Monday, August 17, 2009

Mist discussion: quotes

In which I give away the ending and hint at a major plot twist in Mist:

And I even suspect that while I have been explaining and commenting this Life of Don Quixote, I have secretly been visited by the two of them, and that without my being aware of it they have unfolded and uncovered the innermost recesses of their hearts. And I must add here that though we oftentimes consider a writer to be a real, true, and historic person because we see him in the flesh, and regard the characters he invents in his fictions as purely imaginary, the truth is exactly the reverse. The characters are real, it is they who are the authentic beings, and they make use of the person who seems to be of flesh and blood in order to assume form and being in the eyes of men.

- from Chapter 74, The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho, Miguel de Unamuno (translated by Anthony Kerrigan)

Maybe this is a good time to point out that the English subtitle for Mist (Niebla) is a "tragicomic novel", while Unamuno subtitled his novel (novela) a nivola in order to distance his work from 'standard' novels. ""My novel hasn't any plot; or rather, the plot is what comes out of it. It makes its own plot." (from Chapter 17 of Mist) OK, enough with quote marks and italics.
It is customary at the end of a novel, as soon as the hero or protagonist has died or married, to give an account of what happened to the rest of the characters. We shall not follow custom here… . We shall make only one exception, and that will be in favor of him who felt the death of Augusto most deeply and sincerely, namely, his dog Orfeo.

Orfeo found himself an orphan. When he jumped upon the bed and, sniffing at his dead master, scented his master’s death, his canine soul was enveloped in a thick, black cloud. He had experienced other deaths. He had smelt dead dogs and cats, and he had seen them; he had killed an occasional rat, and he had scented the death of men; but his master he supposed to be immortal. Because his master was for him a god. And when he saw now that he was dead he felt that within his own soul all the foundations of belief in life and the world were crumbling; and his heart was filled with an immense desolation.

And crouched at the feet of his dead master, he thought: … “What a strange animal is man! He never seems to notice what is before him. He caresses us and we never know why—but not when we offer to caress him. When we devote ourselves most to him he drives us away and beats us. There is no way of knowing what he wants, if indeed he knows it himself. Always he seems to be somewhere else than where he is, and what he looks at he never sees. It is as if there were another world for him. And, of course, if there is another world this world has ceased to exist. …

But he barks in a way all his own—he speaks. And this has enabled him to invent what does not exist and to overlook what exists. As soon as he gives a thing a name he ceases to see the thing itself; he only hears the name that he gave it or sees it written. His language enables him to falsify, to invent what does not exist, and to confuse himself.

- from “Funeral Oration (By Way of an Epilogue)”, Mist, Miguel de Unamuno (translated by Warner Fite) [emphases mine]

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