Luis Martin-Santos, a Spanish psychiatrist, was killed in a car crash last year at the age of 40. He had published a number of psychiatric works—he was first influenced by existential psychoanalysis and not until many years later studied Freud, whose works are still officially banned in Spain—when in 1962 he published his only novel, Time of Silence. This was immediately acclaimed as one of the most significant recent descriptions of post-war Spain. Among his papers after his death were found, with notes for future theoretical works, some thirty fables or ‘apologues’ (the title Martin-Santos gave them) which have not previously been published. In their concern with the essence of inter-personal relationships and the opacity on the far side of logic these fables recall Kafka’s short prose pieces. Thanks are due to his literary executors for allowing nlr to be the first to publish a selection of these.

There are three friends, A, B, and C. The three are of the same age, of similar tastes, the same excellent education and of equal means. Everything seems to indicate that they should be good friends. And in effect they are. Now, the very homogeneity of the group, the similarities which unite these three friends, contain dangers. Friendship between equals becomes so familiar that it begins to lose its charm. None the less, and unlike that of others, the friendship between A, B, and C seems to resist the passage of time. This is due to the fact that in spite of its apparent immobility the situation is constantly being modified. The history of this modification can be told starting from any moment and from any of the three points of view.

Let us start, for example, from the moment when A feels a special friendship for B. He finds that he is particularly witty, his ties are perfectly chosen, his women friends in the best taste. On the other hand he sees in C only a pale imitation of B, C is quieter, more prudent. When he laughs at something A says it is with a perceptible slowness in respect to B’s spontaneous laughter.

C’s abilities, when they are visible, are not only less prodigious than B’s but are solely an echo of the latter’s often-heard phrases. Although sharing the same tastes, ideas and loves, C does so in a quieter manner, altogether more tranquilly and, on closer examination, less intellectually. Seeing this, A gradually begins to talk in asides with B although C is there having coffee with them or sitting at the same gaming table. He brings into these asides an occasional ironical remark about C which B echoes with his easy joviality. This contempt increases little by little until it reaches the violent rhythm of passion. At the race track, while B and C crane their necks forward, their binoculars trained on the colours of the leading jockey, A disdains to watch and fixes a critical eye on the tiny spot of dirt on C’s shirt. In a restaurant, A makes a point of offering C’s woman friend an ostensibly cheap orchid. On a day when he is due to meet C alone, B being occupied with a new feminine conquest, A arrives a few minutes late.

B has appreciated, with some enjoyment, this preferential treatment. Once in a while C has sensed something, but the smile permanently fixed to his lips under the small blond moustache denies his melancholic looks; moreover his smile is clearly in imitation of B, who is much surer of himself.