Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition


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It is in fact a battlefield, not a monument. And placed against the backdrop of the entire piece, the sentence with which I began admits the original reading. Its ambiguity is a symptom of the instability of the whole essay, which displays a certain determination not to make sense about the novel.

As a general rule "Reflexiones" tends to undermine its own discussion, rendering it equivocal or incoherent. By repeatedly moving the temporal frame of reference, it turns back on itself, it evinces an unmistakeable tilt toward the ambiguous. How else to explain the fact that the quotation occurs in the second sentence of a section entitled "Realidad y memoria"? Like the quotation, this phrase has a different intended meaning, but the fit is too close to be overlooked.

The ambiguity persists. It is important to realize that Torres Bodet's essay is not unusual in its contradictions. I should like to claim that it does nothing more than embody the essential structure of eclecticism, and that as such it is entirely typical of Hispanic discourse about the novel during this time. Consider, for example, the following assertion: "Carefully considered, the novel today possesses a breadth unmatched by any other literary genre; it is a total genre, with a place for the simple stringing together of events as well as for the most complicated analysis of ideas, for physical exaltation as well as for dramatic contrast.

This explains the actual coexistence of antagonic forms and the impossibility of tracing a straight and clear line of development. The second statement, similarly, acknowledges the coexistence of "antagonic" forms but smooths over the intimation of strife with an appeal to the genre's unlimited capaciousness. The difficulty with these positions, however, is that the phrase "total genre" or "free genre" is a contradiction in terms. To conceive of the novel as a "total genre" is to posit the existence of a kind of all kinds—the kind of kind that is hardly a kind at all.

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A genre, by definition, must restrict admission; the moment the novel becomes "free" it stops being a genre. And from the practical standpoint the problem is that, as we shall see, the traditional and the modern novel are usually defined in such a way as to preempt their cohabitation under the same rubric, an incompatibility already insinuated in Guillermo de Torre's reference to "antagonic forms. Placed in a narrow enough context, generic eclecticism is ultimately reducible to an antinomy like that embodied in Torres Bodet's observation.

Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition

The only difference is that "Reflexiones," in attempting to compress a panorama of the current state of the novel into just a few pages, condenses contradictions that a broader perspective tends to dilute. At this point, in the midst of the problematic of obsolescence and substitution, the vanguard novel enters the argument. For in the ongoing discussion of the novel during the decade preceding the Spanish Civil War, the vanguard novel will figure prominently as the new, up-to-date genre to juxtapose against the canonic form. The appearance of the vanguard novel will precipitate a class struggle, not between social groups but between literary classes.

The pun is relevant because the place of the vanguard novel in the critical discourse of the s and 30s cannot be understood without taking into account the genre's incompatibility with the dominant novel-form and the struggle for precedence to which this incompatibility gave rise.

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By studying the critical reaction to the vanguard novel we will thus be laying the groundwork for further discussion of the problematic inherent in Torres Bodet's essay. Four principal moments articulate the history of the vanguard novel between and Three of them arise from editorial ventures: the first moment corresponds to the founding of the series "Nova novorum" of the Revista de Occidente.

By studying their reception, we will be able to follow the falling fortunes and witness the rapid demise of the genre as the decade of the s progressed.

In vanguard fiction beginning and end, timeliness and belatedness, join to form a neat, self-contained circle, a closed world whose dimensions I will be tracing. There are, of course, some writers and works not adequately covered by this scheme, but I do not intend to record the critical reaction to all vanguard novels.

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Hispania. Volume 75, Number 3, September 1992

Authoring the Past. As a general rule "Reflexiones" tends to undermine its own discussion, rendering it equivocal or incoherent. By repeatedly moving the temporal frame of reference, it turns back on itself, it evinces an unmistakeable tilt toward the ambiguous. How else to explain the fact that the quotation occurs in the second sentence of a section entitled "Realidad y memoria"?

Like the quotation, this phrase has a different intended meaning, but the fit is too close to be overlooked. The ambiguity persists. It is important to realize that Torres Bodet's essay is not unusual in its contradictions.


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  5. I should like to claim that it does nothing more than embody the essential structure of eclecticism, and that as such it is entirely typical of Hispanic discourse about the novel during this time. Consider, for example, the following assertion: "Carefully considered, the novel today possesses a breadth unmatched by any other literary genre; it is a total genre, with a place for the simple stringing together of events as well as for the most complicated analysis of ideas, for physical exaltation as well as for dramatic contrast. This explains the actual coexistence of antagonic forms and the impossibility of tracing a straight and clear line of development.

    The second statement, similarly, acknowledges the coexistence of "antagonic" forms but smooths over the intimation of strife with an appeal to the genre's unlimited capaciousness. The difficulty with these positions, however, is that the phrase "total genre" or "free genre" is a contradiction in terms. To conceive of the novel as a "total genre" is to posit the existence of a kind of all kinds—the kind of kind that is hardly a kind at all.

    A genre, by definition, must restrict admission; the moment the novel becomes "free" it stops being a genre. And from the practical standpoint the problem is that, as we shall see, the traditional and the modern novel are usually defined in such a way as to preempt their cohabitation under the same rubric, an incompatibility already insinuated in Guillermo de Torre's reference to "antagonic forms. Placed in a narrow enough context, generic eclecticism is ultimately reducible to an antinomy like that embodied in Torres Bodet's observation.

    The only difference is that "Reflexiones," in attempting to compress a panorama of the current state of the novel into just a few pages, condenses contradictions that a broader perspective tends to dilute. At this point, in the midst of the problematic of obsolescence and substitution, the vanguard novel enters the argument.

    For in the ongoing discussion of the novel during the decade preceding the Spanish Civil War, the vanguard novel will figure prominently as the new, up-to-date genre to juxtapose against the canonic form. The appearance of the vanguard novel will precipitate a class struggle, not between social groups but between literary classes. The pun is relevant because the place of the vanguard novel in the critical discourse of the s and 30s cannot be understood without taking into account the genre's incompatibility with the dominant novel-form and the struggle for precedence to which this incompatibility gave rise.

    By studying the critical reaction to the vanguard novel we will thus be laying the groundwork for further discussion of the problematic inherent in Torres Bodet's essay. Four principal moments articulate the history of the vanguard novel between and Three of them arise from editorial ventures: the first moment corresponds to the founding of the series "Nova novorum" of the Revista de Occidente. By studying their reception, we will be able to follow the falling fortunes and witness the rapid demise of the genre as the decade of the s progressed.

    In vanguard fiction beginning and end, timeliness and belatedness, join to form a neat, self-contained circle, a closed world whose dimensions I will be tracing. There are, of course, some writers and works not adequately covered by this scheme, but I do not intend to record the critical reaction to all vanguard novels.

    I aim rather to document the existence of the genre, to reconstruct the process of inscription of a new and problematic class; and this aim can best be met by concentrating on the four moments when the genre achieved the highest visibility. Since I am interested not in a generation of authors but in a "generation" of books, my scheme privileges the class over the work, and the work over the author. For this reason also, I have made no attempt to do justice to the novelistic careers of writers like Max Aub or Francisco Ayala, in whose total output the vanguard moment represents but a brief flirtation.

    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition
    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition
    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition
    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition
    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition
    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition
    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition
    Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition Idle Fictions: The Hispanic Vanguard Novel, 1926–1934, Expanded edition

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