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Misericordia by Benito Pérez-Galdós

Misericordia (1897)

by Benito Pérez-Galdós

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Spanish (6)  English (4)  All languages (10)
Showing 4 of 4
This is an odd but touching Spanish Realist novel from 1897 that looks at the plight of the poor. Benina is the main character and is the loyal servant of a Dona Paca who has squandered her money and now lives in utter poverty. Benina remains loyal to her and takes care of her by begging on the streets and also keeping her spirits up. In order to not shame Dona Paca, Benina lies about where the money comes from, inventing the story that she has a job working for a Priest, Don Remualdo. Benina takes in several other people, seemingly a magnet for the unfortunate. Every pesata she comes upon is used to make others happy, though she does always reserve a small percentage for her personal stash. Towards the end of the book, the fictional Don Remualdo actually shows up at Dona Paca's home and shares that she has inherited an annuity from a distant relative. Dona Paca immediately falls into her old spending ways and also throws Benina aside.

The book explores poverty, compassion, and loyalty through some great characters. I did feel that I would have gotten more out of it if I had a better background in Spanish culture and history. Also, I get the feeling that the dialects the different characters use were important in the original Spanish and probably didn't translate very well. I did enjoy it overall, though. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Oct 2, 2014 |
For those of you who don't know it, Benito Pérez Galdós was possibly the most important novelist of the Realism in Spain - he's our very own Gustave Flaubert. You probably don't know this, because he very nearly received the Nobel prize, but ultimately didn't. Something to do with politics.

At any rate, some of his best novels draw a very interesting outline of the lives of the middle and lower classes in 19th century Madrid. This is one of them.

The story revolves around Benina, the old servant of an Andalusian lady who now lives on the verge of poverty. Benina loves her dearly, and uses every resource she has to make sure that she gets something to eat at the end of the day. To this purpose she walks up and down the poorest neighborhoods in Madrid, where her path crosses with a great variety of characters - many of which she ends up helping as well, with what little she has to offer.

Mind you, Benina's not a classical heroine. She doesn't practice charity in the name of religion, or pities herself for her misfortunes. She's a brave woman with a great sense of humor, and she does what she does because she's strong and street-smart, and somebody's got to take care of these poor bastards right?

Galdós was famous for having a special sensitivity for popular language, which was his strongest descriptive tool. This is specially true in this particular case. Benina talks in a very characteristic way - fast and amusing and so very local. It makes this book taste of Madrid, which I guess is the whole point of a Realist novel. 5/5.
( )
  beabatllori | Apr 2, 2013 |
Ver mi resumen y comentario en Pequeña Biblioteca Comentada, Misericordia. ( )
  gefox | Jul 22, 2009 |
Por el momento es mi favorita de Galdós. Un relato entre tierno e irónico (cruel a veces, incluso) sobre la miseria, moral y real, de un grupo de personas. El final es una lección de humildad, a la vez que una crítica feroz a la hipocresía humana. ( )
1 vote Superflicka | Oct 10, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Benito Pérez-Galdósprimary authorall editionscalculated
Salis, Charles DeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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