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Las Poéticas de James Joyce y Luis Martín-Santos. Aproximación a un Estudio de Deudas Literarias (review)

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 44, Number 4, Summer 2007
pp. 831-834 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0026

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Las Poéticas de James Joyce y Luis Martín-Santos, published in Spanish, illustrates the interest Joyce’s works have elicited in Spain and the ways Joyce attracts both researchers and readers alike. The study compares Joyce and Luis Martín-Santos, one of the most prominent novelists in contemporary Spanish literature. Martín-Santos was an atypical novelist whose academic background was in medicine and who worked professionally as a psychiatrist.1 His attraction to literature led him to join the Spanish literary circles of the mid-twentieth century, and he published novels, poems, and literary essays. During this time, Joyce’s writings were favored by an important group of Spanish literary critics and novelists. Quite early on, he was reviewed in Spain, and numerous references to his works and to Ulysses, in particular, appeared in the national press.2 The first complete translation of Joyce’s work into Spanish was of A Portrait by Dámaso Alonso, Director of the Royal Spanish Language Academy, who wrote to Joyce and received his personal reply regarding how to solve several problems in the Spanish version.3 At present, practically all of Joyce’s works have been translated into Spanish.

Marisol Morales Ladrón offers a systematic comparison of Joyce’s Ulysses and Martín-Santos’s Tiempo de Silencio,4 the latter’s first and most important novel. As Morales Ladrón remarks, “por su construcción, técnicas narrativas y uso del lenguaje Tiempo de Silencio inaugura la renovación formal de la novela española siguiendo la línea de Joyce” (“owing to its literary construction, narrative techniques, and use of language Tiempo de Silencio begins the formal renovation of the Spanish novel, following Joyce’s literary example”) (44).5 Her broader focus is on the historical and literary circumstances that facilitated the influence of Joyce on Martín-Santos and other contemporary Spanish writers, such as Pérez de Ayala, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Torrente Ballester, or Carmen Martin Gaite, all of them mentioned in the book (69). As in Ulysses, the Spanish novel takes place in a single city, Madrid, in a short period of time, four days, during the autumn of 1949, and most of the action occurs in the protagonist’s mind. As an example of the Bildungsroman, Morales Ladrón also offers a short analysis of A Portrait and Martín-Santos’s Tiempo de Destrucción, an unfinished, posthumously published work.6 Accordingly, the protagonists of both books, Stephen and Pedro, “reviven experiencias de sus respectivos autores, como la educación en un estricto catolicismo del que finalmente reniegan, la influencia y presión familiar, y un ambiente social que les oprime” (“relive the experiences of their respective authors, such as their education in a strict Catholicism that they will later deny, the influence and pressure of the family, and an oppressive social atmosphere”) (170).

Viewed as a whole, Morales Ladrón’s approach is broad and kaleidoscopic, covers many topics, and endeavors to include several literary theories supporting the different alternatives chosen for analysis. A less ambitious plan, however, concentrating on fewer subjects and staying closer to the actual texts of the novels, would have been a reasonable alternative. Morales Ladrón has considerable command of the subject, but she sometimes loses track of it amid an ever-present mixture of academicism and didactism. Readers are offered continuous reflections on the structure of the different chapters and on where to find a particular analysis or topic in the book. At times, this interest in clarity leads to the repetition of themes and topics from different points of view in other parts of the book. The academicism is evident in frequent references to diverse authors and literary theorists to sustain ideas or theoretical approaches. Many of the citations, quotations, and notes are not necessary and make the book a little tiresome. Sometimes we have several lines and even paragraphs with lists of names of writers, a kind of pyrotechnical display of erudition.

All things considered, the volume is an invitation to understand the innovations introduced into Spanish narrative during the 1960s with Joyce as a...



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