Review The Flight of the Falcons
An obsessed king
Juan Antonio de Ybarra e Ybarra makes his debut as a novelist
with a book about Pedro I, the bitter enemy of the Fuero of Biscay
The Fuero of Biscay was not a royal concession; it was the self-generated law of a community of free individuals who refused their incorporation to the peninsular kingdoms that formed during the Middle Ages. A lack of understanding underlies the denial that the Infante Don Pedro experiences towards this anomaly, giving rise to the desire of subjecting the region’s will and annexing it to Castile, an ambition that will persist throughout his future reign. The elaboration of this thesis is one of the central themes of Juan Antonio de Ybarra e Ybarra’s first novel, although The Flight of the Falcons is much more than a narrative revolving around the historiographically debated independence of the Señorío. The work recounts the hazardous trajectory of a monarch who ruled during the second half of the fourteenth century and was branded as cruel, by some, and as an avenger by others. The story begins with his visit to the Señor of Quejana, Fernán Pérez de Ayala, who appears as an antithetical figure throughout the novel, standing for reason and equanimity in a world without certainties. The first episode, which carefully sets the stage through an atmospheric description of the ways of life and customs of the period, culminates with the heir’s departure in the face of his progenitor’s serious illness, and his coronation following Alfonso XI’s death. The subsequent development features the description of a hectic period marked by the passionate, exuberant, and excessive personality of an individual consumed by a spirit of revenge to which he subordinated his political strategies, and which would eventually devastate his kingdom. Pedro the Cruel sought retaliation for his suffering at the hands of Leonor de Guzmán, his father’s lover, as well as his stepbrothers, among which was the future Enrique II of Trastamara. Like a bird of prey engaged in a restless chase, the King will deploy his Machiavellian strategies, founded upon deceit—displays of forgiveness masking the worst sentences—and an extraordinary capacity to make enemies into apparent allies who can unexpectedly become the victims of a ploy. Devoid of mercy, the King seeks the death of all those who have humiliated him, and even dreams of reuniting his kin for a simultaneous execution. His amorous capacity is equal to his ferocious attitude and, parallel to his constant warmongering, the monarch carries out an incessant search for lovers, marries Blanca de Borbón, whom he will condemn to permanent reclusion, and chooses María de Padilla as his best beloved and the mother of his children. The political changes, violent excesses, and sexual rapaciousness that arise within a struggle between factions of a family are reminiscent of the fresco of Imperial Rome painted by Robert Graves in his well-known I, Claudius, or of the practices of the mafia, which are based, even in their origins, on fearful feudal codes. The Flight of the Falcons also portrays a people subjected to the oscillations of an egocentric and whimsical ruling class, caught up in inner conflicts and sieges, inflicting massacres such as that of the Jewish community in Toledo. Peter I the Cruel’s tormented character takes on Shakespearean qualities in Ybarra’s depiction of him as one torn between a conscience that recriminates him for having shed so much innocent blood and the fratricidal obsession, which spurs him to roam Castile in an incessant search for retribution.
DE LOS HALCONES
Autor: Juan Antonio de Ybarra
e Ybarra. Novela. Editorial: La
Esfera de los Libros. 759 págs.
Madrid, 2015. Precio: 26,90 €