Ramón Gómez de la Serna

(1888-1963)




"S

ince 1910–for the last 50 years–I've been busy plying the greguería. It was born on a day of weariness and skepticism when I took every ingredient in my laboratory, one vial after another, and mixed them all together; and from their precipitate, purification and radical solution came the greguería. Ever since the greguería for me represents the flower of all that endureRamón's self-portraits, all that lives, whatever combats unbelief. The greguería has been persecuted, denigrated, and it's made me both laugh and weep, because I found it funny and pitiful. When they were first published in newspapers, many readers canceled their subscriptions. "You have to call them something else!" the editor told me. But I refused outright.

Stolid, transcendental things must disappear–even the maxim, hard as a rock, hard as every old rancor against life.

My encounter with the greguería is what brought me luck.

Thanks to the greguerías I have earned a living, given lectures, traveled, had a universal password.

Really, I've been working on greguerías since my childhood, when I would already toss them out to our nanny.

They're the only thing I never improvise. They are given me by that innocence in life that matches our own adolescence or old age... They must come slowly, naturally. They're a drop of the centuries piercing my brain.

A novel can be improvised, but not a greguería.

And why I call them Greguerías?

When I discovered the genre, I realized I had to find a word that was neither too reflective nor too worn out, to christen it properly.

Then I stuck my hand into the great bin of words, and by chance–which is the christener of our best finds–I drew a ball...

It was 'greguería,' still singular; but I planted that little ball and had a garden of greguerías. I settled on the word for its euphony and the secrets of its gender.

Greguería, a holler, a hullabaloo. (In old dictionaries it meant the hollering of piglets after their mom.)

What all beings holler in confusion from their unconscious: the screaming of things.

[...]

Humor + metaphor = greguería."


[Translated from Ramón Gómez de la Serna's preface to Greguerías. Selección 1910-1960 (Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1991); all drawings by Ramón Gómez de la Serna from Automoribundia (Madrid: Mare Nostrum, 2008)]