Haz clic en el lápiz rojo para ideas en inglés relacionados con los acontecimientos de la novela. También
hay páginas sobre los personajes y los temas.
LOS ACONTECIMIENTOS
LOS PERSONAJES
1. La detención de Da Barca
2. Cuando Herbal mató al pintor y se
llevó el lápiz
Herbal
Da Barca
Marisa
3. Los consejos del pintor a Herbal
4. La misa
La monja
Dombodán
Pepe Sanchez
Hermana
de Herbal
El cuñado
de Herbal
El abuelo
de Marisa
5. Herbal siguiendo a Da Barca y Marisa
6. Da Barca habla sobre los derechos de las mujeres
LOS TEMAS
7. Da Barca en el tribunal cuando defiende a Dombodán
8. Cuando Herbal se acuerda de su niñez
El amor
La guerra
El poder
9. Las relaciones entre Herbal, su hermana y el cuñado.
10. Los asesinatos de los presos.
La religión
La memoria
Los morales
La violencia
La política
La obsesión
11. El pintor dibujando las caras de los presos.
12. Herbal muere al final del libro
1.) Da Barca’s arrest……………
Shows us political climate – People being arrested for having wrong ideas.
Remember the video we watched on Franco’s Spain about people being shot when the war broke
out for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Living in a time of paranoia. The man whose
father had shot for being a nationalist.
Shows us that Da Barca was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Galicia was one of first places
to fall under nationalists’ command.
Herbal – Herbal is clearly a bit crazy here. He’d already been following Da Barca around and
building up a profile of him. It’s up to you to decide whether he was doing this as revenge for Da
Barca being in love with Marisa or whether he was simply following orders.
He doesn’t understand why the women are attacking him and screaming – he aims his gun at them
(at their stomachs!!!). He is psychologically unhinged? Like many of the people in Spain during the
Civil War.
Also shows Herbal’s predilection for violence – he is the one who knocks Da Barca to the floor.
Quotations……
“Cuando lo del alzamiento, llevaron a los republicanos más significativos a la cárcel. Y también a otros menos
destacados, pero que siempre coincidían con los apuntados en la misteriosa lista negra del Sargento Landesa”
“Pero lo que más les cabreó fue cuando salieron las costureras de un taller que había enfrente….Los maldecían,
les escupían”
“Y entonces me volví hacia las costureras y les apunté a la barriga. Y de no ser por el Sargento Landesa, no sé lo
que haría”
“Y entonces solté lo que me roía por dentro. ¿Qué carajo le véis a este cabrón? Putas! Que sois todas unas
putas!!
El lápiz del carpintero - ¿Qué piensas de…..?
1.) La detención de Da Barca……………
Creo que el incidente con la detención de Herbal nos demuestra que Herbal es capaz
de actos de violencia muy chocantes. La manera con la que pega a Da Barca y su
tratamiento de las mujeres sastres nos enseña que Herbal puede ser una persona
violente que no duda en amenazar a incluso las mujeres.
También demuestra que en España durante la guerra civil, había muchas personas
que preferían seguir los órdenes en lugar de utilizar su propia voluntad. Esto
demuestra que aunque había algunas personas como Da Barca que tenían una
conciencia y un sentido de moralidad, también había muchas personas que cometían
asesinatos y otros actos de violencia sin pensar en las consecuencias y sin cuestionar
los motivos por estos actos.
Una cosa que le molestó mucho a Herbal era el comportamiento de las mujeres que
defendían a Da Barca. Herbal no entendió que Da Barca era muy popular por causa
de sus opiniones liberales sobre los derechos de las mujeres. Vemos la diferencia
entre los que apoyaban al movimiento de Franco que estaban en contra de la libertad
de expresión y los derechos de las mujeres; y los que luchaban contra Franco que
eran más liberales y menos violentes.
Otra cosa interesante que aprendemos es que Da Barca no quería aparecer en
público al comienzo de la guerra civil porque había mucho peligro para los que tenían
diferentes opiniones políticas. Vemos que en España durante este periódo de
conflicto había mucha paranoia entre los dos grupos y nadie se sentía segura.
2.) Herbal killing the painter and taking the pencil
This is a crucial part of the novel as it brings up some important questions about Herbal’s actions
& character. He does commit a murder but is he being merciful? He knows that the fascists would
have tortured the painter. Is this Herbal’s mercy or just justification for a cold-blooded murder.
Certainly Herbal feels some sort of guilt – he hopes that the painter understands.
We see the fascists laughing and joking about what they’re going to do to him. We also see that
when they take him out of the prison, Herbal tells him he can go free (instead of telling him the
falangists are there) Another thing we learn is that Herbal was doing this as a favour to the prison
governor. All these different things are there to put doubt into our mind over whether Herbal is
commiting a murder or an act of mercy.
Significantly he then takes the pencil – we can only guess why he does this but it changes his life
and we see in Chapter 2 (in the present time 1990s) that he still has the pencil in his ear.
There are many interpretations as to what the pencil represents: memory, conscience or guilt.
One interpretation is that the pencil represents the untold stories of the civil war (remember that
Spain had this ‘pact of forgetting’) and that by wearing the pencil, Herbal is remembering all those
left dead and unremembered by Franco’s harsh regime.
Quotations……
“Eso fue lo que yo sentí ante el pintor. Cometí muchas barbaridades, pero cuando me encontré ante el pintor, murmuré
por dentrio que lo sentía mucho”
“Quiero creer que él entendió, que adivinó que yo lo hacía para ahorrarle tormentos”
“Y luego me acordé del lápiz. El lápiz que llevaba en la oreja. Este lápiz”
“Los de la partida, los paseadores …se cabrearon mucho. Primero lo miraron con sorpresa, como diciendo qué burro, se
le escapó el tiro, no se mata así”
“Habían pensado alguna maldad. Quizá cortarle los cojones en vivo y metérselos en la boca. O cercenarle las manos
como hiceron con el pintor Francisco Miguel”
“El director de la prisión…le había pedido aquella noche de asalto que los acompañase…Y le pidió muy por lo bajo: Que
no sufra, Herbal”
3. The painter’s advice to Herbal
Whenever the painter is with Herbal, Herbal is much calmer. We need to decide what we think
Herbal does different when he is with the painter. First of all, he definitely likes to talk to the painter:
he feels more at ease, less likely to commit atrocities or act badly. Think how he acts when the
painter disappears to find his son (tricks the prisoner into thinking he will see a naked lady / spits into
Da Barca’s cell). The painter teaches Herbal about art and culture – he speaks to him like someone
who needs to be shown a different perspective (Could this be linked to the idea of the pencil
representing Spain’s defeated? Giving them a voice?) Remember that Herbal feels he is able to
describe and see things better, even to draw things. The Painter even helps him to forge a signature
to move Da Barca.
The painter is instrumental in Herbal saving Da Barca. He twice wakes Herbal up to save Da Barca:
(Wrong bullet in gun & Shooting him in neck) He also gets him moved to La Coruña. The painter
clearly believes Daniel is something special as he has tried to save him many times and painted him
as the only smiling saint during his depiction of the Pórtico de la Gloria. The other prisoners are
painted as figures of desperation.
Think carefully about the relationship between Herbal and the Painter. Why do you believe that
Herbal becomes ill again when the painter leaves him? Is it significant that he dies shortly after
giving up the pencil to María.
Another thing that may be important is that, in the first instance in La Coruña, Herbal is reluctant to
go to save Da Barca. It’s the painter that convinces him. Don’t underestimate the effect the pencil
has on him – Remember how he describes his feelings changing as soon as he picks it up.
Quotations……
“ El difunto le dijo ‘Coge la orden, ahora la pluma del director…No te preocupes, yo te ayudo con la caligrafía”
“Cuando volvían en el coche de pasear al pintor…él notó por primera vez aquel trastorno en la cabeza. Como si le
hubiese entrado gente”
“La voz de la que cabeza dictaba como un apuntador. Diles que ya no está aquí, que casualmente lo han llevado a La
Coruña esta tarde”
“Todos los días se acercaba a la celda de Da Barca y escupía por el ventanuco de la puerta…..Fue entonces cuando notó
el acomodo del afunto en la oreja. Un milagroso alivio”
4.) The Mass
Mass is a Catholic religious ceremony. It is turned into farce by the prisoners’ behaviour. The
priest uses it to criticise them – he talks about the ‘Victory of God’, he calls Franco’s fight a
‘crusade’ clearly showing that the Church is on Franco’s side. He reads a letter from the Pope
commending Franco’s victory. This shows us the historical context and the role of the church
in the civil war.
He calls the prisoners ‘fallen angels’ in the hands of the devil. He tells them to repent and that
God hates sin. He says the worst sin is the ‘sin of history’ He says this is the sin Spain has
been guilty of during the last years. He refers to the victors as ‘God’s chosen ones’. The
guards don’t know what to do when Da Barca and the prisoners start to cough.
Finally we see the Prison director telling the priest to end his ceremony before somebody
gets killed. They end by shouting ‘Spain’ 3 times; although only the guards shout ‘One’ and ‘
Great’ whereas the prisoners shout ‘Free’.
Think about how the attitude of the church must have alienated so many in Spain (siding with
the rich and powerful instead of the poor) but also remember that many people fighting with
the republicans (communists/anarchists) hated the church and even massacred priests and
destroyed churches.
Quotations……
“ Hoy celebramos la victoria de Diós”!
“Bendecía la guerra que llamaba cruzada y los instaba al arrepentamiento, ángeles caídos en el bando de Belcebú y a
pedir la protección divina para el caudillo Franco”
“El capellán leyó el telegrama que había recibido Franco del Papá Pío Xii el 31 de Marzo ‘Alzando nuestro corazón a
Diós, damos sinceras gracias a Su Excelencia por la victoria de la España católica”
5.) Herbal following Da Barca and Marisa
Again this is a complex issue. If we look at it on the surface, we have a triangle of love,
hatred and obsession. Herbal was infatuated with Marisa from childhood: he calls her the
‘most beautiful woman in the world’. It may well be that this is why he chose to follow Da
Barca as he is jealous of his relationship with Marisa. Certainly Herbal’s commander is
surprised at the size of the dossier he produces on Da Barca. Herbal finds it hard to
understand the passion of Da Barca and Marisa’s relationship. He says he followed Da Barca
like a hunting dog – Da Barca was ‘his man’.
There are however far more questions related to this: 1.) Herbal has never experienced love
or affection except perhaps for his sister – Is it his fault how he feels?; 2.) As the novel wears
on, he follows Da Barca instead of Marisa to Valencia and La Coruña – Why is this? And 3.)
At the end of the book, he tells María that ‘ They were the best thing that ever happened to
me’
He seems to find it hard to talk directly to either Marisa or Da Barca. He only talks briefly to
Marisa to tell her Da Barca has been moved to La Coruña. He only talks to Da Barca (instead
of ordering him) at the end when Da Barca tells him his illness relates to the heart. Also he is
reluctant to let them touch in the prison and is mystified when Sargento García allows Da
Barca and Marisa to share a wedding night.
Quotations……
“ El Doctor Da Barca tenía novia y esa mujer era la más hermosa del mundo”
“Durante una larga temporada, fui su sombra. Seguí sus pasos como un perro de caza. Era mi hombre”
“Le venía siguiendo las huellas desde hacía tiempo no porque se lo hubiesen mandado sino porque le salía de dentro. Él
odiaba al Doctor Da Barca”
6. Da Barca speaking about Women’s rights
This is the author’s way of showing us the attitudes that were common around this time. Da
Barca’s views are revolutionary: giving women the vote, making them equal etc
The 1931 Constitution granted the vote to women. Of course these liberal policies were the cause of much
of the tension within Spain and lead to the outbreak of civil war. Spain was therefore one of the first
among South European states to enfranchise women. In 1932, laws on divorce and civil marriage were
passed. Women were accorded full legal status ; abortion was legalised, the crime of adultery was
abolished and legal measures ensuring women's equal access to the labour market were taken. All of this
was taken away by Franco’s Catholic dictatorship. Women returned to traditional roles and were more or
less controlled by their husbands.
Da Barca makes a comparison between traditional views of women being 2 nd class citizens and the
refusal of the ancient scholars to see the King Bee was a Queen Bee. This episode is shown in Chapter 1
as we see Marisa remembering how she first met him.
Quotations……
“ Era un acto republicano en el que se debatían si las mujeres deben o no tener el derecho a votar”
“Se decía por ejemplo que las abejas venían del vientre de los bueyes muertos. Y así durante siglos y siglos. Y todo esto,
¿sabe por qué? Porque no eran capaces de ver que el rey era una reina.
7. Da Barca defending Dombodán in the court.
Da Barca is again showing his selflessness by using his voice in his trial to defend an
innocent man. He pretends to be Dombodán and Da Barca is deeply affected by the deaths
of both Dombodán and Pepe Sanchez. Dombodán is a simpleton who is caught in the wrong
place at the wrong time. He is condemned to death after this even though everyone knows he
has neither the brains nor the physical ability to be any harm.
This annoys the judge who tells Da Barca to shut up. We are also told that the nature of the
trial means that Da Barca’s right to speak is not really important and that his guilt and death
sentence are inevitable. As the judge is so annoyed that he embarrass the court like this, he
immediately sentences him to death.
Quotations……
“Se subió al camión y ellos lo dejaron ir porque siempre iba adonde iban los mineros. Como una mascota. Espera su
ejecucción en el pasillo. Ni siquiera entendía lo que iban a matar.
“ Mi caso podría ser descrito como un retraso mental”
“y los mineros me aceptaron como amigo. Me invitaban en la taberna…. Y bebía y bailaba como si fuera el más bravo de
la tajo. Adonde iban ellos, iba allí yo. Nunca me llamaron tonto. Eso soy yo señores del tribunal, Un inocente. Dombodán.
8. Herbal remembering his past
This has had a profound affect on Herbal. He has always felt ashamed of
his youth. He describes being very ill and his father’s abuse. He is
beginning to become obsessed by Marisa; although in some forms she is
also a source of happiness to him.
He feels strong affection for his sister as well who he describes as a blonde
blue-eyed treasure. One of his other memories is of his Uncle the trapper
killing the fox.
He describes how his father banged his head against the church to drum
some sense into him or how he was dipped into tobacco water until he
almost drowned to cure him of a disease. We should take into account
Herbal’s other memories: his involvement in the miners’ revolt in Asturias
and his final, painful meeting with his father who calls him a killer. Herbal’s
childhood has meant he has a strong dislike for his home village and
leaving it was the best thing he did.
Quotations……
“Su padre le dio una bofetada ‘¿Quién va a comprar este bicho?’
“Habría que venderte a ti, si es que alguien te quisiera”
“Lo que se dice salir de la aldea de verdad , lo había hecho por primera vez cuando el servicio militar. Para él aquello
había sido un respiro.
9. The relationship between Herbal, his sister and his brother-in-law
One of Herbal’s few positive memories of his past is his sister. Unfortunately she is now
married to a fascist who regularly abuses her. Herbal asks his Sergeant for a transfer to keep
an eye on his brother-in-law’s behaviour. We see him sharing dinner with them and he
describes his sister as covering her bruises. His brother-in-law treats her with complete
disrespect: ordering her around and demanding she does as he says whilst he is drunk. He
bosts of having stolen a pig from an old woman.
Although Herbal goes with the intention of sorting this situation out, he finds himself unable to
face up to his brother-in-law (especially when the painter is not with him) and goes to live in the
prison. We even see the brother-in-law laugh at Herbal saying that he knows Herbal wants to
kill him but doesn’t have the guts for it.
This shows us a lot about the position of women (especially within the Francoist band) and the
relationship of power within the trio is that Herbal and his sister are powerless because they
won’t stand up to him. At the end of the novel, we find out that Herbal has murdered his
brother-in-law in a fit of rage after discovering his sister’s mental health had deteriorated. He
admits that he was only caught as he had fired 3 bullets; instead of one that could have been
explained away as a mistake.
Quotations……
“ Me encontré con mi hermana muy enferma. Enferma de la cabeza quiero decir. Le pegué un tiro al Zalito Puga. Bah en
realidad le pegué tres…pero en el último momento perdí el control y le metí tres disparos”
“¿Lo has oído? Quiero la cena caliente en la mesa. Llegue a la hora que llegue”
“Lo miró de frente. Los ojos estriados. Borracho. Amagó una sonrisa cínica.
“Le guiñó un ojo a Herbal y empezó a sorber directamente del palto. Siempre era así. Pasaba de una chulería agresiva a
una camaradería ebria.
“Aquel carajo de vieja no lo quería soltar . Dijo que ya había dado un hijo para Franco. Ja ja ja
”Querrías matarme de verdad? Pero no tienes cojones “
10. The murders of the prisoners
These murders are so shocking and happen so often that we can clearly see the climate of
violence and terror that existed during this time. Remember that even more people were
murdered after the war than during it (we saw the video with the people whose parents had
been shot) The war was used to settle old grudges and murder anyone who may have been on
the wrong side.
Some people suggest that Herbal kills the painter out of mercy; although this is debated by
those who see Herbal as a bad character. What is clear is that Herbal admits to having
committed atrocities and that he is witness to many more during his attempts to save Da Barca.
Think of the people innocently murdered (Dombodán, The painter, Pepe Sanchez). Da Barca
struggles to come to terms with the deaths of these 2 people because of the unjustness of
them.
Also take note of the fact that there was a good deal of torture taking place – think of what is
considered by the fascists (the various methods of torture). The fact they take pleasure in
letting one guy live so he can tell the horror of it to everyone else (by putting a bad bullet in).
Quotations……
““Los de la partida, los paseadores …se cabrearon mucho. Primero lo miraron con sorpresa, como diciendo qué
burro, se le escapó el tiro, no se mata así”
“A Pepe Sanchez lo fusilaron un amanecer lluvioso del otoño del 38. La víspera , las palabras desaparecieron de
la prisión”
“Los falangistas se reían ocultos todavía en el pasillo”
“La prisión vomitaba todos los gritos de la desesperación y rabia en aquel verano interminable del 1936”
11. The painter drawing the faces of the prisoners
This is quite a strange scene. Herbal notices the painter doing this but he isn’t really involved in
the scene; although it does draw his attention to the pencil.
The painter replaces the saints with the desperate faces of his fellow republican prisoners. The
only one left smiling is Daniel Da Barca – perhaps the painter guesses he is the only one who
will escape the civil war with his life. The painter may be suggesting that his fellow republicans
are the true saints or martyrs. He also includes monsters with talons and claws which leads the
prisoners to all look in Herbal’s direction as he explains this to them. He says Da Barca is like
Daniel (the only one smiling) an enigma: something incredible.
This also introduces the pencil as representing a memory for the republicans: something which
allows them to be remembered instead of forgotten.
Quotations……
“ Mientras los otros descansaban, él los pintaba sin descanso. Les buscaba el perfil, un gesto característico, el punto de
la mirada, las zonas de sombra.
“El zócalo del pórtico de la gloria estaba poblado de monstruos….y cuando oyeron eso todos callaron,….porque Herbal
bien que notaba todos los ojos clavados en su silueta”
12. Herbal’s death at the end of the novel
This brings up lots of questions: does Herbal die in peace or in pain? Is he going to heaven or
hell? He gives up the pencil to María moments before and goes outside to die.
The idea of phantom pain is important here again – he feels it just before he dies. He also sees
death and wonders why she isn’t cursing life any more. Perhaps it’s because she has come to
take him away. If we believe Da Barca’s view that his pain relates to the heart (his guilty
conscience? His lack of love?) then perhaps we can say that Herbal is still suffering the pain of
memory or the pain of his conscience (like the whole of Spain)
In the book it may even seem that Herbal doesn’t die at all. He has merely given up caring and
passed on the pencil to María so she can carry around the painful memories of Spain’s
defeated republicans.
Quotations……
“¿Qué haces aquí fuera solo como un perro?
El dolor fantasma, murmuró él entre dientes”
“Herbal notó el ahogo y deseó que lo arrasara por dentro una ráfaga de aire”
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1.) Da Barca`s arrest…………… - Lingualicious