The fall A seventeenth-century copperplate engraving by Boetius van Bolswart appears in the Jesuit Hermann Hugo’s Pia Desideria (Antwerp 1632). Called The Christian Soul in the Labyrinth of the World , it shows a pilgrim in the center of a maze in the foreground. In the background is a mountain with an angel on top; the path leads up to where the angel stands. There are several notable elements in this rendering. First, the goal is apparently to get from the center to the outside, instead of from the outside to the center (there is no hunt for a Minotaur in this version). Second, the angel holds a rope out to the pilgrim to aid him in his escape – a clear Christianization of Ariadne’s thread; however, the thread is stretched out above the maze instead of winding through it. It seems to remind the pilgrim of his goal without showing him exactly how to reach it. Most interesting for the purposes of this chapter is that the pilgrim, instead of walking the path between the walls of the maze, walks on the walls themselves so that “getting lost” amounts to falling. In the background, there are other pilgrims who have literally fallen off the path and cling to its edges so as not to slip into the shadows below. This last element emphasizes the dire consequences of leaving the path portrayed in the image. Underneath the engraving there is an inscription from Psalm 119, verse 5: “O that my ways were made so direct that I might keep thy statutes!” (82, see also Kern 209). 1
The “falling” in Juan Marsé’s Si te dicen que caí ( The Fallen , Mexico 1973; Spain 1976) begins with the title. 2 It comes from the Falangist hymn “Cara al sol,” but according to Jo Labanyi, ironically refers to a fall into political corruption instead of defeat in glorious battle for a worthy cause. 3 Labanyi provides an extensive reading of the title’s implications. The “fall” refers to the fall from paradise myth and represents a descent into Hell ( Myth 137). “The title of the novel likewise links the concept of the corruption of truth (the dubious reported form ‘If they tell you that . . .’) with that of moral corruption (‘. . . I have fallen’)” ( Myth 143). Without disagreeing with Labanyi’s analysis, it is also possible to read the
fall as a narrative one: like the pilgrims who hang on to the edges of the walls in the engraving, the character narrators in Si te dicen que caí have fallen off the dominant path in the course of their storytelling. Interestingly, though, in Si te dicen , there are also characters who begin off the unicursal path and end up choosing to follow it. Thus this novel, in all of its obfuscation, provides a particularly clear example of the interplay between the multicursal and the unicursal in a narrative attempt to revisit the postwar period.