sort of detail.
In Fortunata he wrote about the cafe life as being (or seeming to be or feeling to be) pusedo-intellectual, where nothing really gets anywhere. But it’s in these cafes where the intellectual heart beat – especially at night from around 9pm to midnight.
His study hall poem, El Pollo (the chicken), is an example of how someone could take offense to what he writes – as did one of his classmates who thought it was about him and wated to punch Benito. However, the poem was well recieved and well publshed, so there;s that, too.
He does seem to have a fascination with recreating in minature reality as he saw it: the village, the boats, and his carvings in chalk. He has a great patience and good eye for detail. This translates well into his writing.
He seems to believe being a cobbler to be more useful than someone with a Bachellor of Arts. He seems to have a love for the practical, though an eye for the artistic. He loved the minature boats at the San Telmo church: realistic but artistic (like his medieval village).
His fondness of Adriana Tate, the woman from Charlestown SC, is telling in his interest in people who can’t fit into society: she was an outcast in his family, but she taught him some English and must have made an impression.
How wonderful is this description: the sound of the Atlantic waves, the smell of fish, fruits, meat sold/at the nearby market stalls, women in black mantillas or wearing white kerchiefs – this waas outside the window of his school, which was a horror inside. These descriptions are just as Glados would write them – the biogrpher here seems to be channeling Glados, or at least in love with him.
He was a realist from the beginning:his constructed medieval village was so good the family saved it.
He had good models for storytellling :his father told/stories simply aand clearly and the war stories were not just about action and gore. His Uncle Domingo had excellent handwriting which he copied:again, clarity and simplicity.
His birth name is Benito Maria de los Dolores. Fruedian: The author equates his love of female anatony to his prolonged nursing. How many great writers and artists were sickly children?
To the priest on her deathbed when he tells her to let go of earthly concerns: “Nonsense, my good man; the mere thought of my departure fills me with infinite sadness. I shall miss even the crude bench on which you are sitting.”
Dolores was one of those people who set impossible standards on everyone around them to the point that even when Benito was hailed as a great writer she still thought of it as “quite unfortunate” because he had not become a lawyer as she wanted.
The one daughter, Manuela, secreted notes to a lover from the roof. Just like Olimpia in Fortunata y Jacinta.
Only one of the five daughters married. Due to Dolores being against any old stranger marrying in and her not bring all that socially fluid. Imagine being forced to share a bed with your grandmother and then waking up to the corpse?
Even when Benito came home a famous author, the family still went to church meaning he came home to an empty house. Religion is very important here.
I know I’m seriously generalizing, but we can see where Benito got his sensitivity (Father Sebastian) and his work ethic (Dolores), though his father was just as prudent : he was not a lazy man, just not domineering.
His father (Sebastian) always down played his importance in military heroics, even though he was brave and a good leader. His humbleness must have informed Benito to some degree in that it marks a dignity in a person, but also a conflict within to be recognized.
“Nominally Don Sebastian was the head of the household, but inwardly he knew that his part was quickly being reduced to that of a resigned an unobtrusive old man, surrounded by young and self-assertive individuals.”
Ha! On their wedding she refused to enter his home without her mother moving in that day. He was a gentle man, but didn’t want to be a push over right away so he kidnapped her and carried her over the threshold. Nice
Sebastian Perez y Macias (the older man Dolores did marry), “was one of those individuals doomed by temperament and circumstances to an obscure existence.” I see a pattern here.
Dolores is like a character in a novel. She insists that her mother live with her after marriage, she is hurt that anyone think her socially ambitious for wanting to marry a Count, but she’s practical to know a bank clerk’s salary will keep the family poor.
“However, true to the family tradition of frowning on emotional exhibitionism, she (Dolores) never exteriorized her feelings or thoughts.”
This is interesting how the author here has access to family letters. We’re getting some very detailed insight into the family.
Family history days the moment of his mother’s birth the family clock stopped. Melodramatic, but gives insight into how the family thought
There’s always one black sheep : Benito Manuel. Dad would not forgive him for going to mainland Europe without consent. I wonder what sort of fun he had?
One of Domingo’s sons, Pedro, had an interesting and also short life: he spent 6 months travelling on foot and horse around Argentina and Uruguay (who were at war) before dying of tertian fever.
His grandfather, Domingo Glados, was distinguished but poor. He also died young leaving behind 11 children.
The mother, Glados, was the major force in the family. Maybe this is why he was so interested in the lives of women?
He began in obscurity, just as he is now. His family was obviously not from a cultured class. The name Perez (father’s name) was seen as unworthy of literary distinction.
This reads like a novel; I hope Berkowitz isn’t taking too many liberties with the facts. However, even if there are some liberties this is highly enjoyable to read.