Belarmino and Apolonio By Ramón Pérez de Ayala

Quite the gem I must say. A smaller novel that feels much more than 200 pages. Packs quite a bit in there on Apolonio and Belarmino. I could’ve read 500 pages of this story. Subtle yet beautiful and one of my favorite endings of a novel. Highly recommend! Literature Fiction This book I bought in order to use it in my dissertation... I still haven't read it. Oops. Literature Fiction Una obra que he disfrutado mucho por la personalidad y mente del autor, que ha sabido estar ahí presente.

Igualmente me estuve informando sobre este tipo de novela (porque en sí el género, tomado en genérico, no es mi tipo de literatura predilecta), ya que quería disfrutarla y comprenderla. Por ello leí alguna bibliografía interesante, como el artículo tan curioso de M. E. Barroso Villar, que trataba sobre los elementos de modernidad que la novela intelectual de Ayala traía consigo, además de contextualizar la obra y el autor con el manual de J. Chabás sobre literatura española. De tal manera, estas herramientas me fueron suficiente para saber dónde estaba echando el ojo.

Es una novela EXPERIMENTAL, es decir, rompe con los moldes narrativos preexistentes y, en este caso, se introduce la técnica del perspectivismo que tanto juego da a la narración. Me gusta porque esto último ayuda a desarrollar el ángulo interno de visión, también hay numerosos incisos y valoraciones, además de verbos del tipo aprender, adoctrinar, pensar, etc., que profundizan en la psicología del personaje.

En sí tiene pasajes muy interesantes, ¡y cómicos! Lo tiene todo, pese a que se me ha hecho un poco bola el leerla, ya que, insisto, las novelas no son de mi gusto, pero he sonreído bastante con su lectura. Leeré más de Pérez de Ayala, pues es una persona que ha despertado en mí cierta curiosidad :) Literature Fiction Obscure gem. Literature Fiction Releído Belarmino y Apolonio. ¿Qué decir? Me ha gustado más que la primera vez. He podido prestar más atención al detalle y a cómo Pérez de Ayala configura una historia a partir de dos antítesis que no se eliminan entre sí, sino que se llegan a complementar. Literature Fiction


Belarmino and Apolonio

Ramón Pérez de Ayala ì 6 characters

Belarmino (zapatero filósofo) y Apolonio (zapatero dramaturgo) confrontan sus ideas para mostrarlas según su punto de vista. Esta novela es una delicia. Literature Fiction But aren't we dreaming? asks Apolonio with some anxiety in his voice. I don't even seem to be touching the ground.

It seems like a dream. The tetrahedron is a dream. Only love, goodness, and friendship constitute reality. Literature Fiction I loved this book. Spanish speakers can get it for free on the internet. NYRB need to get it back in print. God bless the old Quartet Encounters series (what a great list of books they published!)

Here are some quotes.


The duchess was very frank and can I put it? – well, she swore a lot, although, being a woman, she would give the words a slightly feminine form by changing the final o to a final a. She also smoked like a chimney. All the Valdedulla family were eccentrics. As for the duchess’s heart – I’ll use one of my father’s phrases to describe it – it was made of Hyblan honey and was larger than Mount Olympus.

The beneficence that great lady bestowed on my father and myself is of the kind than cannot be repaid. I think she must have been over forty at the time and she was what you might call a fat, middle-aged woman; frankly speaking, she was ugly. But she had a love of life, an openness, and a sense of humor that made her far more attractive than beauty itself. I assure you that when she let loose with one of her obscenities, which in her case was really a sign of contentment, you would just stand there fascinated and smiling, as if you had been listening to a nightingale’s song. Where words are concerned, structure isn’t as important as tone and intention. Words are like containers. Although they may have a similar form, some are made of clay whereas others are of pure crystal and contain a delicious essence.

And now the image of Belarmino takes shape in my memory. He was a shoemaker-philosopher, quite a fabulous character, who, naturally, also lived in Ruera Street. As a matter of fact, the previous theory on words belonged to him. ‘A table,’ he used to say, ‘is called a table because we feel like calling it by that name; it could just as well be called a chair. We use the same word for both of them when we say they are pieces of furniture; but we could also call them houses. Just because we feel like it, we use the same word for furniture and houses when we say they are both things. The problem of philosophy lies in searching for one word that will express everything we feel like expressing.’ I don’t know if he was a mad wiseman or a wise madman. I’ve gotten off the track.


The dictionary was his favourite book. At times, completely cut off from external reality, following the strange forms that took shape in the air and were visible only to him as he meditated, he felt that this particular way of reading was based on an extremely original method. For him, the dictionary was the epitome of the universe, a concise compendium of all things terrestrial and divine – a key by which to decipher unexpected enigmas. The whole idea was to penetrate that secret code, to open up the compendium, and see everything in it at a glance. The dictionary contains all there is, because all words are in it, and it follows that all things are in it because word and thing are one and the same. Objects are born when words are born, because without words there are no things and, if there are, it’s as if there weren’t. For example, a table doesn’t know that it exists, nor does a table exist for a chair, because the chair doesn’t know about the existence of the table. An object doesn’t exist by itself, nor in relation to other things, but only for the Intelet which, on comprehending it, gives it a name and affixes a word to it. To know is to create and to create is to know.

Such was one small fragment of the Belarminian speculation. It just goes to show the kind of thing that can come from being in a sitting position over a long period of time while leisurely exercising one’s discursive faculty! Philosophers are squatting types, even the peripatetic ones. Although they do most of their talking on their feet, they erect their philosophical systems once they assume a squatting position. To continue...
Literature Fiction This was not an easy book to come by. The translation is from 1971, which is somehow almost fifty years ago now? Englished by Baumgarten and Berns, University of California Press, long out of print, ISBN 0520017862. Not sure that there've been any subsequent attempts to translate but if so they're hidden well. Pérez de Ayala and his contemporaries have just never been in vogue with English and American readers, it seems. And so there's plenty more modernist (if that's the right term) literature from 1920's and 30's Spain that remains nearly impossible to come by. Gabriel Miro. Pio Baroja. Much of Unamuno. It's baffling, given the ties they inevitably must have to major Latin American authors, many of whom are household names in the US. Anyway: there's a vacuum there. Someone out there do something about it.

So B & A is more a novel of ideas than a novel. I personally gravitate toward the latter but thats's not to say that there isn't plenty to be found in philosophical novels. It's great when it works (Dostoevsky's best) and just shitty when it doesn't (the rest of Dostoevsky). I think weighty ontological investigations in fiction are better suited to the comic mode than the tragic or melodramatic. This one struck me as very like Machado de Assis or Vonnegut a la Cat's Cradle but sans the scifi, often just plain silly but steeped in some kind of earnest attempt to systematize existence. I have no basis to compare but the book is certainly rendered in nuanced flowing English, and it really has to be, in order for it to work at all. One of the titular characters gradually creates his own instinctual, sort of alternative language - he repurposes nouns and verbs whole cloth and usually ends up trafficking in word salad by the end of a paragraph, to the bafflement of his wife and customers. The wordplay has to work on the page, and it did for me. (I imagine this is a small nightmare for aspiring translators.) There's a glossary of Belarminian vocabulary in the back, even. Belarmino is a kind of Diogenes but instead of living idly and naked in a barrel, he makes shoes. Eventually he acquires a rival. Apolonio also has his head in the clouds, just slightly different clouds; he's a dramatist and would-be master poet; and his footwear is fancier. Long story short one has a daughter, the other has a son, elopement occurs, systems of meaning collide. The last two chapters and epilogue are worth the price of admission. Literature Fiction Another BURIED gem.

Yes. Everything BURIED is good. Is a gem. That's because good/Great/ETC is included in the concept of the BURIED. Its circularity is proof of its truth. And so it goes.

But what's weird about this one is that it doesn't read like a parody. Even though a) it was pub'd in 1921 (with a University Press translation into English in 1971) and b) has about as much characterization=depth as a novel out of the Eighteenth Century. Or maybe it's the Seventeenth I have in mind, since this here seems to be written within the pages of something like Cervantes' Exemplary Tales. That is, what a relief stuff like this is from all that stodgy Psychological Realism. I agree that a thing The Novel does really well is probe consciousness --> but that's just Modernism. There's so much more that can happen, that The Novel can do. Like a good tale. Literature Fiction