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This article is taken from PN Review 133, Volume 26 Number 5, May - June 2000.

A Gregarious Man: Ramón Gomez de la Serna John Pilling

In the English-speaking world the one Ramón we know, or think we know, is the 'pale' figure in Wallace Stevens's 'The Idea of Order at Key West', who may or may not be identical with 1920s NRF critic, writer on Gide and the modern novel, Ramón Fernandez. In Spain, where there are not unnaturally many more to choose from, first thoughts turn typically to the writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1888-1963). This Ramón the translators have largely left alone; he has not even enjoyed the kind of restricted but passionate currency granted to Unamuno and The Tragic Sense of Life. Ramón, it may be, is too Spanish to suit our received idea of what it is to be so; certainly there is nothing charismatically 'tragic' about him, or at least nothing tragic not matched by its opposite. 'In me,' he wrote in his Automoribundia - a kind of self-portrait etched against 'the immemorial memory and mystery of death' -

there is something of the somnambulist who walks on the slates of utmost truth. My pendulum oscillates between two opposed polarities, the obvious and the improbable, the superficial and the profound, the homespun and the extraordinary, the circus and the grave.

Here, as perhaps befits a man on 'a pilgrimage towards unity' (as the poet Jiménez called it), Ramón situates himself as a sleepwalker who is nevertheless at the beck and call of the ticking of the clock. 'Everything', as he wrote elsewhere, ...

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