University of Almería, Spain
by José Francisco Fernández-Sánchez. 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.
Las poéticas de James Joyce y Luis Martín-Santos. Aproximación a un estudio de deudas literarias
Bern: Peter Lang.
Luis Martín-Santos was a Spanish writer who published only one novel, Tiempo de Silencio (1962), before his premature death in a car accident in 1964. Nevertheless the impact of this novel was so enduring that his work became a symbol of the new horizons for young Spanish literature, emerging at last after decades of stagnation during the Francoist regime.
As Marisol Morales Ladrón writes in the introduction to her book, Martín-Santos was the first Spanish writer to initiate a process of renewal in post-war Spanish fiction and he made ample use of Joycean influences and innovations. Although this study is firmly located in the field of comparative literature, Morales Ladrón aims to go beyond a mere comparison of two individual writers. Rather than embarking on a restrictive, source-hunting exercise, the author carries out the task of explaining the contextualization of both writers in their own traditions, producing a complete analysis of all the factors surrounding the writing process. The book is a revised version of the author’s Ph.D. dissertation, and the academic origin of the text is made clear in the systematisation and precision that Morales Ladrón has imposed on an already vast body of material. No critical term is used lightly, no new concept is introduced without a previous historical assessment. The information provided on critical theory, literary movements, editions and even translations within the main body of the text and in the final bibliographic sections testifies that this is a work of true scholarship.
The book is divided into six chapters, the first of which deals with the literary production of both writers. Though James Joyce’s life and works are well-known, it may be revealing for the reader to discover the biographical details Morales Ladrón offers about Martín-Santos: his ground-breaking work as a psychiatrist, his clandestine activities in the Socialist Party, for which he was arrested, his problems with censorship, etc.
Martin-Santos left an even more experimental novel unfinished, Tiempo de Destrucción (published 1975), and the collection of his assorted writings, Apólogos (1970), was published posthumously.
In this first chapter a close comparison is drawn between Joyce’s Ulysses and Martín-Santos’s Tiempo de Silencio. Morales Ladrón points out the similarities between both fictions (predominance of the characters’ inner mind over external action, concentration in time, fragmentation, urban journeys). However she also stresses a basic difference: while Ulysses is universal and subversive from the very beginning, Tiempo de Silencio is very much involved in a particular time and place, due to Martín-Santos’s political commitments. The Spanish writer’s novel, moreover, stems from a traditional idea of the genre, although he introduced experimental devices and techniques in his narrative.
Chapter two analyzes the international literary relations that, in a wide sense, concerned the works of Joyce and Martín-Santos. Of special interest in this chapter is section 2.3., as it describes the evolution of James Joyce’s work in Spain, from its reception in the early twenties, through the cultural wasteland of the forties and fifties, to the new possibilities that it represented for the writers of the sixties.
Chapter three investigates the defining traits of Modernism, because this is the movement that, forty years later, Martín-Santos would turn to in order to break with the prevailing social realist novel in Spain. A clear distinction between what is known as Modernism in the English-speaking world and “Modernismo” in Hispanic letters is included in this chapter.
Chapter four considers Ulysses and Tiempo de Silencio from a generic point of view, and both are seen in the light of the total novel, the polyphonic novel and the antinovel. Morales Ladrón also compares Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with Martín-Santos’s Tiempo de Destrucción, using the concept of bildungsroman as a literary frame.
Chapter five focuses on the modern city (Dublin and Madrid) as the representative setting of modernist poetics. Although Joyce famously said that in case of destruction Dublin could be rebuilt from the descriptions he made of it in Ulysses, the truth is that he created a fictional construct based on real facts. Morales Ladrón insists on the fact that Joyce’s Dublin is a “discursive” city, conceived with a symbolic function. Joyce also had the idea of using Dublin to represent the plurality of human existence; he had ambitions of immortality for his native city. Martín-Santos’s description of Madrid is less explicit than Joyce’s portrayal of Dublin. Though both works make poetic use of space, in Tiempo de Silencio the city leaves a deterministic imprint on the individual. Furthermore, the Spanish writer’s presentation of Madrid lacks a universalizing aim.
Finally, the last chapter pays attention to the formal aspects in the fiction of both authors under discussion. Morales Ladrón analyzes the different methods of presentation of the characters’ inner thoughts in Ulysses and Tiempo de Silencio, concluding that both works can be defined as Stream of Consciousness novels.