Yo no digo mi canción sino a quien conmigo va. (Romance del Conde Arnaldos)
The verse, from the old Spanish ballad of Count Arnaldos, is quite literally untranslatable, particularly in the sense that translating it would be a trivial act or a self-destructing act. The verse tells about a secret, mi canción, whose unshareability remains preponderant. There is only a secondary shareability for those who go with me if there are any, which remains unconfirmed. Yes, we could have the pretense that a legion will come along, but the very enunciation of the verse already happens in the form of a refusal: I will not tell it to you, you are not among those. But there is also a promise: if you were to come along . . . then perhaps. Which does not mean you would share my secret, only that I might tell it to you. On the way, on the path, which is the path of a life, there is a radical singularity, a solitude that sings to itself. There is a chance, unconfirmed, remote, that another radical singularity might join the first one for a segment of the way. Would that mean a fusion of solitudes, a merging of the songs? The verse does not say. It founds no community, not even the community of those who have no community, of those who have only a way. It only has a promise that something–something, a sharing, a secondary sharing, a secret that will no longer be a secret once shared, which means that the secret remains over any telling–will be said. If the improbable encounter on the way were to happen. Not otherwise. And who is to tell?
The sayer is a rogue, the sayer finds herself excluded. The sayer is a sayer of exclusion. The sayer protects her exclusion. Expelled from community the sayer must save herself through not saying. The sayer says she will not say–that is her path. Which inevitably means that those who might come into the path are also sayers of exclusion, that is, non-sayers. The sharing of the song is a withholding. But it is a different withholding, compared to the nonsharing of the song (or the saying that the song will not be said): two withholdings. In the latter one, I will not tell you my song, and that is my song to you, do with it as you wish. In the former one, I will always have told you my song, which is why you have heard it already, it is why you are here, and there is no other song to sing. No fake songs. No hollow songs.
Is that verse not expressive of the marrano condition? In the Introduction to his book The Faith of Remembrance. Marrano Labyrinths Nathan Wachtel is caught up between two definitions of the marrano. On the one hand, a marrano is a person who is or is said to be a judaizer after having become a new Christian, whether personally or through familial history. According to this definition, accurate enough and yet insufficient, the marrano has a community, which is the community not only of those who are or are said to be judaizers but also includes those in the Judaic community who understand their plight: the “people of the nation,” the gente da naçao. According to the statutes of the powerful, Holland-based Santa Companhia de Dotar Orfans e Donzelas Pobres, those were to be defined as people for whom “their belief in the unity of the Lord of the world and their knowledge of the truth of their Most Holy Law, whether or not they are circumcised, whether they live within Judaism or outside of it, are truly established” (Wachtel, Fe del recuerdo 29). The reference is of course to the rejection of the Trinity and the acknowledgment of the holiness of the Mosaic Law–that is enough. But there is something else, unexplicit, unstated: the common origin, or, as Wachtel puts it, “the consciousness of a collective history and of a community of destiny” (29). This is what Wachtel calls “the faith of remembrance” (29). As concrete memories vanish over the course of a lifetime, and then generation after generation, historical memory becomes only the trace of a memory, a memory of memory, an immemorial sense of belonging that must be maintained through faith: a religion without religion. There is only the immemorial belonging, which, as immemorial, that is, as based on a void of memory, is the memory of an exclusion. It is a double exclusion: an exclusion of the original community that preempts the possibility of hegemonic inclusion. I remember, even if I remember nothing: I have faith in that nothingness, which means I will not join you, no matter how many songs you sing, provided you want my inclusion. My secret, about which I can say nothing, means I will not go with you and it also means you cannot go with me. I am alone, even when surrounded by others who may also be alone. But most of you are not: you have your own songs that you seem to share without having to pay a price.
The second sense of the marrano condition adumbrates: consciousness of a collective history, belief in a community of destiny recede, and they open in their recession nothing but what Wachtel calls “always singular destinies” (30). They are fugitive destinies. My path is the path of a flight, and it must be kept secret as such. Even critique would betray the secret. Faith has become an illusion, and a dangerous one, because also faith betrays the secret.
There is only a path, sustained on the secret, which is an immemorial secret of singular existence. Fugitivity–untranslatable, unsharable, like the song of she who speaks to Count Arnaldos–is the keep of the secret.