- Galdós en sus textos. Asedios críticos para una hermenéutica by Francisco Estévez
Francisco Estévez opens his study of Galdós by reflecting on the lack of great, comprehensive theories in this so-called post-modern era. A perusal of Galdós bibliography from the last, say, seven years confirms this fragmentation of criticism into mini- and micro-theories. The young and prolific University of Málaga researcher resists this contemporary tendency to smallness by proposing a consideration of Galdós's transcendence in the Hispanic literary tradition. Galdós en sus textos. Asedios críticos para una hermenéutica asserts Estévez's intention to show how Galdós's reflections on the literary craft leave permanent marks on his fiction. Yet Estévez ultimately accomplishes more: situating Galdós in the broader panorama of contemporaneous European literature and philosophy, he traces how the author responds both in his aesthetic thought and production to the great political, moral, and social phenomena of his fifty-year career.
Estévez explicitly calls his book a response to William H. Shoemaker's concept in the seminal La crítica literaria de Galdós (1979), that an exploration of Galdós's literary ideas could contribute to a more precise and sensitive understanding and evaluation of certain aspects of the author's novels, plays, and other works. Describing the writing of Galdós a "mirror" of nineteenth-century Spain, Estévez traces the salient qualities of Galdós's realism in his introductory section. Working from Ayala's idea that the real is defined by conventional wisdom, he reminds readers that Galdós did not intend to "copy" nature, but to "refine" it with a didactic purpose and from a literary tradition. In Galdós's works, the author's role falls in between absence and dominance: as Estévez quotes from the prologue to El abuelo (1897), "por más que se diga, el artista podrá estar más o menos oculto; pero no desaparece nunca."
The three primary sections of Galdós en sus textos, as the title implies, explore the aesthetic priorities of that "artista… más o menos oculto." "Asedios al autor" considers Galdós's authorship: a rare occasion when the author appears as a character inspiring historian-journalist Tito in the final Episodios nacionales, the author's ex libris of a sphinx set in a seal reading "Ars, natura, veritas," the fluctuating interpretations of Galdós as author made by each artistic movement after him, Galdós's as a doubter and a chronicler of the city. "Asedios al pensamiento," a rather more uneven section, pursues an in-depth study of Galdós's constant re-evaluations of his ethics, politics, and aesthetics: the effects of national and personal political developments, the general late-19th-century harmony between literary criticism and production, his historian's work (throughout his novels) of depicting the common past and documenting the shared present, his using the bourgeoisie as necessary protagonists in the present while questioning its values, yet never giving definite judgments.
Galdós en sus textos calls for a reconsideration of the common notion that Galdós was at his best in the novelas contemporáneas. As proof, the book's third section, "Asedios a la obra," delves almost exclusively into the literary complexities of Galdós's late novels: Madrid as a character and catalyst in many of his works, the understudied and fragmentary epistolary exchange in Tristana, the evolution of the Spanish bourgeoisie and the moral [End Page 111] ekphrasis of Valentín's photo in the Torquemada tetralogy, the power of the title characters' language in Nazarín and Halma, and the morality-money conflict in Misericordia.
Estévez excels in interweaving contemporary philosophical, scientific, and literary texts with his exploration of Galdós's literary criticism and production, and through this global analysis locates Galdós at the heart of the broader intellectual history throughout 19th- and early-20th-century Europe. In one instance of Estévez...