Friday, February 24, 2012

Leading in to Torquemada: Fortunata and Jacinta

I had planned on reading the Torquemada novels by Benito Pérez Galdós when The Neglected Books Page posted on one of my favorite novels: Fortunata and Jacinta. In that novel, the reader meets Francisco Torquemada, namesake of Ferdinand and Isabella’s inquisitor general.

Dr. Rhian Davies, Director of the Pérez Galdós Editions Project, has provided a summary page of the Torquemada novels:
In 1889 Galdós wrote Torquemada en la hoguera for the important cultural review La España Moderna. The novel is centered on the Madrid moneylender Francisco Torquemada, who had previously appeared in other Galdós novels, notably La de Bringas (1884) and Fortunata y Jacinta (1886-87). Like his namesake, the Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, Francisco de Torquemada, otherwise known as 'el Peor' [‘the Worse’], is renowned for his cruelty towards his fellow men.

I haven’t read the first novel but wanted to post a few quotes from Fortunata and Jacinta that mentioned the moneylender. These quotes focus on his relationship with Doña Lupe—he assisted her after her husband died (the men had been halberdiers) and the widow hoped Torquemada’s daughter and her nephew would marry (if I remember correctly). Quotes and page numbers are from the 1988 Penguin Books paperback edition with translation by Agnes Moncy Gullón).

(Page 262) Doña Lupe lent money through a man named Torquemada to military people, employees, and any other needy individuals.

(Page 282) It was Sr. Torquemada, a close friend of the family who upon arriving always went straight to the parlor, the kitchen, the dining room, or wherever the Señora was. The man’s physiognomy was puzzling. Only Doña Lupe, by virtue of her long experience, could read the hieroglyphics on that plain, shrunken face that somehow smacked of a military man with a clerical touch. In his youth Torquemada had been a halberdier, and as he had kept his mustache and goatee, now graying, he had an ecclesiastical air about him; it was undoubtedly his affected, cloying meekness and his habit of raising and lowering his eyelids that softened his innately gross face. His head was always tilted to the right. He was tall, but not arrogantly so; being nearly bald, his fat, scaly scalp was visible beneath that clumsily wrought grill of hair. Since it was Sunday, his shirt collar was almost clean, but he was wearing his everyday cloak with its greasy borders and threadbare trim. His trousers, shriveled because the cloth had stretched over the knees, rode up so much that he looked as if he had been horseback riding without gaiter straps. His boots (again, since it was Sunday) had been blackened, and squeaked so loudly you could hear them a mile away. [Torquemada proceeds to give Doña Lupe a lesson in the art of lending.]

(Page 296) The ex-halberdier was opposed to “the materialism” of legally insured mortgages at reasonable interest rates. Risky loans with very high returns were his delight, because even though one might not collect until the night before the Last Judgment, most of the victims fell foolishly into the trap for fear of scandal, and the money doubled itself quickly. He could smell a punctilious person a mile off and knew who would rather lose his skin than get a bad name. These were the ones he dug into and glutted himself on.

(Page 296) Torquemada’s wife was so much like him that Dona Lupe listened to her and treated her as though she were Don Francisco himself. And since the two ladies saw a lot of each other, Doña Silvia got to be a strong influence, and she too grafted some of her moral traits onto Doña Lupe. She was mannish and outspoken, and when she stood akimbo, a formidable spectacle. More than once she sprang on a debtor in the street to insult him mercilessly in front of other people.

No comments: