II. PROLOGUE TO THE SECOND EDITION OF “LA PEREGRINACION DE BAYOAN”
I am going to tell the story behind this book.
I fear that by so doing I will unravel my personality, and impersonal people have so wickedly taken revenge on me for not having been as impersonal as they, that I am hesitant. But a personality that is born out of struggle and pain has the right to speak and be heard, because it has the conscience to be altruistic and exemplary.
It is good to set a persuasive example for those who divorce themselves from reality and a convincing example for those who abuse reality; for the former, so that they may understand reality before trying to change it; for the latter, so that they may modify their tactics and convince themselves that whether for or against them, those who know how to fight know how to win.
The world has defeated me many times, as many times as I have attempted to do good deeds with my pen, my word, my actions, or my life. I have never become discouraged, and each time my principles have. needed a sacrifice of self-esteem, feelings, self-interest, or personal future, I have been the first to offer myself for the sacrifice.
If my austere personality, which some despise out of the terror of being compared to it and which others fear being erroneously compared to, has arisen by contrast out of this self-denial, then my anguished personality, which in the name of duty goes impassively seeking duties to fulfill, has come out of the continuous defeat.
Today, perhaps close to leaving this beloved part of the Americas, where joy has been as instructive as grief, I want the young people to have a good example in the story of this book, and a good friend in the person who stands out in it.
This book has been tragic for me. For this reason I love it so, for it is the only one of my literary works which I look upon with pride and can read without the heartfelt sorrow I feel for the works in my imagination.
When I first published this book in Madrid, at the end of 1863, I was a child twice over: once, because of my age, and again, because of the exclusive idealism in which I was living.
The problem of my country and her liberty, the problem of glory and love, the ideal of marriage and family, the ideal of human progress and individual perfection, the notion of truth and justice, and the notion of personal virtue and universal goodness were no less intellectual or emotional incentives for me; they were the result of all the activity of my
reason, heart, and will; they were my life. And as my life did not have close connections with reality-which was only perceptible to me in the historical or social movements which either justified my ideal or conformed to it-each encounter with brutal realities was a disenchantment, a disillusion, a disappointment. Those encounters, not including the identity crisis which came later, would have made me one of the innumerable victims of Goethe, Byron, Hugo, Lamartine, Fóscolo, Musset, and other vagabonds of imagination on this battlefield of sick and rotten idealities which is called the nineteenth century.
In opposition to Goethe and F6scolo, and Byron and his imitator Espronceda-the only ones of those corruptors of sensibility and understanding with which I was familiar at the time1-Fate had placed the great moralists, from Manou, the Chinese, to Socrates, the Greek; from Jesus of Nazareth to Silvio Pelico of Lombardy; from Marcus Aurelius the emperor, to Zimmermann the thinker.
Since having been surprised, to the point of astonishment, that in the regimen of their abilities and lives almost all men more spontaneously follow those corrupters of reason than these purifiers of conscience, today I am only surprised by the easy preference I gave in my reason and conscience to difficult advice over easy advice. Had I followed the easy advice long before writing this book, my name would have been on everyone’s lips, and then this war of silence would never have been waged against me.
But I took the advice which was difficult to follow; I was ashamed of the false tears cried by those who pretend to have feelings; I believed myself to have a responsible conscience, and I felt that making my conscience responsible for my existence was a greater and more worthy action than ceding my responsibility to a society ever more ignorant than perverse; I told myself that since reason should not entail illusions, nor should it entail disillusions, that only those who harbor hopes are the ones who become disappointed, that only those who are caught up in dreams are the ones who become disenchanted, that life is a physical, moral, and intellectual effort, not the charm of desires, the illusion of feelings, or the fallacy of reason, and drawing on my pain instead of being hindered by it, and subordinating the problem of happiness to that of duty, and preferring the struggle of intelligence to the triumph of the heart, I immersed myself in the study of history.
1 And I was not completely familiar with them: I had only read Goethe’s Werther and F6scolo’s Japoco Ortiz. I considered Byron and Espronceda, with whom I was completely familiar, to be mere literary individuals, when I should have considered them to be dangerous influences on society.
Raynal, Robertson, de Pradt, Prescott, Irving, and Chevalier introduced me to America at the moment of the conquest, and I cursed the conqueror. A trip to my homeland presented her to me dominated, and I cursed the dominator. A later trip presented her to me tyrannized, and I felt the compelling desire to fight my country’s tyrant.
Patriotism, which until then had been a feeling, rose up in me as resolute will. But if my political homeland was the unfortunate Island on which I was born, my geographical homeland was in all the Antilles, her sisters in geography and misfortune, and it was also in liberty, their redeemer.
Spain, which is Cuba and Puerto Rico’s tyrant, was also tyrannized. If the Mother Country freed herself from her despots, would she not free the Antilles from her despotism? Was working for freedom in Spain not working for freedom in the Antilles? And if liberty is nothing more than the practice of reason and reason is an instrument-and nothing more than an instrument-of truth, was working for liberty not using reason to tell Spain the truth?
”Well-conceived, well-attempted” has always been the practice of my entire existence, and when I returned to Spain in 1863, after the year of my life’s most painful meditation, I set myself to attempting the good things I had conceived in Puerto Rico.
Mr. Rada y Delgado, a very well-known poet and author in Spain, confusing a non-existent literary calling in me with my ability to think, which he had seen in me and respected since 1858, came to visit me in Madrid after I had returned from my Island. He reminded me of two psychological studies which I had read to him in 1859 and 1861, and asked me whether I had any new work.
“I have a book,” I told him, thinking about what I had conceived.
“A book! Well, let’s see it!”
And his request was so friendly, that I regretted having deceived him, and not finding a better way to reconcile myself with him and with Truth, I immediately resolved to turn the lie into a reality.
I handed him a book that was lying around, begged him to wait, and leaving him alone in one of my two rooms, I went into the other. I took my pen, ink, and paper, and I wrote.
Half an hour later I came out, beaming with joy, and exclaimed:
“Here is the book!”, and I read Rada the first six journal entries of La peregrinaci6n de Bayoan.
Rada . wanted to read more, and he persisted and insisted on reading more. When I told him there wasn’t any more, he was dumbfounded. When I told him that what I had read him had just been written, the surprise he on his face was my reward and my incentive.
“But. . . and, the book?” he insisted.
“There you have it.”
“On those few sheets of paper?”
“On these few sheets of paper.”
“What is a joke today will be serious tomorrow.”
“You’ll see. It’s impossible for me to write this book mechanically in
twenty-four hours, but it is possible intellectually, since I have just conceived and written it in my head.”
When the poet-author had gone, after having committed me to going to his house every night to read to him the journal entries that I had written during the day, not for a single moment did I fear that I would not keep my word with him: the book was written in my mind, and it was impossible for it not to follow my orders; it would come out.
What I did fear was being unable to put into the book, which was already real in my imagination, the mass of thought, feeling, and will stored up for entire years in my spirit.
What I did fear was the sudden transformation which had just occurred in me. In my conscience, life had meant nothing more than the realization of thoughts, but by thinking secretly and in the solitude of my inner thoughts, I did not commit myself to anything, while in thinking for everyone and with the far-reaching. voice of the press, I was imposing upon myself the commitment to adapt my life to my ideas. Each one of the ideas that poured out in the book would be a promise that I was obliged to keep. Either I kept them, and the book was something more than a work of art, or I did not keep them, and the book was useless and should not be written.
In this world there are too many artists of words, too many worshippers of form, too many empty spirits which only know how to follow the law of proportions, and I did not want to be one of the many speakers who, while they fill the environment in which they move with lyrical words, are radically incapable of being what is most lacking in the world: logical men.
A logical man! Who is capable of conceiving this ideal without trembling throughout every inch of his being in the process?
The drive for glory, the drive for power, the drive for happiness, patriotism, science, and art, any of the means that a man has within himself in order to make contact with society and history, or any of the passions which develop one of our abilities to its highest level of develop
ment can serve and do serve to make a certain ability admirable in a man; but do they serve to make a man a complete man?
To be it all in one lifetime-sentiment and fantasy in youth; reason and activity in maturity; harmony of thoughts and feelings in old age; conscience in all ages-is to impose a tremendous task upon oneself; a task which is tremendous not so much because of the moral strength needed but because it is incomprehensible, and therefore, impossible for others to appreciate. What is admirable in a life is that which is not admired, because what is nonessential to it is essential to other lives.
In those lives which produce the highest level of an ability or passion in a man, the exclusive ability and absorbing passion are everything. The task in a life dedicated to being a logical man in all human abilities and all humanity’s passions consists of eliminating exclusive abilities and suppressing absorbing passions. That is to say, that what is admired by his contemporaries and posterity is exactly the opposite of what a man aspiring to be a complete man wants and seeks and attempts to be. In other words, what is nonessential for him will be essential for others, and while the others enjoy the brilliance of glory, power, and adventure, loving their country, science, art, right, truth, and beauty in themselves, the man who aspires to what is ideal condemns himself to obscurity, and in obscurity, and without the incentive of glory, power, and adventure, he will have to make all the efforts that the others make individually in order to excel in the partial development of a passion or ability.
To be a logical man is not an inaccessible ideal, a futile endeavor, or an impossible task, given that a man has within himself all the intellectual and moral means necessary to normally pass from imagination and feeling to the rationalization of what is imagined and felt so that he may realize it, and to pass from realization to synchronization of his abilities, subjecting his entire life to his conscience; but if there is ever a time when the task is difficult, the endeavor difficult, and the ideal difficult, it is the time when intellectual, moral, political, and social monstrosities, coinciding with the renewal of faith in religion, science, politics, and art, have upset the nature of things, altering its basic elements.
Less clearly than I see it today, at that time I surmised the formidable responsibility I would commit myself to if I made a pledge to the world with my first production; it was like a touchstone for the rest of my life: I feared the responsibility and I dodged it.
But after having found the path which I had sought with so much secret anguish, it was not possible for me refuse to follow it; now that I knew how to attract the attention of my island and her Mother Country toward the truths which had filled my reason with new light, it was not
possible for me to give up my strong urge to tell them; having at my disposal the most efficient means to preach the good news that I brought from the ideal world in which I had meditated until then, it was not possible that I could reject this most efficient means of preaching it.
On the other hand, and no matter how much I refused to face the reality into which I was going to launch myself, I knew that the conquest of a literary name was “a conquest of power. I needed power so I could immediately serve my forgotten, abused, and ridiculed country. It was there that I had conceived the better part of the ideas I wanted to express, from there I had brought the capital idea I dedicated myself to from then on. Why hesitate?
My life would be charged with confirming or negating whether it was a duty to rise up through successive efforts to the painful category of logical man, and whatever my ideas, the world did not have the right to demand that I subject the conduct of my life to them, nor did I have the duty to make that commitment to the world. But was it or was it not a duty to launch a cry of liberty for my enslaved country? There was no room for doubt; it was a duty. I lowered my head and set myself to conscientiously fulfilling it. The more conscientiously I fulfilled it, the more austere and harsh it became.
How to tell the proud Mother Country that her entire history in the Americas was iniquitous? How to make the Antilles understand that if it was still good to wait, it was already useless to wait? How to bring
about that a book of anti-Spanish propaganda would be read in Spain and that Spain would allow it to be read in the Antilles? How to make writers and Spanish critics applaud a new book and a new writer who dared to think out loud what nobody even dreamed of whispering in
another’s ear? .
If duty was fulfilled austerely and the book corresponded to duty, the Republic of Spanish Letters would shroud it in silence and the Spanish government would oppress it. Was it not better to write an inoffensive book?
I rebelled against this hint of weakness. I had not returned to Spain
to conquer the literary glory that I could have earned from the dawn of my adolescence. I was not after literary glory. If this book earned it for me, then it would be the last; and if I was denied fame because of what the book represented, it would still be the last. Literature is work for the idle or for those who have already finished their life’s work, and I had much work to do. The book was necessary as a preliminary to that work, and to keep writing books was to keep losing time. So as not to lose any more, it was necessary to write it without further ado.
I denied my ears any of the observations of my judgment, believing
that I could battle all obstacles; I thought up a plan in which I linked together the ideas I wanted to express in such a way so that the literary purpose of the work contributed to its political and social objective, and so that this objective, presented as a secondary one, shined more clearly the more it seemed absorbed by the literary purpose of the work.
These reflections, deliberations, and resolutions, which during those days were the meditation and struggle of my spirit, did not hinder my work; and at seven o’clock sharp every evening of that spring, I went to Rada’s house, and in his study he attentively listened to and I timidly read what I had written during the hours of the day.
It had been an expressed condition, imposed by me and accepted by him, that no one would attend the readings and no one would know about what I was writing. I met the imposed condition so strictly, that even my closest friends, the same ones who often interrupted me in my work, did not find out that I was becoming the author of a new book until months later, when they saw the announcement of the book on public posters.
Therefore, my surprise was so great when, on one of the evenings dedicated to reading to Rada, I found him talking about the book with a gentleman I did not know.
Once I was introduced to him and the necessary formalities were exchanged, I became withdrawn and would have left the manuscript in the bottom of my pockets if Rada had not begged me to read.
I was reading grudgingly, because the presence of a third party bothered me, when the gentleman, pounding on a table and commenting on the passage I had just read, shouted:
“This should be written in Indian! It’s impossible to write it in Spanish for Spaniards to read! .”
“But why? Is the truth not Spanish?” I asked timidly.
“When the truth is spoken with that accent and with such new forms as the ones which you use. . . “;
“The truth should be forgiven for its accent and its forms,” Rada said, smiling to try to smooth things over.
“Or the forms should be energetically condemned, because a truth spoken like that is very terrible and very dangerous… ”
“Or it should not be communicated to those who don’t want to hear it,” I replied, taking my manuscript back again.
. The warning had been persuasive. If one single Spaniard, and a Spaniard as illustrious and educated as he, was so deeply wounded and so violently protested about just one of the many truths sprinkled throughout the book, then what protests, what complaints would not befall it when all Spaniards read it?
I did not hear the persuasive warning. On the one hand, it provoked a conflict of conscience in me: if that was the truth, then I should tell it. On the other hand, it flattered my pride; I had the power to effectively punish with my pen the haughty ones who chained and enslaved my homeland.
But since this event palpably presented me with one of the obstacles which I had stumbled upon through induction when meditating on the significance the book could have for my life and its objective, during my solitary walks I, once again traced the plan for the work and succeeded in clearly imagining what I wanted.
I wanted Bayocin, the personification of active doubt, to be a judge of colonial Spain in the Antilles and condemn her; I wanted him to be an interpreter of the desires of the Antilles in Spain and express them with the most transparent clarity: “the Antilles will be with Spain if they have rights, against Spain if the era of domination continues.”
In order to express ~y ideas without ambiguities, which would have been repugnant to me, and without violence, which would have been absurd, I addressed the reality of the political and social situation in the Antilles in two of its aspects, and I fucsd them into the very objective of the work.
One of the aspects was born out of the possibility of a change in the internal and colonial policy in Spain. I fervently accepted it in advance and predicted fraternity between America and Spain, and even announced the idea of a federation with the Antilles.
The other aspect was born out of the conditions for social life in the Antilles. I tried to present it in its entirety, in all its grief and anguish, in a palpable personification, in a youth thirsty for truth, who in order to know truth, had to leave his country time and time again; a youth thirsty for justice, who in order to imbibe his avid conscience in justice, had to put his well-being, his fate, and the fate of all he loved, after ideals which do not torment youths in societies which lead themselves.
From an artistic viewpoint, few conceptions could be as pathetic; from a realistic viewpoint, few truths could be more moving than that represented by Bayocin, for whom the most painful sacrifices were necessary, the most absurd situations obligatory, and the most horrendous torments logical, not because he was a monstrous character, but rather because he was an, uncorrupted individual who fought against a monstrous society.
These social monstrosities, which thus smothered a strong-willed spirit, condemned an energetic heart to grief, kept such a powerful reason on the edge of insanity, and martyrized a conscience so above mediocrity-who produced them, except for the nation which shackled the man’s homeland?
Who was the tormentor of that victim with the most ardent altruistic feelings, the most human misfortunes, the most natural duty, and the most feverish passion for justice, except the nation which, by abolishing the rights of the society it enslaved, made the normal development of a powerful character impossible?
Why, except out of his hatred for injustice, except out of his need to cry out against it, did Bayocin break all the laws that make life pleasant?
Why, except to dedicate himself entirely and exclusively to the duty of liberating his country, did Bayocin stifle the purest feelings, smother the most gratifying desires, and sacrifice lesser duties, his love, his happiness, and the love and happiness of a virginal child?
With the two aspects which I had perceived thus linked in a logical chain of ideas, it seemed to me that the entire book, all its intentions, and all its implications, would fall like fulminating accusations against Spain.
Once Spain was accused by an avenging pen, the conscience of the world would condemn her. Once she was accused by convincing patriotism, all the patriots of the Antilles would curse her. There is only one step from a curse to an explosion! I had taken the first step, and I could take the second. The first depended on me; the second was the mystery of time: I had waited for the first, and I could wait for the second.
And then I delivered myself exclusively to the pleasing and painful labor of bringing my country’s suffering to life in the character of one of her martyrs, which personified the generation which was consciously and threateningly rising up in the Antilles.
As the object and the subject of the work became more clearly and surely defined, Rada became more demanding. He did not want to consent to the absolute secrecy that I had imposed upon him, and he insisted on having with him other judges of the work he had watched grow with such affection, and on a night of nice surprises for me, he set a friendly trap for me.
In his study he had gathered together three or four of his friends, who declared themselves mine immediately after I finished reading what I had brought with me.
I had with me the part of the book in which Bayocin begins to wage the battle between his life and his duty. I was far from believing that the ordinary situation which I had had to use could produce any new effects,’ when one of the gentleman present at the reading interrupted me, exclaiming:
“Stop! Let me relish the emotion which this part has stirred up in me.”
“But it’s so commonplace,” I observed.
“That is art,” exclaimed the novelist Entrala, who had looked at me so much while I had read that I thought he had not been listening. “That is art, to magnify something commonplace to the point that it produces new effects.”
“That’s what it is!” the interrupter exclaimed, satisfied. “New effects.
Never have I been this moved by birds, flowers, and kisses.”
“Perhaps because these are tropical birds and flowers and kisses. . .”
We all enjoyed a good laugh from the event, which freed me from the
embarrassing sensation caused by receiving praise face to face, and I continued reading.
From that night on, I read before a jury. Rada, Entrala, and Miralles formed it, and Miralles, Entrala, and Rada would have witnessed the conclusion of the book which had been born out of one person and which had taken form before other people, if one little petty thing, to which I have grown too accustomed to be surprised by the effect it produced, had not happened.
The most experienced of those zealots of glory thought that there
would be some glory for him in writing the prologue to La peregrinaci6n, and one enthusiastic night, he asked my permission to do so. I gave the excuse of how far I still had to go to reach the end of the book. He insisted, and I told him no.
Why did I not want to be presented to the Republic of Letters by a man well-known in it, and why did I not want the authority of his name to authorize mine?
Because of my fanaticism for logic.
I wanted the work to correspond in form and in depth, as a whole and down to the last detail, to its objective and its title. Its objective was anti-Spanish, and it seemed inconsistent to me that a Spaniard should sponsor the book. Its title read: Journal collected and published by E. M. Hostos, and it seemed illogical to me that anyone other than the apparent author should appear recommending it for the attention of the public opinion.
I have never regretted the pain of adhering to logic, and if today I deplore the loss of a kind friendship because of my stubborn respect for logic, not now or ever will I blame logic. Contrary to the French proverb, I believe that when you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and if Bayoan’s natural godfather resented me for having denied him the equivocal pleasure of christening him and for having denied myself the unequivocal advantage of his presenting it for me in the haughty society of the erudite, then his pettiness, and not my logic, was to blame for his resentment and the cooling off of our friendship which followed.
I stopped reading, but kept on writing; and when Entrala came to suggest to me a publisher for the book, it was already halfway done.
Once the agreement was made, the delays began. Spring passed, summer came and went, fall began, and the book still had not been published.
It is also true that it wasn’t finished yet either. I had become discouraged, and had put down my pen.
One day I was revising the notes I had made during a return trip from Puerto Rico to Spain in 1859, when a typesetter from the printing house showed up asking for original copies.
“And the originals that you had?”
“And since when all the rush? After six quiet months. . .”
“Now it’s full steam ahead.”
“Well I don’t have any originals. I was counting on your slow pace,
and I haven’t written anything.”
“And what’s that you have now?”
”These are notes from a trip.”
“Well there you go! And what is Don Bayoan but a traveler?”
“In the first place, he was not Don Bayoan because he was not Spanish; in the second place, he was a pilgrim and not a traveler.”
“Isn’t it the same thing? It’s the same to walk hither, thither, and yon on foot and with a pilgrim’s staff as it is to go from Cadiz to Havana
on a ship and without a staff: it’s all traveling.”
“‘You’re so very wise, Mr. Typesetter.”
“I get it from the letters of the press. Why don’t you just give me what you have?”
He bothered me so much, that I took one of the bundles of papers that I had scattered on my desk and I gave it to him.
I had not done it distractedly. The manuscript I gave him was a very interesting episode from the most productive trip that I had made during the most critical part of my adolescence.
When I was hardly twenty years old, sailing from America to Europe, I had witnessed the most exemplary spectacle, and the most terrible of examples, that men can give a child. A poor passenger had died aboard ship, and they had treated the pathetic corpse and iniquitously as they had the dying man.
When I had been taken by surprise empty-handed, it had occurred to me that that particular episode could not only supplement, but complement my work.
But how should I weave it into the book? I postponed the solution to the problem until the proofreading (of the printed copy, wise reader) and
when they brought it to me a few days later, it wasn’t very hard to make an American out of any old Catalan, a patriot out of a man who had neglected his country. I placed before the episode a few journal entries which led into it; I brightened the picture with the presence of Marien, and when the book was published, Giner de los Rios 2 spoke to me with demonstrated praise (only praise that is demonstrated is acceptable and deserved) for the picture which had complemented the book so well, I was glad that the typesetter had been such a nuisance.
What I was not so glad about was the annoying censor of novels to whose stern view, whether or not it was a novel, Bayocin had to be submitted. At times he crossed out the phrases which best expressed my thought; other times he attacked the intended meaning of a word. On one of these occasions, when I did not understand why he had not understood the clear meaning of an imprecation which he had eliminated, I went to see him to beg him to explain his opinion to me. My surprise was as great as his.
“But I haven’t struck out anything,” he said.
“But sir, here is the manuscript, here are the crossed-out passages,
and here are the pencil marks.”
”Yes, but it wasn’t me.”
“What! Am I speaking with the gentleman who is the official novel critic, the only one who has the right to censure. them, and he has not been the one who has done the censuring?”
“Let me explain. I have a subordinate here, and during my absence, he is authorized to substitute me.”
“I suppose, sir, that he does not substitute for you intellectually, for that would be an insult to your intelligence.”
“Because these marks show that he does not know what he’s reading.” “Oh, no, those marks are well-placed. You talk about Spain in a tone.
. . . you must be American, huh? And here you talk about God. . . But
heavens! This is blasphemy!”
“But sir, is art not allowed to be blasphemous?”
“Not art nor anybody. In a country as Catholic as ours, what would they say? It might get through with this republican insinuation and this anti-slavery one, and that other one. . . but these don’t get through! This one is sacrilegious and this other one is anti-Spanish. These will not be permitted, you must realize, these are not permitted.”
And as I left, contemplating the two condemned sentences with paternal eyes, the censor stood there shaking his head, as if to say: “This is
2 The wisest of all Spanish critics.
serious-this boy could cost me my job if I don’t censure the book for myself and if fm not careful with his terrible essays.”
– The ones that I had written to enter into the new life I had proposed to carry out were filled with inconveniences for such perfect honesty as mine was upon entering into that miserable republic of letters, where vanity is the executive power, envy the legislative power, and the ignorance of the omnipotent masses the judiciary.
The only men who knew my secret plan were the same ones who had warmly applauded it. They all had pens, and they all had offered them to me. Miralles, the youngest, had described to me how he planned to recommend and praise my book in a feature article in the newspaper for which he wrote. Entrala, whose collaboration on Escrich’s novels had given him the immense masses of Spain as his public, swore to me that he would use his powerful resources, and not satisfied with that, he showed me the first of a series of letters which he thought he would send to me via the press at the moment when my book appeared. Rada perjured himself assuring that the first critical opinion of La peregrinaci6n de Bayodn would flow from his pen. They all asked for permission to advertise the book, in order to recommend it in advance, to ready in public and in private the attention of writers and readers. .
I had as much integrity then as I have today, and that universal society of mutual flattery still inspires the same disdain in me today that it inspired in me then-that society which, corrupting literary criticism and public judgment, glorifies deferential stupidities, exalts complacent mediocrity, and wages deaf war, silent or malicious war, on its own conscious merit everywhere.
No one was as incapable of judging its intellectual merit as I was, because no one has a kinder and firmer disdain for men who are only intelligent, art which is only form, and science which is only a formality. From men, art, and science of this kind, vanity, frivolity, and routine constantly and universally make the vilest enemies of human progress. In science, art, and men of this kind, my irritated conscience has always found the condescending worshippers of powerful evil, victorious iniquity, and resplendent vice.
As an enemy of false merit, and incapable of judging whether my book’s merit were false or true, I absolutely refused my friends’ offers and completely opposed that they provoke the public opinion in any way.
The public’s opinion, and not theirs, was what I needed. And as I did not need it to flaunt ridiculous contemporary glory, reduced to the self-interested admiration of the stingy and the bothersome curiosity of the curious, but rather to authorize my entrance into public life, the laborious crusade, and the difficult struggle to which I yearned to pledge my-
self, I wanted the opinion to be definitive. Definitive criticism is sincere: .sincere criticism is spontaneous, and an individual opinion which arbitrarily prejudices the collective opinion with either applause or censure is neither spontaneous or sincere.
My friends faithfully fulfilled their promise. When La peregrinaci6n de Bayoan appeared in November, 1863, the posters on the street corners announced it, and no one else.
As scrupulous as all sincere people, all that I did to publicize the book was to send a message to La Correspondencia, the most widely-read newspaper in Madrid, and one of its employees, a friend of mine, cancelled the debt I had just contracted with the paper with a handshake and a copy of the book. To the rest, I submitted only a copy of the book. I thought that since the book was unknown, and its author unknown, my generosity would arouse curiosity in the book. And stoically feeding on my faith in men, I began to wait for the opinions of writers and critics.
Days and days went by, seeming like years to my unbreakable faith, and the papers were silent and the literary weeklies were silent and the critics were silent.
A month or longer had gone by, when my landlord entered my room, handed me a letter and a book, and told me:
“The General’s valet is waiting.”
“And what do I have to do with the General’s valet?”
“Since he brought this letter and book, I thought that. . . ”
I opened the letter. It was signed A. Ros de Olano, and it was a compensation for the silence of the press. The writer-general, whose Doctor Laiiuela accompanied the letter and in those days held the attention of literary criticism, had proposed to change my mind. For him my book had been “heaven sent.” Judging by what he said, Goethe had done less in Werther than 1 had done in Bayoan. The general ended by begging me to come visit him and imploring me to tell him if and when I would come.
That letter was more than an event in my life; if I wanted, it could be the prologue to my new life. O’Donnell was in power by means of the ministry which represented him, and Ros de Olano was one of the most beloved aides to the chief of the Liberal Union. The writer-general was a voice, and it depended on me to encourage him to talk in my favor before the public. He had influence, and it depended on me to use it.
By simply putting myself in contact with the writers of his party, I would have a consecrated reputation.
By simply publishing his letter, which because of its spontaneity, expression, and sincerity, was equal to a hundred letters of praise, I would have obtained innumerable readers and admirers for my book.
By simply approaching him so as to approach O’Donnell, the most difficult step, the first of a new route, would be taken.
I worried about the visit before and after answering the writer-general announcing that I would go. It was a decisive step. If I took it weakly, it would be a lost opportunity. If I took it firmly, it would be a realized effort. But if I could get the entire party which thus offered me such a powerful friendship out of that visit, I would irremediably end up in the choppy waters of the Liberal Union, fall before O’Donnell’s feet, and become one of the thousand courtiers to that liberticide which, after having assassinated the liberty of the Antilles, now pummeled it in Spain. And was that what I had proposed for myself? Had I not proposed just the opposite-to serve liberty, battle its enemies, lift myself up by my own efforts, and become known on my own and not through powerful connections?
I went to see Ros de Olano, but I did not publish his letter nor did I request his literary and political connections. As a solicited friend of the writer, I had no connections of any kind with the politician.
And so more days went by, and more papers and weeklies, and still writers and critics remained silent about my book.
“What world is this?” asked my beguiled imagination. “The world of men,” my reason coldly answered.
And I kept waiting, until one morning, which seemed very bright to me, I received a letter from Pedro Antonio de Alarc6n. He was known to be arrogant, and I cannot express the surprise I felt upon reading these words among others in his letter: “In your book there are pages that I will never forget.”
“Then my book is good, since an arrogant man says this about it,” I told myself while I wrote to Alarc6n, whom I did not know either, to accept the interview he proposed.
“My book is good, and nobody says even a word about it! What kind of men are these?” my sense of justice asked. “Men who use each other,” my reason quietly responded.
So as to avenge myself for the silence, I should have put the flattering letter from Alarc6n in the public light, but this was not about revenge, this was about deserving justice, and I put the second letter away with the first.
The third arrived a few days later. It was signed by a respectable gentleman who had filled high positions in the Antilles. According to him, “the author of La peregrinaci6n de Bayoan has begun where few end.” And to make the praise all the more pleasant, he had sprinkled it with beneficial advice. He was Spanish, and deplored that I was so American. He saw a formidable incompatibility for my future in it. He
was right. “Summa justitia, summa injuria,” he told me: even in justice you can have too much of a good thing. He was right.
And wasn’t I right? Wasn’t the way my book was being treated prove that we colonials were tyrannized even in the field of Literature? Because in my eyes, in spite of of the web of compliments that always receives newcomers in the literary world, the vacuum formed around me was largely an effect of the American spirit and anti-Spanish intent of my work.
But weren’t they saying that I reminded them of Goethe, that I had unforgettable pages, that I began where few others end up? And why didn’t they say it to the public themselves or by means of their friends?
Francisco de la Cortina, a playwright who one day will be as appreciated as he deserves to be, answered my question in part in a pleasing, expressive, frank, and firm letter.
“You have been too sincere,” he said. “I have seen it in your advanced political ideas, and I have noted it in your advanced social opinions.”
He complained of the assuredness with which I had manifested the former, and he dedicated two sheets of paper to combat the latter which “by following them you have destroyed the admirable figure of Marien with your own hands after having created her as pure as she is, for which the very ones who would wish to admire you will despise you.” he said essentially.
“This is to say,” I thought, completely seized with horror, “that these literati despise truth so much that they are afraid of it; this is to say that I have spoken the truth, since the very ones who tackle it in silence do not dare to attack it in the public light; this is to say that I am condemned to the most formidable of situations-that of an author simultaneously known and unknown, cherished and rejected!”
And was there no one who would judge me before the public, who would say what he thought, who would dare to be just, to be harsh?
A critical article on my book answered my question. It was long and reflective. It dared to say that “La peregrinaci6n de Bayodn is the appearance of a conscience in the nineteenth century.” In this empty generalization, around which the entire thought of the article revolved, there would have been enough to call the attention of the public to the book, had the article had a responsible signature at the end, but the author had feared having a stigma attached to his name and had hidden himself in anonymity, and I have never found out who was the only public critic of my work.
Meanwhile, I did know who was the author of a series of insinuating, kind, alternately harsh and enthusiastic letters which came to my hands in those days.
They were signed by Miss Amparo López del Bano, whom I regarded as not only the most intelligent and illustrious woman I have known in the world, but also the one with the most simple tastes and daring thoughts. A Spaniard, she did not hesitate to put herself on justice’s and my side, against Spain. The daughter of a powerful family, she condemned along with me the power of evil. A woman, she had clearly penetrated the toughest objective of my work, and found in Marien the ideal model of a possible and desirable reality.
With only one man like that woman, I could have done in a short time then what has cost me so much since and which I still have not been able to achieve.
But the men were not like that very noble woman. For one reason or another, they were afraid of the book, and they praised it in silence, like those already mentioned, or they were silent before me and the public, like many of the celebrated men in politics or letters who, already dead in the eyes of the world and politics and letters, deserve the respect of silence.
Escoriaza, a writer, the spoiled child of a party, because of which he has since been everything he wanted to be, contented himself by telling me: “If your book had carried the name of Victor Hugo on the cover, it would have started a revolution.”
“You must fear it a lot,” I was compelled to say to him, smiling at him with pity, “for you have a pen, yet you won’t tell it to the public.”
Nombela, a fashionable novelist, marveled in my presence over what he called the “absolute novelty” of my style, and instead of declaring it to the Spanish public, he gave to the American public in four words what I have only recently read in the EI Correo de Ultramar of that time-the simple notice of the appearance of the book, hiding its spirit and objective and omitting its author’s origin.
In that very book, treated so craftily by those who would have fought it had they judged it to be revolutionary in a literary, political, or social sense, I had put these words in Columbus’s mouth: “The injustice of mankind is the revelation of eternal injustice.” It was more than just a sentence; the content of that expression was the confirmation of a truth, and I could not abandon the faith of my reason by abandoning myself to the enmity of injustice. I pitied the iniquity of the judges to whom I had subjected myself much more than I cursed it, and the one thing I still have not forgiven is that the unanticipated silence has obliged me, by making my plan impossible, to continue with my pen in hand. What I intended to be nothing more th~ a weapon has since had to become a way of life.
Foreseeing it, and dreading it, I at least made the instrument serve me
as the precise objective to which I had dedicated it, and taking from the bookstores the rest of the abundant edition which I had placed in them, I sent it all to the Antilles.
What a strange thing-or rather a thing which proves to what point the political depth of the book had influenced the silence of the Spanish critics and writers-in the Antilles, the colonial government, obeying the central one, prohibited the sale of the book, and not satisfied with prohibiting that it be read, it obliged the booksellers to remove from the Islands the numerous copies they had.
Far from avoiding that the book be read, the prohibition caused the sought-after work to be the one most asked for, most widely read, and most well-understood, and to it I greatly owe the authority of my word in my country; but there, as in Spain, no one has ever dared to give their opinion out loud.
If I ask for it now, when aging experience has already proven to me that I am not one of those men caressed by great renown, and when palpable and undeniable acts, which would have made any other man powerful, have only served to oblige me to force the cold esteem which everywhere praises arrogance but injures the heart, if now I make an appeal for that opinion, it is because I want what was conceived in my American soul to be reborn in the heart of the Americas.
The book which now seeks the attention of Chile is proof itself of my disregard or disdain for what I do. When I arrived here, I had one copy, which I sent to the Republic of Argentina, and I would not have had the chance to reprint it now had I not been given the only copy that arrived in Chile so many years ago and which, by passing it around, many people have read.
Here the story ends, and the book begins.
Santiago de Chile, June 1873
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