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6 Le Saint Inconnu the Unknown Saint

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  • 8/13/2019 6 Le Saint Inconnu the Unknown Saint


  • 8/13/2019 6 Le Saint Inconnu the Unknown Saint



    Est-iImort en 1933ou en 1935?Je ne sais.Pas plus queje ne sais,d ailleurs, le nom de cet homme

    mort il y a quelquesanneesa peine et dontje m improvisedeja l hagiographe.

    WAS it in 1933or in 1935thathedied?I don t know.Any more, for that matter, than I know the name ofthisman who died only a few years ago,yet here I am presum-

    ing to write a hagiography.I m talking about the sacristanof the cathedral of Santi-ago-de-Chile, the little sacristan as he was called by mylovely Chilean girlfriends who were the first to mentionhim to me someyearsbeforethe crash.They callhim ourgreat sacristan now that the crash has forced them toreturn to their beautiful little country at the world s end:those of them that is who haven t forgotten me, no, soGod help me but who arejust frivolous enough - thanksto the weekly Air France flight that brings them the latestParis fashions - to surprise me with the news of theirhappyfortunes, their conquestsamong the gentry of theircountry, the fainily life they ve gone back to, their up-rooted society life, the novelties they ve introduced intothe freer relations that now exist over there between menand women (something that made a sensation there),the way they have readapted themselvesto custom andtradition through their children. These were children Iknew when they were tiny, whom I sawDeing born intheEtoile district, andnow, I suddenlyget this sort of newsabout them: that on the Pacificcoast,or in a remote valleyof the Andes, Bebe Pacheco has married her cousin, thelucky owner of Las elicias the biggest dairy farm in the


    n s agit du sacristaiilde la cathedrale de Santiago-del-Chili,1 du petit sacristaincomme l appelaient mes bellesamies chiliennes qui, les premieres, m ont parIe de lui,deja des annees avant la crise, de

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    LE SAINT INCONNUMaria, cet enfant gate de Claude-Andre, qui terrorisait lesvoyageurs et le personnel du Cl ari dge en fai sant de latrottinette dans les corridors de l hotel, bousculant, lUlefois, le maharajah de Kapourtala, lUleautre fois, IsadoraDlUlcan,et jetant quotidiennement I efttoi dans le clan desgouvemantes anglaisesen train de prendre le the a I etage,vient de partir dansles minieresde nitrates pour tacher deremettre en etat et d exploiter a outrance, par desprocedesultra-modemes, lesantiquesmines d argent et de cuivre quifaisaient jadis I orgueil, la fortlUle de la famille et quin etaient plus en activite depuisle decesde son bisaieul;etc est ainsi que par ce bavardage j apprends et je constate,non sansplaisir, que toute cette generation froufroutante,Zevaporee d etegantes grandes dames creoles entich6es deParis,ayant dt1quitter la Franceaux environsde 1929,touten donnant le ton en debarquant, a renoue avecjoie avecles us romanesques,raffines,mais pas a la page du tout dela societeblanthe de lacapitalede sonpays et a redecouvertavec emotion ,Iespetites gens du peuple si chers au creurde tout Sud-Americain: les nolUlOUSndiennes; lesjelUlesservantes quechuas3grandies dans la famille; les fidelesserviteurs metis attaches de pere en ills a la hacienda4dumaitre, et qui ont lUleveritable devotion pour leur petitepatronne blanche qui entre dans la maison; les artisans,tous plus ou moins de sangmete,et sidevoues,si empresses,mais malicieux, polis, et si adroits: les pittoresques mar-chands des rues q ui crien t l es impanadas chaudes et savoureu-ses,ces beignets fourres qui vous emportent la bouche etqui sont, brUlants de piments, pour moi a l image desvolcans du Chili; lesvendeusesqui portent en equilibresurleur tete lUleventaire etourdissant de couleurs et de par-furns, des sucreriesepanouiesou en bouquets serrescommedesfleurs; lesveuveset lesfilles,ouvrieres de patientspetitsouvrages a I aiguille ou au fuseau, de delicatspetits riens


    THE UNKNOWN SAINTregion; or that the son ofPaco and Maria, that pamperedC lau de -An dr e, wh o u sed t o t er ro ri ze t he g ue st s a nd s ta ffof the Paris Claridge by riding a scooter through thec orr id or s o f t he ho te l, k no ck ing o nc e i nto t he Ma har aj ahof Khpurtala and another time into Isadora Duncan andd ai ly c re ati ng h avo c a mo ng st t he c la n o f E ng li sh go ve r-n es ses t ak in g t ea u ps ta ir s - that he has just gone off to thenitrate mines with the idea of using ultra-modem methodsto try and get his old silver and copper mines started upagain and work them to the full they were once the prideand fortune of his family, but they ve not been workedsince his great-grandfather passed away). So it is throughall this gossip I discover, not without pleasure, thatthis whole fluttering, feather-brained generation ofel eg an t Cr eo le l ad ies w ho we re i nfa tu ate d wi th P ar is a ndhad to leave France around 1929, setting the tone as theystepped ashore, have joyfully renewed contact with theexotic, refined though in no way modish) customs ofwhite society in their country s capital, and have beenthrilled to come back to the ordinary people who are sod ea r t o e ve ry So ut h A me ri ca n s h ear t: t he I nd ia n na nn ies ;the young Quechua servant-girls who have grown upa lo ng w it h t he f am ily ; t he t ru st y h al f-c as te r et ain er s w hohave been attachedto their master s h iend or generationsand who are truly devoted to the little white mistresswhocomes into the house; the craftsmen,all of them more orlesshalf-caste,so devoted to their work, so obliging, yetmalicious, polite, and so skilled; the colourful street-v end or s wh o s ho ut o ut t hei r w are s - hot, savoury impanadas those stuffedfritters that burn your mouth with theirred-hot pimento which reminds me of the Chilean vol-canoes; the women vendors who balance on their headstrays, dizzying you with colours and smells, their sweet-meats spread out or tied up in bunches like flowers; the145

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    Un saint.

    TH E U NKN OWN S AI NTwidows and old maids. working patiently with needle orshuttle. or producing delicate little fripperies out of shellsand multicoloured seeds. ingenious little keepsakes onhorsehair. mule-hide. punched leather. gold and silverfiligree.mother-o -pearl. tortoiseshell; squinting streetkidswho t ry t o se ll you large c iga rs or l ot tery-ti cket s; oldbasket-makers who are also fortune-tellers; blind oldwitcheswho placea little bag of saffronin the palm ofyourhand toget her wi th a tuft of wi ld grass. and a tiny li ttl ephial.sealedwith a drop of wax. to ward off the pangs oflove. containing theysay) a bird s sip . the dew ofheavencollectedin the mountainsbefore sunrise;el pue lodenuestr e a alltheseordinarypeopleofmixedblood.poor.noble. taciturn. dreamy. superstitious. artistic. gentle,obligingand dirty. with an utterly differentmentalityfromthatof the hard. self-seekingproletariatof Europe, a peoplefor whom the beauti ful women who wrote t o me werestill nostalgic. even when they were living in Paris. forthey all spoke to me at least once - in their drawing-rooms, at dances, in cabarets - and in terms of familiarityand trust. about the sacristan of Santiago cathedral. as ofthe nicest. the most humble, and the most decent of theirpeople.A saint.

    LE SAINT INCONNUen coquillagesou en grainesversicolores.d ingenieux petitsobjetsporte-bonheur en crin. en peau d ane, en cuir ajoure.en fi ligrane d or ou d a rgent , en na cre. en e cail le; desgaminsqui louchent et qui vous offrent des gros cigares oudes billets de loterie; des vieux vanniers qui sont aussidiseursde bonne aventure, et desvieillessorcieresaveuglesqui vous me tte nt dans l e creux de la main un sachet desafran. une touffe d he rbett es des champs et. dans uneminuscule capsule scelleed une goutte de cire, contre lespeines d amour, disent-elles,une gorgee d oiseau. qui estde la rosee du cielrecueillie avant le lever du jour dans lamontagne;el pue lodenuestr tma tout ce menu peuplede metis, pauvre, noble, taciturne. reveur, superstitieux,artiste, doux. complaisant et sale. d une mentalite absolu-ment etrangere a celle, brutale et interesseedu proletariateuropeen. peuple dont mes bellescorrespondantes avaientgardela nostalgie meme a Paris,puisquetoutes m ont parleau moins une foi s. da ns l eur salon. au bal. au cabaret .familierement et avec foi, du sacristainde la cathedrale deSantiago comme du plus gentil. du plus humble, du plusbrave desleurs.

    Et c est de lui. de cet homme du peuple. du petit sacris-taiQ,comme on disait de son vivant. du grand sacris-tai n. comme on l appelle depui s qu i l est mort , que jevoudrai s ecrire . . .Mais comment puis-je avoir l audace de m improviserson hagiographe. moi. qui ne saispasaujuste l annee de lamort . qui ignore me me le nom de ce fide le et obeissantserviteur de Dieu. que toute saville venerait. qui est morten odeur de saintete. et dont. me previent la derniere lettre


    This man from the people. the little sacristan ashe wasknown in his lifetime, the great sacristan as he has be-come known sincehis death. it isabout him that I want towrite...But how can I ~ave the audacit y to set myself up as ahagiographer? I don t know the exact year of his death,and have no ideaof the name of this faithful and obedientservant of God. venerated by his whole town. who died inodour of sanctityand whose beatification,according to the


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    LE SAINT INCONNUarrivee par la voie des airs du lointain, lointain Chill, leproce1lde beatificationesten instancea Rome?

    Sonnom? nestreservea l Eglisede le proclamerrbietorbi apres tant d autres noms, quand ellejugera que lestemps seront venus. Et comme, silence qui m a troubleparcequ il obeit,jele devine, aje ne saisquelleloimystique,personne parmi sescontemporaines, sescompatriotes, sesfideles, sesdevotes qui m ont occasionnellementparle delui, n ajamais songea mediresonnom, voire sonpetit nomdebapteme,je ne croispasanticipersur l avenir ni sortir demon role de narrateur etranger en racontant ce queje saispar oui-dire du sacristainde la cathedrale de Santiago-del-Chili etje ne crois pas non plusetre presomptueux ni en-freindreaucune regIe d humilite, de silence,ou de secretenle nQmmant provisoirement comme je le fais: le Saintinconnu. Par contre, je considere comme un privilegeextraordinaire..pourun auteur quin a paslafoi, de pouvoircontribuer, a l instar d_eJacques de Voragine et de saLegendedoree 5aujourd hui, a la formation d une legende.Lavoici, donc. Ou du moins, tout ce quej en sais.C estfort peu de chosepour un saint. Maisc est tout de memebeaucoup, puisqu il s agit en definitive d un homme ...d d d.unpauvre . . . unpauvre espnt.

    THE UNKNOWN SAINTlast letter I received by airmail from faraway Chile, isproceeding in Rome.His name? It is the Church s prerogative to proclaim itrbietorbi afterso many other names,when shejudges thetime ripe. And there is a silencethat I ve found disturbingbecauseI seeit asobeying somemystic law: not one of hiscontemporaries, of his fellow-countrymen, of his flock, ofhis devotees, who has chanced to speak to me about him,hasever dreamt of telling me hisname, hisChristianname,I mean. So I don t think I m anticipating, or abusing myrole of outside narrator, if recount what I ve heard aboutthe sacristanof the cathedral of Santiago-de-Chile; I don teven think I d be presumptuous or transgressingthe rulesof humility, silenceand secrecy,if, for the present, I callhim what I do: the Unknown Saint.In fact, I considerit anextraordinary privilege for a writer who isnot a believerto be able, in the manner ofJacqtiesde Voragine and of hisol en Legend to contribute, today, to the creation of alegend.Sohere it is. At least,everything I know about it. Verylittle for a saint in fact. But in a way it is a great deal,since we re dealing in the end with a man ... a poorman . . . a poor simple-minded man.Without being an idiot, the sacristanwas a bit softin thehead, or at leastinnocent, andhe had beensickly and peakyfor a long time when he was small.. He had six fingers on his left hand, and was obsessedwith hiding this monstrous feature in his trouser-belt, andwith wanting to do everything with the other hand, asifhe was one-handed; this gave him a slightly contortedway of walking as he busied himself about the cathedral.He was in no way clumsy, but more often than not hedidnothing. He was a long, thin man, loosely-built, with a


    Sans etre idiot, le sacristainetait un peu fada ou pour lemoins innocent, et, enfant, il avait ete longtemps malingre,souffi-eteux.

    Comme il avait six doigts a la main gauche, il avait lamanie de cachercette main monstrueusedansla ceinturedeson pantalon et de vouloir tout faire de l autre main,comme s il avait ete manchot, ce qui lui donnait une allurelegerement contorsionnee quand il s affairait dans lacathedrale. n n etait nullement maladroit, mais le plussouvent il ne faisait rien. C etait un long type maigre,


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    LE SAINT INCONNUdegingande avec une toute petite tete rasee teigneuse unepomme d Adam proeminente une bouche largementfendue triste qui pendait et des yeux noirs immenses etvides qui regardaienton ne saitOU on ne saitquoi ailleursmais qui provoquaient un chocnerveux quand par hasardils se posaient sur vous. Mais generalement le sacristainetait distrait trainait la savate bayait aux corneilles.11etait fils unique.

    Son pere etait un pauvre Indien quechua et samere unepauvre ouvrie re it alie nne qui se louait a l e poque desvendanges ou pour la recolte du mais.

    Le pere vendait despiments. Tous les matins on pouvaitle voir sur le parvis de la cathedrale accroupi devant uncarre d etoffeou etaient exposesdes petits piments secsdeTucuman des gris des rouges des verts des bleus desnoirs qu il disposait comme une mosaique en un dessinnaif et barbat e que certainspretendaient etre un zodiaquesolaire le vieil Indien passantdans le peuplepour selivrera l astrologie; et lesapres-midi safemme etant enjourneeon etait sur de la trouver chez lui dans samiserablehuttea l entree de la route de Valparaiso. U couche a memele sol entre lesbois encadrepar lesmontants d un lit sansmatelas ni sommier ni draps ni couverture il est vraimais monumental tout de meme car ce cadre ces boissculptesdataient de l epoque coloniale un rondin sous latete tirant sur sacourte pipe qui a la longue lui brUlaitlapaume des mains il restaitjusqu au soir en contemplationdevant une vieille lithographie en couleurs de Napoleonepingleeen facede lui au mur d adobe. C etait un vieuxradoteur ratiocinant et prophetique du moins les gens lecroyaient qui venaient le consulter au sujet des tremble-ments de terre d une frequence et d une periodicite quasimathematiques au Chill.

    THE UNKNOWN SAINTtiny little head close-cropped and scurvied a protrudingAdam s apple a wide gash of a mouth sadand droopingand huge empty black eyes that stared nowhere and atnothing they were elsewhere but when they happenedto light on you they startled you. But usually the sacristanwas absent-minded had a down-at-heellook and staredinto space.He was an only child.

    Hisfatherwas a poor Quechua Indian his mother a poorItalian worker who hired herself out in the grape-pickingseasonor for the maizeharvest.His father sold pimentos. Every moming you could seehim in front of the cathedral squatting in front of a square

    piece of cloth where the small dried Tucuman pimentoswould be on display - grey red green blue black. Heusedto lay them out likea mosaicto form a simple primi-tive pattern claimed by some to be a solar zodiac for itwascommon beliefthat the old manwasgivento astrology.During the afternoon when his wife was out workingyou woul d be sure t o find him at home i n his poor hutat the point where the Valparaisoroad begins. He d lie flaton the ground inside the frame of his bed encompassedby the bedposts.It i s true that this bed had no mat tressno springs no sheets and no covering but it was nonethe-lessmonumental becausethe frame and the wooden carv-ings datedfrom thecolonial era and he would rest hisheadon a log of wood and puff on his stubby pipe whicheventually burnt the palms of his hands. He stayed thereuntil evening gazing at an old colour lithograph of Napo-leon that was pinned up on the opposite wall of the mudhut. He was an old hand at talking on and on arguingin circles interminably and predicting the future at leastt hat was t he opinion of the people who ca me to consult


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    LE SAINT INCONNU THE UNKNOWN SAINThim about earthquakes - they occur regularly and withalmost mathematical frequency in Chile.His mother, when she was not out on hired field labour,worked for her Italian countrymen, small settlers from thewestern outskirts of the city, who were set on making moneyand who treated her like a beast of burden. You mightcome across her in the city, at any time of the day betweenmorning and evening, going up and down the stairways ofthe private houses where she went to deliver fruit andvegetables, carrying huge loads on her head. She was a tall,dark-haired woman, thin, covered in sweat, her dresshalf-open, silent, very pious (for she had a cross to bear) andshe went about barefoot.The cross she had to bear was her small son, born late inlife, unexpected, unwanted, the child of old parents, bear-ing the shame of six fingers on his left hand. He had fall~non his head asa baby, which had made him very backward,and ifi t hadn t been for the kindness of the Reverend Dean,who d taken him under his wing, he d have never beenable to make his first communion, for he couldn t manageto say the ve Mariaright through, and all he d graspedfrom his religious instruction was this one saying ofJesus(it was a saying that the sacristan repeated endlessly),Sufferthe litt le children to come unto me

    Poor fool. Poor m:other, ashamed of her son; for untilthe Reverend Dean took her small child into the protectionof the cathedral, other people s children used to chase him,throw stones at him and sing:

    His left hand s got six fingersHe s got a thumb and clawFour little mousey, mousey paws,And a proper donkey sjaw.The nasty, nasty little boy,He s the bogeyman He-Haw


    Lamere, quandellene selouaitpasauxchamps,travaillaitchez des compatriotes italiens, des peti ts colons de labanlieue ouest, tres apres au gain, qui se servaient d ellecomme d une bete de somme, et, du matin au soir, an importe queUeheure de lajoumee, on pouvait la ren-contrer en ville, montant et descendant les escaliers desmaisonsparticulieresOUelle allait livrer fruits et legumes,avec d enormes.charges sur la tete. C etait une grandefemme brune, maigre, en sueur, depoitrallee, taciturne ettres devote, car elle avait sa croix, et qui allaitnu-pieds.

    Sa croix, c etait son petit gar~on, venu sur le tard,inattendu, pasesperedu tout, un enfantde vieux, aveccettehonte de sessixdoigts a la main gauche, et qui, bebe, etaittombe sur le crane,ce qui faisaitqu iI etait restetres arriereet que sans~abonte deM. le Doyen, qui l~avaitprissoussaprotection, jamais it n aurait pu faire sa premiere com-munion, n arrivant pas a reciter l ve Mariajusqu au boutet n ayant retenu de l enseignement religieux que cetteunique phrase deJesus, phrase que le sacristainrepetait asatiete: Laissezvenir a moi lespetits enfants

    Pauvre idiot et pauvre mere qui avait eu honte de sonfiIs, car, avant que M. le Doyen n ouvnt a sonpeti t l asiIede la cathedrale, les enfants des autres le poursuivaient, luitirant des pierres et chantant:

    n a sixdoigts a la maingauche,Un pouce et puis one griffe,Quatre petites pattes de trotte-menuEt one fiere tete de muleHou Hou 6 Le vilain, vilain petit,Le vilainpetit loup-garou


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    LE SAINT INCONNUCes detailsje les tiens par hasard deJuanita T . .. , alors

    qu allonges sur laplage,nous prenions un matin un baindesoleil et que Juanita, grisee par la lumiere, irradiante a lameridienne, de la Concha et qui m avait particulierement ala bonne cejour-la, s etait mise d impromptu a me paderde son enfance au Chili; quant a la chanson des gossesdeSantiago, Juanita me l a chantee le soir meme dans saRolls-Royce, surla route de lafrontiere, alorsque,profitantde notre balade a Saint-Sebastien, Oll nous nous etionsravitaillespour ameliorer nos cocktails,nous rapportions aBiarritz quelques bouteilles de pernod, de l absinthed avant-guerre, dissimulees sur le plancher de la voiturelongue comme un wagon-lit, bouteilles que calait lacouverture de vigogne qui nous moulait lesjambes.C est encore Juanita qui m a raconte une autre foisl anecdote suivante:Unjour, comme ellepartaiten corvee,la mere du sacristain avait appele la petite fille d unevoisine p. j etais tres lie avec Mme de R . . . et tres souventnous sortions le soir ensemble. Une nuit que je l avaismenee dans une bOltede Montparnasse, car elle avait euenvie d aller danseravec des negres et dIe s en etait donne


    It was not Juanita, but her sister Pomposa, the beautifulMadame de R . . . , who first spoke to me about the littlesacristan . I was very close to Madame de R . . . and weoften went out together in the evening. One night whenI had taken Pomposa to a club in Montpamasse becauseshe wanted to go and dance with negroes and couldn t get155

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    LE SAINT INCONNUa creur que veux-tu, Pomposa, subitement nerveuse.m avait dit, en me pin~antle flanc:

    - Allons-nous-en, cher Cette musique me fait mal.Dieu, quellenostalgie Cesnegres sont desexiles; peux-tume dire ce qu ils ont perdu? lis attendent quoi? la fin dumonde ou la venue du paradet? Allons-nous-en, cher, ilsfont mal a voir . . .

    Et c estalors, en la raccompagnant a sonhotel, marchantdansdes ruesqui sefaisaientde plusen plusdesertescommenous approchions de la Concorde, que j appris de Pom-posa, qui se faisait de plus en plus lourde a mon bras,l existencedu petit sacristainde Santiago-del-Chili.

    - Tu comprends, me disaitcettefemme intelligente,maisintimement remuee et qui cedaita je ne saisquelle troublereminiscence, c est un etre merveilleux et qui est doued une puissancemiraculeuse: il aime tellement les enfantsqu on dirait q6 illes faitvenir . . .Et Pomposa de me ra-conter~vecvolubilite:- En France, vous avez Notre-Dame de Chartres, laVierge Noire, ou maman m avait menee trois ans apresmon mariage. Tu saisqueje ne pouvais pas avoir d enfant,et Pinto en etait fort triste. On m avait deja menee auxeaux en Autriche et en Italie et aussi fait subir toutesespecesde traitements et d interventions en Allemagne eten Angleterre. Rentree au Chili sans espoir d avoir unheritier, la vieille Mme de Ferrancaballero-Meredith meconseillad aller voir le petit sacristainde la cathedrale qui,durant mon sejour en Europe, avait fait de si nombreuxmiracles qu il etait devenu celebre, non seulement dans lacapitale, mais dans toute l etendue du pays. Renseigne-ments pris, il parait qu on venait le voir du Nord et duSud, et non seulementdescampagnardesou desfemmesdupeuple superstitieuses,maisdesfemmes de la societe,donton me citait le nom, etjusqu a des femmes de la colonie


    THE UNKNOWN SAINTthe idea out of her head, she suddenly got jittery, pinchedmy sideand said:Let s go, darling This music makes me feel ill. God,what memories These negroes are exiles; do you knowwhat they have lost? what are they waiting for? The endof the world or the coming of the Paradete? Let s go,darling,I can t bearto watch them. . .And soit was that Pomposa, asI accompaniedher backto her hotel through streets that became more and moredeserted towards the Concorde, and she weighing downmore and more on my arm, informed me of the existenceof the little sacristanof Santiago-de-Chile.You see, she said - she was an intelligent woman, butdeeply agitated at that moment and yielding to someconfusedmemories stirring insideher - he s a marvellousperson, with miraculous powers. He loves children somuch that it isasifhe made them come. . .And shewent onto tellmein a flood ofwords:

    In Franceyou ve got Our Lady of Chartres, the BlackVirgin - my mother took me to her three yearsafter I gotmarried. You know that I couldn t have a baby and Pintowas very unhappy about it. I d already been taken towatering placesin Austria and Italy, and had to have allsorts of cures and intensive treatments in Germany andEngland.When I got back to Chile and there was no hopeof me having an heir, old Madame de Ferrancaballero-Meredith advised me to go to the cathedral and see thelittle sacristan,who h:.dperformed somany miracleswhile Iwas away in Europe that he d become famous, not only inthe capi~al,but throughout the whole country. Assoon aspeople knew about it, they apparently came from northand south to seehim, and notjust women from the countryor ordinary superstitiouspeopleat that, but societywomen,whose nameswere told me, evenwomen from the foreign


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  • 8/13/2019 6 Le Saint Inconnu the Unknown Saint


    LB SAINT INCONNUvertus du sacristain, le plus grand nombre ayant amenetout bonnement leurs petits enfants avec elles, qui parreconnaissanceet qui pour lui rendre grace avant de luidemander une nouveUefaveur, guerison ou protection, jeme sentisetre la plus abandonnee de toutes, et faisantfi detout orgueil , je tombai a mon tour a genoux et me mis asangloter comme une malheureuse, moi, la plus richeheritiere de Santiago,la femme laplusfiereet laplus envieede la ville ...

    THB UNKNOWN SAINTWhen I sawsomany women waitingwith suchconfidence,some in prayer, some extoUingthe virtues of the sacristan,most of them having quite simply brought their smallchildren along with them, out of gratitude and to thankhim before they asked another favour of him, a cure orprotection, then I felt themost abandonedwoman of themill, and putting all thoughts of pride aside, I fell on myknees in turn and started to weep like a wretch, thewealthiest heiress of Santiago, the proudest and mostenvied woman in the city . . . 'We were crossingthe Seine;Pomposa left my arm andwent andlenton theparapet of thebridge.,. . . Oh Paris,' she sighed. Then she went on with herstory in a low voice. 'I can teU you anything, can't I,Blaise? I won't feel bad about it afterwards ...' (thememory that was growing insideher disturbed her to suchan eXtentthat Pomposa was unaware that she had startedto callme v u asshetold me thissecretof secrets ). . .'When it cameto my turn and he atlast leant over me,his eyes on mine, seeing into my soul, I felt as if I wereburning all over and as if something secretin the deepestpart of myselfwas opening up, something that wanted tobe given life - and I came out of the cathedral, pushing myway through the other women around us, the happiestofthem all , blushing, overwhelmed, but certain that I'dsoon be a mother. . . '

    We walked the lasthundred yards without a word, butwhen we reached her hotel and stood under the porchbeforeI left her, I asked,'Pomposa, how old is the sacristanof Santiago?'Pomposa seemedtaken aback. The little sacristan? . . .What an odd thing to ask ... ''Oh, Ijust wondered.''Well, let mesee. . .I knew him when I wasstilla young


    Nous traversions la Seine, Pomposa quitta mon braspour allers'accouderau parapet du pont. '- . . . Oh Paris,soupiraPomposa. PuiseUereprit; a voix

    basse - A vous, on peut tout vous dire, n'est-ce pas, Blaise?Je n'aurai donc pas de vergogne ... (Le souvenir quimontait en eUela troublait au point que Pomposa ne serendait pas cOMpteque, pour me faire cette ultime con-fidence,elle s'etait mise a me vouvoyer ) . . . Quand montour est arrive et que

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    girl, when all the riff-raffof the town usedto make fun ofhim becauseofhis deformed hand. How old? . . . But mydear, I think he s asold asme, it s assimpleas that.The very way shewasmade up for going dancing at the::negro place,and dressedin oneofPaulPoiret s latestdresses,

    gavethisbeautifulwoman anagelesslookasshestood therein the light of the entrance of a luxury hotel in the RueBoissy-d Anglas. But considering that Pomposa had fivedaughters, the eldestbeing eighteen, and that we were in1921, I worked out as I went back that the miraculousmeeting must have taken place in about 1900, and thatmeant that the sacristan of Santiago-de-Chile must havebeenborn in 1883-4.It is not my businessto record the innumerable miraclesthat have been attributed to the sacristan of Santiagocathedral, for sucha recordwill be published in good timeby the relevantcommissionof theRoman Curia, followingjudicial scrutiny, assessmentof the facts, hearing of wit-nesses,each incident being passed,in accordancewith thepractice of the Church, through the sieve of Catholicreason, logic, and experience, by doctors and theologiansfrom the Sacred Tribunal. But my evidence would beincompletewere I not to mention that sincehis death, themiraculouspowers of this lowly man have not passedun-noticed, that his t:ult goes on growing among the people,that vast crowds visit his grave, and, according to a letterfrom Madame E. H. E., dated 26June 1937,that I cannotpass over, the faith that the li ttle children of Santiagohad in theirgre t littles rist nwho loved themso much,is so strong that they stil l come with their broken toysto his grave and ask him to be kind enough to mendthem

    petite filleet quetous lesmauvaisgame~ents de la villesemoquaient de lui a causede samain de stropiat. Son age?. . . Maisje crois, cher ami, qu il a mon age, tout simple-ment..Fardee comme elle l etait pour serendre au bal negre ethabilIee de l une des dernieres robes de Paul Poiret , cette

    belle femme debout dans la lumiere du porche d unluxueux palace de la rue Boissy-d Anglas n avait pas d age.Mais comme Pomposa avait cinq fil les, dont l ainee avaitdix-huit ans et que nous etions en 1921, je calculai en m enallant que l entrevue miraculeuse devait se situer vers 1900et que, par consequent, -le sacristain de Santiago-del-Chiliavait dfi naltre en 1883-1884.

    Mon role n est pas de dresser la liste des innombrablesmiraclesattribues-ausacristainde lacathedrale de Santiago,puisque cette liste sera publiee en son temps par la com-mission competente de la curie romaine, apres enquetecontradictoire, critique des faits, audition des temoins,chaque casetant passeselonla tradition de l Egliseau criblede la raison, de la logique, de l experience catholiquesparles docteurs et les theologiens du Tribunal sacre.Mais madeposition ne serait pas complete sije ne mentionnais quedepuissa mort les vertus de cet homme obscurne sesontnullement eteintes, que son culte ne fait que se propagerdanslepeuple,que l on serendenmasseaucimetiereet que,selonune lettre deMmeE. H. E . . . , datee du26juin 1937et queje ne puispassersoussilence,lafoi despetits enfantsde Santiagoen leurgr ndpetit s rist inqui les aimait tantest si active qu ils apportent aujourd hui sur sa tombeleurs joujoux cassesen lui demandant de bien vouloir lesreparer

    62 63

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    LE SAINT INCONNUPour clore mon temoignage, je vais raconter le miraclequia rendu cet homme populaire danstout leChili.Cette histoire, quia fait le tour deSantiago,je I aiapprisede ma petite amie Daidamia, une delicieusemais vilainepetite fille de treizeans.

    THE UNKNOWN SAINTAs a final piece of evidence, I shall tell you about themiracle that made this man popular all over Chile.I learnt this story, which has been all round Santiago,

    from my little friend Daidamia, a delicious but wickedlittlegirl of thirteen.

    J ai dit que ma petite amie etait delicieuseparce que celaestvrai car dIe estaussiespiegleque samaman, spirituelle.ravissante,tout en vif-argent, traits typiques de cette racechilienne celebre jadis par la vivacite de ses filleset leurseduction; maisj ai aussidit que ma petite amie etait unevilaine petite fille parce qu a treize ans Daidamia etaitjalouse de sa maman. une danseuse (qui depuis a faitcarriere a Berlin), avec qui, trouvant cette enfant insup-portable, je sortais trop frequemment. Alors, chaque foisqueje venaischerchersamaman, mademoisellepiquait unecrisede nerfs, me tournait le dos, boudait. Aussi,pour fairela paix, j invitai cette petite fille rageuse a venir un apres-midi prendre le the au Bois.

    Commej etaisvenula chercherenvoiture, qu auChateaudeMadrid ouje I avais regalee,je n avais cesseun instantde la traiter en grande personne, le soir venu, dans lefiacrequi la ramenait a la maison, nous etions grands amiset Daidamia bavardait, ravie.- Ne croyez pas, monsieur Cendrars, que vous etes monpremier ami. J a i deja connu un homme et meme qu il m aembrassee Je le fourre tous les soirs dans ma priere car jel aime bien. et c est mon meilleur ami. C est le sacristain dechez nous, c est lui qui m a guerie quand j etais malade etque maman pensait me perdre, et que moi aussije croyaismourir car je brUlais de partout. J avais la diphterita sic etcomme le docteur ne venait pas assez souvent, maman,impatiente comme elleest, m a roulee un matin dans unponcho et a couru jusqu a la cathedrale. Je devais etre


    I said that my.Iittle friend was deliciousbecauseit is true:sheis asmischievousas her mother - witty, delightful, allquicksilver- the typical characteristicsof this Chilean raceonce famous for the vivaciousnessand seductivenessof itsgirls. I also said that my friend was a wicked litt le girl,because at thirteen Daidamia was jealous of her mother(adancerwhosecareerhassincetakenher to Berlin),whomI took out too frequently, finding this childunbearable.So.every time I came to collecther mother, littlemadam wentinto a fit of hysterics,turned her back on me, and sulked.To bring about a truce between us, I invited this bad-tempered little girl to come and have some tea one after-noon in the Boisde Boulogne.AsI had come to fetch her by car,and had then feastedher at the Chateau de Madrid, not ceasingfor a momentto treat her like an adult, by the evening, aswe returnedhome in a cab,we had become greatfriends, andDaidamiachattered away in delight. on t think that you re my first boyfriend, MonsieurCendrars. I have already known a man and he has actuallykissedme. I lavishblessingsonhim everynight in my pray-ers becauseI m very fond of him. and he s my best friend.He s our local sacristanand he was the one who cured mewhen I was ill and mummy thought shewasgoing to loseme, and I thought I was dying too, I was burning all over.I had diphterita (sic)and because the doctor didn t comeenough, mummy - you know how impatient she is -rolled me up in a poncho and ran to the cathedral.I must


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    LE SAINT INCONNUbien laide et c'esttout juste si l 'on voyait le.bout de monnez, mais quand il est venue, le cher peti t sacristaindemon creur, ilm'a tout dememe embrassee,d'abord sur lesyeux, puis il m'a souffledans la bouche et aussitotje mesuis endQrmie. Et quand je me suis reveilMedans monpetit lit,j'etais guerie et aussitotj'ai pu me lever. Mamanavait prepare des sucreries. Vous savez si elle est gour-mande, maman, et moi aussi,mais c'est fou ceque le petitsacristainaime lessucreriesau miel. Maman lui en preparaittout le temps et tout le tempsje m'arrangeaispour allerleslui apporter moi-meme. J'allaisaussijouer surla place de lacathedrale pour le voir passer.Maisbientot on ne le voyaitplus guere. n paratt qu'il etait en bisbilleavecle doyende lacathedrale qui lui avait interdit de faire des miracles.l'eglise etait fermee et le sacristainn'avait plus le droit d'yaller. On ne le voyait presque plus, sauf parfois, a midi,quand les gens.qui etaient venus pour le voir et qui neI'avaientpas trouve s'en etaientdeja alMsve tous leurspaquets et leurs enfants. Alors, le sacristainfaisait le tourde la cathedrale, le nez en I'air, s'arretant tous les trois paspour regarder travailler les ouvriers sur les echafaudages.On faisaitdes reparations a la cathedraleet il y avait beau-coup d'ouvriers qui s'affairaient partout, des tailleurs depierre sur la place et des ma~ons qui etaient tout petits,petits tellement ilsetaienthaut perchesau sommet destours.Unjour, ily a eu un accident. Un ma~onetaittombe dansle vide.Heureusement quenotre petit sacristainetait par laquiregardait a sonhabitude. n etendit lamain, et comme ilconnaissait tout le monde, il cria a I'homme en train detomber: (IOhe Juan, attends un peu, je vais demander aM. le Cure la permission de faire un miracle Et il partiten courant chercher le doyen. Pendant ce temps-la, lema~onrestaitsuspenduentre cielet terre. les passantscom-men~aienta s'attrouper. les autresouvriers proferaient des166

    THE UNKNOWN SAINThave lookedawful, andallyou could seewas the endof mynose, but when this darling little sacristan came along,it didn't stop him. kissing me, first on the eyes, then hebreathed hard into my mouth and I went to sleepat once.And when I woke up in my tiny bed, I was well againand ableto sit up straight away. Mummy had made somesweets. You know how much mummy likes sweets andso do I, but the little sacristanis just crazy about sweetsmade with honey. Mummy used to make them for himallthe time, and I would see that i t was always me whotook them to him. I used to go and play on the cathedralsquaretoo, so that I could see him walk by. But after awhile you hardly ever usedto seehim. It seems that he'dhad a tiffwith the cathedral dean, who'd forbidden him toperform miracles.The church was closedand the sacristanwas not allowed to go there. You hardly ever saw him,except sometimes at noon, when the people who'd cometo seehim and hadn't found him had already gone awaywith all their bundles and their children. It was then thatthe sacristan would walk around the cathedral, his nosein theair,stopping every threestepstowatch theworkmenon the scaffolding.The cathedral was being repaired andthere were lots of workmen busy everywhere, stone-cutters in the square, and tiny li tt le masons, I say tinybecausethey were perched sohigh up on top of the towers.One day there was an accident. A mason fell off. luckilyour little sacristanwas around the place,looking at every-thing as usual. He stretched out his hand, and since heknew everyone, he shouted out to the falling man, HeyJuan, wait a bit. I' ll go and ask the reverend father per-missionto do a miracle And he ran off to find the dean.Meanwhile,themasonstayedsuspendedbetweenheavenandearth.Passers-bybegan tocrowd round.Theotherworkmenbegan to curse and swear - they fearedfor the lifeof their


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