Friday, October 12, 2012

Fortunata and Jacinta Volume 1: smuggling a story

Recognizing my outline only makes sense to someone reading the novel (and maybe not even to them), a short recap of Volume 1…

Galdós provides the genealogy of the Santa Cruz and Arnáiz families and focuses on the adolescence and young adulthood of Juan Santa Cruz. Juan’s mother, aware that he is hanging with a suspect crowd, arranges his marriage to his first cousin, Jacinta Arnáiz. While on the honeymoon Jacinta badgers Juan about his affair with Fortunata and finds out about the resulting pregnancy. After a few years together and no children, Jacinta attempts to adopt a boy that she believes to be the offspring of Juan and Fortunata. The plan falls through when Juan informs her that his son died. At the end of the section Juan hears of Fortunata’s return to Madrid in the following manner.

Galdós plays with multilayered storytelling in Chapter XI, or to be more accurate he has one of his characters do so. Even the title of the chapter, “The End, Which Turns Out to Be the Beginning,” provides a sly nod to what he’s doing in the chapter. (At times, the chapter titles provides jokes all their own, the best of which I’ll highlight in Volume 2.) Jacinto María Villalonga, a corrupt politician and good friend of Juan Santa Cruz, arrives on Three Kings’ Day, January 6, 1874 to tell the Santa Cruz family about the coup that Manuel Pavía led in overturning the government of Emilio Castelar (see the end of this history for more details). The family has been wishing Villalonga would visit and tell them his eyewitness news of the proceedings, but when he arrives he has additional news to tell Juan (ellipsis in all excerpts are in the original):
      “Boy, you don’t know…the news I’m bringing you! If you only knew who I’ve seen! Can your wife hear us?”
      “Nah, don’t worry about it,” replied Juan, putting the studs in his shirt front. “Make yourself clear, fast.”
      “Well, I’ve seen the person you’d least expect…Here.”
      “Fortunata. But you have no idea how she’s changed. What a transformation! She’s so attractive, so elegant. My jaw almost dropped when I saw her.”
     Jacinta’s steps could be heard. When she appeared, raising the curtain, Villalonga took a brusque turn in his speech: “No, no; you don’t understand; the session started in the afternoon and there was a recess at eight o’clock. During the recess they tried to reach an agreement.”

The dueling histories, as I called them in my outline, continue in this style of a theatrical performance. Jacinta suspects there is more going on in her absence. She finds excuses to be in the room, causing Villalonga to resume his story of the coup. Just like Estupiñá enjoys smuggling goods past tariff collectors, so Villalonga relishes bringing the “secret” story to Juan. When it appears Jacinta is out of earshot, Villalonga turns back to his story that prompts a parallel coup within Juan. Villalonga relishes describing Fortunata:

“She’s enough to drive you mad. You remember that incomparable body, that statuesque bust—the type that come from the pueblo and die in obscurity unless civilization searches for them and ‘presents’ them. How many times did we say it: ‘If that bosom only knew how to exploit itself…!” Well, it wasn’t just words, it’s been perfectly exploited already. Do you remember what you used to say? ‘The pueblo is a quarry with great ideas and great beauties. And then the working hand comes with intelligence and art to cut out a block…’ Well, there it is, finely carved. What graceful lines!”

Juan experiences a “spiritual sickness,” caused by his fruitless search for Fortunata after this news, which raises fresh suspicions within Jacinta. As the narrator points out, though, Juan hid these things “very deep inside him, in caves deeper than those at the bottom of the sea, and Jacinta’s plumb would never reach them, not even with all the lead in the world.” In order to maintain his affection for his wife, Juan imagines Jacinta with the physical attributes of Fortunata. The spiritual sickness physically manifests itself as Juan contracts pneumonia after combing the city in the cold weather looking for Fortunata. More on her in Volume 2…


Richard said...

While enjoying F & J well enough so far (esp. the humorous moments), I've fallen so far behind that I'll prob. postpone posting on it until I catch up with everybody else. It took me about 50 pages to get into Galdós' rhythm, though--don't know if you've found the start sluggish on any of your readings of it...

Dwight said...

Hey, don't worry about the posting schedule and just post when you get to things. I'm just glad people are reading this!

The part I've run into that slowed me down the first time was when Fortunata was in the Micaelas, but then it picked back up immediately.