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  • Spanish Reception of Russian Narratives, 1905–1939 by Lynn C. Purkey
  • Laurent Boetsch

New Romanticism, Soviet Literature, Spanish Literature 1920–1936, José Díaz Fernández, Mikhail Bakhtin, Dialogism, Lynn Purkey, Laurent Boetsch

Purkey, Lynn C. Spanish Reception of Russian Narratives, 1905–1939. Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2013. 203 pp.

José Díaz Fernández’s El nuevo romanticismo: polémica de arte, política y literatura (Madrid: Zeus, 1930) is a book of critical essays aimed at describing the voice of a new generation of writers in Spain of the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was written in response to influences both within Spain and without, and while it applauds many of the formal innovations of the avant-garde, especially the aesthetic notions of Ortega’s arte deshumanizada, it rejects the thematic limitations that ignore the social, political, and economic realities of the moment. Lynn Purkey’s book focuses on a powerful external influence, addressing the question of thematic structure by examining the relationship between Russo-Soviet literature of the period and some of the major writers and works of the New Romanticism movement.

From a theoretical stance, Purkey relies on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories on the novel, focusing especially on various concepts contained within Bakhtin’s work on dialogism or the “dialogical principle.” She sets out to demonstrate how an understanding of several of the narrative works of the authors of New Romanticism is enhanced by comparing and contrasting certain of their characteristics with Russo-Soviet narratives. This “dialogue” between the works serves to illustrate the affinity that the Spanish authors felt with their Soviet counterparts, and underlines the impact of an evolving Soviet literature on Spanish narrative prose also in transition.

An introductory chapter summarizes the artistic environment in which New Romanticism emerged and establishes Díaz Fernandez’s essays as the theoretical framework for what Purkey describes as “not a generation … but rather a movement that coincided with the general politicization of Spanish letters before and [End Page 508] during the Second Republic” (7). She then refers to Díaz Fernández’s praise of Russian Futurism, especially through the voice of Vladimir Mayakovsky, as an entrance into her analysis of the dialogue sustained between various writers of New Romanticism in Spain and several of the social art models emanating from Soviet Russia. This introduction is a helpful synthesis of selected aspects of El nuevo romanticismo within the context of the rapid evolution of Spanish letters during the period.

The book moves from an example of Bakhtinian dialogics as seen through translations and travelogues of the period through a series of thematically similar Soviet and Spanish narratives within the overarching themes of the novel of consciousness, utopia and dystopia, the new woman, and pacifist and war prose. The section on travelogue and translation underlines particularly the Spanish fascination with revolutionary Russia and aims to legitimize the subsequent literary adaptations of Soviet social art among the New Romantics. A brief summary of the key points contained in Bakhtin’s Dialogic Imagination focuses on three main characteristics that lead to his description of the novel as a “dialogized system” and Purkey’s conclusion that “it is logical that Russian narratives served as an import source for the dialogic discourse on Nuevo Romanticismo” (11). With regard to travelogues, Purkey rightly points out that the response of left-leaning intellectuals who visited the Soviet Union was not entirely favorable, and accurately reflected the distance between liberal democrats and anarchists among the Spanish Republican intelligentsia. This assertion strengthens her subsequent analyses of the narrative works by underlining a broadly political and artistic interest in Soviet social art, rather than a primarily ideological approach. The Russian counterpart to these Spanish travelers is Ilia Ehrenburg and his controversial España, república de trabajadores. That book was sufficient to establish the emergence of the common themes of electrification, industrialization, urbanization, the equality of the sexes, and the cultivation of political consciousness that characterize subjects of the various dialogues between the two national narratives.

Chapter Two provides an interesting analysis of the influence of both the pre-and post-revolutionary work of Maxim Gorky on the emerging narrative of the New...


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pp. 508-511
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