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Reviewed by:
  • Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction
  • James Mandrell
Robert C. Spires, Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1996. xii + 268 pages.

Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction continues Robert C. Spires’ exploration of twentieth-century Spanish fiction, a journey that begins with La novela española de posguerra: Creación artística y experiencia personal (1978), Beyond the Metafictional Mode: Directions in the Modern Spanish Novel (1984), and Transparent Simulacra: Spanish Fiction. 1902–1926 (1988). Although nothing like a fourth volume in an ongoing study, Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction shares with the earlier books an interest in language as well as a tendency to render the history of modern and contemporary Spanish fiction as a series of discrete periods that give the lie to subtle changes in emphasis. Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction departs from the previous studies in its explicit engagement with “context,” which is understood here not just as the backdrop of events in Spain, but as both the broader spectrum of international political shifts away from centralized power and the development of thought and theory in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences that anticipate or echo these political shifts.

For Spires’ purposes, examination of the decentralization and decentering found in various aspects of society and culture in general and Spanish fiction in particular is limited to the 15 years between 1975 and 1989, which he then divides into three five-year periods. Clearly, 1975 and 1989 were chosen for their extra-literary significance: 1975 points to the end of the Franco dictatorship with the death of the Generalísimo; 1989 gestures toward the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. In this sense, Spires is an equal-opportunity critic of totalitarianism, since he refers throughout Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction to the demise of totalitarian regimes of both the Left and the Right. But his stated purpose is somewhat different and significantly more complex and interesting: “The attempt . . . to link the year 1975 with 1989, fiction with politics, and the end of the Spanish ultra-Right regime with the collapse of the Soviet ultra-Left bloc, points to my goal with this project of identifying some of the connections between a culturally bound poetics and a culturally dispersed politics” (2).

Spires sets forth the basic parameters for his pursuit of the connections between poetics and politics in Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction in the Introduction and an opening chapter elucidating the “post-World War II episteme,” in which he briefly traces “the ecological connections between Spanish political history, the international breakup of the totalitarian state, Foucault’s thesis on panoptic systems, and Franco’s official addresses to the people” along with “common approaches to and concepts of reality as evident in chaos, entropy, and information theories as well as in that elusive term postmodernism” (22–23). The next four chapters deal with the literary texts that constitute the core of the study, first with a chapter on Luis Martín-Santos’ Tiempo de silencio in a discussion of the postwar years in Spain, then in [End Page 460] chapters on the years 1975 to 1979, with a consideration of Juan Goytisolo’s Juan sin tierra, Carmen Martín Gaite’s El cuarto de atrás, Eduardo Mendoza’s La verdad sobre el caso Savolta, and Juan José Millás’ Visión del ahogado; the years 1980 to 1984, with analyses of Luis Goytisolo’s Teoría del conocimiento, José María Guelbenzu’s El río de la luna, Lourdes Ortiz’s Urraca, and Rosa Montero’s Te trataré como a una reina; and the years 1985 to 1989 with readings of Cristina Fernández Cubas’ El año de Gracia, Ignacio Martínez Pisón’s Alguien te observe en secreto, Esther Tusquets’ Para no volver, Carmen Riera’s Cuestión de amor propio, Antonio Muñoz Molina’s El invierno en Lisboa, and Javier Marías’ Todas las almas. Post-Totalitarian Spanish Fiction ends—but doesn’t conclude—with an Epilogue that speculates on not just the utility but the genuine social and cultural importance of the study of literature.

Spires makes a strong case for an evolution in contemporary Spanish fiction...

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pp. 460-462
Launched on MUSE
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