Galdós’ Madrid

  • Galdós' Madrid. An ilustrated cultural map
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Galdós' Madrid. An ilustrated cultural map "It’s a chilly January in 1919. Galdós, who has gone blind and has trouble walking and moving around, feels several arms straining around him. The next thing he knows, he’s being lifted straight up and taken to a recently unveiled monument: it’s a statue of him sculpted by Victorio Macho, which his friends have erected with great affection in El Retiro Park. Nobody wanted to be outdone: the City Council contributed three thousand pesetas; the Academy, one thousand; and peers such as Margarita Xirgu and the Quintero brothers, twenty-five pesetas each. When he perceives the presence of the cold stone next to him, the arms of his people strain even more to hold him up as he uses his right hand to feel the features of his face. He can make out an aquiline nose, a bulky moustache –from another time perhaps– and eyes as lifeless as his, although in this case it’s an effect sculpted into the stone. From his own eyes, a tear falls, arousing thunderous applause from the onlookers. One year later, thirty thousand people will accompany his coffin to La Almudena Cemetery, where he remains buried to this day.

A century has passed since then, and one may wonder why his friends payed for and erected a statue in his honour. Why did half of Madrid head to the streets to bid him farewell? The answer is simple: because Galdós had been part of their world. He had engaged with the common folk, the streets, trams, ordinary conversation. With taverns, cafés, churches and literary and scientific associations. With trades, beliefs, families, dogmas. He had kept company with government leaders, shopkeepers, aristocrats and thieves. He had engaged with you and me. Galdós embraced people’s ordinariness, regardless of their status or social class. It was this ordinary reality that inspired him to write several of the most extraordinary paragraphs in the history of Spanish literature. And it was this fellow feeling that inspired the affection that so many held him in". Carlos Mayoral

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