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272Rocky Mountain Review and dead as the souls of the deceased serfs that serve as collateral in their ludicrously venal negotiations. Gogol's person and his oeuvre prove at least as frought with ambiguity as Lermontov's or Pechorin's — including his several suddenly serious rejoinders to critics, sandwiched here and there in his lyrical asides and in earlier drafts, and, reminiscent of his own amorphous and frequently uncouth behavior, the ironic tendency in his characterizations to equate "plentitude" and an "excess ofattributes" with "absence ofpersonality" (193). Here the author seems closer than ever to both his hero and his work's elusive narrator. Todd's study is a most useful and provocative contribution to our understanding ofRussian literature at the inception ofits great "classical" age. THOMAS F. ROGERS Brigham Young University NOEL M. VALIS. TAe Novels of Jacinto Octavio Picón. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1986. 218 p. Jacinto Octavio Picón (1852-1923) belongs to what may be termed the second rank oflate nineteenth-century Spanish realists, the first rank ofwhich would include such writers as Galdós, Valera, Pardo Bazán, and Clarín. A native and lifetime resident ofMadrid, Picón published eight novels, including Dulce y sabrosa and Juanita Tenorio, as well as numerous short stories and essays. Only Dulce y sabrosa is available in a recent edition (with an extensive introduction to the life and works by Gonzalo Sobejano, Cátedra, 1976), and in this volume Noël Valis continues to combat the tradition of neglect. Valis justifies her study on the grounds that minor works and authors illuminate the art ofthe literary giants and help to provide a more comprehensive picture ofthe social and political climate ofthe period. In the case ofPicón, the specific questions posed in the novels offer a view ofthe author, as poet and ideologue, and a point ofcontact with writers ofthe Generation of 1898. Ultimately, and significantly, the study projects a sense ofdifference, a differentiation between the novels of Picón and those of his contemporaries. TAe Novels ofJacinto Octavio Picón is similar in format to the Twayne World Authors Series: chronology, life, historical and cultural ambience, consideration of the works, select bibliography. The first chapter is an impressive mixture of fact, hypothesis, and anecdote. Valis offers a succinct, highly informative portrait of the artist and his circumstance. She foregrounds the events and turns offate that would affect Picon's education, literary production, and world view. A common denominator in the presentation is Picon's liberalism, a consequence of heredity and environment and perhaps the distinguishing feature of the novels. Without forcing the issue, Valis shows how family background and particular associations are brought to bear upon the content and the reception of the writings. Picón was an early republican, actively engaged in politics and caught in the politicizing temperament ofhis age. (The story of his election to the Royal Spanish Academy, to cite one example, is a testament to the clash of wills.) The introductory materials set the stage for the major portion of the study, a critique of the novels. Valis' discussion focuses on reviews and commentaries by Picon's contemporaries and on the themes, characterization, and setting ofeach work. In part a reflection of Picon's anticlerical stance, Lázaro (1882) deals with a crisis of faith while challenging ecclesiastical and social hierarchies. The Book Reviews273 pervasive skepticism takes an idealistic turn in the end. Even an appended idealism is missing from Juan Vulgar (1885), whose satire is directed largely at the Spanish educational system. El enemigo (1887), set during the second Carlist War, intensifies the spirit ofdisillusionment ofthe earlier novels. The target here is religious fanaticism masquerading as spirituality; the politics (and the rhetoric) of devotion bring tragedy to a bourgeois family torn apart by the agents of faith. La hijastra del amor (1884) initiates a series of narratives devoted to the heroine as victim. Picón depicts a deterministic universe in which the protagonist's fate is inseparable from her social status and from economic reality, yet the female characters are freely, often destructively, passionate. After suffering abuse in a loveless marriage, the protagonist of La honrada (1890) is united...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 272-273
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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