Andrés Pérez-Simón
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain | Published: 17 March, 2024
ISSUE 19 | Pages: 72-85 | PDF | DOAJ |

Creative Commons 4.0 2024 by Andrés Pérez-Simón | This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.

This essay examines Luis Martín-Santos’ second novel, Time of Destruction, unfinished at the time of his accidental death in 1964, in connection with James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). To date, Marisol Morales-Ladrón remains the only scholar who has dealt extensively with both texts (2005: 162-182), a sharp contrast to the numerous studies that have discussed the traces of Joyce’s Ulysses in Martín-Santos’ first novel, Time of Silence (1962). The publication, in 2022, of Mauricio Jalón’s new edition of Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction, one with significant textual amendments to the first edition (1975), provides an ideal opportunity to expand the scholarship on this scarcely researched topic. The first section of this essay offers a brief discussion of the new edition of Martín-Santos’ novel and reconsiders it in relation to Joyce’s work. The second section proposes a reading of A Portrait and Time of Destruction in light of the tension that exists between the narrators and the two main fictional figures in these novels, Stephen Dedalus and Agustín. The final section considers both novels in relation to Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy of history and morality.

El presente ensayo estudia la segunda novela de Luis Martín-Santos, Tiempo de destrucción, incompleta debido a su fallecimiento en accidente en 1964, en relación con A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), de James Joyce. Hasta la fecha, Marisol Morales-Ladrón ha sido la única investigadora que ha estudiado en detalle la conexión entre ambos textos (2005: 162-182), una situación que contrasta enormemente con los numerosos ensayos que han analizado las huellas de Ulysses de Joyce en la primera novela de Martín-Santos, Tiempo de silencio (1962). La publicación, en 2022, de una nueva edición de Tiempo de destrucción a cargo de Mauricio Jalón, con importantes variaciones con respecto a la primera edición (1975), ofrece una oportunidad idónea para explorar un tema poco investigado. En la primera sección de este artículo se discute brevemente la nueva edición de la novela de Martín-Santos y se reconsidera su relación general con la obra de Joyce. La segunda sección lleva a cabo una lectura conjunta de A Portrait y Tiempo de destrucción a partir de la tensión que existe entre las voces narradoras y los dos principales personajes de las novelas, Stephen Dedalus y Agustín, respectivamente. La tercera y última sección trata sobre la cuestión de la historia en ambas novelas a la luz de la filosofía de la historia y de la moral de Friedrich Nietzsche.

James Joyce; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Luis Martín-Santos; Tiempo de destrucción; bildungsroman; nacionalismo; Irlanda; España

Joyce and Martín-Santos Reconsidered 

Scholarship on James Joyce’s influence on Luis Martín-Santos has mostly concerned itself with the connections between Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and Martín-Santos’ Time of Silence (1962). Right after the publication of Martín-Santos’ novel, reviewers Ricardo Doménech and Antonio Vilanova observed the thematic and stylistic affinities of both works.[1] In choosing Joyce’s Ulysses as his main model, Martín-Santos broke away from the principles of the objectivist social literature that dominated in Spain in the 1950s and early 1960s. Martín-Santos acknowledged Joyce as a central inspiration for his first novel in his response to a questionnaire sent to him by Janet Winecoff in the summer of 1962 (1968: 237). The fact that an American scholar reached out to Martín-Santos only a few months after the release of Time of Silence was a testament to his sudden popularity as the great innovator of the contemporary Spanish novel. In the decades that followed, the presence of motifs and techniques from Ulysses in Martín-Santos’ Time of Silence became a topic of analysis in scholarly studies that examined both texts through an intertextual lens (Palley 1971, Luna 1984), or in terms of the authors’ shared interests in mythical and thematic structures (Cabrera 1971, Gullón 1972). Moreover, Alfonso Rey, author of the canonical monograph Construction and Meaning in ‘Time of Silence’, wrote an 18-page section on the presence of Ulysses in Martín-Santos’ novel on occasion of the publication of a second, revised version of his monograph in 1980. Additionally, Rey placed this new section right in the opening of his book (Rey 1988: 5-23), a location of importance. Finally, in 2005, Marisol Morales-Ladrón published what is still the only book-length comparative study of Joyce and Martín-Santos. Elsewhere, Morales-Ladrón (2004) has summarised the following elements in common in Ulysses and Time of Silence:

the limited use of the units of space and time; the focus on the inner lives of the characters; the systematic use of the interior monologue and the soliloquy; the inclusion of different narrative perspectives; the coincidence in the construction of the main characters and their respective wanderings through the towns of Madrid and Dublin; and the inclusion of the Homeric myth as a pillar to sustain the narrative structure. (440)

Contrasted with Time of Silence, Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction is not an overtly parodic and intertextual novel. As a result of this, Joyce’s Ulysses has a lesser role when it comes to constituting a repository of mythical references and stylistic techniques. Due to this difference, this essay approaches Martín-Santos’ second novel in connection to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man rather than to Ulysses. While there is no empirical evidence of Martín-Santos’ reading of A Portrait, assuming that the author had access to one of the 3,000 copies of the second edition of the Spanish translation, published in 1962, is a plausible possibility (Lázaro 48-49). Surprisingly, this new edition of Dámaso Alonso’s translation, originally released in 1926, received an enthusiastic approval of religious censors (see the opening of the censor’s report quoted in Lázaro 49). This reception means that the translation of A Portrait was circulating freely in Spain right when Martín-Santos was working on Time of Destruction.

Morales-Ladrón establishes a comparison between Joyce’s A Portrait and Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction by mentioning the similar sexual, existential, and religious crises the characters Stephen Dedalus and Agustín experience in their transition from boyhood to adulthood in the two novels (2005: 168). Morales Ladrón sees Agustín, the main character in Time of Destruction, as a continuator of a tradition represented by Stephen Dedalus, the modernist protagonist of a bildungsroman who refuses to fully subscribe to the utilitarian values of the bourgeois class (2005: 165-168). Apart from Morales-Ladrón’s study, there are no systematic analyses of Joycean influences on Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction. This gap is due in great part to the difficulties of interpreting the problematic manuscript of Martín-Santos’ novel. The Spanish author began working on Time of Destruction right after Time of Silence yet he could not complete the final revisions of the novel due to his death in a car accident in 1964. The manuscript of Time of Destruction remained unpublished for a decade. When the work was eventually published in 1975, the novel was not well received by critics. The main reason for this negative reception was the fragmentary nature of a collection of manuscript materials compiled by editor José-Carlos Mainer. Constance A. Sullivan affirmed that Time of Destruction “is not yet a novel, and no amount of editorial caution and exactness will convert these collected pages into a work of fiction of any consistency, verifiable form, or quality” (1976: 137-38). In a similar vein, Julián Palley defined the book as “a mass of dissimilar and fragmentary materials” (1977: 221). He even went to the point of wondering “whether Mainer has done a service or a disservice to the memory of Martín-Santos by the publication, in this form, of this material” (1977: 221). These critics did not appreciate the cumbersome critical apparatus put together by Mainer. Palley criticised Mainer for adding “a mass of variant readings, both in the form of footnotes and added chapters, that could only be of use to the scholar, and which make the reading of this book a formidable labor” (1977: 221). Mike Mudrovic, on the other hand, gave a more positive appraisal of the editor’s assemblage. According to him, Mainer did “an excellent job of presenting the manuscript to the public” even though “the footnotes throughout the text are distracting” (1976: 623). Mudrovic acknowledged the annoyance of facing an “unfinished, unpolished, in some ways frustrating and impenetrable work” (1976: 623).

In this context of uncertainty, Mainer’s description of the segment “Coven” [“Aquelarre”] of Time of Destruction as “a dialogue of obvious Joycean descent” [“un diálogo de evidente ascendencia joyceana”] (1975: 37) gained popularity among several critics[2] who reproduced this idea without further elaboration. This statement was rather misleading considering that the fragment features an abstract dialogue on the history of witchery and its connection to female sexual repression in Northern Spain. The contemporary discourses of psychoanalysis and existentialism, which were central to Martín-Santos’ philosophical thought (Martín-Santos 2004a), are echoed in this metaphysical dialogue. Moreover, from a literary perspective, this dialogue seems much closer to Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus (1947) than to Joyce’s Ulysses. This literary affiliation seems fully justified considering that in late 1962, when he started working on Time of Destruction, Martín-Santos acknowledged Mann’s Doctor Faustus as one of his preferred works (cited in Winecoff 1968: 237).

The publication of a new edition of Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction, in 2022, allows a new perspective for examining how the Spanish author established an artistic dialogue with Joyce. This edition, under the editorship of Mauricio Jalón, includes Martín-Santos’ prologue to the novel, an important fragment not included in the 1975 edition. Additionally, the publication features a new structure that consists of four sections comprising a total of 40 episodes or sequences. In preparing this new edition, Jalón accessed nearly one thousand pages of typescripts, notes, and letters made available to him by the author’s heirs. Unsurprisingly, in view of these substantial editorial changes, Jalón described Time of Destruction as a “new book” during the presentation of his edition of the novel at the National Library of Spain, in Madrid, on February 17, 2022. During this public event, Jalón also referred to Joyce as an author that Martín-Santos “admired” (Jalón 2022). Jalón pointed to two specific instances of Joycean influence in Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction. First, Molly Bloom’s stream of consciousness in the last episode of Ulysses constitutes, according to Jalón, a direct inspiration for Martín-Santos’ extreme experimentation with language in “Combustions” [“Combustiones”], the last section of Time of Destruction. However, while Joyce set the literary precedent for Martín-Santos’ radical exploration of inner speech, it is also true that Martín-Santos’ radical dismantling of rational language in the final sequences of Time of Destruction owes much to his own background as a medical doctor and a research scholar in the field of psychiatry (Martín-Santos 2004a). Besides the literary precedent of Molly Bloom’s monologue, Jalón identified a second instance of Joycean influence on Time of Destruction. According to Jalón, the physical punishment that the prefect of studies inflicts on Agustín, a scene portrayed in the first section of the novel (Martín-Santos 2022: 51-54), mirrors Father Dolan’s disciplining of Stephen Dedalus in Part I of A Portrait (2007: 44-45). Agustín, who attends a Catholic school on a scholarship, is interrogated for possession of an erotic photograph. In resisting the interrogation Agustín sees himself somehow victorious, similarly to how Stephen felt after his interview with the school’s rector (2007: 50-51). Jalón’s recent observation is the starting point for a more detailed analysis of similarities between the novels in the following two sections of this essay.

The starting point of this joint analysis of Joyce and Martín-Santos is Martín-Santos’ declared acknowledgment of his admiration for the Irish writer. Moreover, the empirical evidence of contact between the authors is complemented by the rich corpus of comparative studies on Ulysses and Time of Silence that progressively emerged after the publication of Martín-Santos’ first novel in 1962, as discussed in this first section. The methodological origins of my essay are therefore to be traced back to the study of contacts between authors that was at the centre of the discipline of comparative literature from the early 19th century to the mid-twentieth century. However, this essay departs from this traditional approach by reading Martín-Santos not after Joyce but with Joyce. The final goal of this comparative study is not the simple detection of thematic or stylistic elements in Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction that could be traced to Joyce’s A Portrait, but rather an explanation of the way in which Martín-Santos adopted Joyce’s novel to articulate his own plan of confronting the collective past of Spain.

Creating a Biography

This section explores how the spiritual growth of Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait constitutes a direct model for the evolution of Agustín in Time of Destruction. At play in both novels is a dissonance between the narrator’s and the character’s view. In A Portrait, Joyce achieves the effect of “doubleness of vision” (Kenner 82) or “vacillating viewpoint” (Riquelme 367) by exploiting the distance between the narrator’s and the character’s perspectives. As Sam Slote states, the use of free indirect discourse in A Portrait “allows for the character of Stephen to be narrated from a perspective that is at once consociate but distinct” (2013: 21). Martín-Santos, on the other hand, chooses a different path to create dissonance between the narrator and Agustín. Martín-Santos does so first by presenting himself as an author-narrator in a prologue in which he openly discusses his own position as author of the text. In this prologue, Martín-Santos explicitly lays out his plan to develop the fictional character of Agustín while establishing a dialogue with him. This first-person account then reappears in different segments of Time of Destruction, addressing readers with metanarrative commentaries. Very significantly, the author-narrator in the novel describes his relationship with Agustín as one based on “a certain coincidence and, while not twin souls, it could be said that we are complementary souls” (2022: 172).[3] The author-narrator inserts himself further in the fictional world of the novel and appears to readers as a friend of Agustín who shares experiences with him while he (unsuccessfully) attempts to figure out what Agustín really thinks and feels.[4] This insertion is a different textual strategy to the one Joyce employs. Yet, the effect is the same, resulting in the presence of what Mikhail Bakhtin defines as the “two noncoinciding consciousnesses” (1990: 22) that characterise novelistic discourse.

Martín-Santos’ preface to Time of Destruction contains explicit clues on the interplay between the author-narrator and Agustín. As noted earlier, Jalón’s 2022 edition of Time of Destruction opens with the author’s prologue, an introductory text that was not included in Mainer’s edition of the novel back in 1975. Oddly enough, the prologue had appeared five years before, in 1970, collected in a volume of heterogeneous prose writings titled Apologues [Apólogos], edited by Salvador Clotas. Due to this unfortunate editorial history, the prologue remained unknown to many scholars until the publication of Jalón’s edition of Time of Destruction. The introductory text confirms that Martín-Santos conceived Time of Destruction as a work that was not a simple continuation of the formal and thematic patterns in Time of Silence. Instead, he thought of his second novel in terms of a radical departure from his previous work – and from anything he had written before, for that matter. “I am aware of the difficulty of my task […] it is the first time I intend to perform it” (2022: 11), Martín-Santos declares. In this prologue, he lays out a theory of Time of Destruction as a biographical book, an aspect that remains understudied by critics to date (“before even starting to do what I intend to do, [I feel that] I wanted to present to the readers a theory of biography”, 2022: 11). Due to the importance of the opening lines of the prologue, and considering that this is mostly unknown, quoting at length is necessary:

Who am I, indeed, to dare to give an almost definitive shape […] to a life that, although I tried to understand, always eluded me in its deepest sense? Isn’t the attempt to capture another man in words a fundamentally excessive practice? […] [to voice] perhaps his secret, his life project, his failures of self-realisation?

The life of a man is not a precise figure […] We can get to know certain key dates – the moment in which his life began and the day of his last breath. But we would be deceiving ourselves if we believed that these temporal limits could be comparable to the temporal limits of a musical work. […] these dates tell us nothing about the individual […] The limits of a man cannot be either established with a multiplicity of data, of incidents, of adventures. “He married Mrs. Pilar de Montalván in 1924”, “He was appointed Chair of Comparative Philology in 1936” […] This task – something that is impossible, strictly speaking – is not completed with data. The limit of man lies beyond. What we want to see is an inner figure, the form of a spiritual movement, what perhaps he would give us, had he been a plastic artist, in each of […] his sketches or of his main works. […] But when the only art that this man practiced, at least in a continuous and essential way, was life itself, it is necessary to have enjoyed an intimate coexistence with him. Only in the surprise of the unexpected does the originality of man manifest, what is profound and worthy of being understood. (2022: 11-13)

Martín-Santos, creator of the fictional figure of Agustín, declares himself aware of the impossibility of capturing all the angles of Agustín’s “life project”.[5] An accumulation of empirical data is not a solution. This conception of the novel as a biographical, and necessarily incomplete, exercise can be traced back to Joyce’s A Portrait. As Slote has recently observed, in his discussion of A Portrait as an exercise of “self-creation” that imitates Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical and stylistic “self-fashioning”, Joyce’s novel constitutes a fictional autobiography that “narrates the possibility of its own genesis” (2013: 19). Slote finds in Joyce’s essay “A Portrait of the Artist” (1904) an explicit conceptualisation of Joyce’s position towards his fictional creation, Stephen Dedalus. This early piece is a generically hybrid text, one that its first editors, Robert Scholes and Richard M. Kain, defined as “an unusual work: part manifesto, part narrative” (1965: 56). Hans W. Gabler, who describes it as a “narrative essay” (1998: 83), argues that this text marks the commencement of the timeline that Joyce provides at the end of A Portrait (“Dublin 1904 – Trieste 1914”). “A Portrait of the Artist” is a third-person account of the religious doubts and the aesthetic and political concerns of the future character of Stephen Dedalus. While the early influences of Walter Pater and Gabriele D’Annunzio make this aestheticist essay a very different one to Martín-Santos’ prologue, tracing common points between the two pieces is possible. In the opening paragraph of “A Portrait of the Artist”, Joyce observes that “so capricious are we, that we cannot or will not conceive the past in any other than its iron, memorial aspect” (1965: 60). Joyce continues:

Yet the past assuredly implies a fluid succession of presents, the development of an entity of which our actual present is a phase only. Our world, again, recognises its acquaintance chiefly by the characters of beard and inches and is, for the most part, estranged from those of its members who seek through some art, by some process of the mind as yet untabulated, to liberate from the personalised lumps of matter that which is their individuating rhythm, the first or formal relation of their parts. But for such as these a portrait is not an identificative paper but rather the curve of an emotion. (1965: 60)

Half a century after Joyce’s idea of “a fluid succession of presents”, Martín-Santos acknowledges the impossibility of drawing the biography of a character with “almost definitive shape”. Moreover, the Irish author rejects the idea of “characters of beard and inches” and advocates for the search of “an individuating rhythm” and the artistic portrayal of the “curve of an emotion”. And Martín-Santos asserts that the life of a man “is not a precise figure” and it cannot be apprehended by noting biographical milestones or accumulating “data”, “incidents”, and “adventures”.

There are other aspects of the prologue to Time of Destruction that are worth exploring in connection with Joyce’s A Portrait. In the prologue, Martín-Santos announces his aim to make Agustín, the central character in the novel, a “symbol” (2022: 18). Agustín, the author explains, will experience “intimate changes of fortune” (“peripecias íntimas”, 2022: 17) throughout the novel. These incidents are not to be read as “simple anecdotes” happening over time but, instead, as “parables” (2022: 17). This theory of literary character as symbolic figure, as expressed in this prologue, correlates with Martín-Santos’ declared mission to destroy the sacred myths of Spain before then proceeding to erect new collective images – what he referred to as the “desacralizing” [“desacralizadora”] and the “sacrogenetic” [“sacrogenética”] functions, respectively.[6] When asked about his plans for the immediate future after publishing Time of Silence, Martín-Santos announced “several works of the destructive type” (cited in Winecoff 1968: 237). Time of Destruction was to be the first title of this projected series. Martín-Santos’ creation of Agustín as a partly autobiographical fictional figure who intends to create a new national mythology has its precedent in Joyce’s declaration half a century earlier. In 1912, Joyce expressed a similar purpose when defining himself as “one of the writers of this generation who are perhaps creating at last a conscience in the soul of this wretched race” (1975: 204). These words resonate in the final version of A Portrait, which contains, in the form of a journal entry in Part V of the book, Stephen Dedalus’ famous declaration of his aim to “forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race” (2007: 224). Robert Russell has observed the radicality of Dedalus’ project as formulated through the metaphor of the writer who compares himself to a blacksmith. Russell notes that “such a metaphor – that Stephen shall cultivate, create, smite, and mold his destiny with the hammer of his will for future generations of Ireland […] is a blatant exhibition of his confidence and resoluteness” (n.d.). This confrontational stance, however, does not necessarily mean that Joyce’s fictional alter ego should be labelled as “apolitical” or “individualistic”, not at least in the full meaning of the word. The dual tension (destruction vs. reconstruction) that Martín-Santos’ defined as the ideological core of his novelistic project is already prefigured in Dedalus’ engagement with the myths of the Irish nation. Pericles Lewis asserts that “although Stephen does not endorse the nationalist political program, he does set himself the typically nationalistic goal of reviving his nation-race” (2007: 452).

Individuals in History

One can conclude from the above discussion that Joyce and Martín-Santos create characters whose subjectivity merges with the collective destiny of their nation. Stephen Dedalus’s words on “the uncreated conscience of my race” anticipate the figure of Agustín as the central symbol of Martín-Santos’ “sacrogenetic” project. In both cases, there is an evident echo of Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea of transvaluation of all known values. In this third and final section Nietzsche’s philosophy will be used to examine the problematic relation with morality and history that transpires in A Portrait and Time of Destruction.

Alexandra Emmanuel has discussed in detail the presence of Nietzschean ideas in such early modernist magazines as The Eagle and The Serpent, The New Age and The Freewoman (later renamed as The New Freewoman and, finally, The Egoist), as well as in the works of George Bernard Shaw, Dora Marsden, Wyndham Lewis, and Joyce himself. The fact that Joyce’s first publication of A Portrait in serialised form was in The Egoist (1914-15), a periodical that had developed a cultural identity out of Nietzsche’s philosophy of the individual, was not a coincidence. Analysing the transition from Stephen Hero to A Portrait, Emmanuel notes that “Stephen’s wish to rid himself of attachments, religious, spiritual, and moral has a very Nietzschean feel. His art and life credo in the early text seems prompted by the desire to dispel the shadow of the ‘dead God’ (to use Nietzsche’s term here), a potent wish to overcome nihilism and decadence” (2010: 239). The published version of A Portrait in The Egoist, Emmanuel continues, is “a portrait of Stephen’s disillusionment […] a thorough re-evaluation of Stephen’s youthful doctrine of egoism and godlessness” (2010: 246). Recently, scholars have commented on the evident interest of Joyce in Nietzsche in the years leading up to the publication of A Portrait (Fogarty 2018, McAdams 2016, O’Farrell 2012, Slote 2013). There is evidence that Joyce read and owned English translations of Nietzsche’s works while in Dublin and Trieste (Ellmann 1982: 142). Moreover, in the period that went from 1902 to 1904 Joyce got to know Nietzsche’s philosophy due to the writings of W. B. Yeats, Oliver St. John Gogarty and John Eglinton (O’Farrell 2012: 5). Additionally, as noted earlier, Nietzschean ideas on cultural and aesthetic egoism were the backbone of such literary magazines as The Freewoman/The New Freewoman/The Egoist. Joseph Valente concludes that Joyce employed “a self-consciously Nietzschean vocabulary to disassociate himself from the leaders of the Irish Revival, censuring their willingness to appease the influential and pay homage to received ideas and values. His path […] [was] solitary and uncompromised” (1987: 87).

In “On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life”, the second of his Untimely Meditations (1873-76), Nietzsche developed the idea of an “excess of history” (1980: 6) that limited the strength and creativity of individuals of his time. Due to this “historical malady” (1980: 7), Nietzsche affirms, “the instincts of a people are impaired and the maturing of the individual no less than of the whole is prevented” (1980: 28). As Joseph A. Buttigieg observes in discussing the presence of Nietzschean thought in Joyce’s work, the common thread that traverses the short stories in Dubliners is Joyce’s portrayal of “the ways in which life can be so debilitated by an excess of history as to cease to desire itself” (1981: 192). In this respect, “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” and “The Dead” constitute two early transparent examples of the paralyzing effect of history as it acts as “the great pacifier, the convenient alternative to revolutionary action” (Buttigieg 1981: 191).[7] Moreover, Buttigieg notes, the personal struggle of Stephen Dedalus both in A Portrait and Ulysses is due precisely to “the ghosts of history, the phantasms of his own past and the phantasms foisted upon him by his country and his religion–the two are hardly separable” (1981: 195).

Martín-Santos was well versed in German philosophy, with a particular interest in phenomenology and existentialism (Heidegger) as well as in the philosophy and psychopathology of the Heidelberg School founded by Karl Jaspers. In addition, existentialism was central to his psychiatric practice from a very early stage. In 1950, right after completing his doctoral degree at the age of 26, Martín-Santos published “Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential psychoanalysis”, followed by other essays in the same decade such as “Jaspers and Freud” (1956) and “The Existential Psychoanalysis (Heidegger)” (1960). While Nietzsche’s thought had a lesser influence on Martín-Santos’ philosophical and literary writing, there is evidence of his interest in the German philosopher throughout the fifties. In his early essay on Sartre, Martín-Santos described Nietzsche as one of “the prophets of the revolution” (2004d: 50) that transformed metaphysics in the late years of the nineteenth century. This new metaphysics problematises the essence of man as “duration, time […] movement and change”, it is inescapably “anthropological” and requires the understanding of “historical time” (2004d: 50). Moreover, in his essay “Jaspers and Freud”, Martín-Santos anticipated Paul Ricoeur’s idea of “school of suspicion” (Ricoeur 1965) by conceptualising Freud as a continuator of “the Nietzschean subversion of values” (2004c: 88). Martín-Santos referred to Nietzsche as the first thinker who “diagnosed religion in light of neurosis” (2004c: 88). Nietzsche’s thoughts on history and religion become visible in numerous fragments of Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction. In the last part of the novel, the author-narrator of Time of Destruction laments that Spain is still oppressed by barbaric religious traditions that are still a burden on the country: “The curse, and not a small one, of being a nation with history!” (2022: 315). This idea of “too much history” is a literal echo of Nietzsche’s theory of history.

In Time of Destruction, Agustín stands out as an active character who voluntarily clashes against the social and religious norms of the time. This oppositional stance clearly mirrors Stephen’s famous “non serviam” in A Portrait. In the first section of Time of Destruction, a flashback presents Agustín as a child who “sees things differently” and holds “an invisible aura over his head” (2022: 16) in his role of son of the schoolteacher in a rural town of Castille. During the transition from childhood to adulthood, Agustín progressively abandons Catholicism. As he matures, Agustín even dares to challenge his mentor Father Julián. When Agustín questions the scholastic doctrine based on Plato’s dialogues, Father Julián responds to him: “Enough! Enough! I don’t want to listen to you anymore! Destructive spirit!” (2022: 70). Upon concluding Law studies in Salamanca, Agustín enters the Judiciary after ranking first in the national competitive examinations held in Madrid. At this point, Agustín is an “Übermensch” who has prepared for the exams in a short period of time and who feels superior not only to his fellow candidates – he refuses to interact with them during the exam procedure – but also to the committee members who are to judge his performance. After the transformational event[8] that is his becoming a judge, Agustín begins to behave differently to the people around him, as the author-narrator soon realises when the two go out for dinner to celebrate his new social position. My view is that Agustín is carrying out the same exercise of Nietzschean “self-creation” that Slote observes in Stephen Dedalus, “a mode of self-creation within a world of contingencies […] [that] involves giving style to one’s character by creating one’s own individual values” (Slote 2013: 7).

From a more general perspective, that Joyce and Martín-Santos also shared an early interest in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals is worth noting. Margot Norris explains Joyce’s “The Boarding House” as a text exposing “the hypocrisies of bourgeois morality that is sanctioned and buttressed by the institution of the Church” (1997: 144). The very same situation presented by Joyce – a mother who orchestrates a shotgun wedding for her daughter in the name of respectability, after having facilitated her “sinful” encounter with one of the patrons – appears in Martín-Santos’ first novel, Time of Silence. The only variance is that the main agent is the girl’s grandmother, owner of the boarding house in which Pedro stays. In Time of Destruction, Agustín is presented as the victim of guilt right from the opening scene of the novel, one that describes his failed attempt to lose his virginity to a prostitute. Also, in the second part of Time of Destruction, Agustín encounters an unresolved murder in the Basque town of Tolosa, his first destination as judge. In this new town, Agustín learns about the moral hypocrisy of the local aristocracy.

Both Joyce and Martín-Santos wrote their novels of education against political and religious authorities imposing homogenising discourses of national, religious, or linguistic type. Before A Portrait, Joyce had opposed Irish parliamentary politics and exhibited a very personal “recusant Parnellism” (Callanan 2015: 75) in the years that followed the reunification of the Irish party around 1900. The spectral presence of Parnell is, of course, most visible in Joyce’s “Ivy Day in the Committee Room”, written in 1905. However, the thematic ascendancy of the Parnell myth is felt throughout the whole “Public Life” sequence of Dubliners, from “Ivy Day” to “A Mother”, “Grace” and “The Dead” (Callanan 2015: 92). These stories appear in the last section of Dubliners, the “Public Life” which Joyce conceived to introduce politically transparent elements after three preceding sections that symbolically projected the biological stages of a bildungsroman onto everyday life in Dublin – stories of childhood, adolescence and mature life. One can see the same compositional logic at work in A Portrait, as Stephen’s growth as artist eventually intersects with the identity politics of the time. The fall and death of Parnell after the treason of fellow members of the Irish party, in alliance with the Catholic clergy, still resonates in what is perhaps the most quoted passage of the novel. The context of this proclamation is a discussion with his nationalist acquaintance Davin in Part V of the novel. “When the soul of a man is born in this country”, Stephen famously asserts, “there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets […] Do you know what Ireland is? […] Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow” (2007: 179). When Stephen reappears in Ulysses, he is a character incapable of emerging as a true creator of new values for he is paralyzed by history, “a nightmare from which I am trying to awake” (1986: 2.377).

Martín-Santos’ first novel, Time of Silence, ends with the inner monologue of Pedro, the frustrated scientist who thinks of the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence as he contemplates the Royal Monastery of El Escorial from the train that is taking him away from Madrid. Pedro has lost his research position at the CSIC Research institute, and he is forced to start a new life as a country doctor. Pedro’s personal and professional projects in Madrid have been demolished by external forces and in his final act of resignation he compares himself to Saint Lawrence, the martyr who endured torture in silence. Pedro is feeling strangely calmed, “not even screaming while being castrated” (Martín-Santos 2005: 338). In Time of Destruction Martín-Santos takes to a further degree the idea of an individual who is eventually destroyed by the forces of the environment. According to different testimonies of friends and relatives with intimate contact with Martín-Santos, the fourth and last part of this unfinished novel intended to portray the lynching of Agustín during the religious ceremony of the “picaos” – a self-flagellation rite of medieval origin – in the northern town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra. Mainer, the first editor of Time of Destruction, explains this projected ending of the novel as the materialisation of Martín-Santos’ idea of Spain as a country that kills her own children (Mainer 1975: 40).

One last aspect that is worth considering in relation to A Portrait and Time of Destruction is the fact that both novels depict the way in which local elites perpetuate their power position through the educational and the judicial systems. The history lessons that Stephen receives at the Jesuit school of Clongowes Wood College, María Ángela Conde-Parrilla observes, “openly evoke English history and are subjectively associated with a pro-British ideology that reproduces English values and culture” (Conde-Parrilla 2020: 15). Part I of A Portrait does contain numerous allusions to the history of British domination over Ireland. Clongowes, an institution that Joyce himself attended, was run by conservative Jesuits who trained Ireland’s Catholic elite to join the pro-English ruling class. In this context, Stephen manifests a “sense of semi-colonial displacement” (Castle 2009: 105) in his famous discussion with the English Dean of studies over the terms “funnel” and “tundish”. This conversation leads Stephen to think that the dean’s language, “so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech” (2007: 166). In committing himself to art and refusing utilitarianism, Stephen remains firm in his decision of not joining the Protestant elite. In contrast, the natural path for his Catholic peers at Clongowes is to pursue careers “in the civil or imperial service, the army, in medicine or law after leaving school” (Conde-Parrilla 2020: 15). Not coincidentally, right after explaining his aesthetic theory to Lynch, in Part V of the novel (2007: 179-189), Stephen comes across a group of students and hears them “talking among themselves. They spoke of two friends who had passed the final medical examination, of the chances of getting places on ocean liners, of poor and rich practices” (2007: 190).

Similarly to Joyce, who depicts the rule of the Protestant minority over the majority of Catholic Irish, Martín-Santos exposes the political and cultural rule of Castile over the peripheral regions of Spain in the Francoist years. In the first part of Time of Destruction, readers learn that the first teaching post of Demetrios, Agustín’s father, was a Catalonian village. Demetrios never shared this secret with his wife and son. A strict teacher of Spanish grammar who initially saw himself teaching Catalan students to pronounce Spanish “with a proper Castilian accent” (2022: 126). Demetrios was progressively seduced by Catalonian culture. He began to learn Catalan, collected literary works in that language, and even entertained the idea of marrying a Catalan woman: “What was coming to him? Wasn’t he something else? Didn’t he have another language, another vision […] shouldn’t he run away as soon as possible […] [and] return to the ungrateful plateau where things are cheaper and people speak a better language?” (2022: 138). Years later, when Agustín makes the decision to study to become a judge, the author-narrator accompanies the narration with a digression on the fact that candidates from Castile are predominant in the national exams held in Madrid:

The core of the judicial system, as of the entire institutional apparatus of the State, comes from the people of the dry, poor and stony towns. This is how history continues to be made in the same sense with which it began twelve centuries before. Through the battering ram of the [Spanish] language and the perfection of the concise discernment of the Castilians. (2022: 150)


This essay proposes a new path of analysis of the literary relationship between Joyce and Martín-Santos by switching the focus from Ulysses and Time of Silence to A Portrait and Time of Destruction, on occasion of Jalón’s publication of a restored edition of Time of Destruction in 2022. Both A Portrait and Time of Destruction adopt the pattern of the bildungsroman and the evolution of the two main characters is inextricably linked to the collective destiny of Ireland and Spain. My view is that Stephen’s call for the creation of new values (“the uncreated conscience of my race”) is the main precedent for Martín-Santos’ forging of the “symbolic” figure of Agustín in Time of Destruction. The partially autobiographical figure of Agustín intends to overcome the deterministic factors that oppress Pedro in Martín-Santos’s previous novel, Time of Silence. In the prologue of Time of Destruction, now available for the first time to readers, Martín-Santos carefully explains the existence of Agustín as a symbolic character destined to clash against the sacred myths of Spain. Agustín thus represents Martín-Santos’ plan to destroy but also regenerate society through the creation of a new man (what he refers to as the “desacralizing” and “sacrogenetic” functions of his work). This essay claims that the Spanish author emulates Stephen Dedalus’ confrontational stance as famously expressed in the closing lines of A Portrait. The case presented is not a lineal, one-way influence from Joyce to Martín-Santos, but one where both authors establish a direct dialogue with a third party, Nietzsche and his philosophy of history, as discussed in the preceding section. My conclusion is that Joyce and Martín-Santos problematise the dynamics of power in Ireland and Spain through a master-slave dialectic that both authors insert in the history of their nations (Protestant and Catholics in Ireland; Castile and peripheral regions in Spain).

The discussion of Martín-Santos’ Time of Destruction in dialogue with Joyce’s A Portrait opens a potential new field of inquiry away from the scholarship focused on the influence of Ulysses on Time of Silence that has been dominant in the previous decades. A relatively unexplored corpus that also deserves attention is represented by Martín-Santos’ philosophical-psychiatric essays, containing innovative thoughts on phenomenology and existential psychoanalysis. This essay is the first to attempt to connect Martín-Santos’ essays to Joyce’s early idea of a biography that is “a fluid succession of presents”.


[1] For a detailed analysis of this early reception, see García Santa Cecilia (1997: 204-222).

[2] In his review of Mainer’s edition of Time of Destruction, Palley reproduces the editor’s words: “Martin-Santos here returns to the theme of the aquelarre (briefly referred to in Tiempo de silencio) in a splendid Joycean dialogue between persons with the exotic names of Anquilostom and Amigoff; it is seen within the context of sexual repression of the female in Spain, apparently one of the book’s major concerns” (1977: 222).  Esperanza G. Saludes, in a book monograph on Martín-Santos published in 1981, also reproduces, literally, Mainer’s statement. In her discussion of the last chapters of Time of Destruction, Saludes refers to the aquelarre fragments as a “dialogue of obvious Joycean descent” [“diálogo de obvia influencia joyceana”] (1981: 137).

[3] All translations of Time of Destruction and other texts originally published in Spanish are mine.

[4] It is my view that the first scene in which the author-narrator appears as a fictional character in Time of Destruction (2022: 79-85) is a rewriting of the opening of Joyce’s Ulysses. In Martín-Santos’ novel, the author-narrator and Agustín live in a messy attic where they seem to spend most of their daytime, as they are not interested in attending lessons at the University of Salamanca. This isolated space resembles the Martello Tower in Ulysses. The first description of Agustín shows him shaving his face and behaving like a fool (“he is acting like an idiot”; “hecho un botarate”, 2022: 79), very much like Buck Mulligan in the opening lines of Joyce’s work. Agustín is depicted as a witty and sardonic character who has the upper hand in his conversation with the character-narrator, who resembles Stephen Dedalus. Agustín displays a set of rhetorical skills that includes a particular ability to play with Spanish and Latin, similarly to Mulligan’s play with Latin and Greek. The history of Spain is the main topic of conversation, as is the history of Ireland in “Telemachus”, the first chapter of Ulysses.

[5] Influenced by French existentialism, Martín-Santos discusses extensively the concept of “life project” in his psychiatric research essays. See in particular Martín-Santos (2004b: 165, 173-4).

[6] See Martín-Santos cited in Winecoff (1968: 237).

[7] “A Painful Case”, Joyce’s ironic portrayal of Mr. Duffy, an admirer of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra yet a character who remains lonely and isolated, has been recently described as “a story about a character failing to live up to Nietzschean ideals” (McAdams 2016: 2).

[8] Martín-Santos’ essay “Freedom, Temporality and Transference in Existential Psychoanalysis” offers important clues to contextualise the trajectory of Agustín in Time of Destruction. As Miquel Bota has recently noted, the idea of “new-man” [“hombre-nuevo”] that Martín-Santos sees as the outcome of the final stage of the patient’s psychiatric treatment can be directly connected to Martín-Santos’ “sacrogenetic” project. Bota explains Martín-Santos’ project as one in which the past would be eventually “understood as a cause but not a justification of the present and used as a tool to build a different future” (Bota 2020: 148).

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| Received: 22-07-2023 | Last Version: 17-02-2024 | Articles, Issue 19