Caesar or Nothing by Pío Baroja

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Caesar or Nothing Summary

(Essentials of European Literature)

Juan Guillen was a highwayman of Villanueva. When Vicenta, his youngest daughter, was ruined, she went away to Valencia, where she married Antonio Fort, a grocer. Francisco, Juan’s eldest son, became a priest and changed his name to Fray Jose de Calasanz de Villanueva. Juan Fort, son of Vicenta, became a priest and was called Father Vicente de Valencia. He later became Cardinal Fort. Isabel, Vicenta’s daughter, married a soldier, Carlos Moncada. Isabel and Carlos became the parents of Caesar Moncada and of Laura, later the Marchesa of Vaccarone.

Defying family tradition, Caesar rebelled at the idea of becoming a cleric. He attended various schools but cared little for the subjects taught there. Convinced that he had a definite mission in life, he set about preparing himself for it. Academic subjects did not enter into his plans. At school in Madrid, he met Ignacio Alzugaray, who became his lifelong and intimate friend. He also met Carlos Yarza, a Spanish author employed in a bank in Paris, and through him Caesar became interested in financial speculation. Caesar developed a system, which he could explain only vaguely, to use in playing the stock market, but he had no money at the time with which to try it out.

Caesar and his sister Laura went to Rome, where Laura became popular in fashionable society. Caesar, however, cared little for social functions, art, and the historical relics of ancient Rome. After a time, he did meet some important personages, among them Countess Brenda, with whom he had an affair.

Cardinal Fort, their kinsman, sent the Abbe Preciozi to act as a guide for Caesar and Laura. Caesar disliked his uncle, the cardinal, and cared little if the abbe carried back to the cardinal his nephew’s frank opinion of his eminence. Through the abbe, Caesar tried to find people who would help him become a financial dictator, and he was directed to sound out Father Herreros and Father Miro. The cardinal, however, learned of Caesar’s scheming and put a stop to it.

Archibald Marchmont fell in love with Laura. Both were unhappily married. Susanna Marchmont, Archibald’s wife, was in turn attracted to Caesar, and she and Caesar took a trip together as man and wife. While in Rome, Caesar also met an Englishman named Kennedy through whom he learned much about the history of Rome and the history of the Borgias. Caesar Borgia’s motto, “Caesar or Nothing,” struck a responsive note in the latent ambition of Caesar Moncada. Without quite knowing why, he began to make notes about people in Rome who were members of the Black Party and who had connections in Spain.

Coming from the Sistine Chapel one day, Caesar and Kennedy met a Spanish painter who introduced them to Don Calixto, a senator and the political leader of the province of Zamora in Spain. Caesar accepted Don Calixto’s invitation to dine with him and agreed to act as his guide about Rome. The don was appreciative, and when Caesar jokingly asked whether the don would consider making him a deputy, Don Calixto agreed to put Caesar’s name on the ballot as a candidate for the district of Castro Duro whenever Caesar returned to Spain.

When Caesar returned to Spain, he reminded Don Calixto of his promise. Deciding to run on the Conservative ticket, Caesar drove about the country to meet the voters and to determine the most important political personages of the district. Don Platon Peribanez and Antonio San Roman were, he discovered, quite influential. Father Martin Lafuerza, the prior of a monastery, had a great deal of political influence in and about Castro Duro. Caesar’s friend, Ignacio Alzugaray, came to Castro Duro and made himself useful to Caesar in many ways. At the house of Don Calixto, Caesar met Amparo, the don’s niece, but at first Caesar and Amparo could not get along. Later, however, they fell in love and planned to be married.

In the election, Caesar defeated his two opponents, Garcia Padilla and San Roman, and left Castro Duro to go to Madrid as...

(The entire section is 1,215 words.)