Quevedo, a genius of good strain

In this world there are two kinds of people: those who have read La vida del Buscón and those who have not.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
17 March 2023 Friday 00:27
53 Reads
Quevedo, a genius of good strain

In this world there are two kinds of people: those who have read La vida del Buscón and those who have not. The former envy the latter because they will never be able to enjoy the discovery of the most mocking and ingenious Quevedo. They will be able, yes, to taste a thousand times the adventures and misadventures of Don Pablos, "prince of the slutty life" and teacher "in all kinds of mischief". But without the magic of the first time.

Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645), who signed the book, although he later became confused and did not include it in All Works to avoid trouble with the Inquisition, is a chosen one of the gods. His novel is written in the first person (like Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, whose protagonist, Holden Caulfield, is a modern day rogue). In addition to an Everest of literature, El Buscón is a hymn to the pleasures of the table.

To the pleasures of the table... as long as there was a table, of course. Quevedo himself, our Churchill of the Golden Age and one of the most quoted writers, said: "The rich eat, the poor are fed." The good Don Pablos, son of a barber thief who will be executed and of a matchmaker who will end up on the pyre, will meet hungry hidalgos, skeletal servants and priests and lawyers who seemed to live on air.

With Don Pablos we will travel through Segovia, the University of Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Seville... Through inns, mancebías, convents, prisons... We will try not to gut his story more than necessary, but it will leave us with honey on our lips because it promises a second part about his life in the Indies that, alas!, was never written. We will know, of course, that in the New World things were no better for our rogue than in Spain.

The first pearl of El Buscón is at its beginning: “I, ma'am, am from Segovia”. Did Quevedo, who is addressing a woman, already know that in the future they would be the overwhelming majority among the reading population? The author distills in that first paragraph a drop of brilliant humor that he will pour out with such generosity later. The protagonist talks about his father: "They say that he was of a very good strain, and as he drank, it is something to believe."

From there, the allusions to condumio (or, better, to the lack of condumio) will make readers laugh. And also to the readers, do not be offended your grace. The truth is, however, that Quevedo addresses himself in the prologue to the first edition "to the reader" and speaks face to face. "The author's name, you already know," he tells her with the certainty that his name will never be erased from the most famous of the works that unsuccessfully aspired to tiptoe.

We already talked here about the literary slaps against the jetas. Francisco Gómez de Quevedo Villegas y Santibáñez Cevallos, his full name, also charged against the cheeks who leafed through books at the bookseller's house and did not buy them, "a heavy thing for him and that should be rigorously pursued, because there are freeloads of books, like of lunches”. And it is "a great pity" that it is read for free "in pieces and several times".

Few descriptions can surpass that of the lawyer Cabra, a "blowgun cleric" and predecessor of the Carpanta created by José Escobar. His beards were "discolored with fear of the neighboring mouth, which, out of sheer hunger, seemed to threaten to eat them." He was missing many teeth (banished “by idlers and vagabonds”). His Adam's apple was so severed "that it seemed that he was going to look for something to eat, forced by necessity."

Poor Don Pablos ended up in that sinister house, feeding himself (so to speak) with a broth so clear that in front of one of those bowls "Narciso would be more in danger than at the fountain." (Narcissus, the mythological character who fell in love with his reflection in a pond and drowned). The lawyer distributed to his pupils "so little ram, that, between what stuck to their nails and what was left between their teeth, everything was consumed."

The cook unthreaded her rosary one day over the pot and “some said: ‘Black chickpeas! Certainly from Ethiopia. Others: 'Chickpeas in mourning! Who will have died?" Diego Coronel, to whom Don Pablos served as a servant, "was the first to get a bead and when he chewed it he broke a tooth." Master and servant, rescued in time, will go to the university with a sad warning: "It is necessary to eat little for the life of Alcalá"

Quevedo is a master of puns: "I didn't know anything about the sea, because all I had to do was eat turnips." Despite the fact that his pen did not tremble when it came to calling bread, bread and wine, wine, he was the Da Vinci of understatements (“I felt like eating, even though I had not eaten”) and descriptions (“ We entered a room so low that we walked like someone who receives blessings, head down").

"Example of vagabonds and a mirror of tightwads", our go-getter will learn to be invited by hosts he barely knows. And he will not be disgusted by the drink: he will live revelries in which "there was no memory of water, and even less will for it." Long sharp and short sighted (his glasses give his name to a type of glasses, known as pince-nez), the real father of Don Pablos was not a barber, but Quevedo. A genius.