May 16, 2021

The unpublished secrets of Doña Emilia


Part of Selva's original writing with handwritten annotations by Emilia Pardo Bazán.

Part of Selva’s original writing with handwritten annotations by Emilia Pardo Bazán.

“Here we have, neither more nor less, the first novel police written by a woman “. Professor José María Paz Gago is categorical in his appreciation of the latest novel for which he is responsible for publishing under the Ézaro label.The Mysteries of Selva ‘by Emilia Pardo Bazán, is not only the result of combining in the same whole ‘The Drop of Blood’, the only detective novel published during the life of the writer, and Jungle, an unpublished mechanoscript misplaced for years among the literate’s personal effects; but a whole declaration of intentions, since the writing itself had been an almost indecipherable mystery until now.

The play narrates the adventures of detective Ignacio Selva, “a real Sherlock Holmes”, in the words of Paz Gago, “who returns from England to Madrid and realizes that his thing is not tea, but chocolate with fritters”. A figure that the countess introduces in ‘The drop of blood’ and whose continuity gives rise to the end of the work. The mechanoscript ‘Selva’ thus supposes the unpublished piece that was missing from the puzzle.

Dating the document is crucial, as it shows that Emilia Pardo Bazán anticipated, with ‘Selva’, by at least ten years one of the great figures of crime and crime novels, Agatha Christie. “It can be dated because the book alludes to the theft of the ‘Gioconda’, in 1912, but not to the moment when it was recovered,” explains Paz Gago. A novel that sees the light 110 years after its conception, on the centenary of the death of the countess and 50 years after the arrival of the original in the city. A round anniversary.

The writing was among his papers. His last living daughter donates the family home on Calle Tabernas to the Royal Galician Academy. In January 1971 a truck arrived in A Coruña with all its furniture, works of art and manuscripts in briefcases, “says Paz Gago. The draft, then, was in an impracticable state: intermixed pages, handwritten annotations between the typed letters , studs, blots and stains of all kinds. A state of conservation that hampered any previous attempt at editing. It was not because of not trying. “Professor Benito Varela Jácome discovers the unpublished and says it is the most commercial novel by Emilia Pardo Bazán” , assures Paz Gago.

Although there were successive attempts to edit the writing by academics such as Carlos Martínez Barbeito, who gave up on its reconstruction, it took 50 years for it to take shape. “Xosé Ramón Barreiro, from the presidency of the RAG, instructs the researcher Ricardo Axeitos, a guy as modest as he is brilliant, to reorder Jungle. Axeitos finds misplaced pages. The final set is 170 pages “, relates Paz Gago. A previous work that must be thanked that today it is possible that ‘Los misterios de Selva’ is a tangible reality for the many admirers of the countess. all the letters whose writing must be attributed to the ambitious and restless personality of Pardo Bazán, who saw Conan Doyle triumph in the genre and wanted to show that she “could do better”Thus, in the writer’s eyes, Conan Doyle’s characters “lacked psychological depth.” This challenge that the countess set herself could be, judges the professor, one of the reasons why the writing was never published. The status of the document, which reveals the writer’s dissatisfaction with her product, proposes a clue. “He says: I am going to make the perfect detective novel. He throws himself into giving the detective depth, he tries, but realizes that he has not succeeded, that the result is not up to his work,” concludes the professor. , which also recommends reading it to investigate, a little more if possible, in the complicated and surprising psychology of the writer.

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