Critical courage is always required when one sets out to evaluate the latest in contemporary fiction before time has consecrated the enduring talents and blur-red the fads. Landeira and González-del-Valle are doubly to be admired then, not only for putting together a useful reference tool on the contemporary Spanish novel but also for daring in the selection of authors studied.
Novísimo is understood here not only chronologically but also technically, with the emphasis on the "experimental" over more traditional narrative; therefore, one is not surprised to find nothing, for example, on Eduardo Mendoza. Popular successes like Alfonso Grosso, Gonzalo Suárez, Carlos Pérez Merinero, and Andreu Martín must also seek rewards elsewhere. What the book does emphasize [End Page 311] deftly is the solid existence in post-Franquist Spain of men and women writing fiction that pushes societal values and the word to their limits and beyond, fiction that deforms, exposes, and undermines accepted realities, fiction that is by turns committed or despairing, seductive or repulsive, moving or suspicious of conventional feeling. Not a bad balance, it seems.
It is a pleasure to see the women shoulder to shoulder with the men in this volume with no hint of tokenism and with merit serving as the yardstick for inclusion. Concha Alborg's initial chapter on four female narrators of transition gives well-deserved recognition to Lourdes Ortiz, Christina Fernández Cubas, and Soledad Puértolas, while going beyond shrill popular reactions to Rosa Montero to see her real strengths without ignoring the weaknesses. Three welcome essays are also devoted to Ana María Moix: Catherine G. Bellver's perceptive study of division, duplication, and doubling in the novels; C. Christopher Soufas' examination of Julia as (anti-)Generational (anti-)Manifesto; and a lively, unrepressed examination of Las virtudes peligrosas done by Linda Gould Levine. Each of these studies sheds timely critical light on this important Catalan novelist. Noteworthy also is Gonzalo Navajas' analysis of Esther Tusquets' El mismo mar de todos los veranos, a work too little studied to date.
Three essays also examine the fiction of José María Guelbenzu (written by David K. Herzberger, Janet Pérez, and Gemma Roberts), and a fourth (by German Gullon) studies him alongside José María Merino and Marina Mayoral. The decision of the editors to give such weight in the volume to Guelbenzu is provocative—a statement of faith in his importance and a challenge to refutation or agreement from other sources.
The remaining essays include a study of Juan José Millás by Gonzalo Sobejano, a look at Merino's La orilla oscura by Germán Gullón, and an analysis of themes, style, and structure in the novels of Pedro Antonio Urbina by Kessel Schwartz.
This is a useful reference volume for students of the Spanish novel and offers some good reading for anyone interested in directions of contemporary fiction in general. In fact, a sequel would be welcome. [End Page 312]