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Dedalus in Compostela
(A Pseudoparaphrase)

Vicente RISCO


Translated by David M. Clark and Mª Jesús Lorenzo Modia.

First published Galician Review, vol. 1, 1997: 62-71 ISSN 1460-0633 © The Editors: Prof. Derek Flitter, University of Birmingham, Prof. John Rutherford, Centre of Galician Studies, University of Oxford, whose prior permission for the reproduction of this text has been kindly granted.

The events which I am about to relate happened exactly as follows, one cold, misty Thursday morning, Ascension Day 1926, one hundred and twenty years after the discovery of the Holy Apostle St. James Zebedee. I was forty years of age at the time.

It was a chilly, foggy morning. The market of Santa Susana was full of cattle, and girls with ribbons in their plaited pigtails walked down the streets, going from shop to shop.

This was the second time that I had met Stephen Dedalus. He had already been present in body and soul that winter in my study in Ourense, on the second floor of number 47, Santo Domingo Street, with his short beard and his spectacles, the collar of his overcoat turned up and wearing a black hat which gave the impression, albeit erroneous, that he was in mourning. The truth is that his presence became real in the third of the three worlds which exist within every man. These three worlds are the tangible World, the understandable World and the imaginable (or as some would have it, foreseeable) World, and make up a triple world which perhaps, or so I thought at the time, is more a microcosm than a macrocosm. In any case, for the sake of what follows it doesn't really matter, because it would always belong, not to a new type of reality in this third world, but to a reality which already existed... As the round table in my room was already taken up by my cronies who, in a fit of orientalism, were playing mah-jongg, Stephen Dedalus sat down at the large Louis XVI table. This table had a somewhat German look to it, copied as it was from a German model, and it was piled high with books, magazines, bulletins, letters, cards, blotting paper and cigarette butts, and a double decimeter which was used for marking the scale in plans of Romanesque churches. The difference was that -when he was at my house- Stephen was a good forty-three years old, and when I met him in Santiago some time later, he was nineteen. This mystery can easily be solved without having to work out the mathematical relationship between the age of Stephen Dedalus and that of Leopold Bloom. It is enough simply to accept the reality of things and nothing else, because not only has it been proved in physics that a reversal of time is theoretically possible, but it is also true that a reversal of this type really does occur in daydreams. This means that the spirit can read either backwards or forwards in the book of time, in the same way as one reads Arian or Semitic writings without losing any of their meaning, although perhaps the mystery of what happens would be clear for someone able to read from top to bottom, just like in Mongolian writing.

In any case I don't think that meeting Stephen Dedalus in Compostela was such a strange thing. There may even be more than one of him there.

What happened was the following. I was coming out of a grocer's shop in the Acibechería, a shop full of tin cans neatly stacked like books in a library. The comparison didn't end with the carefully ordered shelves; it was even more apparent in the actual tins themselves, with their labels, their lettering and with their contents. There is something in them that brings to mind Natural History books, where Nature is as dead as it is in the cans and in the works of some painters, both in those who paint still lifes and in those who paint what turns out to be nothing more than still deaths. I turned into the Praza do Pan, where Cervantes, the mutilated stylist, stands in the middle of a fountain, a fitting prize for a Literary Competition were it not for the cost of transporting it. I followed on down Preguntoiro Street, and after stopping off at the opticians at number 32, I headed down Caldeirería Street, then down Tras de Salomé and into the Rúa Nova. I went under the Pórtico de Salomé, raising my hat as I passed the doorway, and there, in the bookshop next-door was Stephen.

For an hour and a half we strolled peacefully under the arches in the Rúa Nova. At that time of day they were deserted and seemed just right for letting one's imagination wander even more than one's feet, to let it fly like a kite, neither letting go of the string nor holding it back too much.

Stephen talked in his usual sad way, and I spoke to him without any fear, but for the benefit of anyone who might be confused I am going to set down our conversation, which went as follows:

Stephen Dedalus said:

--I know that you aren't surprised to see me here. You know that I'm the last pilgrim to come to Santiago. I long for my corpse to rest beside (that of) the Apostle, because if the truth must be told, little remains for me to do in this world except to die, and I shall die here like Gaiferos of Mormaltán and William of Aquitaine. I want to rest in your cave, to be buried here with all of you, with your souls. From now on, only tourists will come here: the age of pilgrims has gone forever. I want to be the last one.

And I said:

--I'd like you to explain three things to me. Firstly, why is it that, if you are travelling around the world fleeing from the Cross, you have come here in search of the shadow of the Sanctuary? Secondly, if you are looking for the Sanctuary, why don't you seek it in your own country? Thirdly, if you are fleeing from those of your own race, why do you come here, to be amongst people of your race?

Stephen Dedalus said:

--Each of the questions you have asked me contains an assumption, and the questions depend upon these assumptions, because you believe that there is a contradiction between the assumption and my behaviour. In the first question the assumption is true. I travel around the world fleeing from the Cross. I have no desire to be like the 'Santa Compaña' when I am alive, nor when I am dead.

I said:

--That shows that you know what is meant by the mystery of the 'Santa Compaña', which is no more than the Church of Suffering which becomes visible to (uncontaminated souls, or to) souls which are completely lost, which up to a certain point amounts to more or less the same. But in that case you must also know, or if you don't know you will have been able to deduce, that when a traveller comes across the 'Santa Compaña', to avoid being given the Cross, he spreads his arms open wide and cries 'This is my Cross!'.

Stephen Dedalus said:

--I don't even need to spread my arms open: I am my own Cross. I am my penitence, my grief, my punishment, my executioner, my sentence.

I said:

--Let us differentiate: when someone is bearing the Cross, his body grows thin and his soul withers, nevertheless the man himself is saved. You well know that man is not just his body, nor is he just his soul. He is a mixture of both parts, (and what has to be saved is the whole man,) made up of body and soul, and that is the reason for the resurrection of the flesh.

Stephen Dedalus said:

--That I know. But the devil always walks behind the Cross. The devil helped the son of the thief from Armenteira when his strength failed him on his way to return the Cross his father had stolen. But he only helped him up until the moment that he returned the Cross to the church. As soon as the Cross had been put back, the devil took it. But if I am my own Cross, how can I separate myself from the Cross so that the devil might take me?

I said:

--When a man cannot enter Hell because he is carrying a cross or relics, he looks for a charitable soul to take the Cross he is carrying from him.

Stephen Dedalus said:

--But in my case, the only blessed thing which I carry is my Celtic blood. As long as they don't take my Celtic blood from me, they cannot separate me from the Cross. My Cross is within my blood, (and while my will rejects the Cross,) my blood is drawn towards it, and seeps from it like the sap from a tree which has had its branches lopped off in springtime, in the prime of its life. Because our race is also like a tree which has been lopped, and it is also a bleeding Christ nailed to the Cross, under the eagles (of the Empire and the triumph of the Caesars). Our race is the very image of Christ being crucified on the Cross. So there you have the solution to the first of the three problems you set me. I travel around the world fleeing from the Cross, but my blood will not allow me to be separated from it. Quite the contrary, it is constantly pulling me towards the Sanctuary. That is the first reason, the psychological reason, but there is yet another reason, the metaphysical one. When replying to your second argument I already mentioned the popular refrain which says that the devil always walks behind a Cross. Indeed, no matter how much he so wishes, the devil can never be completely separated from God. The devil's will is separated from his being. His will is in Hell, (but who knows if his real being is not still in heaven?)... Well, just as the devil cannot be completely separated from God, I, who belong to the devil, cannot be separated too much from the church. I feel something pulling me towards it, towards liturgy, towards theology, towards scholastic philosophy, towards conventual scholarship, towards monastic discipline. Try as I might, I cannot escape this magic circle...

I said:

--The curse that Satan has to bear is the fact that he is a creature of God.

Stephen Dedalus said:

That is why he always strives after evil, but always does good.

I said:

--I have never understood these words of Goethe. The fact is that the power of evil is limited. A rocket escapes from the Earth only until the gunpowder which carries it upwards runs out.

Stephen Dedalus said nothing, and I too remained in silence. We walked on towards the Toural. We stopped for a while on the corner opposite the news-stand. Some people were coming from As Orfas and they passed under the arches. I took out a cigarette and offered one to Stephen. He turned it down.

--You shouldn't smoke. Tobacco is poison, and smoking is a foolish waste. You shouldn't smoke or drink. The body has to be kept healthy and clean. We must fight against all these weaknesses of the will.

I said:

--And the devil also recommends vice.

He said:

--That was in the past, not nowadays. I don't have any vices. Why should I?. Although it might seem strange, men have fewer vices nowadays, because they don't need them. You can find a lot of people who don't smoke or drink wine, and there are even quite a few who don't eat meat. As far as other sins are concerned, you'll find that they are much more common amongst older men. Young people sin a lot less than they did in your days. There is a reason for this. Vice can no longer be used in order to condemn men. Before, men were stronger, and they had more resistance, so they they were able to keep up a life full of vice and die without repenting. Men nowadays take more care of themselves, with diets, better hygiene, and sports. They can lead a wasted life for a few years, but after a time their bodies grow tired, and they have to come round to a healthy way of living. That is the physical reason. The metaphysical reason is that a man who has vices ends up accepting God's gifts. He may abuse these gifts, he may be selfish or ungrateful, he may be a hypocrite, but he is not proud. Pride has no vices, pride is clean and impeccable. That is why the further men drift away from God, the fewer vices they will have, and that is why there are so many Temperance Societies and institutions for the defence of public morals. Just wait and see how prostitution will be banned, how they'll persecute opium, morphine and cocaine, and how there won't be any more dances, theatres or cabarets. In the future men will be abstemious and vegetarians. They'll be chaste, honourable, tolerant, and their thoughts and speech will be pure. The women will be honest and hard-working. People will seem like saints, but will really be devil-like.

I said:

--It is said that the Antichrist will imitate Christ.

He said:

--We are digressing. Let us go on to your second question. You asked me why I didn't seek Sanctuary in my own Country. I will answer you. In the same way as I am fleeing from the Cross, I am also fleeing from my own race. Firstly, because one's race ties one down, and I want to be free. Secondly, because my race is the living image of Christ and I want to be the image of the Antichrist. I will continue. Just as I try to escape from my race, I am also fleeing from my country. Firstly, because it was smothering my soul ...

I interrupted him:

--But exactly the same can be said about any provincial literary hack. The smaller your soul is, the more room it needs.

He said:

--That is true. I don't deny that I am like a provincial hack. I realise that that is a defect of mine, and it is a pity. I would not be the man I am if I did not have any faults. Otherwise I could not have been born of any mortal woman.

I said:

--Maldoror also thought that he was more than that ...

He said:

--Do not compare me with that poor man. According to Leon Bloy he did not deserve to go to Hell. I am something quite different. I have chosen condemnation of my own free will, totally consciously, in my right mind, with my whole mortal flesh, with my five bodily senses and with the three powers of my soul. Half my body is already in Hell, and any minute now my adopted father down below will pull me down, and then, goodbye!... Don't interrupt me any more if you want me to answer your questions. My country was like a silent knot in my throat, a shroud wrapped around my body, and chains around my legs and my hands. And what is more, its people want to be, and I want to not be. They are dreamers who are building their homeland, and I refused to get down on my knees before my dead mother.

I said:

(--Here we also have a mother who is dying, and there are many of her children who do not want to kneel down before her.) / [Here we also have many like you].

He said:

--I know. You don't need me to explain your third question.

When he had said this, the two of us carried on in silence to the end of the noiseless street. We went on down by the Conga, the Quintana, Praterías, the Hospital Square --Montero Ríos could not be seen that day-- and under the Arch to turn back into the Acibechería. We spent some time under the arches near the upper part of the Cathedral terrace.

Stephen Dedalus started talking again:

[--I don't know, but I seem to feel --as I walk these streets-- something that is walking towards not being. What dream is hidden in these stones? Here I have found people who don't dream, and I don't think things are too bad for them. They haven't got wind in their heads, they get by perfectly well. You can talk to them, because they aren't shocked by anything.

I said:

--Are those the ones you like?

Stephen said:

--They do me no harm, they give me tranquility. You can die peacefully among them.

I said:

--You like them a lot ...

Stephen said:]

--You asked me earlier about my coming here in search of people of my own race while fleeing from those of my own country. Look. There in my country, my brothers walk in the direction of being. Here everything walks towards the not-being, thanks to the will and the work of my brothers here. These are my people. I come here to enjoy watching my own race committing suicide. I want to come here to die, because here everyone is running towards their ruin. I want to live my last days among the dead who no longer belong here, because theirs is my true homeland.

I said:

--That must be the homeland of the people who don't have a homeland.

Stephen said:

--My homeland is the homeland of those who do not have a homeland.

I said:

--Those who have no homeland are not worthy of love.

Stephen said:

(--I neither love them nor hate them. Heat is the property of both love and hate, and the property of pride is coldness. Heat and cold are two condradictory effects which are mutually exclusive, so nothing can be both hot and cold at the same time. As my nature is cold, I am unable to feel the heat of love or hate. The people here are not proud, so they don't offer any objective reason for either love or hate. They do things unconsciously, not out of pride. They are moved by the induction of the huge official machine, within whose magnetic field they live, even though they might not be directly connected to it, or else they are simply moved by mimicry, like monkeys. I enjoy being with them, and that is why) I go and have coffee with them in the Quiqui Bar.

I said:

--Why in that particular cafe?

Stephen said:

--Because the architecture is horrendous.

I said:

--It's a bit vulgar, that's all.

Stephen said:

--That's not true. That architecture is a fine example of counter-aesthetics.

I said:

--What do you mean by counter-aesthetics?

Stephen said:

--We must distinguish between counter-aesthetics and an-aesthetics. The first is unconscious and unintentional. It can be achieved by anyone (who comes back here after having made his fortune in America, or by any old eastern dictator, Mustapha Kemal, Amanullah or whatever his name might be. The second can only be achieved by natural geniuses) / [with money] like Le Corbusier. Those houses that Le Corbusier creates, which look like chests of drawers with the drawers open, are the architectural expression of an-aesthetics. Both of these are opposed to beauty. While an-aesthetics suppresses it, counter-aesthetics oozes with it. That is the case of the Quiqui Bar. There's a house in Preguntoiro Street which I like too, and a few others as well.

I said:

--Beauty (is the splendour of the Face of God reflected in His creatures.) / [is something that comes from God].

Stephen said:

--That is why men want to get rid of it for good... but let's go to the Cathedral. I enjoy taking risks. That's why I always walk around the stoup which contains the holy water. I would gladly drink from it, like Almanzor's horse, if it weren't so full of microbes...

I said:

But the devil takes pleasure in things that are dirty and decayed.

Stephen said:

--That too was in the past. The devil has now become very clean. That is the word.

I said:

--All the philosophers here use the word 'clean'.

Stephen said:

--I know. But it is a bathroom word which brings to mind taps, the toilet, the flush, the bidet and the toilet roll. It comes from the realm of practical materialism. The devil is unable to love things which are decayed, because decay represents the decomposition of matter, and also because, on the one hand decay produces new life, and on the other, through decay, just as through suffering, matter becomes spiritualized. This can be seen in the figure of Christ at Grünewald and in Valdés Leal's painting in the Hospital de la Misericordia in Seville...

We crossed over the square in Acibechería. We went into the Cathedral and walked around the Pórtico da Gloria, but Stephen did not even glance at the stone figures. He just turned towards the Epistle side and, staring at the bare wall, said:

--This is the space which belongs to St. Christopher. There isn't a St. Christopher here, but in Ourense you have one. St. Christopher is said to have a dog's face. The one that's going to come and get me has the face of a rabbit.

We walked towards the front of the Cathedral and went into the apse aisle. The little door that leads to the tomb was open, so we went in.

In front of the silver chest the lights burned, silent and still, noiselessly giving off light as if they were everlasting lamps. Stephen went quiet when we got inside, and turned as white as a sheet of paper. With a low, trembling voice, he said:

--No. Let's go. Let's get out of here. Quick.

We went out, and when he had recovered, he said:

--I can't stand it down there. There's something there which gives off a power which I can't bear. You can feel Eternity in there.

I said:

--What you feel is the eternity of the Spirit, and the eternity of the Earth. It shows that whatever the outcasts may do it is of no importance, because they will never be able to suppress all that is eternal in God's mind. The Earth is eternal in memory, and the soul belongs to the nature of memory which is its essence. The place of memory is divine Understanding, the truth of truths. There below we are given the promise that memory will be reincarnated, and it doesn't matter if today's souls are forgotten, because these souls are not always going to be in this world. Others will come, and some are already here, to announce the new times. Your time will pass, and perhaps even before you die you will see where you have gone wrong, and the error in your way.

Stephen had recovered by then, and he replied:

--My way has been chosen once and for all. It doesn't matter whether it is bad or good. If it is one or the other, neither you nor I know it. Whichever side I may turn to, I must go without remorse. What I can tell you with all certainty is that down there there is nothing more than a cave in which all memory and all hope are buried for ever. That is why, even though I flee from it, I love that cave, and have come here to stand in it with my own two feet.

I said:

--Even if that were the case, you forget the resurrection of the flesh and the restoration which must come to all things in the third Kingdom: the Apocatastasis.

He said:

--That sounds like Platonic doctrine. Didn't you say that we were unable to understand Plato?

I said:

--But we can understand St. Augustine.

He said:

--I say that the third Kingdom is going to be that of the Antichrist.

I said:

--That is a wish, not a conviction. I understand pefectly well why someone who chooses to go to Hell wants everyone else to go there too. That is exactly what Satan wants.

He said:

--He wants that because of the love he has inside him. Satan loves men with a love which is infinite, and he wants them all to be like him. The torments of Hell are the spasms of Satan's sadistic love. Right from the minute you start to serve him you start to suffer, because Satan is an endless source of love who always gives tirelessly. Pain is all he has, so pain is all he can give. I gave myself to him without having made a pact, I freely and graciously handed myself over to him. That doesn't mean that he didn't pay me. I carry his gift with me. He gave me eternal unease. I started to feel it when I was still a saint in the Island of Saints, and it takes me around the world, fleeing from the memory which accompanies me like a fairy, stabbing into my heart like the nail that Rosalía carried ... I'm afraid that this memory, like the cloth of a shroud, will not allow me to go into Hell. I'd like to leave all my blood, the whole substance of my cells behind me. I know a priest from near Ferrol who has studied the occult sciences. Perhaps he, through the power of his liberal black magic which is capable of anything, will be able to call up a vampire to drain my body and leave me like the mummy of that Pharaoh who, according to Eça de Queiroz and Dmitry Merezhkovsky went through the English customs being paid for as dried fish. It doesn't matter much anyway, there isn't a single atom of my body which is not made up of Gaelic substance. In any case, what if Hell doesn't exist? And what does it matter if Hell is in the centre of the earth, or if it's right here?

He then struck his hand against a column, and said:

--Grained stone is very hard, very compact and highly resistant. It's as if time does not exist for it. Time that gnaws, that undoes and that breaks things up. Everything else is easy on this earth, but nobody in the world is willing to make the effort needed to blow up these stones with dynamite. How many tons would be needed? It seems as if matter is rebelling against Satan. That's another difficult point which has me worried.

I said:

--You could destroy the stone grain by grain before you would be able to kill the spirit which lives within it and which keeps it standing tall. Pull down all these towers and all these columns and the spirit will raise up others. Burn all the books and the spirit will create new ones. Satan can do nothing against the spirit.

He said:

--The spirit itself fights against the spirit. Satan is a part of the spirit, and he rebelled against the spirit as a whole.

I said:

--Such an attempt at denial and rebellion is cursed and is destined to be lost in the very vacuum which it seeks.

He said:

--That is where his triumph lies.

I said:

--And there lies the foundation for the final peace.

Stephen Dedalus and I then made peace. Stephen dipped his fingers into the holy water and offered it to me, and I made the sign of the cross.

Some may consider what has been said by Stephen Dedalus to be apochryphal(, as if his declarations had been written by Stressemann). Dedalus himself will not deny them, because even though in this world we are all hypocrites when we talk about ourselves, Stephen Dedalus must not be a hypocrite unless he wants to stop being proud. In any case, although I cannot vouch for the empirical authenticity of these declarations, I can vouch for their absolute metaphysical necessity. We need do no more than bring together all we know about Stephen in order to be able to logically deduce with all critical certainty each and every one of the words attributed to him. Anyway, it's not my fault that I read from beginning to end the copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man which Dedalus himself made me buy that day in the bookshop in the Rúa Nova. It is also possible that Stephen may have spoken differently in Dublin or in Zurich. In Compostela he definitely spoke as I have written it down. In Compostela, the true Compostela, the Stephen we find in Portrait could not have spoken in any other way.

It is also true, and this is purely anecdotical, that, given the special circumstances of my life, on that day it was inevitable that I should meet Stephen. I mentioned earlier that Stephen's presence had been real within the third interior world, which means that it was within this world where I perceived him. This does not necessarily mean that he was not physically present in body and thought, in flesh and bones. This might well have been the case, even though it isn't a fact that I can prove empirically.

After all, he might not be as terrible as he likes to make out...

1929

Versión en español / Spanish version

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