Classics to travel by train

The train is not a simple means of locomotion, but a way of entering the soul of a country. It allows you to contemplate its landscapes, interact with its people, accumulate memories, doze with your forehead against the glass or read quietly, turning the pages with the feeling of having stepped out of time. The plane is a capsule that isolates you from the outside and the car, a box that forces you to stare at the asphalt, condemning you to travel through horrible highways. The boat is not a bad option, but the landscape, unmistakably beautiful, is repetitive.

And the bicycle, a noble, clean and ecological vehicle, only allows you to travel relatively short distances and, at a certain age, requires an unfeasible effort. In addition, you are always exposed to being run over by another vehicle. You have to walk along the shoulder, an experience that evokes the tension of a tightrope walker moving along a wire. The horse is only used recreationally anymore and walking, excellent exercise, confines you to too small a territory. The train keeps you in touch with the outsideits views are not usually monotonous, you can make long journeys and the danger is insignificant.

I have only traveled by train in Spain. I am essentially sedentary and modern tourism, with its masses moving from one place to another with their eyes fixed on their mobiles, perplexes me. I traveled by train for the first time when I was nine years old.. When I stepped foot in the Atocha station in Madrid, its metallic structures gave me the impression of having entered a science fiction scenario. My memory depicts the trains of that time—early 1970s—as looking like old locomotives from the Wild West.

I know that this image does not correspond to reality, but sometimes the imagination is responsible for filling the gaps of the past with imaginary memories, adding a few happy touches of poetry or extravagance. The truth is that I traveled on a Talgo train, which was nothing like the ones that were assaulted by outlaws and Indians of the Wild West. Given that the destination was Cádiz and the journey could take up to twelve hours, my mother chose to travel at night. Not in a sleeping car, which perhaps did not exist or was very expensive, but in a cabin with other passengers and reclining seats.

Each square had a small lamp that allowed reading and I took advantage of it to jump through the pages of an illustrated edition of Platero and meof Juan Ramon Jimenez. Perhaps I did not understand many things, but I immediately appreciated Platero’s sweetness —”small, hairy, soft”— and the beauty of some landscapes with “vague mauve and green clarities”, sad and silent towns, century-old fig trees and twilight that drip purple and Prayed.

On some occasions, I have thought that coveting immortality is an act of narcissisma way of attributing excessive importance to our self

Perhaps because only six months had passed since my father’s death, I was especially moved by the chapters dedicated to Platero’s death. Nostalgia has made me return to those pages shortly before writing this note and I have been moved again. The poet promises Platero, cuddly as a girl, that he will not end up in a ravine, the fate of the donkeys, horses and dogs that no one loves, but that he will bury him “at the foot of the large round pine tree in the Pineapple orchard “, which will allow you to hear the noise of the Ferris wheel, the songs of the goldfinches and greenfinches, the laughter of the children playing and the voice of Juan Ramón himself, immersed in that melancholy that always accompanied him.

When death takes Platero away, the poet keeps his promise and visits him from time to time, asking him if he remembers him, if he can hear him, and if he is now running through a meadow of “eternal roses.” During one of his visits, he flutters “a faint white butterfly,” perhaps the same one that fluttered its wings around Platero shortly after he left this world.

At that time, Juan Ramón Jiménez, who wanted to turn the book into an evangelical parable, believed in the resurrection of body and soul. Later, she would lose that hope. I don’t remember what I thought as a child about this question. And as an adult, who knows what he really believes? That yes, I have not forgotten that after traveling all night, when I arrived in Cádiz and contemplated the sea, I had the sensation of attending a resurrection. The water that bathed the beach seemed like infinity licking the wounds of the perishable.

[Vargas Llosa ante un joven novelista]

As a teenager, he traveled to the Mediterranean every summer, crossing the Channel by train. The austere, monotonous and dusty landscape was a permanent invitation to read the Quixote. Every time a windmill appeared, she thought that reality usually defeats dreams, but dreams persist in survivingcontinuing by our side like a bird that gets used to eating from our hand. Obsessed with death, he used to reread the final chapter, where the maddened hidalgo’s last words are recounted. Overcome by a fever and sadness, Alonso Quijano he lies on his bed, his mind finally enlightened. He abhors books of chivalry, his nonsense and trickery, and declares that he is no longer crazy, that he has come to his senses and does not want to leave behind a reputation for madness.

As the train moved slowly toward the Levant, I read these reflections with regret. They did not seem to me the confessions of a sensible man, but the claudication of someone who has given up his dreams. That’s how the good guy understood it Sancho Panzawho replied that there is no greater madness than letting oneself die and that there was still time to get back on the road to resume his adventures. Inflexible, Alonso Quijano replied that in the nests of yesterday there were no longer the birds of yesteryear and that he was no longer crazy, but sane.

Cervantes he cannot repress his emotion as he says goodbye to his character, stating that his pen and Don Quixote are already indiscernible (“the two of us are for one”). Borges he has pointed out the pleonasm in which he incurs when referring to his death: “Among the pity and tears of those who were there, he gave his spirit, I mean that he died”. Certainly, the end of the sentence constitutes an unnecessary clarification. Cervantes speculated that his character would die with him, but he was wrong. Don Quixote accompanied me during my train trips through La Mancha and came with me to the coast. Again, the sea. Many works of fiction —especially movies— end with the image of the sea. Obviously, it is not accidental. The sea symbolizes life, hope, a possible rebirth.

Silence does not compete with the word either. Since ancient times, we have known that opposites complement each other and that harmony arises from their fusion

My last train trip was to Santander. I left Alicante. This time he left the sea bound for the sea. A long journey that allowed me to read once again San Manuel Buenomartyr of Miguel de Unamunoone of my most beloved novels. I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve read it. What Miguel Delibes either AzorinUnamuno seems like an author from another era, but the truth is that his books are constantly reissued. All three have survived the critics who, starting in the eighties, tried to bury them.

Unamuno turned death into the fundamental problem of his work. “I don’t want to die completely,” he wrote, “and I want to know if I am going to die or not definitively. And if I don’t die, what will become of me? And if I die, nothing makes sense anymore.” It seems that the human being has resigned himself to his finitude. In Western Europe, hardly anyone believes in immortality anymore..

Manuel Bueno is a priest without faith, but he hides his skepticism before his parishioners from Valverde de Lucerna. He thinks that living without faith leads to despair. He doesn’t think it’s bad that religion is the opium of the people. Living asleep or intoxicated is better than enduring a lucidity linked to a bleak horizon: nothingness, non-being. On some occasions, I have thought that coveting immortality is an act of narcissisma way of attributing excessive importance to our selves, but that argument falls apart when I think of my loved ones. Is it possible to resign yourself to them turning to dust?

[Víctor Jara, el poeta del pueblo]

My train trip to Santander was characterized by a progressive encounter with green. Facing the emptiness of La Mancha, altered only by solitary oaks or grouped in small forests, the mountains, crowded with trees immersed in a spectral fog, showed that beauty has countless faces. The bare landscapes do not compete with those that are characterized by their voluptuousness and chromatism. Silence does not compete with the word either. Since ancient times, we have known that opposites complement each other and that harmony arises from their fusion.

In Santander I found a different sea from the Levante Sea. A sea less serene and perhaps more barbaric. In the Mediterranean, it is impossible not to think of classical Greece, with its Apollonian balance and moderation. The Dionysian never seemed to me the most characteristic of Greek culture. These explosions of irrationality are an Asian heritage, not a creation of the civilization that spawned Socrates, Plato Y Aristotle. In the Bay of Biscay, there is nothing Apollonian or Dionysian. It is a sea that evokes the cultures of the north, with its cult of the night and the sword.

I don’t know when I will travel by train again. A few years ago, I got on the AVE and traveled to Barcelona. The journey was too short for me and the train was too modern for me. I missed the long trips and the furniture of the seventies. I spent the time reading Ortega, another author that some consider outdated, but that I still find inspiring. What authors would rule out to travel by train? Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it, but sometimes I’ve fantasized about spending a whole year traveling by train in Spain. Intoxicated by the landscape and rocked by movement, perhaps he would discover the deepest heartbeat of a country that should not turn its back on the dreams lit by its poets, mystics and travellers.

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