|Prologue from the novel Locos
THIS... NOVEL IS WRITTEN IN
SHORT STORIES WITH THE PURPOSE OF facilitating the task of the reader. In this way the
reader does not have to begin the book near a given cover and finish it at a point nearer
the opposite cover. Each chapter being a complete story in itself, the reader may pick up
this book and begin it at the back and end it at the front, or he may begin it and end it
in the middle, depending on his mood. In other words, he can read it in any fashion
except, perhaps, upside down.
However, for the benefit of those in
whom the habit of reading a book in the usual manner is deeply set and painful to
eradicate, the pages have been numbered clearly and the stories arranged less clearly in a
conventional order which my friend, Dr. José de los Rios, and myself have found somewhat
Aside from this superficial
arrangement, I am not entirely to blame for committing this novel; the characters used in
it being, I believe, far more responsible than myself.
For some time I have been realizing
more and more clearly the way which characters have of growing independent, of rebelling
against their creator's will and command, of mocking their author, of toying with him,
dragging him through some unsuspected and grotesque path all their own, often entirely
contrary to that which the author has planned for them. This tendency is so marked in my
characters that it makes my work most difficult and places me in many a predicament. Such
rebellious spirit is shown in these people by a strong desire to become real beings. They
often steal into persons I have met and assume the most extraordinary attitudes according
to what they think true life is. They assume what in persons is called a pose and has
often ended a promising friendship for me. For them reality is what fiction is to real
people; they simply love it and make for it against my almost heroic opposition. As one of
"Characters have visions of true
life - they dream reality and then they are lost."
I should add: the author is lost.
And even as I write this prologue, I
realize how true this is, for I can find no connection with that individual and official
author of this book who once while in the mad, fantastic city of Toledo wandered one day
with his friend, Dr. José de los Rios, into the Café de los Locos (the Café of the
Crazy) where he witnessed things and saw people which in his playful imagination took the
shape of this book, who with the lack of conscience typical of an author advised an
acquaintance there to trade his insignificant, though real life in this world for the
still less significant and not at all real existence in these pages, who at the end of a
chapter flung a window open and let in real life to take the stuffy and fictional life of
the one character who was his childhood friend and who in a persistent confabulation with
the characters found in that Toledo café, is the abstract, but nevertheless real,
perpetrator of this experiment.
The result of this is a bunch of
contradictory characters inconsequent as their author and just as clumsy in their
performance. As their personality is a passing and unsteady thing that lasts at most a
book's length, they have lost respect for it and change it at will, because they have a
faint idea that life is abrupt and unexpected.
Their knowledge of reality is vague and
imprecise. Sometimes I have given a character the part of a brother or a son, and in the
middle of the action he begins to make love to his sister or his mother, because he has
heard that men sometimes make love to women. Another character
appears as a child in a situation that
takes place when he should be a mature man, because he attributes his persistent failure
to understand the situation to immaturity typical of childhood. Again, another character,
who has the part of a chicken, begins to bark in the middle of her lines, because she has
seen a dog she likes. Time and space do not exist for these people, and that naturally
ruins my work completely.
By the end of this book my characters
are no longer a tool for my expression, but I am a helpless instrument of their whims and
absurd contretemps. As I think of this I turn to the end of this volume where I find
"... every limb in me acted
regardless of my will..."
What better example of my helpless
In short, my characters have taken
seriously the saying that "truth is stranger than fiction" and I have failed in
my attempts to convince them of the contrary.
And now I want to express my gratitude
in particular to Dr. José de los Rios for his assiduous cooperation, timely advice, and
for having so pertinently contributed with the manuscript of my friend Garcia, entitled Students,
and I also want to thank my characters in general for their anarchic collaboration,
seldom being disdainfully obedient to my will, often going off on their own track and
doing things, I regret to admit, much better than I could have done them.
After this, and considering that the
action of this book develops mainly in Spain, a land in which not the thought nor the
word, but the action with a meaning - the gesture - has grown into a national specialty, I
must beg the reader to expect nothing but that, which in this case, and due to the
unreliable nature of the characters and myself, conveys no meaning at all but only empty
As a contrast and a tacit reproach to
this most impolite animation of the characters, the reader should exercise a certain
amount of composure and under no circumstances show signs of the slightest surprise at
whatever takes place. Sometimes the reader will find that an important character appears
in a very inadequate dim light and in some cases he may entirely fade away. In other
instances an apparently obscure character will assume a decided importance and almost
conduct himself with all the resolution of a first-rate hero. Sometimes the threads of the
book break suddenly and hang limp from my fingertips upon an abyss of futility; at other
times they are joined together, strengthened and then bound about my subdued wrists into
some sort of fatal and inevitable finality.
One must bear in mind that these people
are creating their own life and standards, and are still novices at the game. In other
words, the reader is expected to sit back and watch this procession of strange people and
distorted phenomena without even a critical eye. To look for anything else, or to take
seriously this bevy of irresponsible puppets and the inconsistency of the author, would
not be advisable, as by doing so and imagining things that might lend themselves to
misinterpretation, the reader would only disclose, beneath a more or less entertaining
comedy of meaningless gestures, the vulgar aspects of a common tragedy.
New York, 1928.
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