Martín leaves his house as he is annoyed about Isabella cleaning his house. He wants to research religions, so he goes to the library to do so. He is planning to immerse himself in the texts –
anything rather than think about Cristina, Don Pedro and their life as a married couple.
Maybe it’s because I read this book so slowly at the moment, but Martín’s feelings for Cristina feel very inconsistent. It is almost as if the two plots of the book – his love for Cristina and his dealings with Corelli – are two separate stories, one not having anything to do with the other. And two different Martín’s experiencing them.
Martín asks Isabella to help him with his research by finding catechisms and school books and writing summaries of them. Isabella asks him whether this is for the book he is writing for Corelli and Martín tries to cut her short. Isabella remarks – rather snarkily –
‘I get the feeling it’s not a book that will have much commercial scope.’
I thought Isabella wanted to be a writer herself, I am surprised she cares much about the commerciality of a book. Martín apparently thinks so too, as he says,
‘In commercial art – and all art that is worthy of the name is commercial sooner or later – stupidity is almost always in the eye of the beholder.’
‘Are you calling me stupid?’
‘I am calling you to order. Do as I say.’
If you have been following the read-alongs, you know I don’t usually agree with Martín, but in this instance, I do. I find Isabella increasingly more annoying. She is probably a typical teenager – full of herself and very presumptuous.
Martín goes back to the library and he builds a connection with the librarian there, Eulalia. He discusses with Eulalia that the texts he has been reading are exceedingly boring and that most religions are very similar. Eulalia confesses to Martín she is trying to write a book, along the lines of Ignatius B. Samson. Martín does not give away that he is Ignatius B. Samson, but Eulalia already knows.
The chat a bit about religion and Eulalia makes a remark that indicates she was raised by nuns. Marín asks,
‘Is it true what they say, that girls from convent schools are the ones who harbour the darkest and most unmentionable desires?’
‘I bet you’d love to find out.’
‘You can put all chips on “yes”.’
Has Cristina been forgotten so soon, or is Martín just perpetually horny and it doesn’t matter to him who is willing to sleep with him?
Later, Eulalia remarks,
‘A shame I didn’t meet you when I was a school girl with dark desires.’
‘You’re cruel, Eulalia.’
The librarian laughed heartily, looking me in the eyes.
‘Tell me, Ignatius B., who has broken your heart and left you so angry?’
I wonder why Eulalia concluded that he broke his heart and that he is angry. Nothing in the exchange above – which read as quite flirty from both sides – indicated that Martín is angry or bitter or suffering from a broken heart.
A little later, Martín is done at the library and says goodbye to Eulalia.
At dinner, Martín is distracted and Isabella keeps bothering him with questions.
‘Why are you so sad? Is it because of that woman?’
I went on stirring my soup. Isabella didn’t take her eyes off me.
‘Her name is Cristina,’ I said, eventually. ‘And I am not sad. I’m pleased for her because she’s married my best friend and she’s going to be very happy.’
‘And I’m the Queen of Sheba.’
‘You’re a busybody, that’s what you are.’
‘I prefer you like this, when you’re in a foul mood, because you tell the truth.’
‘Then let’s see how you like this: clear off to your room and leave me in peace.’
Isabella leaves the table, cleans up her plate and goes to her room to sulk and cry. What did she expect? Martín is already not happy to have her there, and she somehow feels it’s her right to probe into his deepest feelings and tease him when he tries to shut her out. I don’t blame Martín for telling her to go to her room, she should mind her own business.
After that delightful interlude, Martín goes to his study – which has been immaculately cleaned by Isabella – and finds a summons from Corelli. He has to meet Corelli on the top of the main tower of the cable railway on Saturday.
Martín is afraid of heights, so the trip to the tower and the cable railway is not his favourite trip. Corelli asks him what he has been up to, and Martín tells him about the boring research he has been doing. Corelli commends him and then suggests that Martín leaves the theologists alone and go straight to the sources. He recommends Martín to read the Bible.
Martín confesses that he doesn’t really know anything.
‘Follow that path and you will find the footsteps of the great philosopher. And along the way read the Bible from start to finish. It’s one of the greatest stories ever told. Don’t make the mistake of confusing the word of God with the missal industry that lives off it.’
The longer I spent in the company of the publisher, the less I understood him.
‘I’m quite lost. We were talking about legends and fables and now you’re telling me that I must think of the Bible as the word of God?’
A shadow of impatience and irritation clouded his eyes.
‘I’m speaking figuratively. God isn’t a charlatan. The word is human currency.’
That does not make it any more clear, but it is interesting that Corelli talks about God as if he knows Him. Martín is none the wiser about what Corelli thinks, but he is slightly distracted by the cable car swaying. He doesn’t quite feel safe and Corelli teases him about it.
Martín tells Corelli his findings – that the religious texts didn’t teach him much apart from that most religions are similar. Corelli asks Martín,
‘Tell me, are you interested in fables?’
‘When I was small, for about two months I wanted to be Aesop.’
‘We all give up great expectations along the way.’
‘What did you want to be as a child, Señor Corelli?’
He leered like a jackal, wiping the smile off my face.
Corelli then tells Martín that fables are better at conveying a religion, as humans learn better through fables and stories than through lessons. He instructs Martín to now concentrate on fables – Brothers Grimm, Greek mythology and Celtic legends. He orders Martín to take three weeks and then come up with the beginning of a story for him.
‘I want you to make me believe.’
‘I thought we were professionals and couldn’t commit the sin of believing in anything.’
Corelli smiled, baring his teeth.
‘One can only convert a sinner, never a saint.’
Very interesting indeed, Corelli is getting more and more mysterious.