If Gonzalo Torrente Ballester invented Villasanta de la Estrella, as we explained in the previous chapter, Santiago de Compostela was the result of another invention, understanding the word, as we have already said and will see again in due course, in its original Latin meaning. The story of this historic event has often been recounted, but more by historians, theologians and archaeologists than by writers. The history of Santiago is, nonetheless, a fantastic tale of a sort similar to what led storytellers like Torrente to create an urban space that is totally imaginary but has a real identity. The existence of Santiago, as a cultural and even physical reality, is no different from that of Torrente’s town, and can only be fully understood –given that it is a literary fact– in the form of a narration. Santiago is a novel, even though not all novelists have been capable of understanding that it belongs to this rhetorical category.
Simone de Beauvoir recounts in her memoirs entitled Force of Circumstance that when she visited Santiago de Compostela with Claude Lanzmann, in the fifties, they both fled from the city because it smelt of holy water. In the pages penned by that French writer there is not another word about a city that Hemingway, a less cultured writer than Beauvoir, thought was one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
As if to justify her behaviour, Simone de Beauvoir has spoken of her interest in what is human and her lack of sensibility for what is sacred, a distinction that seems clear to her, but that in the history of Santiago is always totally blurred.