Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

SARAGOSSA is one of a series of novels by Benito Pérez Galdós which cover the period of Spain’s wars with Napoleon. Here the story of the second siege of Saragossa is presented as a historic example of Spanish patriotism. Because of its dramatic scenes and accurate descriptions of the siege, the novel has been ranked by some critics with the better-known work of Emile Zola and Leo Tolstoy.

Hopefulness and despair, triumph and suffering—all the human emotions which surface during battles for bare existence within a besieged city are skillfully juxtaposed against the tender but tormenting sentiments of a forbidden love affair in SARAGOSSA. The parallel plots dramatize familiar themes often used in earlier works of literature, such as the NIBELUNGEN tales and ROMEO AND JULIET. Pérez Galdós employed this technique to develop fictional characters that are as true to life as the historical and geographical descriptions that form the backdrop of his historical novel.

Many historians have noted the unusual fury with which the Spanish people fought Napoleon’s legions even after some of their leaders had deserted them. In SARAGOSSA, the reader is exposed in a personal way to this fury, stemming from the resentment of Spanish commoner and aristocrat alike toward the imposition of French ideas on Spanish culture—even the noted statue of Saragossa’s famed Virgin of Pilar has a sign reading “The...

(The entire section is 461 words.)