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T H E I R S O N
BY EDUARDO ZAMACOIS
TRANSLATED BY GEORGE ALLAN ENGLAND
BONI AND LIVERIGHT
For valuable assistance given in the rendering of localisms and obscure passages in the following stories, I wish to return acknowledgment and thanks to Miss Dolores Butterfield and Doña Rosario Muñoz de Morrison.
George Allan England.
FEW writers of the tremendously virile and significant school of modern Spain summarize in their work so completely the tendencies of the resurgimiento as does Eduardo Zamacois. “Renaissance” is really the watchword of his life and literary output. This man is a human dynamo, a revitalizing force in Spanish life and letters, an artist who is more than a mere artist; he is a man with a message, a philosophy and a vision; and all these he knows how to clothe in a forceful, masterly and compelling style, which, though not always lucid, always commands. Zamacois sees life, and paints it as it is, sometimes with humor, often with pitiless, dissecting accuracy.
To me, Zamacois seems a Spanish Guy de Maupassant. He tells a story in much the same way, with that grace and charm which only genius, coupled to infinite hard work, can crystallize on the printed page. His subjects are often much the same as those of de Maupassant. His sympathy for what prigs call “low life”; his understanding of the heart of the common people; his appreciation of the drama and pathos, the humor and tragedy of ordinary, everyday life; his frank handling of the really vital things—which we western-hemisphere hypocrites call improprieties and turn up our noses at, the while we secretly pry into them—all mark him as kin with the great French master. Kin, not imitator, Zamacois is Zamacois, no one else. His way of seeing, of expressing, is all his; and even the manner in which he handles the Castillian, constructing his own grammatical forms and words to suit himself, mark him a pioneer. He is a hard man to translate. Dictionaries are too narrow for the limits of his vocabulary. Many of his words baffle folk who speak Spanish as a birthright. He is a jeune of the jeunes. A creative, not an imitative force. Power, thought, vitality, constructive ideals: these sketch the man’s outlines. He comes of a distinguished family. The great Spanish painter, of his same name, is a close relative.
His personality is charming. My acquaintance with him forms one of the pleasantest chapters in a life of literary ups and downs. Ruddy, vigorous, with short hair getting a bit dusty; with a contagious laugh and a frequent smile; with a kind of gay worldliness that fascinates; a nonchalant, tolerant philosophy; a dry humor; a good touch at the piano; an excellent singing voice for the performance of peteneras and folk-songs without number; a splendid platform-presence as a lecturer on Spanish literature and customs, Zamacois is an all-round man of intense vitality, deep originality and human breadth. He is a wise man, widely traveled, versed in much strange lore; and yet he has kept simplicity, courtesy, humanity. Spain is decadent? Not while it can produce men, thinkers, writers like this man—like this member of the new school that calls itself, because it realizes its own historic mission, el resurgimiento.
“Nothing binds nations together so securely,” he said to me one day, “and nothing so profoundly vitalizes them, as literature and art. Commercial rivalries lead to war. But artistic and literary matters are free and universal. Beauty cannot be appreciated, alone. It must be shared, to be enjoyed. My ambition—or one of my ambitions—is to bring the old world to the new, and to take back the new to the old.” He spoke with enthusiasm, for he is an enthusiast by temperament, filled with nervous energy that looks out compellingly from his gray eyes—not at all a Spanish type, as we conceive the typical Spaniard. “I am sorry you Americans know so little of Spanish letters. You have always gone to France, rather than to Spain, for your literary loves. To you, as a race, the names of Galdós, Benavente, Emilia Pardo Bazan, Valle Inclán, Martinez Ruiz, Baroja, Trigo, Machado, the Quintero, Carrere, Marquina, Dicenta, Martinez Sierra and Linares Rivas are but names. The literary world still looks to France; but Spain is slowly coming into her own. Her language and literature are spreading. Civilization is beginning to realize something of the tremendous fecundity and genius of the modern Spanish literary renaissance.”
When I asked him about himself, he tried to evade me. The man is modest. He prefers to talk about Spain. Only with difficulty can one make him reveal anything of his personality, his life.
“I have no biography,” he laughed, when I insisted on knowing something of him. “Oh, yes, I was born, I suppose. We all are. My birth took place in Cuba, in 1878. When I was three, my parents took me to Brussels. I grew up there, and in Spain and Paris. My education—the beginning of it—was given me in Paris and at the University of Madrid. Degree? Well—a ‘Philosophe ès Lettres.’ I much prefer the title of Philosopher of Humanity.” That, alone, shows the type of mind inherent in Zamacois.
His first novel was published when he was eighteen. He has since written about thirty more, together with thousands of newspaper articles in El Liberal, El Imparcial, and no end of others. He has produced ten plays, and many volumes of criticisms, chronicles and miscellanea, beside two volumes on the great war. His pen must have had few idle moments!
In addition to all this, he has edited several papers. At twenty-two he was editing Germinal. A Socialist? Yes. Once on a time more radical than now, when the more universal tendencies have entered in, he still believes in the principles of Socialism, as do so many of the “young,” all over Europe.
He himself divides his work into three main epochs. The first has love for its keynote; and here we find El Seductor, Sobre el Abismo, Punto-Negro, Loca de Amor, De Carne y Hueso, Duelo a Muerte, Impresiones de Arte, Incesto, La Enferma, De mi Vida, Amar a Obscuras, Bodas Trágicas, Noche de Bodas, El Lacayo, and Memorias de una Cortesana. The second epoch deals with death and mysteries, the future life, religion. (Zamacois is religious in the sense that so much of the young blood of the Latin world is religious—negatively. They think more clearly than we Anglo-Saxons, in some way, these Latins!) El Otro, El Misterio de un Hombre Pequeñito and some others fall into this epoch. The third is characterized by a wider vision, a more complete realization of the essential tragedy and irony of human life, and is tempered by the understanding that comes to all of us when graying hair and fading illusions tell us we are no longer young. Here we find Años de Miseria y de Risa, La Opinión Ajena and stories of the type of those in the present volume. Surely El Hijo and El Collar are cynical enough to rank with masterpieces of cynicism in any tongue.
Zamacois’ plays are distinguished by the same dramatic, often mystic, elements that make his novels and short stories of such vital interest. The more important titles are: Teatro Galante, Nochebuena, El Pasado Vuelve, and Frio.
“Spain still dominates the whole of Spanish literature,” says Zamacois. “The Latin new world has had but slight influence thereon. And Spain is fast becoming liberalized. Resurgimiento is the pass-word, all along the line. Even our women are becoming liberalized—or we are beginning to emancipate them, a little. That is highly revolutionary—for Spain! The war has flooded Spain with new ideas, not only abstract but concrete. We are getting free speech and a free press—is America winning more latitude, or shrinking to less?—and we are enforcing education. We are reviving physically. Athletic sports are coming in. These are all signs of the Renaissance, just as the new school of writers is a sign. I suppose most of the new blood is indifferent to religion. Spain has a small body of religionist fanatics, a strong minority of non-religious, intellectual élite, and a vast body of indifferent folk, slowly making progress toward enlightenment.
“Spain’s misfortune is this—that you foreigners have seen in her only the picturesque, the medieval, the exotic. Spain has scientific, engineering and literary triumphs to be proud of now, as well as ivy-grown cathedrals, bull-rings and palaces. Under her old, hard carapace, new blood is leaping; it leaps from her strong heart, across half the world.
“Our real rebirth took place after the Spanish-American war, when our colonial system collapsed and we had to roll up our sleeves and support ourselves by hard work. Defeat was to us a blessing in disguise. Spain is to-day a much different and better land than it was twenty years ago. For one thing, we use more soap, these days. As the church declines, bathtubs multiply. ¿Tendré que decir más?
“A new spirit and a new life are to-day stirring in ancient Iberia. A splendid artistic and literary renaissance, vast commercial undertakings and enormous manufacturing enterprises are all developing hand in hand. Spain’s past is glorious. Her future is both glorious and bright.”
George Allan England.
12 Park Drive, Brookline, Mass.
|(II, III, IV, V, VI, VII)|
|(II, III, IV, V)|
AT about the age of thirty, tired of living all alone with no one to love, Amadeo Zureda got married. This Zureda was a stocky fellow, neither tall nor short, dark, thoughtful, and with a certain slow, sure way of moving. The whole essence of his face, the soul of it—to speak so—was rooted in the taciturn energy of the space between his eyebrows. There you found the man, more than in the rough black mustache which cut across his face; even more than in the thickness of his cheek-bones, the squareness of his jaws, the hard solidity of his nose. His brow was somber as an evil memory.
One after the other you might erase all the lines of that face, and so long as you left the thick-tufted brows, you would not have changed the expression of Amadeo Zureda. For there dwelt the whole spirit of the man, reserved yet ardent.