Spain Contemporary Literature
According to ejiaxing, the ideological movement that prepares the new literature by placing the national problem in greater concreteness is characterized by the work of Miguel de Unamuno. In his Ensayos, which are mostly ideas for occasional readings and where the coherence of a constructive thought leaves too much to be desired, he reveals himself as a restless spirit, in perennial analysis of himself and in constant opposition with himself and with his people. Easy to yield to the suggestion of ideas, to reject them in the name of sentiment, Unamuno is a perpetual commentator of every act and every fact, always looking for the balance between “casticism” or pure tradition and innovation, between the illogicality of sentiment and the living logic of the moral ideal. He believed that he found in Sören Kierkegaard the system suited to his personality as a passionate moralist, and he accepted it without the lively speculative interest that underlies it. The truth of subjectivity, which is an existential notion of relationship between theVida de Don Quiote y Sancho with the contradictory idea of creating on absolute individualism “the new Bible of the” Spanish “people. And since the truth at which he aims, exalting it against Cervantes in the figure of Don Quixote, is the the actualization of a subjective content, and therefore a painful search, he gives rise to El sentimiento trágico de la vida.His vigorous personality that rests on an abstract voluntarism, obstinately rebellious to the empire of intelligence, is in this search; which is often dramatized in an inner desire and becomes paradoxical and contradictory, taking on didactic tones even in poetry. More artist, in a simple world without excessive pretensions,José Martínez Ruiz (Azorín), hesitates between ancient and modern, loves simple and traditional things (Alma castellana ; Castilla), discovers the beauties of the Baroque and the acuteness of Gracián (Clásicos y modernos ; Al margen de los clásicos, etc.), searches the soul of Castile and finds it in the landscape along the paths of Don Quixote. The Unamuno and the Azorín are champions of the essay, of journalistic controversy, of ideological impressionism on the last reading made and of the sentimental paradox. José Ortega y Gasset and Ramiro de Maeztu also excel there. The first lives on the sidelines of contrasting systems with a subjective idealistic background, with attempts to interpret Spanish history (España invertebrada) or with philosophical desires that transcend the concrete forms of art (Meditaciones del Quijote). The other seeks in art, outside its concrete content, the myth as a reflection of the various Spanish ideology (Don Quijote ; Don Juan y la Celestina). The essay as a form closed in philosophical digressions and analyzes that aim at social reality, characterizes modern literature (Eugenio Ors, Salvador de Madariaga, José María Salaverría), revealing that ductility of Spanish ingenuity which never forgets itself and is firm on his own self with a watchful awareness of the criticism of others, while bowing to circumstances. Contemporary lyricism, under the Parnassian or decadent impression of Rubén Darío, was renewed through distinct personalities of poets (Enrique Díez Canedo, Emilio Carrere y Alonso). Each of them has found its accent. Antonio Machado, who began as a poet of melancholy (Soledades, 1903), he came to schematize his lyric on bare and disenchanted motifs, on landscape snapshots, on short visions, where the sober word is music of a resigned soul. Juan Ramón Jiménez, abandoning the first melodic symbolism à la Darío, has rediscovered his note of aristocratic tenderness, with lyrical cues wisely broken into sensual imaginations (Almas de violeta ; Poemas mágicos, etc.). Certainly in this last poetic movement, in which a subtle note of intellectuality dominates, it is possible to discern general European tendencies and an assiduous study of modern foreign poetics. If futurism with its anxiety of conceptual analogical forms has left only pale traces, surrealism takes on vigor with its style of decadence and with the atomic anarchy of pure sensibility. The influence of contemporary French lyricism, to which the revaluation of Góngora and the cult of punctual and luminous preciousness are due, is felt in the latest poets who seek, in simple and linear forms, the fragment of the intimate note (García Lorca, Rafael Alberti, Pedro Salinas, Gerardo Diego, etc.). It is true that there is a need to remove the lyric of pure poetry from the narrow yoke of emotions and sensations in order to bring it back, with a wider love of national life, to the perennial substance of the Spanish tradition. The theater in verse, historical, heroic and romantic, in opposition to prosaic loves and thesis subjects, taken up by Eduardo Marquina and Francisco Villaespesa, was more the survival of an earlier art, formally perfected, than a new development. Traditional motifs resurfaced with Jacinto Grau; an attempt at symbolic drama was that of Ramón Goy de Silva; but modern theater is aimed above all at reality, represented with psychological truth and observation. The vague sentimentality of Gregorio Martínez Sierra and the intellectual attempts of Unamuno and del Valle Inclán. The dramas of Jacinto Benavente, aristocratic chronicler (Señora Ama ; The malquerida ; Los intereses creados, etc.), able to contrast, with precise psychology, distinct figures of the various social classes, with clearly squared scenes, with frank and lively dialogue. In the sainete the brothers Serafín and Joaquín Álvarez Quintero triumph, presenting on the stage characteristic types of their Andalusia, with slightly caricatured attitudes and with pictorial vivacity of language. In the novel, the fame achieved by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez is more linked to the events of his adventurous life than to the intrinsic value of his art. Its tumultuous and sunny naturalism and its warm and descriptive realism (Catedral ; Sangre y arena, etc.) join with an impulsive impressionism in which anticlerical and revolutionary ideology is inserted (El intruso ; La bodega ; La tierra de todos, etc.); but they are notes that are affected by the willed and the insincere, and are in contrast, due to the too much literature they impregnate (Los cuatro jinetes del Apocalipsis), with the most genuine contemporary Spanish art. Sentimental moralism aided by a religious sense of life is sustained in Ricardo León’s elegant prose, especially in Casta de hidalgos and El amor de los amores, and generic realism in that of Concha Espina de la Serna. Neglecting the attempts at brain romance (Nieblaby Unamuno), the greatest modern writers are those who have risen in the sphere of art starting from a personal experience of life and conquering an individual and original thought content. Pio Baroja is the novelist of pure voluntarism as the only form of human activity; but a voluntarism still linked to instinctive naturalness and such that it passes from one illusion to the other. He’s the creator of types who spot themselves fleetingly and disperse against the rich environmental backdrop. The novels he has assembled under the generic title of memorias de un hombre de acción are of interest for their jerky and relief prose, with sometimes sarcastic and caricatured intonations (Los caminos del mundo ; La ruta del aventurero ;El sabor de la venganza, etc.). Baroja is more constructive in psychological novels, where everything falls within an atmosphere of nuanced humor that comes to life from the author’s intimate experiences (Inventos, aventuras y mysificaciones de Silvestre Paradox ; Paradox, Rey). Ramón del Valle Inclán (1869-1936) is the finest chiseller of harmonious periods. He knows the slow delays of dreamy sensuality and the soft caresses of the voluptuous and musical expression. The adventures of the Marquis of Bradomín are embroideries of a subtle psychology that is studied to derive more savory enjoyment from one’s own unconscious selfishness (Sonata de Otoño, de Estío,de Primavera, de Invierno). Some motifs are taken directly from D’Annunzio and from Casanova’s Memoirs ; but the development is original, leaning on that cerebral naturalism which is revealed in other novels (Corte de amor, etc.). Ramón Pérez de Ayala has the ability to elegantly vary the themes of disenchantment and illusion. His knowledge of Spanish nature is artistically realized in the creation of instinctive types, picturesquely determined in gesture and phrase, a humorous expression of half science and half culture (Belarmino y Apolonio, 1919; La pata de la raposa, etc.). Ramón Gómez de la Serna is the creator of the “greguería”, of the phantasmagoria of glowing images, of the flash of concepts that are grasped as in a dream (El muestrario ; El doctor inverosímil ; El incongruente, etc.), of the poetic fragmentarism that turns around in itself (Senos, etc.). He would appear to be an elegant skeptic, if at times he did not know how to facet his irony on a basis of common sense and good taste. Spanish provincial and clerical life reappears as an expression of calm, direct and attentive observation in the novels of Gabriel Miró (El Padre San Daniel ; El obispo leproso). In his fluent and spontaneous prose passes a sense of simple and tranquil humanity. Among the young people, for whom the problem of art has become a problem of life, and of political life, that is, of art historically conditioned within the living complex of the homeland, is Giménez Caballero (Arte y Estado, 1935), who directed the pugnacious Gazeta Literaria(1927-32), and which poses problems and revives discussions for a return to an integral “casticism”. University criticism has good followers in the field of Arabism, which continues a noble Spanish tradition (Julián Ribera, Miguel Asín Palacios), in studies on Cervantes (Francisco Rodríguez Marin, Américo Castro), and in Romance philology. The teacher, direct or indirect, of all the scholars (A. Castro, Federico de Onís, Antonio García Solalinde, Narciso Alonso Cortés) who stand out in this discipline for notable contributions, is Ramón Menéndez Pidal, conscientious and severe illustrator of Spanish literature in its heroic medieval legends, in its popular poetry and in its linguistic evolution.