jueves, 26 de enero de 2012

Jane Eyre.... La columna de Vivir en el Poblado

Hace un par de semanas llegó a mi correo virtual una encuesta promovida por una agencia de noticias literarias. Buscaba encontrar las razones y los medios que llevan a la gente a comprar ciertos libros. Ahora que lo pienso, la pregunta no era sobre la lectura sino sobre la compra de esos libros. Pero ese es otro asunto. Querían saber qué motivaba a la gente a comprar los libros que compraba. Las opciones que ofrecían me parecieron incompletas, pero me dediqué a considerarlas.
Hace un par de semanas llegó a mi correo virtual una encuesta promovida por una agencia de noticias literarias. Buscaba encontrar las razones y los medios que llevan a la gente a comprar ciertos libros. Ahora que lo pienso, la pregunta no era sobre la lectura sino sobre la compra de esos libros. Pero ese es otro asunto. Querían saber qué motivaba a la gente a comprar los libros que compraba. Las opciones que ofrecían me parecieron incompletas, pero me dediqué a considerarlas.
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viernes, 13 de enero de 2012

Charlote Brontë


By G K Chesterton

Objection is often raised against realistic biography because it reveals so much that is important and even sacred about a man's life. The real objection to it will rather be found in the fact that it reveals about a man the precise points which are unimportant. It reveals and asserts and insists on exactly those things in a man's life of which the man himself is wholly unconscious; his exact class in society, the circumstances of his ancestry, the place of his present location. These are things which do not, properly speaking, ever arise before the human vision. They do not occur to a man's mind; it may be said, with almost equal truth, that they do not occur in a man's life. A man no more thinks about himself as the inhabitant of the third house in a row of Brixton villas than he thinks about himself as a strange animal with two legs. What a man's name was, what his income was, whom he married, where he lived, these are not sanctities; they are irrelevancies.

A very strong case of this is the case of the Brontës. The Brontë is in the position of the mad lady in a country village; her eccentricities form an endless source of innocent conversation to that exceedingly mild and bucolic circle, the literary world. The truly glorious gossips of literature, like Mr Augustine Birrell and Mr Andrew Lang, never tire of collecting all the glimpses and anecdotes and sermons and side-lights and sticks and straws which will go to make a Brontë museum. They are the most personally discussed of all Victorian authors, and the limelight of biography has left few darkened corners in the dark old Yorkshire house. And yet the whole of this biographical investigation, though natural and picturesque, is not wholly suitable to the Brontës. For the Brontë genius was above all things deputed to assert the supreme unimportance of externals. Up to that point truth had always been conceived as existing more or less in the novel of manners. Charlotte Brontë electrified the world by showing that an infinitely older and more elemental truth could be conveyed by a novel in which no person, good or bad, had any manners at all. Her work represents the first great assertion that the humdrum life of modern civilization is a disguise as tawdry and deceptive as the costume of a 'bal masqué.' She showed that abysses may exist inside a governess and eternities inside a manufacturer; her heroine is the commonplace spinster, with the dress of merino and the soul of flame. It is significant to notice that Charlotte Brontë, following consciously or unconsciously the great trend of her genius, was the first to take away from the heroine not only the artificial gold and diamonds of wealth and fashion, but even the natural gold and diamonds of physical beauty and grace. Instinctively she felt that the whole of the exterior must be made ugly that the whole of the interior might be made sublime. She chose the ugliest of women in the ugliest of centuries, and revealed within them all the hells and heavens of Dante.

It may, therefore, I think, be legitimately said that the externals of the Brontës' life, though singularly picturesque in themselves, matter less than the externals of almost any other writers. It is interesting to know whether Jane Austen had any knowledge of the lives of the officers and women of fashion whom she introduced into her masterpieces. It is interesting to know whether Dickens had ever seen a shipwreck or been inside a workhouse. For in these authors much of the conviction is conveyed, not always by adherence to facts, but always by grasp of them. But the whole aim and purport and meaning of the work of the Brontës is that the most futile thing in the whole universe is fact. Such a story as 'Jane Eyre' is in itself so monstrous a fable that it ought to be excluded from a book of fairy tales. The characters do not do what they ought to do, nor what they would do, nor, it might be said, such is the insanity of the atmosphere, not even what they intend to do. The conduct of Rochester is so primevally and superhumanly caddish that Bret Harte in his admirable travesty scarcely exaggerated it. 'Then, resuming his usual manner, he threw his boots at my head and withdrew,' does perhaps reach to something resembling caricature. The scene in which Rochester dresses up as an old gipsy has something in it which is really not to be found in any other branch of art, except in the end of the pantomime, where the Emperor turns into a pantaloon. Yet, despite this vast nightmare of illusion and morbidity and ignorance of the world, 'Jane Eyre' is perhaps the truest book that was ever written. Its essential truth to life sometimes makes one catch one's breath. For it is not true to manners, which are constantly false, or to facts, which are almost always false; it is true to the only existing thing which is true, emotion, the irreducible minimum, the indestructible germ. It would not matter a single straw if a Brontë story were a hundred times more moonstruck and improbable than 'Jane Eyre,' or a hundred times more moonstruck and improbable than 'Wuthering Heights.' It would not matter if George Read stood on his head, and Mrs Read rode on a dragon, if Fairfax Rochester had four eyes and St John Rivers three legs, the story would still remain the truest story in the world. The typical Brontë character is, indeed, a kind of monster. Everything in him except the essential is dislocated. His hands are on his legs and his feet on his arms, his nose is above his eyes, but his heart is in the right place.

The great and abiding truth for which the Brontë cycle of fiction stands is a certain most important truth about the enduring spirit of youth, the truth of the near kinship between terror and joy. The Brontë heroine, dingily dressed, badly educated, hampered by a humiliating inexperience, a kind of ugly innocence, is yet, by the very fact of her solitude and her gaucherie, full of the greatest delight that is possible to a human being, the delight of expectation, the delight of an ardent and flamboyant ignorance. She serves to show how futile it is of humanity to suppose that pleasure can be attained chiefly by putting on evening dress every evening, and having a box at the theatre every first night. It is not the man of pleasure who has pleasure; it is not the man of the world who appreciates the world. The man who has learnt to do all conventional things perfectly has at the same time learnt to do them prosaically. It is the awkward man, whose evening dress does not fit him, whose gloves will not go on, whose compliments will not come off, who is really full of the ancient ecstasies of youth. He is frightened enough of society actually to enjoy his triumphs. He has that element of fear which is one of the eternal ingredients of joy. This spirit is the central spirit of the Brontë novel. It is the epic of the exhilaration of the shy man. As such it is of incalculable value in our time, of which the curse is that it does not take joy reverently because it does not take it fearfully. The shabby and inconspicuous governess of Charlotte Brontë, with the small outlook and the small creed, had more commerce with the awful and elemental forces which drive the world than a legion of lawless minor poets. She approached the universe with real simplicity, and, consequently, with real fear and delight. She was, so to speak, shy before the multitude of the stars, and in this she had possessed herself of the only force which can prevent enjoyment being as black and barren as routine. The faculty of being shy is the first and the most delicate of the powers of enjoyment. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of pleasure.

Upon the whole, therefore, I think it may justifiably be said that the dark wild youth of the Brontës in their dark wild Yorkshire home has been somewhat exaggerated as a necessary factor in their work and their conception. The emotions with which they dealt were universal emotions, emotions of the morning of existence, the springtide joy and the springtide terror. Every one of us as a boy or girl has had some midnight dream of nameless obstacle and unutterable menace, in which there was, under whatever imbecile forms, all the deadly stress and panic of 'Wuthering Heights.' Every one of us has had a day-dream of our own potential destiny not one atom more reasonable than 'Jane Eyre.' And the truth which the Brontës came to tell us is the truth that many waters cannot quench love, and that suburban respectability cannot touch or damp a secret enthusiasm. Clapham, like every other earthly city, is built upon a volcano. Thousands of people go to and fro in the wilderness of bricks and mortar, earning mean wages, professing a mean religion, wearing a mean attire, thousands of women who have never found any expression for their exaltation or their tragedy but to go on working harder and yet harder at dull and automatic employments, at scolding children or stitching shirts. But out of all these silent ones one suddenly became articulate, and spoke a resonant testimony, and her name was Charlotte Brontë. Spreading around us upon every side to-day like a huge and radiating geometrical figure are the endless branches of the great city. There are times when we are almost stricken crazy, as well we may be, by the multiplicity of those appalling perspectives, the frantic arithmetic of that unthinkable population. But this thought of ours is in truth nothing but a fancy. There are no chains of houses; there are no crowds of men. The colossal diagram of streets and houses is an illusion, the opium dream of a speculative builder. Each of these men is supremely solitary and supremely important to himself. Each of these houses stands in the centre of the world. There is no single house of all those millions which has not seemed to some one at some time the heart of all things and the end of travel.

From “Varied types”

jueves, 12 de enero de 2012

La faz de la tierra - La columna de Vivir en el Poblado

El pasajero de piernas largas estaba contrariado. Se preguntaba si podría sostener por cinco horas la posición apa­ra­tosa a que lo obligaba la puerta de emergencia del avión. Se disculpó con el hombrecito que se sentó a su lado, por tener que imponerle una rodilla mastodóntica, pero el hombrecito le dijo que no había problema y se dispuso a refugiarse en las páginas de un libro.

Justo cuando anunciaban que el despegue era inmi­nente, al hombrecito se le encendió un bombillo y le pro­puso a su vecino que cambiaran de sitio. Le dijo que con sus piernas cortas no tendría problema para acomo­darse junto a la ventana. El mejor negocio es aquel en que todos salen ganando y los dos ocuparon contentos sus nuevas posiciones. El hombrecito se felicitó en secreto por su ocurrencia porque de inmediato vio toda Nueva York brillando bajo el resplandor de un claro amanecer de invierno. Ahí estaba Manhattan, difícil de discernir para el que no se ha familiarizado con su silueta de ríos. Estaban Brooklyn y Queens, dos ciudades enormes por sí solas. Estaba el Bronx, siempre tan desacreditado. Tomó casi veinte minutos perder de vista aquella enormidad y el hombrecito pensó en el curioso privilegio que tendría de ver desde muy alto una porción inmensa de ese extraño país, desde la costa atlántica hasta el océano Pacífico: un recorrido que dos siglos atrás era impensable.

Pero cuando la urbe empezaba a darle paso a las geometrías rurales, un suelo de nubes borró todo el paisaje y la azafata propuso a los viajeros que bajaran las cubiertas de las ventanas para que el resplandor de la mañana no perturbara a los trasnochados. Como el hombrecito había tenido que madrugar mucho para alcanzar el vuelo, renunció sin mucho drama al paisaje inexistente y se dedicó a roncar con pulmones de caver­nícola extenuado. Despertó un par de veces, levantó la cubierta y vio algo como una planicie cundiboyacense que se extendía hasta el infinito. Así que regresó sin remordi­miento a sus ronquidos.

Después de un rato abrió los ojos a una imagen todavía más improbable que la que acababa de soñar. Abajo se veía la superficie de un planeta abandonado. El mundo era una piel de barro endurecido, fracturada, con las huellas de golpes terribles y sacudidas internas que dejaron visibles viejas capas geológicas. Aquí y allá serpenteaban unos ríos delgados, como un mensaje escrito en letra fina. Era el paisaje que deben ofrecer ahora mismo millones de planetas en todo el universo: una nada fecunda, un lienzo pintado por la furia de las rocas.


El hombrecito pensó en la fragilidad del planeta sobre el que surgieron los humanos, pensó en lo olvidados que viven esos seres de esa fragilidad, en lo simple que sería que todo se borrara en segundos. Pensó que en futuros quizá no muy remotos otros hombres verían en otros lados superficies como ésas buscando la manera de hacer de ellas su hogar. Pero pronto aquella reflexión apoca­líptica quedó suplantada por los bosques encantados de las montañas rocosas, por glaciares sin huellas humanas, por valles desiertos de nieves y pinos que sólo han visitado viajeros obstinados. Estaba pensando en la terquedad humana cuando llegó a sus ojos la tibieza ondulada y vegetal de Seattle bajo la lluvia, su vaivén de embarcaciones y criaturas apacibles, su aire de sueño olvidado. Tenía la sensación de haber viajado millones de años, pero al bajarse del avión y despedirse del gigante se propuso convencerse de que el viaje no había durado tanto.



Publicado en Vivir en El Poblado el 1 de diciembre de 2012.