Love is a tragicomedy

Doesn’t all love end in tragedy? Isn’t love just one big joke anyways?
The vibrant story told in “Celestina” by Fernando de Rojas, surfaces such questions.

Surprisingly, I found this love story in a bookstore located in the most romantic city (in my opinion) in the world — Rome. While walking on Via del Corso, me and a friend stopped in a bookstore to find books for her children. I wandered in the back and was ecstatic to find a shelve dedicated to secondhand English books.

These early-1500 writings of Rojas is uncatergorizable and it is amazing that he completed this work when he was in his early twenties while he was completing law school at the University of Salamanca. This book is not only filled with passion, but also wit. As I do the bulk of my reading during my lunch breaks, I made sure passer-bys did not see me giggling at the book. Luckily, my usual spot to read is on a table located on a small hill away from the main crowd of those coming and going. Yes, it is still ideal to read outside even though wintertime because our weather is the usual clear, blue skies and warm temperatures. The only evidence of fall/winter are the fallen leaves from the tree next to my table.

I digress…

Rojas filled the pages rich with narrative and aphorisms. An example:

A one-eyed man lives much more dangerously. A single act doesn’t make a habit. You’ll rarely see a friar walk alone. It’s a miracle if a partridge flies alone. Always eat the same food and you’ll soon get bored. One swallow doesn’t make a summer. A single witness isn’t sufficient proof. If you only have one coat, it soon gets shabby.”

My other picks among his rhetoric:

  • “Eyes ache when they see nothing and brighten only when something shows on the horizon.”
  • “A flame that endures eighty years is worse than one that lasts a day, and one that kills a single soul is worse than one that turns a hundred thousand bodies to ash. The difference between the fire in your song and the one burning me is as great as the gap between appearance and reality, life and artifice, a shadow and it source.”
  • “You pusillanimous son a bitch!”
  • “Someone else’s light will never shine on a man who has none of his own.”
  • “Time belittles all things.”
  • “Those who love the most, carp the most. Otherwise, there’d be no difference between a woman on the street and a gentle maiden, if they all said yes to love at the first asking, the moment they see someone who loves them. Although they’re fired by love’s bright flame, for the sake of their reputation they put on a show of coldness, adopt dead-pan miens, quiet indifference, a firm mind, bitter words that make their own tongues curl at the intense self-inflicted pain because they force them to say the opposite of what they’re feeling.”
  • “I believe what people do because words come so cheap.”
  • “How my feelings are driven by my overwhelming love for the dead man that none is left for my living parents.”
  • “Life is so full of anguish, so beset by misery! World, oh world! So many have said so much about you, have questioned your great qualities…your fraudulence so as not to inflame your ire and earn your hatred…Now I have seen the pros and cons of your fairtrading, I think you are a web of deceit, a wilderness, a home to ferocious beasts…False world! You lure us with tasty tid-bits only for the tastiest to reveal your hook when it is too late, you have hooked our desire. You promise all and deliver nothing”

Rojas also included some of his poetry:

  • “Oh ladies, mothers, youths, betrothed:
    Take heed of the life these people led
    Look carefully whither they foolish sped,
    and put your cares elsewhere as it behoves.
    Wash your eyes, wayward and blind,
    sow virtue with your chaste ways,
    in full haste flee the love that bays,
    don’t let Cupid’s golden darts you find.”

Lastly, towards the end, I enjoyed this entry:

“Omnia secundum litem fiunt…as it is true that each word a wise man utters is pregnant with meaning, one can say his dictum is so full and swollen that it is about to burst and throw out such strong branches and foliage.”

A few factors caused me choose my next read. Maybe it is because I just finished watching,”From up on a Poppy Hill”. I grew up watching Studio Ghibli movies with their gorgeous soundtracks. Yet, “Princess Mononoke” will always be my favorite, especially because its piano piece I played in front of an audience brought my mother to tears.

Or maybe it is the homemade sushi, I just finished…

Current read: “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami.

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