"Relics": home, modernity, and dispossession in solitud and Los pazos de Ulloa.
Jo Labanyi compellingly explores the intersections of gender and modernization in nineteenth-century Spain. For Labanyi, the modernization process involves a shift in the way in which national subjects are constituted: "identity is defined, not by what one is as a person, but by what one represents in public terms. Indeed, the object was to construct citizens as individuals who freely chose to merge their personal identity with the socially prescribed role-models held out to them for imitation, thus maintaining the liberal fiction of the social contract" (386). In Gender and Modernization, Labanyi is concerned primarily with an analysis of the representation, in both urban and rural Spanish novels, of the "conflicts arising from this contradictory construction of the private self through the assumption of a publicly defined role" (386). She finds that resistance to the homogenization that is inherent in this construction is seen, in the urban novels, in terms of a loss of privacy, either because the home is "invaded" by these normalizing forces; or because the female character abandons the home for the street--which, ultimately, implies prostitution. In the rural novels, including Los pazos de Ulloa and its sequel, La madre naturaleza, the alternative "seems to be to resist modernity's conversion of the self into representation by opting for a different kind of loss of self figured by incest"; in the case of La madre naturaleza, this is seen in "Pardo Bazan's attempt ... to replace gender 'normalization' with fraternal sexual relationships" (387).
In this paper, I will extend Labanyi's argument about modernity and self, by sharpening the focus on the representation of the private sphere that is, as she argues, either invaded or vitiated. Specifically, I will consider the representation of the home, and of the "ama de casa," in two rural novels: Pardo Bazan's Los pazos de Ulloa (1886) and Solitud (1905), by Caterina Albert ("Victor Catala"). The home, both as ideal and as physical shelter, lies at the center of the fundamental paradox of the domestic ideal: the woman, whether bourgeois "angel" or working-class wife or daughter, is expected to constitute the symbolic center of the home for others, yet she herself has no symbolic or real place that she can claim as her own. In turn-of-the-century Spain, these novels suggest the "woman of the house" is essentially homeless. As Labanyi comments about Los pazos de Ulloa, "almost everyone, for different reasons, is trying to keep the outside world of modernity out" (341). The same is true, in different ways, about Solitud. If attempts are being made to "keep modernity out" of the countryside, these novels show that, for women, modernization has never entered the home. In fact, Pardo Bazan and Albert both suggest, in these two novels, that, if the move from the private to the public sphere--from the home to the street--fails to offer an opportunity for women's resistance, neither does the home represent a space of safe subjectivity.
In Solitud, Albert tells the story of the young newlywed Mila, who is taken away from her home village to accompany her husband, Matias, in his duties as guardian of a remote mountain hermitage. Matias is depicted as a sort of human slug: he is flabby, lazy, morally and emotionally weak, sexually impotent. As the novel progresses, he becomes more and more repugnant to Mila. He makes friends with a leering, slimy character named Anima who supports himself by poaching rabbits and by gambling. Matias spends more and more time with this character, and Mila suffers what today we would call a serious depression. She finds comfort in the company of Gaieta, a wandering shepherd, and his companion, Baldiret, a young boy from a nearby farm. But she becomes distraught when the shepherd dies and her former friends from the farm suspect her of having traded her sexual favors for his money. Her degradation seems complete when she is beaten and raped at the hermitage by Anima, who, she realizes, has also murdered the shepherd for his money. When Matias returns and finds her after the rape, she announces that she is leaving him. As the narrator tells us in the last sentence of the novel, finally she begins her descent down the mountain, to a "desti" in which "les filtracions de la solitud havien cristallitzat amargament" (301) ("las filtraciones de la soledad habian cristalizado amargamente") ).
Critics of this novel have focused variously on the innovations of the modernist literary style of its author and her groundbreaking feminism (Torres-Pou), on its surprising representation of female desire and on the part this played in the author's marginalization (Bagues), on the apparent contrast its protofeminist theme presents with Albert's public pronouncements against European feminism (Duplaa), and on its protagonist's struggle for autonomy (Charnon-Deutsch 149-51, Moller Soler). Rotella, Epps ("Cadaver"), and McGovern have all examined Solitud in the context of its representation of women's experience specifically in rural Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century. Brad Epps ("Solitude") sees the novel in light of its resonances with Merce Rodoreda's Placa del diamant, and considers both novels together as representatives of the Catalan literary canon, offering a reading that returns insistently to the many ways in which both novels represent explicitly feminine experiences.
In my consideration of Solitud, I would like to turn, not toward later female-authored works, but toward an earlier, and much better known, novel of the Spanish countryside, Los Pazos de Ulloa (1886). In considering the two novels together, I do not mean to suggest that one geographical periphery is the same as another, that one rural setting is no different from any other rural setting. Further, although it will not be the focus of this study, it is important to recognize the crucial role of language in comparing the two texts. Albert wrote her novel in Catalan, and it has not been widely translated. Pardo Bazan included only a few snippets of Galician dialect in her Castilian-language novel, since, in this text as in all her fictional works, she wrote for a mainstream, Centrist audience; her fiction was by no means motivated by any desire to take part in any Galician nationalist project. And yet both novels deal fundamentally with what "home" means, not only in terms of nation, but also, and more relevantly for this study, in terms of modern feminine subjectivity.
In "Solitude in the City," Epps touches on the question of home in Solitud and La placa del diamant, in the contexts both of nation and language, and of the physical domestic space. "Home," he says, "can be many things for many people: a man's castle and a woman's place, a sanctuary and a prison, a familiar site of belonging and an uncanny site of alienation"(21). In advancing Epps's analysis, I propose that our notions of modernity--if not modernisme and noucentisme--shift when we focus on the representations of these two women in their rural homes.
The first thing that becomes obvious when we consider Albert's novel next to Los Pazos de Ulloa is that neither protagonist is, in fact the "ama" in her house; that the question of ownership, or lack of ownership, is central to the situation of both protagonists. When I speak of ownership, I am speaking both literally and metaphorically. Nucha was installed in the Pazos by her cousin Pedro, who married her in order to continue his bloodline legitimately. In entering the Pazos as Pedro's wife, Nucha is sealing her own economic dependence; she loses the little bit of money she would have inherited from her spinster aunt, when the aunt decides to pass the inheritance on to her unmarried sister. When Nucha marries Pedro and leaves her father's house, she enters a house that is already marked by a history of appropriation and dispossession. Not only is Pedro himself a "falso marques," having no real claim to the Pazos de Ulloa, but his widowed mother's legitimate inheritance had been almost completely appropriated by her brother. What dona Micaela had managed to save in gold coins was finally stolen by a posse of twenty men from the surrounding area who invaded the house and attacked her while her brother was away. Nucha's own dispossession might therefore be read, in naturalistic terms, as having been predetermined by the micro-culture of the Pazos themselves.
The heroine of Solitud has no real property for her husband to appropriate. But upon her marriage to Matias she loses what little she does have: her life with her ageing widowed aunt in the village that she calls home. As she climbs the mountain toward the unseen hermitage at the beginning of the novel, Mila hopefully thinks of the hermitage as a place where she could make a new home for herself. But she soon finds that the hermitage is nothing like the cozy nest she envisions, and her home in the lowlands is nothing but a melancholy memory. When Mila leaves Matias at the end of the novel and begins her descent down the mountain into an unknown "destiny," her homelessness is literalized. Our two protagonists, then, are presented to us as literally homeless and dispossessed, temporary inhabitants of a hostile, isolated environment chosen by their husbands.
In a less literal sense, each protagonist, while nominally in charge of the domestic space, is in fact at the mercy of others in that space. The Pazos are ruled by Primitivo, in an ironic inversion of social and class hierarchies. Throughout the novel, the house is represented as a hybrid or liminal space, situated on the boundary between the private and the public: the kitchen is occupied at night by "el sarao de Sabel" (183), which includes any and all from the surrounding area who happen by to eat, tell stories, read Tarot cards, and cart away food. Eventually, the house becomes a gathering place that is more public than private even during the day, when it is converted into the headquarters of Pedro's campaign, filled every day with perpetual luncheon meetings of the "asamblea" (225). Far from being the putative Romantic middle-class space of feminine power (no matter how limited), Nucha's home is now described in masculine terms, which evoke both an animal virility and an ironically chaotic militarism:
Los Pazos eran un jubileo, un ir y venir de adictos y correveidiles, un entrar y salir de mensajes, de ordenes y contraordenes, que le daban semejanza con un cuartel general. Siempre habia en las cuadras caballos o mulas forasteros, masticando abundante pienso, y en los anchos salones se oia crujir incesante de botas altas, pisadas de fuertes zapatos, cuando no pateo de zuecos. Julian se tropezaba con curas sofocados, respirando belico ardor, que le hablaban de los trabajos, pasmandose de ver que no tomaba parte en nada ... (243-44).
While it is true that "Pedro's home is invaded by strangers during this campaign" (Labanyi 352), the "invasion" at least is presumed to represent a political benefit for Pedro. For Nucha, however, the conversion of her home into a public campaign headquarters merely dramatizes the dispossession of the "ama de casa" that has always characterized the Pazos.
The hermitage, on the other hand, is ruled by the image of St. Pontius, both in the form of the macabre wooden image of the Saint that is kept in the hermitage's chapel, and the mental image that the area inhabitants hold of the Saint as a magical guardian, not only of the hermitage, but of the entire mountain area. The hermitage, then, also is a liminal space. It is the home that Mila and Matias inhabit, but it exists to honor the Saint and it is to remain perpetually available as a sort of temporary home for use by any supposed pilgrims who happen by.
The domestic spaces that both protagonists inhabit are not only semi-public spaces that they themselves do not control, but they are in fact hostile spaces, spaces that are markedly not home. The hermitage and the Pazos are not really homes, not only because both protagonists are outsiders, but also because, as always occurs in Gothic texts like these, malevolent forces are conspiring against the heroine, forces that are associated firmly with the house itself. Far from being protected by the image of the Saint to whom the hermitage is dedicated, Mila is, in fact, haunted by it. The physical icon of St. Pontius seems threatening to Mila, both simultaneously phallic and uncannily evocative of castration. It is worth taking a close look at the way the narrator describes this icon. Mila first encounters it on her first evening in the hermitage, after having seen two prints of the Saint elsewhere in the house:
... la Mila veie altra volta sant Ponc, menut de cos, inflat de ventre, amb llarga barbassa cendrosa, la mitra al cap, la crossa a una ma, l'altra enlaire, amb els dos dits estirats i traient per baix de les vestidures, cargolades com si fes un gran trampol, un peu llarg, penjant i punxegut, que es retirava amb la bossa del tabac d'En Matias quan era buida. Aquella era la terca vegada que veia el sant en poca estona, i mai l'havia trobat tan lleig com ara, amb aquella barba confosa, aquell ventras de dona grossa i aquell peu estrafet, que semblava sobreposat. A la Mila li feu una estranya impressio desagradosa, entre fastic i angoixa ... (68) (1)
The Saint, who is supposed to serve as patron and protector not only of Mila but of all who live in the area, is simultaneously impotent--powerless to protect--and threatening. Just as Nucha's home is masculinized, becoming anything but homelike, the image of the Saint, and by extension, the chapel and the hermitage itself, become unheimliche-- literally un-homelike, uncanny.
During her first night at the hermitage, Mila dreams of the Saint. In her dream, she is walking endlessly (as she actually did earlier that day, on her trek to the hermitage) and she finally sees a point of light in the distance. At first she thinks, with relief, that it is the shepherd's lantern, but then she realizes that there are two lights, not just one, and that the lights are in fact the eyes of the Saint. Thus, in classic uncanny fashion, what begins as inanimate--a lantern--becomes threateningly animate. More importantly, the thing that should signal home, refuge, comfort--the warm light of the shepherd welcoming her to her new home--turns into a symbol of phallic surveillance. This surveillance is all the more frightening because it simultaneously evokes castration--remarkably anticipating Freud's 1919 essay. Not only is the Saint himself simultaneously phallic and castrated, but the vision of the Saint's glowing eyes, at first seemingly unattached to his body, conjures up the frightening image of E. T. A. Hoffman's "Sand Man," who steals children's eyes in the tale that Freud considers quintessentially uncanny. As the dream progresses, the Saint begins to plow a field, his flaccid foot trailing behind the plow. His hand is raised, his fingers rigid; he hurls sexual red berries at her while shaking his feminized belly with mocking laughter:
... llaurava un olivar, amb una ma en l'arada, l'altra enlaire, amb els dos dits enrampats i arrossegant de costat el peu, aquell gran peu disform, que semblava la bossa de tabac d'En Matias ... La Mila, al veure el sant, tracta de fugir, pero el sant l'autura, tirant-li qaueal cap boletes vermelles, que eran boletes de galleran; i ella, sentinti-se baixar aquelles boles fins a la boca, va pensar, amb terror, si tindria la closaca foradada. Mes no: les boles li passaven pel trenc de la cella, quer era obert com una finestreta, i al passar-li feien un dolor tan viu, que ella demana per l'amor de Deu al sant que plegues de tirar-n'hi. I aleshores el sant es posa a riure amb unes grans rialles, sacsejant el ventre de dona grossa, i dientli, amb mofa: --Ermitana, ermitana, ermitana!--aquell nom que a ella li feia tanta malicia. (72-73). (2)
It is no coincidence that the threat of castration and of sexual attack is incarnated in the religious figure. While in Los Pazos de Ulloa the Church is merely ineffectual in its protection of women, in this novel it is absolutely sinister. The heart of the hermitage, the chapel, is filled with bizarre offerings to the Saint left behind by the faithful. These objects are described in terms that inevitably reinforce the uncanny images of phallic power and castration suggested in the image of the Saint himself: "tauletes pintades, cames i bracos de cera groga, crosses de fusta, cabelleres descolorides ... tot de coses rancies plenes de tuf i quera, com embrassos de golfa abandonada" (68) ("tablillas pintadas, piernas y brazos de cera amarillenta, muletas de madera, cabelleras descoloridas ... un monton de cosas rancias, llenas de tufos y carcoma, como trastos en un desvan abandonado" ). The insistence on images of dismemberment and impotence in this description is combined with an evocation of the very essence of the power of the uncanny, as Freud conceives it: those "trastos en un desvan abandonado," the repressed. In this case, what is repressed might represent Mila's childhood traumas; she was, after all, raised by an aunt and uncle and seemingly orphaned quite young. But, on a more powerfully symbolic level, the repressed in Solitud represents all that cannot be said about the female castration repeatedly performed by the Church and even by the rural environment for which the Church is the moral, ethical, and cultural center.
The Saint and the chapel--the hermitage itself--cannot be other than unheimliche, literally not-homelike, given the danger and hostility that are inherent to Mila's situation in the isolated mountain house. At the same time, her position as hermitess is, ironically, the epitome of the ideal of the housewife. She is to provide a refuge for the Saint, and for all who enter the Saint's house, rather than to provide for herself a place of safety and comfort. In this sense, her situation captures the curious double meaning of unheimliche--un-homelike, but also homelike--upon which Freud builds his theory of the uncanny. Mila's position as powerless caretaker of another's house encapsulates the meaning of home for the middle-class, working class, and rural women of the turn of the century. It is not unreasonable to suggest that in Solitud, as in Los Pazos de Ulloa, what has been repressed and what now becomes terrifyingly familiar is the housewife's recognition of her essential homelessness. Not only is there no home for Mila in the hermitage, with the Saint, but the place that is supposed to provide comfort ultimately reveals itself as a place of danger and fear.
The malevolent Anima is metonymically associated with the Saint, not only because of the reference to the soul ironically contained in his name, but also because the Saint's malicious gaze literalized in Mila's nightmare becomes, in effect, the lubricious surveillance carried out by Anima. When Mila first sees Anima up close, she is cleaning the chapel. She thinks she is alone, relaxed and comfortable in her skin, when she suddenly becomes aware of Anima silently watching her, just as she feels the metaphorical gaze of the Saint constantly upon her, the "hermitess" who has come, as it were, to keep house for him. When Anima ultimately rapes Mila, the attack occurs in the chapel itself, under the Saint's painted gaze; the wound to her face, which will scar her for life, is caused when she trips over an iron bolt on an altarpiece in the chapel as Anima pursues her. It is no wonder that, after the rape, when Mila thinks of the Saint, her thoughts are very far indeed from a prayer for his intervention on her behalf, or for solace. Instead, she realizes that, for her, the Saint is just the opposite of the protector he should be; that, in effect, San Ponc has cast upon her the evil eye : "Oh, mai l'havia poguda veure, sant Ponc!" (297) ("St. Pontius had always hated her!")[211-12]. (3)
As the "hermitess," Mila is always under the watchful gaze of the inhabitants of the village at the foot of the mountain, and is the object of malicious speculation (in both senses). Mila is, in this sense, a Gothic heroine, just as Nucha is (Labanyi 354, 364; Colahan and Rodriguez; Hart, Perez). Mila, like Nucha, is isolated and trapped in a rural house controlled by hostile, threatening males. Both young brides try their best to follow the rules of the domestic ideal that posit that the home is the woman 's domain of power, although all evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary. After her daughter is born, Nucha stays in her room, stricken with an emotional disorder whose symptoms suggest a hysteria of cultural etiology (Ragan). She speaks only with the ineffectual and impotent Julian; she imagines hanged men when she looks at the clothes hung to dry in her room. When she leaves her room, it is to descend to the dungeon of the Pazos with Julian--a descent that Feal Deibe has read in psychic terms--where she and Julian find a rusty chain and ring fastened to the wall, which Nucha, acutely aware of metaphor, interprets as a relic of slavery. Mila gradually becomes aware of a vague danger that she associates both with Anima and with the icon of Sant Ponc; Nucha becomes convinced that "they" want to kill both her and her infant daughter.
In both novels, the conventional Gothic figure of the good male savior--Julian in Los Pazos and the shepherd in Solitud--turns out to be powerless against the malevolent forces at work in and around the house. The Church is represented as either allied with the malevolent forces that cause the heroine's destruction, as in Solitud, or as simply powerless to protect the woman, as in Los Pazos de Ulloa. In Los Pazos, as in Solitud, the chapel--and by extension the Church itself--always fails as a refuge. In fact, it is ultimately the scene not only of Mila's rape, but also of Nucha's and Julian's final degradation: the priest and his "angel" (263) have retreated to the chapel and are beginning to plan the escape that will save Nucha and her daughter, when Pedro invades the space. The child Perucho silently witnesses a scene that he recognizes as a precursor to other "escenas analogas, pero cuyo escenario era la cocina de los Pazos, y las victimas su madre y el" (275). The narrator describes the scene of trauma in ways that highlight the ironic inversion of the psychic significance of the space: the sanctuary becomes a chamber of horrors; and Nucha is explicitly imagined as the sacrificial victim: "Recostada en al altar, se encontraba la senora de Moscoso, con un color como una muerta, los ojos cerrados, las cejas fruncidas, temblando con todo su cuerpo" (274).
Both the chapel and the kitchen, then--traditional female refuges--become, in these two texts, places of violence. Anima's attack on Mila begins in the kitchen, from which she flees to the chapel; Pedro uses the kitchen as a place to inebriate his little son and to inflict beatings both on Perucho and on the boy's mother, Sabel. It is probably no surprise, then, and certainly no coincidence, that in both novels the kitchen is initially represented as a place of degradation, dirt, and decay. The representation of the kitchen of the Pazos as a center of social and moral instability and even inversion has already been widely commented upon. In the case of Los Pazos de Ulloa, it is Julian who attempts to impose some physical and moral order and cleanliness on the house and its inhabitants, not only by attempting to sort through all the papers in the Pazos's archives documenting the family's business transactions and their noble lineage, but also by convincing Pedro to marry Nucha. When Nucha enters the house, then, she herself is meant to personify moral and social orderliness. In the rural provincial world of the Pazos, though, there is no order to be imposed from without, and certainly not by the feminine (or effeminate, or androgynous) representatives of life in the provincial capital. The papers in the study remain disordered, the kitchen is the nightly site of aquelarres, and, for much of the narrative, Nucha remains confined to her room while Sabel shares Pedro's bed and Primitivo rules the Pazos with his rifle and his intimidation.
While the plot of the earlier novel is generally characterized by the classic naturalistic downward spiral, culminating in Nucha's emotional and physical decline and her eventual death, it seems at times that Mila will enjoy some degree of autonomy in her isolated home. Mila arrives at the house she is to live in and finds the kitchen filthy. (4) She spends days scrubbing the kitchen and everything in it, undoing the decade of neglect and accumulated dirt. She does not consider cleaning a degradation or a menial task; on the contrary, it is the only way in which she can attempt to take control of her domestic space and, indirectly, of her existence. She is, at least temporarily, turning the all-but-abandoned hermitage into her own home, making the space she must inhabit her own. Cleaning the kitchen, in fact, is one of the few joyous corporeal experiences Mila is allotted: as she cleans, the narrator tells us, "sentia una excitacio voluptuosa, entregantse de pie an aquell gran tragi revolucionari" (92). ("sentia una excitacion voluptuosa entregandose de lleno a aquel trajin revolucionario" ).
But this "revolution," and the new order that Mila establishes in the hermitage, are fleeting; she is soon reminded that she is no more than the caretaker of the hermitage--the wife of the caretaker, at that--and by no means in control of her supposed home. When the inhabitants of the surrounding villages climb the mountain to the hermitage for the annual celebration of the Saint's day, Mila must open her home and provide a feast for the hordes. The house, which she had worked for so long to clean, is now transformed into the site of a bacchanale. When Mila retreats to her kitchen, the one room in the house that traditionally would be a site of feminine control and cleanliness, she finds that that space is no longer her own. Just as the Pazos are converted into a space that is less like a home than a "cuartel general" (243), the hermitage is now a public inn populated by "beasts." The bodily pleasure that Mila felt in cleaning and organizing the kitchen is now grotesquely mirrored in the bodily excesses of the human animals who have invaded her space:
altra gent forana tampoc parava de dragar, i en la sala i cambra gran segui la saturnal grollera, sota la vigilancia del pastor, que, esquerp i cellajunt, guaitava amb menyspreu aquelles besties dites superiors, retorcer-se i bagolar, ubriagues d'alegria, de substancies mal paides, dels contactes i tambe un poc de vi: de tot lo que no s'ubriaguen les altres besties dites inferiors. (163-64) (5)
Not only does this occupying army, made up of "gent forana," take over all of Mila's limited space in the hermitage; they also appropriate the eating utensils, the plates, and the glasses--objects that Mila had bought on credit, and hoped to pay for with the donations of the visitors. These donations, of course, never materialize. What was to be a religious festival in honor of the spiritual protector of the village turns out to be an orgy of physical and emotional destruction at Mila's expense--a riot, in fact, as the title of the corresponding chapter, "Gatzara," ("Alboroto") indicates. The next day, when Mila finds all her new pottery strewn about the grounds, in shards, she connects the destruction wrought by the villagers with the Saint himself. The shards are the "relics," she says bitterly, left for her by the Saint. Her efforts to make of her house a refuge for herself as well as for the villagers are, ultimately, futile, as are Nucha's (and Julian's) attempts to convert the Pazos into a space that feels like home. In Solitud, the hermitage--a literal refuge for the spiritual pilgrim--is a monument to gross physical appetite, to phallic vigilance, and to the Church's domination. Home, in this novel, represents both a cruel illusion of possession--the rented dishes that Mila never owned but nevertheless must pay for--and destruction and danger. Clearly, the Romantic ideal of home, as spiritual refuge from a corrupt world, is irrelevant in the world portrayed in this novel. But the destruction wrought on the home in Solitud goes beyond the symbolic rejection of an anachronistic ideal, for this novel questions the very possibility of home for women.
The Romantic domestic ideal, problematic even in the writings of Pilar Sinues, (6) is replaced in realist texts: the domestic ideal is, not, now, that of Fray Luis de Leon's spiritual shelter, but one of bourgeois material safety. This safety, like Fray Luis's spiritual shelter, is predicated upon the separation of the home from the outside world. This is one reason why, as Labanyi demonstrates, the "invasion" into the home of the modern impulse to substitute the self with representation is a fundamental anxiety in realist novels. The trope of home invasion is a powerful one: if the home can be invaded, obviously, it is not safe. In the Gothic novel, the home need not be invaded for its safety to be threatened; in fact, the danger is always present within the home itself. Los pazos de Ulloa and Solitud both suggest that, in some sense, all homes potentially are like the Gothic house: women are always exposed to potential danger because, legally and culturally, women's relationship to the home is one of dispossession. If the essence of the home as a modern ideal lies in the protection it offers from harm, then women, at the turn of the century in Spain, essentially have no home--even though they are expected to "make" a home for others.
It is significant that when Julian tells Nucha, "Ud. es un angel," she quickly replies, "'No, angel, no; pero no me acuerdo de haber hecho dano a nadie'"(263). In the Pazos, the home as a shelter from harm is shown to be an illusion. Whether because of the invasion of modernity or because of its distance from it, the rural Galician countryside is, in this text, a savage place, a place where "dano" prevails, and where no woman and no child are protected by any home.
In Solitud, the inhabitants of the rural countryside are also described and depicted, repeatedly, as animals. The name of the thieving, raping, murderer, Anima, with its suggestion of the "animal," (7) echoes that of Primitivo, representative of primary, animal instincts of self-preservation and the satisfaction of bodily desires. This "animal" in Albert's text is never punished in any way for his theft, for his rape of Mila, or for his murder of the shepherd Gaieta, who embodies selflessness, freedom, faith, and, in his preservation of the area's folk narrative, culture. Those who live in the villages around the hermitage, according to the shepherd, "estan pas mes que pel dinar, les ballades i el gatejar, com si hi fossin pas tots de seny" (102) ("no estan mas que por la comida, por los bailes y por emborracharse, como si estuvieran todos locos" ).
It is not the case, however, that we are dealing with a dichotomous representation of the backwards rural countryside in opposition to the modern metropolis. Neither do we find, in these texts, the dichotomy whose elements are represented by the idyllic countryside and the decadent city. As Labanyi points out, in Los pazos de Ulloa, "Pardo Bazan ,.. shows how modernity disguises--and indeed exacerbates--women's traditional subordination with new arguments" (345). In Solitud, we scarcely hear any reference to the urban, and the small towns in the area are described by Gaieta as "cataus de pesta i de dolteria" (251) ("cubiles de peste y de maldad") ). Mila's memories of her youth, when her uncle made his living by ferrying passengers across the river in his little boat, are clouded by the memory of the bridge that was built across the river, making the business obsolete, and by the later construction of a factory that ruined the quiet peace and beauty of the river village. In Solitud, modernity is not represented as a desirable goal for Cataluna--at least, not if it is conceived of in terms of the urban and in terms of industrialization.
Speaking of Casellas's Els sots ferestecs (1901) as well as of Catala's Drames rurals (1902) and Solitud, Epps comments: "That these modernist narratives are also rural narratives may seem strange, but only if the range of modernity is artificially limited to the city ... [T]he well-established linkage between the modern and the urban is troubled, if not broken, in these texts" ("Cadaver" 24). The modern, these words suggest, could conceivably be found in rural Catalonia, at least as Catalan modernism represents it. We might consider Solitud's breakdown of the equation urban=modern, however, in a way that focuses on the value implicitly attached to the modern for women, and on the value attached to the urban and to the rural for women. When we do this, the oppositions rural/urban and modernity/tradition become irrelevant and misleading. Whether living in town (albeit a provincial one, such as Santiago de Compostela) or in the country, the women portrayed in these two novels are untouched by any gendered modernity. The feminist movements whose presence was felt in the rest of Europe, in the U.S., and in New Zealand during the years represented by these novels have no effect on the middle-class Nucha of 1868, and much less on the protagonist of Catala's text, written at the new century's beginning. Industrial modernization is experienced by Mila indirectly as a loss, which ultimately, and ironically, serves only to tie her to a life of the most traditional sort of dependence, through her marriage to Matias.
The countryside, then, in both Solitud and Los Pazos de Ulloa is unsafe, unfit for a home, Unheimliche, not only because the characters cannot adapt to their new environments, but also simply because the environments in which they live--like any environment available to them--are not safely inhabitable by any woman who does not enjoy the protection of a man. (8) Further, the men who are expected to protect the women in these novels are unable or unwilling to do so. Dona Micaela is robbed when her brother leaves her alone in the house; Primitivo uses his daughter's sexual availability as a pay-off for Pedro's compliance, while Pedro abandons Nucha when she does not produce a male child. Likewise, Matias leaves the hermitage to spend time gambling while his companion Anima attacks Mila there. Nucha's father hands her over to her self-interested cousin Pedro with no thought for her wishes; Mila's uncle dies and leaves Mila and her aunt only his broken-down boat as an inheritance. Julian and the shepherd Gaieta both represent moral orders that are ultimately powerless to combat the amorality and greed that rule around them.
This is not to say that Julian and the shepherd have no effect on the lives of Nucha and Mila, respectively. To the extent that the two protagonists survive emotionally, they do so precisely because of the understanding presence of these male companions. Although, in the end, neither Julian nor Gaieta triumphs, each of them temporarily represent some degree of hope for the protagonist. Both embody a configuration of masculinity that departs from the dominant phallic mode; both are committed to ideals that are not shared by the hordes with whom they live. In particular, Gaieta can be considered to represent a rural pre-industrial ethos, characterized not only by his pastoral profession but also, and crucially, by his role as keeper of the region's oral narrative culture. But even this pre-industrial world is by no means ideal, particularly in terms of gender. As Angela Bagues points out, virtually all of the local legends that the shepherd recounts to Mila emphasize conformity to religious and cultural norms, and especially feminine conformity. As Bagues says, "todas las leyendas que narra el Pastor giran en torno al cuerpo de la mujer y todos los personajes femeninos que aparecen en ellas encajan en los dos estereotipos finiseculares de la virgen o la femme fatale" (178). To slightly refocus Bagues's observation, we might as easily speak of the recurrence in the shepherd's legends of an alternation between stories expressing the threat of female sexuality and of metaphorical female castration. (9)
No legend expresses the truncation of female power as well as the shepherd's story of Sol. The discursive context surrounding the telling of this tale is significant: one day, amongst the discarded wax limbs and other uncanny objects in the chapel, Mila finds a particularly unsettling item: a moldering head of long blonde hair. When the shepherd sees the head of hair, he tells Mila the tale of how it came to be offered to the Saint. It seems the hair belonged to a woman nicknamed Sol, for the beautifully luminous effect of her long locks. She and her impoverished cousin wanted to marry, so the cousin emigrated to America in hopes of earning enough money to eventually support his bride. After twenty years, Sol's fiance finally returned, only to become deathly ill. In order to effect the miracle of his cure, Sol cut off all her hair and offered it to the Saint in exchange for saving her beloved. San Ponc obliged, and the beloved recovered. But, predictably, when the fiance was reunited with Sol, who, like him, was now middle-aged and whose luxurious claim to physical beauty had been destroyed, he cancelled the wedding and returned to America, leaving Sol to close herself up in a convent for the rest of her life. The shepherd adds that the woman who occupied the hermitage just before Mila's predecessor used to wash and brush Sol's offering to the Saint every year until it shone, unlike the woman who occupied the hermitage right before Mila, who neglected it completely (108; 50).
When Mila hears the story, she decides to carefully wash the head of hair and dry it in the sun, and indeed, it regains its beauty of earlier years. It is only when she claims the head of hair as her responsibility, when she decides to care for it by cleaning it (much in the same way she took pleasure in cleaning the kitchen), that Mila fully understands the narrative the shepherd has told her. When she, like her predecessor, washes and dries the relic, she uncovers, discovers, and recovers the vitality and feminine power of Sol, thus affirming not only Sol's lost power, but also her own power, and the power of the earlier "ermitana." Mila's gesture is one that recalls the figure of Nucha, whose sole attractions are described by Pedro as her "buen pelo y buen genio"(97); after her marriage, the only person with whom Nucha can let down her hair, so to speak, is the priest Julian. Mila recovers and honors Sol's splendor and power, but, crucially, she is able to do that only because it has been fruitlessly sacrificed; it is only the loss that makes the recovery possible. Sol's head of hair, shaved off her head in offering to that gothic Saint, works here in many ways as an image of symbolic female (self-)castration. But this uncanny image also represents feminine dispossession. Sol offered her greatest power to St. Pontius in exchange for the health of her beloved; she was left without that power, without her beloved, and ultimately without a worldly life. Likewise, when Mila is forced to serve both her husband and the Saint, she is expected to subdue all her erotic and maternal desires, something she is not willing to do, as she says, "for all the men on earth." (10)
It is significant that the narrative of Mila's discovery of the head of hair in the chapel, the shepherd's tale about Sol, and Mila's reaction to the story were not included in Solitud as it was originally published, and were recovered only for the fifth edition of the novel, published 36 years after the original (and reproduced in the 1968 edition). In the prologue to that edition, Albert recounts the story of the fragment's excision and subsequent reincorporation into the text in terms that are surprisingly evocative of the story itself that the shepherd tells in the fragment. The author explains that, as she originally wrote the novel, she found that, "tantost deixada anar la ploma al grat de son aire, ana omplenant planes i mes planes amb enutjosa prodigalitat" (42) ("apenas dejamos ir la pluma a su aire, fue llenando hojas y mas hojas con enojosa prodigalidad" (). The text's "prodigality," she says, "ens esglaia i ens repregue de nou la temenca a l'abus ... era questio de retallar, de posar mides ... optarem per sacrificar dos capitols sencers" (42) ("nos asusto, y de nuevo sentimos el temor al abuso ... De nuevo habia que cortar, poner coto.... optamos por sacrificar dos capitulos enteros" [192; my emphases]). The control of excess, the cutting off of desire, and the notion of the sacrifice of excess represented by the cutting of Sol's hair are all clearly reproduced in Albert's language here.
The imagery of truncation and cutting is repeated when she goes on to explain that when she told her editor, LLuis Via, about what she uncannily calls the "amputated sections," ("trossos amputats") (42) Via urged her to include them in a later edition. But the two chapters were lost when her house was raided during the Civil War, along with her great-grandfather's shotgun and a saber that was used in the African campaign eighty years earlier. "Amb aquestes dues reliquies, " explains Albert, "... havien fugit aixi mateix els dos capitols inedits de Solitud" (43; my emphasis) ("Con estas dos reliquias ... habian desaparecido tambien los dos capitulos ineditos de Solitud" ). The fragment that relates the story of Sol's prodigality, her sacrifice, and the resulting "relic" which is her head of hair, is itself conceived of by Albert as a "relic," one which was in fact recovered and revived, just as Mila recovers and revives Sol's head of hair.
But each of the two recoveries, each rescue of relics, is marked by the greater loss surrounding it: the rest of those two chapters, lost along with the short-lived Second Republic; and the youth, desire, and power of both Sol and Mila. In this context, it is both ironically appropriate and terribly sad that Caterina Albert signs this prologue not with her own name, or even with her chosen pseudonym, but simply "L'Autor," cutting off the feminine morpheme that would identify her as a woman writer. Caterina Albert herself, then, as disembodied authorial voice, epitomizes the dispossession that structures the plot and subplots of the novel. We are left with only traces, or relics, of the feminine emotional, intellectual, and erotic power fleetingly experienced by Mila, by Sol, and perhaps by the writer herself, whom we might imagine "entregant-se de pie an aquell gran tragi revolucionari" as she wrote and wrote, with her curiously "enutjosa prodigalitat" (42).
Few would associate the famously self-confident and exuberantly prolific author of Los Pazos de Ulloa with curtailment or self-effacement. But her best-known novel is also, after all, a story of feminine dispossession, and of displacement, beginning with the "back story" of the Pazos, and the theft of dona Micaela's savings, continuing through the psychological, physical, and emotional erosion of the obedient Nucha, and ending with the very last paragraph of the novel, which, from the perspective of the failed would-be savior Julian, captures the cycle, even the tradition, of feminine dispossession and of displacement:
Solo una circunstancia le hizo dudar de si aquellos dos muchachos encantadores eran en realidad el bastardo y la heredera legitima de Moscoso. Mientras el hijo de Sabel vestia ropa de buen pano, de hechura como entre aldeano acomodado y senorito, la hija de Nucha, cubierta con un traje de percal, asaz viejo, llevaba los zapatos tan rotos, que pudiera decirse que iba descalza (292).
The obvious implications of this representation of the inversion of social classes, the distracting sentimentality of Julian's word "encantadores," even the ideologically loaded terms "bastardo" and "heredera legitima," are not enough to overshadow the vivid image of Manuela's torn shoes, her bare feet, her essential homelessness. But how could it be otherwise? We need not have recourse to any naturalistic determinism, or any notion of "desti" to remember that, whether they lived in the provincial countryside or in the city, the fin de siglo Spanish "ama de casa" was always essentially homeless, legally a tenant in her husband's house. Epps comments that Solitud and La placa del diamant "suggest that if nationality is engendered in the home, the home is not always where the heart is" ("Solitude," 28). A consideration of Solitud and Los pazos de Ulloa complicates the question of home not only sentimentally, as Epps rightly points out, but also legally.
At a time when feminist movements were burgeoning in many other countries, the Civil Code of 1889 deprived the married woman of any right to her own property and further specified that "la mujer esta obligada a seguir a su marido donde quiera que fije su residencia" (Folguera Crespo 454). For most women of Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century, the liberal ideals of urban modernity, and the enticing figure of the "new woman," were completely alien. At the same time, as these texts of Emilia Pardo Bazan and Caterina Albert show us, for women, even the modern notion of the home as a material refuge from harm is only a bitter irony, nothing more than the broken relics of an outmoded ideology of gender in a regional Spain that resists the call for "modernity."
Albert I Paradis, Caterina ("Victor Catala"). Soledad. Trans. Basilio Losada. Barcelona: Alianza, 1986.
--. Solitud. Barcelona: Editorial Selecta, 1968.
--. Solitude. Trans. David H. Rosenthal. Columbia LA: Readers International, 1992.
Aldaraca, Bridget. El Angel Del Hogar: Galdos and the Ideology of Domesticity in Spain. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Bagues, Angela. "La multiple periferia y la marginacion de Caterina Albert/Victor Catala." Monographic Review/Revista Monografica 13 (1997): 169-81.
Charnon-Deutsch, Lou. Narratives of Desire: Nineteenth-Century Spanish Fiction by Women. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1994.
Colahan, Clark and Alfred Rodriguez. "Lo 'gotico' como formula creativa en Los pazos de Ulloa." Modern Philology 83.4 (1986): 398-404.
Duplaa, Cristina. "Historia y ficcion en Caterina Albert/Victor Catala." Mujeres y literatura. Ed. Angels Carabi and Marta Segarra. Barcelona: Promociones y Publicaciones Universitarias, 1994. 71-77.
Epps, Brad. "The Cadaver of Progress: Death and Putrefaction in the Modernist Catalan Novel." From Stateless Nations to Postnational Spain/De naciones sin estado a la Espana postnacional. Ed. Silvia Bermudez, Antonio Cortijo Ocana, and Timothy McGovern. Boulder: Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies, 2002. 13-51.
--. "Solitude in the City: Victor Catala with Merce Rodoreda." Women's Narrative and Film in Twentieth-Century Spain: A World of Difference. Ed. Ofelia Ferran and Kathleen M. Glenn. New York: Routledge, 2002. 19-39.
Feal Deibe, Carlos. "La voz femenina en Los pazos de Ulloa." Hispania 70.2 (1987): 214-21.
Folguera Crespo, Pilar. "Revolucion y Restauracion: La emergencia de los primeros ideales emancipadores (1868-1931)." Historia de las mujeres de Espana. Ed. Elisa Garrido. Madrid: Sintesis, 1997. 451-92.
Freud, Sigmund. "The Uncanny." The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Ed. and trans. James Strachey. Vol. 17. London: Hogarth, 1953. 219-52.
Hart, Stephen M. "The Gendered Gothic in Pardo Bazan's Los pazos de Ulloa." Culture and Gender in Nineteenth-Century Spain. Ed. Lou Charnon-Deutsch and Jo Labanyi. Oxford, England: Clarendon, 1995. 216-29.
Hoffman, Joan M. "'!Si no fuese por el decoro!': Emilia Pardo Bazan's Working Girls and the Polite Fiction of the Domestic Ideal." Hispanofila 142 (2004): 43-54.
Jagoe, Catherine. Ambiguous Angels : Gender in the Novels of Galdos. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Johnson, Roberta. Gender and Nation in the Spanish Modernist Novel. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2003.
Kirkpatrick, Susan. Mujer, modernismo y vanguardia en Espana: 1898-1931. Trans. Jacqueline Cruz. Madrid: Catedra, 2003.
Kirkpatrick, Susan. Las Romanticas: Women Writers and Subjectivity in Spain, 1835-1850. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
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University of Illinois-Urbana
(1) Mila vio de nuevo a San Poncio, menudo de cuerpo, hinchado el vientre, con una larga barbaza cenicienta, la mitra en la cabeza, el baculo en una mano, y alzada la otra con los dos dedos tensos, y asomandole por debajo de las vestiduras retorcidas, como agitadas por una ventolera, un pie largo, colgante y puntiagudo, que parecia la petaca de Matias cuando estaba vacia. Aquella era la tercera vez que en poco tiempo veia al santo, y nunca lo habia encontrado tan feo como ahora, con aquella barba enmaranada, aquel barrigon de mujer gorda y aquel pie contrahecho, que parecia sobrepuesto. A Mila le causo una extrana impresion desagradable, entre asco y angustia ... (23).
(2) ... estaba labrando un olivar, con una mano en el arado, la otra alzada, con los dos dedos rigidos y arrastrando el pie de lado, aquel gran pie disforme que parecia la petaca de Matias ... Mila, al ver al santo, trato de huir, pero el santo la detuvo tirandole a la cabeza unas bolitas rojas, que eran frutos de acebo; y ella, notando que aquellas bolas le bajaban hasta la boca, penso aterrorizada si tendria el craneo horadado. Pero, no: las bolas atravesaban por un chirlo de las cejas, una herida abierta como una ventanita, y al pasar le hacian tanto dano que pidio al santo por amor de Dios que dejara de tirarselas. Y, entonces, el santo se echo a reir con unas carcajadas sonoras, agitando aquel vientre de mujerona gorda, y diciendole, en son de burla: --!Ermitana! Ermitana! !ermitana!... aquel nombre que le molestaba tanto (25-26).
(3) I give the English translation here in preference to Losada's erroneous translation, "Oh! "Jamas habia podido ver a San Poncio!". The feminine ending of "poguda" in the original Catalan makes clear that "Mila" is the object, not the subject of the sentence.
(4) As Epps comments, in La placa del diamant, Natalia also arrives at her new home to find the kitchen filthy.
(5) La gente de fuera no paraba de comer; y en la sala y en la camara habia un bullicio de saturnal desvergonzada, bajo la vigilancia del pastor que, hurano y cejijunto, miraba con desprecio a aquellos animales llamados superiores retorcerse y aullar, ebrios de alegria, de sustancias mal digeridas, de contactos furtivos y, tambien, de algo de vino: de todo lo que no se embriagan los otros animales llamados superiores. (90)
(vi) See Urruela for an analysis of the complications of the "angelic" in Sinues.
(7) Epps sees an ironic juxtaposition in the name of Anima, in that it suggests not only the animal, but also an allusion to the soul ("Solitude" 28).
(8) In her fiction, and especially in her short stories, Pardo Bazan repeatedly dramatizes the problem of the women who attempts to survive economically without masculine protection. Her 1909 story "Naufragas" deals specifically with the move of a family of women from the provinces to Madrid and their largely unsuccessful "negotiation of difficulties" in the metropole. See Tolliver, chapter 7, for an analysis of this story. See Hoffman for an insightful exploration of the tensions between work and domesticity in this and several other stories and essays by Pardo Bazan.
(9) As Bagues says, virtually all of the shepherd's legends do teach some lesson about feminine sexuality, but not all of them: the last legend the shepherd tells Mila before his murder deals with religious blasphemy and does not involve any female characters.
(10) "'Per tots els homes del mon no hauria donat jo semblat riquesa'" (109) ["'!Ni por todos los hombres del mundo habria dado yo tal riqueza!'" (51)].
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