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The Figure of "Ramon"

After his conversion, the former troubadour, Ramon Llull, disowned the worldly figure he had cut as a singer of carnal love songs. His shame and humility meant that he concealed his own identity in his first writings. Thus, in the prologue to the Book of Contemplation (1273-1274), he states that he is omitting his own name in order to attribute the book to God. In any case, the penitent Ramon did not hold back from revealing the error of his ways, with the aim of embellishing the prose he wrote: when he confessed that he had been a minstrel who was led astray, when he asserted that women’s beauty had acted upon him like poison, when he accused himself of having forgotten to love God.

Certain fictional characters from the Romance of Evast and Blaquerna (Montpellier, 1283) and from Felix or the Book of Wonders (Paris, 1288-1289) present features that Ramon could have distilled or invented on the basis of his own experience. In any case, the character of ‘Ramon’ is no mere fictional being, but the outcome of a perfectly controlled process of autobiographical construction. The passage of dedication on a manuscript of the Ars demonstrativa, copied in 1289, begins: ‘Ego, magister Raymundus Lul, cathalanus, transmitto et do istum librum…’ Works such as the Desconhort (1295), the Cant de Ramon (1300), the Vita coetanea and the Phantasticus (1311) comment upon the activities of this codex’s donor from a decidedly promotional and propagandistic viewpoint.

The step from the Arts of the first phase to those of the second represented a profound alteration in the procedures used by Llull to present his own image to the world. He had to make explicit that of which his ‘authority’ consisted, since the boldness and ambition of the Art as a system of thought could be understood as an illicit act of intellectual presumption. Llull never ceased to ‘attribute’ his Art to God. In fact, according to what Llull tells us, this Art was a gift of grace dating from 1274, during his withdrawal for contemplative purposes to the summit of Mount Randa: this illumination was the fundamental experience of the character of ‘Ramon’, such as it is reported by the Vita coetanea.

From the 1290s onwards, Llull wished his public to identify him as an intrepid defender of an ideal, and that after thirty years of sterile life, he had devoted thirty more to the service of God by writing books upon the errors of unbelievers, taking steps to form a body of preachers, and setting a good example to others. ‘Poor, aged and despised’, ‘without the assistance of any living person’, the character of ‘Ramon’ rebelled against the lack of comprehension of which he was the target, in order to convince the public of the virtues of his particular project. The equation identifying Llull with his Art, his character and his work is provided by Llull himself through the image of himself he has passed down to us: all his readers are prisoners of this identification and, if we do not wish to be freed from the literalness of what he wrote nor from strict historicity, there is no alternative but to accept the profile he offers of himself as one devoted to God’s cause.

See: Badia, Lola, “Ramon Llull: Autor i Personatge”, Aristotelica et Lulliana magistro doctissimo Charles H. Lohr septuagesimum annum feliciter agenti dedicata, Fernando Domínguez, Ruedi Imbach, Theodor Pindl, and Peter Walter (eds.), “Instrumenta Patristica” XXVI (Steenbrugis, in Abbatia S. Petri, 1995), pp. 355-375; and Bonner, Anthony, “Ramon Llull: autor, autoritat i il·luminat”, Actes de l’Onze Col·loqui Internacional de Llengua i Literatura CatalanesPalma (Mallorca), 8-12 de septembre del 1998, Joan Mas i Vives, Joan Miralles i Montserrat, and Pere Rosselló Bover (eds.), I (Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 1998), pp. 35-60.