lunes, 6 de febrero de 2012

Réquiem por un campesino español

Réquiem por un campesino español (Austral, 2010)
por Ramón J. Sender
Estados Unidos, 1960

Leer a Réquiem por un campesino español inmediatamente después de haber leído Los detectives salvajes probablemente no era la cosa la más inteligente que jamás pudiera haber hecho.  Un buen libro pero indudablemente de estilo antiguo, esta conocida novela corta --escrita en exilio después de una fuga desde la España de Franco-- se trata de un par de horas en la vida de Mosén Millán, el cura de un pueblo aragonés, como él prepara ofrecer una misa de réquiem en honor del aniversario de la muerte de un tal Paco el del Molino y piensa en la culpabilidad que tiene por el asesinato de Paco por los nacionalistas al comienzo de la guerra civil. Como con Bodas de sangre de Lorca, ambos el pro y el contra de Réquiem tiene que ver con la manera en cual la novela se parece a una obra de tragedia.  Entre los éxitos, hay que señalar que hay un ambiente convincente en cuanto a la inevitabilidad del destino en cuanto a los hechos narrados en escenas retrospectiva dentro las memorias de Mosén Millán.  Entre las debilidades, hay que apuntar que el simbolismo  --como la escena en cual el caballo salvaje de Paco entra en una iglesia un año después de la muerte de su dueño-- parece ser demasiado obvío a veces.  Aunque no entiendo la fama literaria de la novela, una cosa que sí me gustó es cómo el lector puede tener piedad del cura al mismo tiempo que uno reconoce la culpabilidad del personaje en su compotamiento con las fuerzas del mal.  Además, es posible que esta novela es más sútil de lo que parece; estas líneas, por ejemplo, sugieren que debo repensar mi opinión: "El cura le advertió que lo mejor que podía hacer era ir a su casa.  Cuando Dios permite la pobreza y el dolor  --dijo-- es por algo" (96).  (Austral)
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Reading Réquiem por un campesino español [Requiem for a Spanish Peasant] right after I finished my reread of The Savage Detectives last week probably wasn't the smartest choice I ever made.  A  decent enough read but a decidedly old-fashioned one at that, this celebrated 1960 novella--a staple on grad reading lists for 20th century Spanish peninsular literature but written by Sender in exile after his flight from Franco's Spain--zooms in on a few hours in the life of the Aragonese country priest Mosén Millán as he prepares a requiem mass in honor of one Paco el del Molino and tries to process the guilt he feels for his part in Paco's murder by nationalist forces soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.  Like Lorca's famous play Blood Wedding, both the strengths and weaknesses of Requiem have to do with its over the top tragedic sensibilities.  Among the strengths, there's a convincing air of the inevitability of destiny in the events leading up to Paco's death as replayed by flashback in Mosén Millán's memories.  Among the weaknesses, the symbolism--like the scene where Paco's horse runs wild in a church a year after the Republican hero's death--tends to run toward the obvious.  Although I don't quite get the literary fame of the novella, one of the things about it that I did appreciate is how the reader is likely to feel some compassion for the priest while at the same time still recognizing the complicity of the character with the forces of evil.  Also, it's quite possible that this novel is just more subtle than I'm willing to concede; these two lines, for example, give me pause: "El cura le advertió que lo mejor que podía hacer era ir a su casa.  Cuando Dios permite la pobreza y el dolor  --dijo-- es por algo" ["The priest advised him that the best thing he could do was to go home.  'When God allows poverty and suffering,' he said, 'there's a reason for it.'"] (96).  (Austral)

Ramón J. Sender

5 comentarios:

  1. I guess I felt much the same reading it: it was ok, but there seemed no reason why it was so highly regarded. Perhaps I thought maybe it didn't translate well - but perhaps not then. Similar in my mind in that respect to Camilo José Cela's The Family of Pascual Duarte.

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  2. I was actually interested in reading this but you don't make it sound all that interesting. On the other and when I liked a book as much as you liked The Savage Detectives, naything that I read right after becomes somewhat pale in comparison.
    Did you perfer Soldados de Salamina?

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  3. *Obooki: Yeah, we must have felt pretty much the same way then. I guess I should read the intro in its entirety to see why Sender is/was viewed as such a big deal--my guess is the book is revered more for its Civil War content than its technical prowess. Haven't read that Cela novel in ages, but my recollection is that it was considered "shocking" for its narration in its time ("pioneering" even maybe). I hope to read more by him some day, but he's not super high up on my list at the moment.

    *Caroline: The Sender novella isn't bad, and it's only about 70 pages long. It just didn't live up to its rep for me even though I think the story does bring some emotional power to its ending despite the old-fashioned elements. I LOVED Cercas' Soldados de Salamina, though, and would strongly recommend that one for one of your future Lit & War readalong choices or just a great read from a contemporary Spanish author. I hope to get to his Amatomía de un instante sometime this year.

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  4. I'm reading The Hive at the moment, sort of, which for various reasons I suspect you might like.

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  5. *Obooki: I thought I saw that you were reading something by Cela, and naturally I'm intrigued by your comment (have wanted to read that partic. novel by him for some time now but just can't quite seem to get around to it). Anyway, will await your opinion of The Hive once you've had a chance to finish it!

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