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Visual Imagery in Ferrater Mora’s Novels

Everyone who reads Ferrater Mora's novels remarks on his care and concern—perhaps love is a better word—for language. At the same time, his novels are remarkably visual. It would not take a great deal of imagination to produce movies from his novels. A film of Claudia, mi Claudia would contain lots of color and action: sexual liaisons of several different kinds, explosions, buildings tumbling down, people being blown up, police investigations, the seductive Claudia walking back and forth swinging her ungainly pocketbook, and so on. A film of Hecho en corona would include parties of all kinds, from political receptions to musical galas and book presentations in both Corona and in the United States, palatial gambling houses as well as dingy gambling joints, horse races in narrow streets as well as in broad, tree-lined avenues, ornate public rooms, and murdered bodies. All of Ferrater's novels are extremely visual.

Consider one example of the close relationship between his films and his novels. In the movie, The Call, Ferrater Mora filmed Mrs. Garfield in her bedroom listening to a mysterious voice. When the scene suddenly shifts, all the camera "sees" is a vast expanse of white that in a moment is revealed as the white uniform of a nurse moving away from the camera as she carries a tray to Mrs. Garfield, a patient in what is obviously a mental hospital. Mrs. Garfield is also dressed in white: a white silken robe trimmed with white marabou. She stands beside a window framed by white curtains in a room whose walls are also white. Even the table cloth where the nurse places the tray is white. This is how anyone who viewed the scene might describe it.

In fact, this description is very close to the actual words Ferrater Mora used to describe scenes he had previously filmed when he was asked to write in Cine sin filosofías. He writes "Cambio de escena. Cambio de época. ¿Cuánto tiempo habrá pasado? La espalda de una muchacha vestido de blanco de enfermera se va alejando y deja ver el escenario: una habitación todo pintada de blanco, con cortinas blancas sobre la ventana. La señora Garfield, con una elegante bata blanca y puños y cuello de blanco marabú está apoyada en la ventana, como mirando vagamente al exterior. Una mesita cubierta de un blanco mantel en el centro" (147). Note how many times he has repeated the word, 'white' (blanco).

Now consider Ferrater Mora's first novel, Claudia, mi Claudia. We read about another woman in another hospital. Here Ferrater Mora must use words instead of images on film to create the atmosphere of the hospital and to produce a picture in the reader's mind. He describes Madam Bianco in the following manner. "When she awoke from her coma, she stared with her round eyes wide open at the bright white of the hospital walls, the flawless white of the bed sheets, and the immaculate white of the nurses uniforms. 'How divine!' were her first words. 'How lovely! How very white!' " (Informal trans. by author and P. Cohn). ["Cuando despertó de su supor, abrió los ojos, y viendo la blanca habitación del hospital, con sus blancas sábanas, y el uniforme blanco de la enfermera, se dice que dijo, '¡Que dije todo tan blanco.' "] Ferrater continues, "Regardless of what the doctor or nurses might say, she invariably answered, 'Oh, how white everything is! How lovely . . . so white.' It was obvious that she was out of her mind." . . . y a las palabras del médico respondía diciendo: '¡Qué blanco es todo! ¡Qué hermoso es todo tan blanco!' Era evidente que Madam Bianco no estaba en sus cabales."](258)

What we have, then, is two depictions of a woman in a hospital—and in both cases a woman who probably is not entirely sane. In the movie we see the almost total whiteness of the scene while in the book we need the author's power of description and the words of the main character to enable us to visualize the white hospital room. What I am suggesting is that the scene in the novel almost duplicates the scene in the movie filmed some ten or eleven years earlier. Ferrater Mora could "paint" his picture with either images or words, but oddly enough when it was a matter of his own imagination—as opposed to expressing philosophical or intellectual ideas—he first manipulated the visual images.

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