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I fear that by so doing I will unravel my personality, and impersonal people have so wickedly taken revenge on me for not having been as impersonal as they, that I am hesitant.
But a personality that is born out of struggle and pain has the right to speak and be heard, because it has the conscience to be altruistic and exemplary. It is good to set a persuasive example for those who divorce themselves from reality and a convincing example for those who abuse reality; for the former, so that they may understand reality before trying to change it; for the latter, so that they may modify their tactics and convince themselves that whether for or against them, those who know how to fight know how to win.
The world has defeated me many times, as many times as I have attempted to do good deeds with my pen, my word, my actions, or my life. I have never become discouraged, and each time my principles have. If my austere personality, which some despise out of the terror of being compared to it and which others fear being erroneously compared to, has arisen by contrast out of this self-denial, then my anguished personality, which in the name of duty goes impassively seeking duties to fulfill, has come out of the continuous defeat.
Today, perhaps close to leaving this beloved part of the Americas, where joy has been as instructive as grief, I want the young people to have a good example in the story of this book, and a good friend in the person who stands out in it. This book has been tragic for me. For this reason I love it so, for it is the only one of my literary works which I look upon with pride and can read without the heartfelt sorrow I feel for the works in my imagination.
When I first published this book in Madrid, at the end of , I was a child twice over: once, because of my age, and again, because of the exclusive idealism in which I was living.
The problem of my country and her liberty, the problem of glory and love, the ideal of marriage and family, the ideal of human progress and individual perfection, the notion of truth and justice, and the notion of personal virtue and universal goodness were no less intellectual or emotional incentives for me; they were the result of all the activity of my.
And as my life did not have close connections with reality-which was only perceptible to me in the historical or social movements which either justified my ideal or conformed to it-each encounter with brutal realities was a disenchantment, a disillusion, a disappointment.
In opposition to Goethe and F6scolo, and Byron and his imitator Espronceda-the only ones of those corruptors of sensibility and understanding with which I was familiar at the time1-Fate had placed the great moralists, from Manou, the Chinese, to Socrates, the Greek; from Jesus of Nazareth to Silvio Pelico of Lombardy; from Marcus Aurelius the emperor, to Zimmermann the thinker. Since having been surprised, to the point of astonishment, that in the regimen of their abilities and lives almost all men more spontaneously follow those corrupters of reason than these purifiers of conscience, today I am only surprised by the easy preference I gave in my reason and conscience to difficult advice over easy advice.
But I took the advice which was difficult to follow; I was ashamed of the false tears cried by those who pretend to have feelings; I believed myself to have a responsible conscience, and I felt that making my conscience responsible for my existence was a greater and more worthy action than ceding my responsibility to a society ever more ignorant than perverse; I told myself that since reason should not entail illusions, nor should it entail disillusions, that only those who harbor hopes are the ones who become disappointed, that only those who are caught up in dreams are the ones who become disenchanted, that life is a physical, moral, and intellectual effort, not the charm of desires, the illusion of feelings, or the fallacy of reason, and drawing on my pain instead of being hindered by it, and subordinating the problem of happiness to that of duty, and preferring the struggle of intelligence to the triumph of the heart, I immersed myself in the study of history.
Raynal, Robertson, de Pradt, Prescott, Irving, and Chevalier introduced me to America at the moment of the conquest, and I cursed the conqueror. A trip to my homeland presented her to me dominated, and I cursed the dominator. Patriotism, which until then had been a feeling, rose up in me as resolute will.
But if my political homeland was the unfortunate Island on which I was born, my geographical homeland was in all the Antilles, her sisters in geography and misfortune, and it was also in liberty, their redeemer.
If the Mother Country freed herself from her despots, would she not free the Antilles from her despotism? Was working for freedom in Spain not working for freedom in the Antilles? And if liberty is nothing more than the practice of reason and reason is an instrument-and nothing more than an instrument-of truth, was working for liberty not using reason to tell Spain the truth?
Rada y Delgado, a very well-known poet and author in Spain, confusing a non-existent literary calling in me with my ability to think, which he had seen in me and respected since , came to visit me in Madrid after I had returned from my Island. He reminded me of two psychological studies which I had read to him in and , and asked me whether I had any new work.
And his request was so friendly, that I regretted having deceived him, and not finding a better way to reconcile myself with him and with Truth, I immediately resolved to turn the lie into a reality. I handed him a book that was lying around, begged him to wait, and leaving him alone in one of my two rooms, I went into the other. I took my pen, ink, and paper, and I wrote. When I told him that what I had read him had just been written, the surprise he on his face was my reward and my incentive.
When the poet-author had gone, after having committed me to going to his house every night to read to him the journal entries that I had written during the day, not for a single moment did I fear that I would not keep my word with him: the book was written in my mind, and it was impossible for it not to follow my orders; it would come out.
What I did fear was being unable to put into the book, which was already real in my imagination, the mass of thought, feeling, and will stored up for entire years in my spirit.
What I did fear was the sudden transformation which had just occurred in me. In my conscience, life had meant nothing more than the realization of thoughts, but by thinking secretly and in the solitude of my inner thoughts, I did not commit myself to anything, while in thinking for everyone and with the far-reaching. Each one of the ideas that poured out in the book would be a promise that I was obliged to keep.
Either I kept them, and the book was something more than a work of art, or I did not keep them, and the book was useless and should not be written. A logical man! Who is capable of conceiving this ideal without trembling throughout every inch of his being in the process? To be it all in one lifetime-sentiment and fantasy in youth; reason and activity in maturity; harmony of thoughts and feelings in old age; conscience in all ages-is to impose a tremendous task upon oneself; a task which is tremendous not so much because of the moral strength needed but because it is incomprehensible, and therefore, impossible for others to appreciate.
What is admirable in a life is that which is not admired, because what is nonessential to it is essential to other lives. In those lives which produce the highest level of an ability or passion in a man, the exclusive ability and absorbing passion are everything.
That is to say, that what is admired by his contemporaries and posterity is exactly the opposite of what a man aspiring to be a complete man wants and seeks and attempts to be. In other words, what is nonessential for him will be essential for others, and while the others enjoy the brilliance of glory, power, and adventure, loving their country, science, art, right, truth, and beauty in themselves, the man who aspires to what is ideal condemns himself to obscurity, and in obscurity, and without the incentive of glory, power, and adventure, he will have to make all the efforts that the others make individually in order to excel in the partial development of a passion or ability.
To be a logical man is not an inaccessible ideal, a futile endeavor, or an impossible task, given that a man has within himself all the intellectual and moral means necessary to normally pass from imagination and feeling to the rationalization of what is imagined and felt so that he may realize it, and to pass from realization to synchronization of his abilities, subjecting his entire life to his conscience; but if there is ever a time when the task is difficult, the endeavor difficult, and the ideal difficult, it is the time when intellectual, moral, political, and social monstrosities, coinciding with the renewal of faith in religion, science, politics, and art, have upset the nature of things, altering its basic elements.
Less clearly than I see it today, at that time I surmised the formidable responsibility I would commit myself to if I made a pledge to the world with my first production; it was like a touchstone for the rest of my life: I feared the responsibility and I dodged it.
But after having found the path which I had sought with so much secret anguish, it was not possible for me refuse to follow it; now that I knew how to attract the attention of my island and her Mother Country toward the truths which had filled my reason with new light, it was not. I needed power so I could immediately serve my forgotten, abused, and ridiculed country. It was there that I had conceived the better part of the ideas I wanted to express, from there I had brought the capital idea I dedicated myself to from then on.
Why hesitate? My life would be charged with confirming or negating whether it was a duty to rise up through successive efforts to the painful category of logical man, and whatever my ideas, the world did not have the right to demand that I subject the conduct of my life to them, nor did I have the duty to make that commitment to the world.
But was it or was it not a duty to launch a cry of liberty for my enslaved country? There was no room for doubt; it was a duty. I lowered my head and set myself to conscientiously fulfilling it. The more conscientiously I fulfilled it, the more austere and harsh it became.
How to tell the proud Mother Country that her entire history in the Americas was iniquitous? How to make the Antilles understand that if it was still good to wait, it was already useless to wait? How to bring. How to make writers and Spanish critics applaud a new book and a new writer who dared to think out loud what nobody even dreamed of whispering in. If duty was fulfilled austerely and the book corresponded to duty, the Republic of Spanish Letters would shroud it in silence and the Spanish government would oppress it.
Was it not better to write an inoffensive book? I was not after literary glory. If this book earned it for me, then it would be the last; and if I was denied fame because of what the book represented, it would still be the last. The book was necessary as a preliminary to that work, and to keep writing books was to keep losing time.
So as not to lose any more, it was necessary to write it without further ado. It had been an expressed condition, imposed by me and accepted by him, that no one would attend the readings and no one would know about what I was writing. I met the imposed condition so strictly, that even my closest friends, the same ones who often interrupted me in my work, did not find out that I was becoming the author of a new book until months later, when they saw the announcement of the book on public posters.
Therefore, my surprise was so great when, on one of the evenings dedicated to reading to Rada, I found him talking about the book with a gentleman I did not know.
Once I was introduced to him and the necessary formalities were exchanged, I became withdrawn and would have left the manuscript in the bottom of my pockets if Rada had not begged me to read. I was reading grudgingly, because the presence of a third party bothered me, when the gentleman, pounding on a table and commenting on the passage I had just read, shouted:.
The warning had been persuasive. If one single Spaniard, and a Spaniard as illustrious and educated as he, was so deeply wounded and so violently protested about just one of the many truths sprinkled throughout the book, then what protests, what complaints would not befall it when all Spaniards read it?
I did not hear the persuasive warning. On the one hand, it provoked a conflict of conscience in me: if that was the truth, then I should tell it.
On the other hand, it flattered my pride; I had the power to effectively punish with my pen the haughty ones who chained and enslaved my homeland. But since this event palpably presented me with one of the obstacles which I had stumbled upon through induction when meditating on the significance the book could have for my life and its objective, during my solitary walks I, once again traced the plan for the work and succeeded in clearly imagining what I wanted.
One of the aspects was born out of the possibility of a change in the internal and colonial policy in Spain. I fervently accepted it in advance and predicted fraternity between America and Spain, and even announced the idea of a federation with the Antilles. The other aspect was born out of the conditions for social life in the Antilles. I tried to present it in its entirety, in all its grief and anguish, in a palpable personification, in a youth thirsty for truth, who in order to know truth, had to leave his country time and time again; a youth thirsty for justice, who in order to imbibe his avid conscience in justice, had to put his well-being, his fate, and the fate of all he loved, after ideals which do not torment youths in societies which lead themselves.
From an artistic viewpoint, few conceptions could be as pathetic; from a realistic viewpoint, few truths could be more moving than that represented by Bayocin, for whom the most painful sacrifices were necessary, the most absurd situations obligatory, and the most horrendous torments logical, not because he was a monstrous character, but rather because he was an, uncorrupted individual who fought against a monstrous society.
Who was the tormentor of that victim with the most ardent altruistic feelings, the most human misfortunes, the most natural duty, and the most feverish passion for justice, except the nation which, by abolishing the rights of the society it enslaved, made the normal development of a powerful character impossible?
Why, except out of his hatred for injustice, except out of his need to cry out against it, did Bayocin break all the laws that make life pleasant? Why, except to dedicate himself entirely and exclusively to the duty of liberating his country, did Bayocin stifle the purest feelings, smother the most gratifying desires, and sacrifice lesser duties, his love, his happiness, and the love and happiness of a virginal child?
With the two aspects which I had perceived thus linked in a logical chain of ideas, it seemed to me that the entire book, all its intentions, and all its implications, would fall like fulminating accusations against Spain.
Once Spain was accused by an avenging pen, the conscience of the world would condemn her. Once she was accused by convincing patriotism, all the patriots of the Antilles would curse her. There is only one step from a curse to an explosion!
I had taken the first step, and I could take the second. The first depended on me; the second was the mystery of time: I had waited for the first, and I could wait for the second. As the object and the subject of the work became more clearly and surely defined, Rada became more demanding.
He did not want to consent to the absolute secrecy that I had imposed upon him, and he insisted on having with him other judges of the work he had watched grow with such affection, and on a night of nice surprises for me, he set a friendly trap for me. In his study he had gathered together three or four of his friends, who declared themselves mine immediately after I finished reading what I had brought with me. I had with me the part of the book in which Bayocin begins to wage the battle between his life and his duty.
From that night on, I read before a jury. Rada, Entrala, and Miralles formed it, and Miralles, Entrala, and Rada would have witnessed the conclusion of the book which had been born out of one person and which had taken form before other people, if one little petty thing, to which I have grown too accustomed to be surprised by the effect it produced, had not happened.
I gave the excuse of how far I still had to go to reach the end of the book. He insisted, and I told him no. Why did I not want to be presented to the Republic of Letters by a man well-known in it, and why did I not want the authority of his name to authorize mine? I wanted the work to correspond in form and in depth, as a whole and down to the last detail, to its objective and its title. Its objective was anti-Spanish, and it seemed inconsistent to me that a Spaniard should sponsor the book.
Its title read: Journal collected and published by E.
Prologue, First Edition of “La Peregrinacion De Bayoan”
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La Peregrinacion De Bayoan