Nazarín, by Benito Pérez Galdós
Published in 1895, 247 pages
My Rating, ★★★★✫
(Buñuel made a movie based on it)
Nazarín can be found in English, though I read it in Spanish. I read it because Galdós is one of my favorite authors. And it happens to fit into the book in translation category of the Back to the Classics Challenge.
Nazarín is short for Nazario Zaharín, a peculiar clergy man who becomes a homeless vagabond by his own choice. This is a most unusual book to me. It was written in 1895. At the times of the book, many men and women lived in the streets, they were beggars, and it was not unusual for them to wander from town to town trying to survive. At the same time, others lived in abundance. It was a trying Madrid and surrounding localities, that of Nazarín, and the adventures and misfortunes he encounters afforded me a wonderful reading time.
As always, Galdós has the best dialogues, a change of voice for each character (great or small), that makes his book stand up as vivacious, real, and amusing. I’ve never been so surprised by characters and thematic as with Galdós, who, while relating to us the lives of very common individuals, weaves many whimsical situations and occurrences in his novels.
At times it made me think of the character in Camús, The Stranger, although the style and story is not any similar, it’s because of the demeanor of Nazarín, who is a sincere man who says the truth and adheres to such an idealistic goal of life, that almost nobody believes he can be that straightforward, truthful, and basically such a good man.
The similarities with him and Don Quijote and Christ jump out of the text. Those who are idealist remind us of Don Quijote, as those who are fundamentally good at heart, like Nazarín, remind us of Christ. (And maybe there’s also a premeditated imagery in the book meant to take us to the life of Christ).
I thought that Nazarín acted as a mirror for those who come to know him. Some cannot penetrate in his logic, or understand his actions, because they are looking at Nazarín through themselves, and they despise him, or love him thinking him to be who they want him to be. Others are prompted to do introspection, and allow Nazarín to be the motivator for a change of heart.
And there’s this indescribable tenderness in Nazarín and other characters. Nobody in Galdós books is perfect, yet there’s so much to love in the people he introduces to us, readers, so much real pain, and love, and candor without any saccharine or artificiality (which I’d detest).
Galdós writes about the human soul, about real people, and he does elevate the common to art. He won’t leave you indifferent nor dissatisfied.