Spain Literature Part I

From the literary point of view, 1975, the year of the death of F. Franco and the beginning of a transition process for the Spain in a decade that will bring the country to democratic normality, is not in itself significant, nor does it constitute a starting point: of art you can point out an origin rather than a principle. And indeed, Spanish literature had experienced the season of renewal already in the previous decade and, by the mid-1970s, the processes were fully operational. However, for the current Spain, 1975 is not just any year, but has the meaning of a date-symbol, charged with emotional and psychological values, as it marks the end of a forty-year authoritarian regime and, therefore, the restoration of freedom and democracy.

On the more strictly literary level, that date has immediate, important and significant effects. First of all, the long and dramatic experience of exile ends with the return of intellectuals and writers. The list is very long, but among the most representative we should mention R. Chacel (b.1898), M. Andújar (b.1913), F. Ayala (b.1906), RJ Sender (1902-1982), R Alberti (b. 1902), J. Guillén (1893-1986), JA Valente (b. 1929), F. Arrabal (b. 1932), etc .; consequently, the traditional distinction, constant in Franco’s forty years, between ” interior literature ” and ” literature of exile ” ends, so that from now on there will be, as always, only one literature in Spanish. Furthermore, the official censorship disappears, which had already eased the rigors in the last years of the regime and which had conditioned writers and deprived the public of the knowledge of a large literary production. Thus, texts previously mutilated or published abroad are re-proposed, while for the first time exiled writers can print their most recent works at home. Thus, between 1975 and 1976, three of the best novels of the early seventies, already released in Mexico, enter freely into circulation: Recuento (1973) by L. Goytisolo, Si te dicen que caí (1973) by J. Marsé and Juan sin tierra (1975) by J. Goytisolo, prohibited during the Franco regime.

According to health-beauty-guides, the recovery of literary normality is accompanied, at least in a very early phase, with a conspicuous phenomenon of politicization to the bitter end, which produces a flood of political and memorialistic narratives. In the euphoria of freedom, they combine political sensationalism, venal pornography and fashionable language as ingredients of ambiguous and unscrupulous compromises with denunciation, with expressive violence and ferocious and grotesque irony. At the same time, the small progressive publishing houses, often semi-clandestine, which had discreetly nurtured Spanish cultural life by publishing mainly foreign texts, entered a crisis; and the phenomenon of the publishing industry takes shape which cultivates, with political opportunism and literary simplification, the traditional, more or less bourgeois and cosmopolitan novel, conformist and international, for an audience that is still uncertain, confused and greedy for nostalgia. The major representative of this type of novel is F. Vizcaíno Casas (b.1926), prolific author of annuals best-sellers.

Finally, with the advent of freedom, a problematic knot that had dominated the Spanish literary world for many years dissolves: the illusion of the so-called “ hidden creativity ”, the belief that, not being able to publish due to censorship, many Spanish writers kept important, busy, valuable works in their drawers. The result of a sort of ideological overdetermination, exacerbated by the objective and serious limitations suffered in the past, the illusion reverberates as a disappointment, when it is noted that no works have come to light that could have constituted the clear signs of change. The restlessness, existential and intellectual, is also fueled by ambivalence and disorientation produced by a situation in which the old and the new continue to coexist and it is difficult to manage the directions of the future; so that writers suspect that they have “dreamed a dream” (Alberti). The consequent crisis manifests itself with a sort of “ backwards ” path, that is, with a widespread retracing of the past, re-immersing oneself in it, with a vigilant and problematic memory, almost turning one’s back on the present. In this sense, there is no literature or at least a transition novel at all, nor a transition novel at all. The references to the immediate Spanish reality arise in a collateral form, as an additional aspect of the condition of certain characters, subjected to a certain environment. Beyond this, it is rather the novel of those who, from today, scrutinize the passage of history immediately preceding it. In short, there is a changing narrative not a changing narrative.

Aesthetically, the real changes in the Spanish novel had already begun in the 1960s. The first and most emblematic representative of the narrative turn is L. Martín Santos (1924-1964), who with Tiempo de silencio (1962) makes a fundamental contribution to undermine the presuppositions of the social novel and, in general, of traditional realism., privileging a particular attention to style, language, narrative structure. During the following decade, the renewing current was consolidated with the assimilation of the lesson of Latin American fiction, to which was added the more mediated one of the major exiled writers.

Spain Literature 01