renew their ideas, to burn those ideasninto their souls, to spiritualize them —nthat is what I would do, what I amntrying to do even here in Hendaye,”nsaid the author of El sentimiento trdgiconde la vida.n”Utopia?” my aunt murmured.n”Yes! Utopia!” he said emphatically.n”We need Utopias and Utopians.nThey are the salt of the spirit.”nHe was quiet for a moment, then hensaid, “Conversation is more fruitfulnthan meditation. The reactions ofnthose with whom I talk force me tonadjust to them or to resist them. I amnstimulated by provocahon or dissent.”nWhat he missed most in his exile, hentold my aunt, was la pared—the wallnagainst which he could throw his ideasnand watch them rebound. “I remembernone day walking, with a friend andndiscussing some topic. He pressed menwith his objections. I answered himnand then shouted gleefully, ‘What angood answer I’ve given you! Hownexact! How to the point.’n”My friend laughed at what henthought was my vanity. But, you see,nmy answer had surprised me. La pared.n’The fact is,’ I said to my friend, ‘thatnwhat I just said to you is as new to menas it is to you. I must have had thensolution in mind, but it was vague andnconfused. Just making the effort tonovercome your objections made it takenform and reveal itself to me.’n”In our written work as well as innconversation,” he continued, “we repeatnourselves. Don’t you think thatnthe successive works of a great writernoften happen to be no more thann50/CHRONICLESnLIBERAL ARTSnREMEMBER DEFECTIONS?nsuccessive editions, more or less altered,nof the same book? The morenoriginal a writer is and the more henprobes within, the more he repeatsnhimself. The greatest geniuses havenbeen people of few and simple ideas,nexpressed in superb form. So any bookn— whether it be a novel, an essay, or anpoem — is only the same fundamentalnthought developed in multiple forms.nAnd so a writer, in his attempt tontransmit that central thought, goes onnencircling it more and more, findingnnew forms of expression and searchingnfor the most exact. When this writer,nany writer, has found the most permanentnform, he survives.”nWhen my aunt, who had read muchnof Unamuno’s writings, confessed to anlack of familiarity with his poetry, DonnMiguel was a little hurt. Poetry, hensaid, was his greatest passion. In hisnpoems, he felt, he had expressed thenrichest and most intimate part of himself,nof his sensibility and spirit. Almostnsadly, he deplored the fame that hadncorne from his other work. And diffidently,na slight flush on his face, hentook a small notebook from his pocket.n”I am preparing a cancionero,” hensaid. “May I read you this poem that Injust wrote?”n”The strong, quixotic, combativenMiguel de Unamuno,” my aunt recallednyears later, “disappeared and thenmystic took his place.”nHe read delicately, the emotionnsurging through the rhythms of Spanishnverse. He read another poem andnanother, ending with the evocation ofnthe painting of Christ by VelazqueznCuban baseball pitcher Rene Arocha left his family andndefected to America last summer in order to pursue hisndream of becoming a Major League Baseball player. The Ft.nLauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that Arocha was the firstnCuban baseball player to defect in 30 years. Robert ValdesnPerez, director of sports in Regla, was disappointed. “AnCuban athlete should stay here. They are given everythingnfree from age 8.” Perez said the state provided Arocha withna new house when he was married and provided 250 pesosn(about $125 a month) to play baseball all year long. “Nonother country in the world treats a baseball player like wendo.”nnnthat hangs in the Prado. That paintingnhe considered the highest artistic expressionnof Catholicism, of “that Christnwho is always dying but never dies.”nHe allowed my aunt to take down anfew of the verses, and she rememberednone of them when she stood before thenVelazquez Christ in the Prado:nO es que una nube negra denlos cielosnese negror le did a tu cabellerande nazareno, cual de mustionsaucende una noche sin luna sobrenel rio . . .nIn Salvador de Madariaga’s somewhatnromanticized translation:nOr was it then that’a blackncloud from HeavennSuch blackness gave to yournNazarene’s hair.nAs of a languid willow o’ernthe rivernBrooding in moonless night?nThey were interrupted by an affectionaten”Que tal, Don Miguel” from anstudent who had come to talk to him.nDon Miguel stood up to give him annabrazo and my aunt left. Two yearsnlater, the royal car of Alfonso XIIInpassed through Hendaye carrying intonexile the Hapsburg dynasty. Miguel denUnamuno returned to a Spain that didnnot share his vision and that in fivenyears would be torn by civil war.nThere is a footnote. Decades later,nmy aunt Zarita turned over to me whatnshe had set down of that conversationnwith Unamuno and a few of his letters.nI gave her a copy of his Cancionero,nthe deeply moving poems he had writtennin celebration of his love of Spainnand of the Catholic Christ — a smallnpaperbound book I had picked up innsome bookstall, I do not remembernwhere. She turned the pages slowly,nreading, and then she looked up at menwith a lovely smile.n”He must have remembered,” shensaid. “I told him of those old Spanishnballads, the romances, N which I wasnplanning to collect in Tangier. I toldnhim how my mother sang them to menwhen I was a child. And here it is — ‘lanvoz de Estrella.'” My grandmothernEstrella had sung them to me as well.nRalph de Toledano writes fromnWashington, D.C.n