Revolution in the Novel / Novel of Revolution


The second half of the twentieth century witnessed the publication of some of the finest novels written in the history of Spain’s pluri-national literatures.  These novels are of enduring interest to us because of the “radical artifice” flaunted by their authors, including the use of parody/pastiche and multiple narrators, subplots, and time schemes as well as countless self-reflexive devices.  This dazzling display of literary pyrotechnics got under way with Gonzalo Torrente Ballester’s playful El golpe de estado de Guadalupe Limón (1946), which predates both the “Latin American boom” and the so-called “new historical novel.”  Fiction writing proved adept at undermining the authority of history writing under Franco’s regime (1939-1975) in Juan Goytisolo’s Señas de identidad (1966) and Eduardo Mendoza’s La verdad sobre el caso Savolta (1975), a novel about anarchist terrorism, workers’ strikes, sexual liberation, and arms trafficking in Barcelona during the World War I years.  La verdad is the antithesis of the book with which the course will be launched, Pío Baroja’s Aurora roja (1904), a moral fiction which takes very seriously the claims that violent revolutions (specifically, the dream of an anarchist revolution) make on those idealist spirits who would like to change the world around them into a better and more humane place.  The latest flowering of Spanish fiction dates back to 1998, when important novels of “historical memory” began to focus on little-known episodes of the Spanish Civil War.  We will read the most popular (and arguably the best) on these novels: Dulce Chacón’s La voz dormida (2002).  Cumulatively, the body of fiction just described amounts to a “revolution in the novel.”  However, very rarely are the works under study read for the complex and sophisticated ways in which they make statements about a vexed contemporary question that spanned the years of late Francoism and the ensuing Transition to democracy: whether Spain was going to experience a much-awaited general strike or a massive uprising that would lead into a “socialist revolution.”  Depending on each author’s political allegiances, underneath the surface of the “revolution in the novel” one can see the emergence of either a “novel of revolution” or a “novel of counterrevolution.”  The related question of women’s unfinished revolution/ emancipation will also be explored through key works by female authors of this period such as Montserrat Roig, Lourdes Ortiz, and Dulce Chacón.  Featured novels may vary from one year to the next.  Conducted in Spanish.

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