1 Evading/Invading History: Adolescent Preoccupations with Reality, the Historical Present and Popular Culture in Spanish GenX Narratives By Paul Gunnar Norberg A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Hispanic Languages and Literatures in the Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkeley Committee in charge: Professor Michael Iarocci, Chair Professor Dru Dougherty Professor Anthony Adamthwaite Fall 2012
3 1 Abstract Evading/Invading History: Adolescent Preoccupations with Reality, the Historical Present and Popular Culture in Spanish GenX Narratives by Paul Gunnar Norberg Doctor of Philosophy in Hispanic Languages and Literature University of California, Berkeley Professor Michael Iarocci, Chair The Spanish Generation X (GenX) refers to a group of writers, born in the 1960s and early 1970s, who published novels in the 1990s. Their work focused on a generation of Spanish adolescents who were raised during and the closing years of the Franco government and the Transition to democracy. Ray Loriga, José Ángel Mañas and Lucía Etxebarria are three writers who are consistently identified by critics as the figureheads of the generation. This dissertation explores the historical dimensions of their early texts. GenX, a polemical group and categorical designation, is characterized by an emphasis on international popular culture, especially music, film and literature. The young characters in these novelists works are alienated from society and their peers, immersed in the present, suspicious of the future, and indifferent to the past. They turn to gratuitous violence, sex and substance abuse in their search for meaning or in order to avoid the realities of their lives. While stylistically ranging from realism to postmodern skepticism about the real, the early novels of Loriga, Mañas and Etxebarria coincide in the representation of how Spain s young people grappled with the difficulties of a newly global, media-driven, consumerist society as Spain integrated into the European Union. In my dissertation, I analyze how these novelists, who have frequently been criticized for their seeming historical and political apathy in fact engage history in their representations of the their era. While debates rage on about the recuperation of historical memory and political corruption, these authors I study engage in very different projects. They capture in myriad ways the peculiar sense of time and history that characterizes a culture saturated in quick-hitting television news clips, sensationalist television shows and distorted newspaper headlines. GenX novels reflect this new historical consciousness. Everything and nothing is historical; Kurt Cobain s and Ian Curtis suicides (lead singer of Joy Division) become historical markers, signaling the passage of time instead of the attempted coup in 1981 or the death of Franco in
4 1975. History is easily lost to the quickened pace of life, and these novelists show how the attempt to recover and narrate the past often results in fragmented and sometimes mythical texts. 2
5 i Table of Contents Introduction Chapter 1: Punk, Realism, and Indifference to History and Politics as Critical Gestures in José Ángel Mañas Historias del Kronen and Ciudad rayada Chapter 2: Hyperreality, an Imagined Island and Historical Ahistoricity in Ray Loriga s Caídos del cielo and El hombre que inventó Manhattan Chapter 3: The Haunting Traces of History and the Generation X through the Gendered Lens of Lucía Etxebarria s Amor, curiosidad, Prozac y dudas Conclusion Bibliography
6 ii Acknowledgements It has been a fortuitous journey, one I would have never expected or imagined, that has led me to the University of California, Berkeley s Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures and ultimately, a doctorate degree. Most certainly, it would never have happened without the influence, guidance and passion of so many people, as well as luck and good fortune. I wanted to first thank my parents, Bob and Joan Norberg, who instilled in my brother and me a strong appreciation for the importance of education, and took us on a life-altering trip to Spain after my high school graduation. I will never be able to repay you both for all of the sacrifices you made in order for me to be where I am today, but nevertheless I thank you and love you. Also, I wanted to thank my younger brother, Scott. A lot of who I am today comes from our Madden 95 battles, street football everyday after school, the Europe trip, the late night talks while hanging upside down from the top bunk, the constant fights growing up, and our mutual respect and love for each other as we (hopefully) matured into somewhat responsible adults. There are so many other people whose contributions, seemingly insignificant at the time, have helped me get to this point. Thank you to my high school Spanish teachers, Mrs. Winters, Ms. Rota and Mr. Schmidt, as well as the other great teachers I had at Cardinal Newman. The classroom experiences were important, but I will never forget the amazing trips to Mexico and Costa Rica. Also, I wanted to thank all of the guys from Kenwood Fencing, who taught me the Spanish not spoken in my high school classes. My high school friends, Thomas O Brien, Michael Mancuso, and Moose; the metal concerts, JSA, Confinement, and random misadventures we had were awesome and I couldn t ask for a better core group of friends. Up the Irons! Thank you to Scott Hibbard, Analisa and Michael Schelle, the Kyses, Randy Seelye and Katharine Anderson, the Kreck family and Bruce Thomas at Mill Creek Winery, the NorCal Sluggers fantasy league, Philz, Buster Posey and Matt Cain, Kathy Sheldon, the Bryans, my niece, Kate, and my godson, Brady; you ve all helped keep me rather sane throughout this process and contributed to my life in ways I can t even begin to identify. One key moment in my life was when I first got on the water in a single in the Oakland Estuary; thank you to all of the guys at the East Bay Rowing Club for pushing me to work hard on the water and even harder on land. I can t wait to get back into the boat with you. Thank you to my professors and lecturers at the University of San Francisco, especially Ana Urrutia-Jordana, Caroline Weber and Pedro Lange-Churión. At a time when I was unsure about my life s direction, you gently suggested the academic route. To the Danville Dans and the Hodges, thank you for one of the best (baseball) summers of my life. I never would have made it without the support of the great staff of the Spanish department; Cathie, Sue, Mari Mordecai and of course, my Spanish mom, Verónica López. The Dissertation Workshop with Juan Caballero, Allen Young and Natalia Brizuela was the stimulus I needed to make progress on the thesis and find my direction. Thank you to the professors of UCB, and in particular, Ignacio Navarrete (and your phone message from eight years ago admitting me to the program), Emilie Bergmann, Herminia Kerr, Milton Azevedo, Julio Ramos and Laura Garcia-Moreno (a visiting professor from SF State). Thank you to my grad school comrades who commiserated in my suffering and celebrated in my triumphs, making this journey much more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been: Anna Hiller, Dena Marie, Natalia Valencia, Kelly Sullivan, Danger Chang, Heather
7 iii Bamford, Israel Sanz, Óscar Perea Rodríguez (not a grad student but a great basketball player), Donna Southard, Luis Cordero, Sarah Schoellkopf, Rakhel Villamil, and Alexandra Harman. A special thank you to Lori Mesrobian for her constant support, advice, friendship and kicks in the rear, you are the sister I never had. My students throughout my years at Berkeley, from Spanish 1 to Spanish 25, kept me going and deserve recognition too. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Michael Iarocci and Dru Dougherty, two of the top academics in their respective fields, amazing mentors, impeccable editors and incredibly intelligent professors who spent countless hours supporting me as a graduate student and then as my dissertation committee. Thank you so much, you are my Spanish idols. Also, thank you to Anthony Adamthwaite in the History Department, who worked with me for my Ph.D exams and as a member of my dissertation committee. Your feedback was invaluable, come jump in a boat with us anytime. Finally, I wanted to thank my wife, Jordan. You stood by me during some rough times, knew when to prod me and when to let me be, you inspired me to push through the difficult moments, and this dissertation is as much a tribute to your sacrifices as it is to my hard work. Thank you so much for being the incredible, amazing woman that you are. I love you. Oh, and of course, thank you to my dog, Indy. You spent many a day curled up on the floor on top of my clothes, or nuzzled into the blanket on the couch, or slumped against my side, as I typed away on this strange looking, silver machine.
8 1 Introduction The Generation X writers in Spain have been a contentious and polarizing group of authors since Ray Loriga s novel Lo peor de todo was first released in 1992 and José Ángel Mañas Historias del Kronen finished as the runner-up for the Premio Nadal in Many writers and critics, including the authors themselves, ruminate on whether or not this generational title is accurate, and Luis Martín-Estudillo argues that rather than a generation, it is more pertinent to refer to a Moment X. 1 Whether or not one agrees with the categorical denomination of the group as Generación X, Generación Kronen, Primera Generación de escritores de la democracia española, or Narradores españoles novísimos de los años noventa, 2 one common thread throughout the novels of José Ángel Mañas, Ray Loriga, Lucía Etxebarria, Benjamín Prado, Gabriela Bustelo, Roger Wolfe and many other Spanish writers publishing in the 1990s is the focus on a segment of the outcast Spanish youth population, their growing up or coming of age during this decade and the pronounced influence of popular culture on their identity formations. One aspect of the typical characters in these novels is that they share a relatively similar time of birth, at the end of the Franco regime or during the transition to democracy, so many lack memories of these consequential events in Spanish history or have very limited exposure to them. They are the first generation of the Spanish democracy, products of el pacto del silencio or el pacto del olvido and 40 years of undercurrents of civil unrest. 3 They also share a difficulty with fitting into the society in which they were born, being usually alienated from their peers and previous generations of Spaniards. Their characters find connections to their community through shared interests in popular music and film, drugs and the party scene, and are ambivalent to the dissemination of positive discourses proclaiming the economic and global successes of Spain, the apex in 1992 with the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, the 500th anniversary of Cristóbal Colón s voyage to the New World, Sevilla as host of the World Expo and Madrid as the European Cultural Capital. Their novels describe what effect the transition to democracy and the integration of Spain into the European and global marketplace had on Spanish youth and Spanish literature. Generation X is a term applied to many international literary movements and to the generation of young people growing up in the 1990s. With regard to literature, the category originates from the title of Canadian author and visual artist Douglas Coupland s first novel published in 1991, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. X was a stand-in, a placeholder or a blank for any number of identities, reflecting a fluidity of the individual. The catalyst for the GenX was the resistance to the McJob, as Coupland labeled it, and the increasing 1 See Martín-Estudillo s chapter in Generation X Rocks. His theory is that the maturation of authors and their rather quick turn away from the GenX aesthetic points to a brief moment, rather than a full-fledged movement; the resistance to be included in this category by many of the authors is another point that substantiates this idea. 2 Dorothy Odartey-Wellington, Contemporary Spanish Fiction p Other terms that have been used to refer to the agreed-upon silence in Spain regarding the historical past include amnesia and desmemoria. Agency of forgetting is removed by the terms amnesia or olvido, implying that it was not a conscious effort of the Spanish people to move past their tense history and into a democratic government.
9 2 power of the consumer world, in conjunction with a growing inequality of class and dehumanizing effects of capitalism. His characters remove themselves from this society, in a barren landscape. Other literary aesthetics are commonly highlighted as influential on the Spanish GenX, notably Dirty Realism (also known as Minimalism) and the Beat Generation. Cintia Santana writes extensively on the problems with an equivalence of the Spanish and American Dirty Realism while recognizing the authors overt adoption of writers from these movements as literary forefathers. Santana points to the difficulties with translating regional dialects which are prominent in their texts, as many of the Dirty Realists such as Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff tended to focus on representing the lower classes daily struggles. This contrasts with the emphasis in the Spanish GenX texts on younger characters who are from the middle-class or upper echelon of society. While an international phenomenon, the Spanish GenX had a particular local accent due to the coincidence of Spain s recent emergence from a governmental structure very different from other Western/European countries with the continued rise of a capitalist, consumerist, global, media, and visual culture in Spain and the process of the country s full integration into the European Community. Carmen de Urioste stresses the importance of the year 1986, rather than 1975, as the country joined the EC and followed the model of other occidental democracies and consolidated the social, economic and political changes experienced since Franco s death. 4 The GenX texts appear about five years after this action and about ten years after the end of the movida, a cultural and social explosion of an anything goes attitude and a rejection of traditional mores. Brad Epps describes Spain after Franco s death as a Post-modern playground of raucous desires (705), Kathryn Everly highlights its blatant inhibitions, playful sexuality, and political message (Post-Franco 61) and Odartey-Wellington compares the movida s delight in the fluidity of identity with the later GenX s contrarian attitude. Unlike their movida predecessors, for example, the characters in Spanish Generation X novels do not find any justification for celebrating the plastic, unpredictable, and incoherent postmodern subject (13). On the contrary, while the cultural manifestations of the movida were a reaction to the Franco regime and reveled in its opposition to tradition, en los tardoochenta el propio concepto de identidad recién formulado entra en crisis, así como las concepciones sobre sexualidad, ideología, cultura y religión, entre otras (Urioste, Novela y sociedad 21). En la democracia avanzada ( ) el individuo se relaciona en sociedad en base a sus derechos individuales sancionados por la sociedad de consumo. La privatización de las conductas basadas en la nueva ética postradicional/global conduce a desarrollos de conductas narcisistas, ensimismadas, permisivas, ociosas, consumistas, alegres, adictas al juego, y evasivas. (ibid. 30) The new ethic of narcissism, leisure, consumerism, addiction to games and evasion of reality is clearly embodied by many of the characters in the GenX novels. Most, however, would not be characterized as happy; rather the tendency is to be tortured, troubled, tormented by anguished 4 Novela y sociedad en la España contemporánea ( ), p.9
10 3 feelings. And while the movida defined itself in opposition to Franco, the GenX was a reaction to the consumerism, globalization, and audiovisual culture it was immersed in. The Spanish literary field in the 1990s may be best categorized by its plurality, the heterogenous nature of the texts and the multiple, simultaneous literary currents running through Spain letters. Odartey-Wellington s introduction to a critical analysis of contemporary Spanish literature, appropriately titled La pluralidad de la narrativa española contemporánea, highlights the diversity of Spanish letters. Al mirar hacia atrás en busca de una visión de conjunto de la narrativa española de los últimos quince o veinte años, lo que salta a la vista de forma inmediata es la pluralidad (11). Odartey-Wellington states that (i)n Santos Alonso s review of Spanish fiction between 1975 and 2001, he identifies the existence of at least six active generations in the last few decades of the previous century (18). 5 The wide variety extends to the GenX themselves, un grupo bastante heterogéneo (12). Dorothy Odartey-Wellington writes that the heterogeneity of the Generation X group of writers itself gets in the way of its categorization (19). She references Antonio Orejudo Utrilla s claim that the principal characteristic of the GenX es precisamente la ausencia de características comunes, la inexistencia de una tendencia dominante (19). With so many competing texts, the Spanish GenX emerges as a product of low culture which enters into a space supposedly reserved previously for high culture. 6 The explosion of the number of young authors and their novels in the 1990s in Spain has been explained away as a commercial venture spurred on by publishing companies to capitalize on the public s yearning for something new, fresh, young and hip, but there was also a gap in Spanish literature that was filled by these narratives. According to Toni Dorca, a segment of the population was under-served. Se trataba de satisfacer la demanda de protagonismo de un sector de la población que quería ver reflejadas sus inquietudes en unos relatos tallados a su gusto y medida (309). The Generation X writers were not the first authors to be young and successful, or to locate their stories in hip bars, discotheques, the streets of Madrid, its Gitano outskirts, or deal with the social impact of drugs and alcohol. They were, however, important in describing and delving into a portion of the Spanish population hitherto underrepresented, the first generation of democratic kids with few or no memories of Franco and the struggles to institute a democratic government. The new novels appealed to this generation s sense of alienation, depression, searching for oneself, and helped to explain the difficulties of growing up in a fin de siglo democratic nation, including widespread indifference to politics and history, and an intense obsession with music, television and film (and primarily, those from outside their national boundaries and originating in the United States and Britain). The Generation X is sometimes defined by the youth of the authors, who were only a few years older than their protagonists. Dorothy Odartey-Wellington defines Generation X writers as 5 The reference is to Santo Alonso s La novela española en el fin de siglo: Madrid: Mare Nostrum. s Among the cited authors/movements are Camilo José Cela, Miguel Delibes, Torrente Ballester, the social realist novels of los niños de la guerra such as Carmen Martín Gaite Juan Marsé and Ana María Matute whose presence continued into the 1990s, Francisco Umbral, The Generación del 75, Álvaro Pombo and the Generación de los 80, Antonio Muñoz Molina. (Odartey-Wellington 18). 6 The barriers between high and low culture are typically transgressed in the post-modern society, although many have argued this breach has existed for quite some time.
11 4 Spanish novelists who were born between 1960 and 1970 and who published their first novels in the last decade of the twentieth century (13). However, Samuel Amago asks in his chapter, Can Anyone Rock like We Do? in the book Generation X Rocks, if writers should be denied inclusion in the Generation X aesthetic purely on their age? Amago proposes that Juan José Millás (b. 1947) and Carlos Cañeque (b. 1957) should be included in the group of Generation X writers, despite their advanced age. I argue that the aesthetic that we have come to associate with Gen X is not entirely unique to younger authors such as Mañas, Etxebarria, and Loriga, but rather, that this aesthetic transcends the chronological paradigm of the literary generation and brings together a wide group of writers of varying ages who published novels in the 1990s (60). I agree with Amago that the category should not preclude writers purely based on their birth date, and that the youthful transgressions woven throughout the novels form a stronger foundational base. On the contrary, the category of the GenX is so ambitious and extensive that the inclusion of authors in the literary generation is quite porous. What is, then, the Generation X aesthetic? Samuel Amago provides a comprehensive summary in this same chapter: While my purpose here is not to define the Generation X aesthetic or to explain its provenance--critics such as Toni Dorca, Christine Henseler, Jason Klodt, and María Pao have made important contributions on this theme already in the Peninsular context--i should like to offer a brief synthesis of some of the themes and forms that have come to be associated with Gen X fiction in order to analyze later the work of Millás and Cañeque within the larger literary context of the 1990s. In addition to the sex, drugs and rock and roll paradigm I mention above, Gen X narrative is typified by some of the following themes: a sometimes nihilistic stance of resistance to dominant cultures; marginalization and estrangement, either self-imposed or imposed by society; inability or unwillingness to engage in meaningful social intercourse with partners and/or peers; vitriolic antiestablishment attitude, often in terms of a perceived or desired generational conflict and/or misunderstanding; emphasis on achieving or maintaining personal authenticity, usually through oppositional strategies of identification; slackerism, boredom, depression and self-pity; protracted interest in the materiality of the body; and a well-articulated awareness and acknowledgment of foreign literatures and cinematic traditions. Related to these themes are narrative forms that may be called a poetics of disaffection: ironic commentary on the trappings of literary representation; critical distance; complexity; fragmentation; use of vernacular language and emphasis on dialogue (and, conversely, a predominance of first-person narrative); intertextuality, usually through references to popular culture, rock music and punk; self-referentiality; intermingling of reality and fiction/abstraction from reality; drug and alcohol abuse as structuring elements; communal production through multiple narrators and/or the illusion of collaborative literary production; open-ended resolution (Dorca; Gracia; Henseler; Pao; Ulrich and Harris). (61)
12 5 This dense quote is an almost all-encompassing description of what the GenX is. As is evident by the variety of elements listed by Amago, many authors publishing at this time could be included or excluded based upon how well their texts fit into this accepted definition of the GenX text. One of the striking omissions in Amago s comprehensive description is any reference to the tendency of the Generation X novels to focus almost exclusively on the present, and to be apolitical and indifferent to Spanish history. Nowhere in this very in-depth description of almost every possible manifestation of the Generation X aesthetic is there mention of Spanish youth s apathy towards history and politics. This stands out because many other critics do mention this as a negative characteristic of Generation X literature. Christine Henseler and Randolph Pope in their introduction to Generation X Rocks highlight both. In the novels we study, the social issues that were frequent in the fifties and survived through the seventies are but faint echoes: class recedes, history fades, money is not a serious issue, and traditional politics are distant and disdained (xv). Manuel Vázquez Montalbán in his article De El Jarama a La Generación X, Y y Z en la novela española is also very critical of the lack of a humanist program or historical engagement. Se desacredita la memoria histórica, la posibilidad de un proyecto que permita que el futuro sea diferente, y se practica una inmersión de los seres humanos en el present como una categoría (9). Montalbán insinuates that the problems of the present, without novelists engaging in a collective progressive social project, will persist. Kathryn Everly s introduction to a critical collection of contemporary texts includes this description of the Spanish GenX: The "generation X" writers have gained notoriety primarily for latching on to an American term suggesting the apathy and boredom of a generation with no direction or political cause. Spanish writers such as José Angel Mañas, Ray Loriga, and Pedro Maestre have exploited the basically benign quality of Douglas Coupland's initial vision of disenchanted youth presented in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by injecting radical acts of gratuitous violence, misogyny, and exaggerated drug use into their narratives. These works have drawn the public's attention because of their shocking content and general disregard for the past, present, and future of Spanish culture. (Post-Franco 61) Ironically, many of the authors who are included by critics in the GenX actually disassociate themselves from the generation and reject the category, instead of latching on to it. Ray Loriga refuses the validity of the generation based on multiple reasons: in addition to a wide variation in their aesthetics and the thematics of their novels, unlike other generations these authors do not even know each other personally, have not collaborated or exchanged ideas, and on the contrary openly take exception to being grouped together under the umbrella of GenX. Everly s assessment also assumes that the GenX is entirely a male endeavor; if it is to be misogynistic then writers such as Etxebarria would inherently be excluded from the classification. My work intends to shed light on the ways in which the novels of the GenX actually do engage and interact with Spanish history and politics in unexpected and novel ways. While the characters themselves might display apathetic tendencies towards their national histories and politics, they nevertheless function as historical characters, located within a specific historical
13 6 time period in Spain and reflecting an analysis of the characteristics embodied by Spanish youth in the 1990s. As H. Rosi Song states, The popular worlds we discover in the fiction of writers like Mañas, Loriga, and Etxebarria should not just be seen as evidence of a passivity and negativity among the younger generation, but as an attempt to break with traditional ways of incorporating politics and cultural resistance into fiction (206). For previous generations, fiction was a space for overt political resistance, an area where battles could be fought in an attempt to create political change. On the surface, the GenX novelists resist this technique. However, while not directly participating in a rewriting of the recent past or proposing alternative political realities, the early works by José Ángel Mañas, Ray Loriga, and Lucía Etxebarria do contain elements of history, traces of the past which influence the characters lives, make political statements and serve as testaments of the life for some Spanish youth who have not had to struggle for a Democratic government and have not suffered the horrors of war. The novelists display a historical consciousness not only in the ways their novels reflect the reality of Spain in the 1990s, but also through unconventional visions of history. In many instances, the typical historical occurrence is replaced by events in popular culture (including sports); Nirvana lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain s suicide, the suicide of Joy Division s lead singer Ian Curtis and the Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 serve as the historical backdrop for three of the GenX narratives. Characters appear to be living in a reality no longer historical, where the rapid speed of information negates history. Traditional history is reduced to short television news clips or newspaper headlines. Rather than solely relish in the transformation of history in contemporary media-driven societies, these novels challenge the events in which we recognize historical change in a hyperreal culture. Some of these novels do not mention the country by name or take place in foreign countries, an evasion so blatant as to itself be a political and historical gesture. In short, the presence of history and politics persists in a new code. The first chapter of this dissertation focuses on two of José Ángel Mañas early novels, Historias del Kronen (1994) and Ciudad rayada (1998). In Historias, Mañas describes in a realistic manner the everyday life of Carlos, a young well-to-do teenager in Madrid, and his friends who frequent the Kronen bar. His depiction captures a historic moment in time, Madrid 1992, as the alienated protagonist relates his boredom and searches for stimulation and adventure through parties, drugs, and sex, attempting to postpone his entry into adulthood and responsibility. Carlos is not empathetic, a psychopath who ultimately murders (or does he?) one of his close friends, and finds inspiration in popular, cult representations of indifference towards violence, such as American Psycho and Clockwork Orange. He compares his daily experiences to these movies and emulates the main characters. Underlying narratives of economic inequalities and suspicion of EU integration contrast with his spoiled existence, as his parents supply him with a car, spending money which he uses for drugs, alcohol and concert tickets, a vacation home, and a Filipino maid to clean up after him. With school over, his responsibilities are non-existent. However, his friends exemplify the contrary social position; they work at a bar or in other low-wage paying positions, or cannot find a job. They complain about the irony in needing experience to get a job, but only being able to get experience by working. While in the background, Spain trumpets the Olympics and economic successes, the realities for these characters diverge from the official portrayal of the country. Homophobia is one of the undercurrents confronted by the novel, as is the way that history is treated by the characters,
14 7 leading to a critical analysis of the news and society. Carlos family watches the news in silence every day during lunch, as important global events are reduced to short sound bites and quick quips. Small amounts of information stand in for in-depth discussions of political and historical events. Carlos exploits in the streets and bars of Madrid are juxtaposed with the Olympic torch s travels through Spain and the World Expo in Sevilla, as the grandiose global events distract attention away from what is really going on in Spain. Carlos grandfather laments the current situation of this new generation indifferent to their country and families past sufferings. While for Carlos, history is always boring, the novel subtly foregrounds the historical consciousness of this new generation of young Spaniards. Ciudad rayada is written in a similar form, as a first person account by a young male who is involved in the popular underworlds of Madrid. This character, Kaiser, is a teenager who is climbing the ranks of drug-dealing, coming of age near the end of the 1990s and cut off from Spain s traumatic recent past. While the primary narrative details his picaresque adventures in Madrid, political corruption serves as the backdrop to the seemingly carefree life of Kaiser. The reader witnesses within the first few chapters a Socialist politician taking a bribe from a local bar owner while bemoaning the press s coverage of the economic woes Spain is suffering and the blame attributed to the government. This same politician s son is later involved in a robbery, although his son is protected from the consequences due to his father s position and political connections. Police corruption takes place as well, as an undercover agent is murdered during a botched drug deal. The newspapers the next day proclaim the youth violence as the culprit, another divergence between the accepted narrative and what really happened. Despite an appearance of indifference to history, characters are well aware of what is going on in their country and their city. Jokes about the attempted coup of 1981 are met with strong rebukes, and political corruption is taken for granted by the characters. The text itself also serves a historical purpose, as it replicates the sensations of hyperreality and the powerful influence of popular culture on its characters. Ray Loriga s early novels do not contain the abundance of realistic details found in Mañas novels. In Caídos del cielo (1995), Loriga creates a landscape and world completely devoid of any mention or reference to the outside world, except for popular culture. Only through mentioning Kurt Cobain s suicide can the reader fix the narrative within a historical framework, and there are almost no indications of the novel s setting. The landscape is barren, bereft of details linking it to reality, and only the mention of VIPS (as well as linguistic and extratextual clues) signals to the reader that this antiseptic world is Spain. In a time period where Spanish politics and history were protagonists of many literary texts, Loriga s decision to write novels evasive of reality to the opposite extreme was in part a political gesture. Yet while this novel on the surface refrains from the historical and political discussions of the time, the novel captures the sensations of Spain in the 1990s; its hyperreal nature, the manipulation of television, the loss of anchoring, fluidity of identities, the difficulty of getting at the truth of what really happened, and relating that truth through narrative. Caídos omission of Spanish markers, politics and history is itself a commentary on these very issues, as disengagement from the system is a political stance. In a much later novel, El hombre que inventó Manhattan (2004), we see why Luis Martín-Estudillo hypothesizes that the GenX was a moment rather than a generation. Loriga
15 8 eschews some of his earlier aesthetics while maintaining the fragmented, short chapters/ narratives, the problematic representations of reality and the prevalence of popular, audiovisual culture. This novel is hyperreal in the extreme, as the world portrayed is steeped in details taken from the real world of Manhattan and yet its fictional nature is consistently highlighted, as many of the details and characters are invented and fictional. The reader is tempted by some of the autobiographic consistencies between narrator and author to read the novel as autobiography, despite the gap between reality and fiction. The novel plays with this barrier, as many of the narrative s episodes in the novel are based upon real events. One of the characters drops a coffee mug and then faints; the shards of the mug cut his neck and he dies from the wounds. 7 The attacks on the Twin Towers in Manhattan on September 11th, 2001, are narrated as part of the background to the novel, and the Beat Generation writer William Burroughs relates the real story of Dutch Schultz, a historical gangster from the 1920s and 30s in the US. Once again Loriga s novel does not engage in Spanish politics or history directly. Lucía Etxebarria s first novel, Amor, curiosidad, Prozac y dudas, narrates three sisters childhood memories from the tail end of the Franco dictatorship and their current situations in Madrid in They relate their sexual histories, personal struggles with the demons of their pasts, and their economic decisions. Cristina, the youngest sister, embodies the liberated democratic woman who is sexually free, economically content to work at a bar instead of a global corporation, and resistant to the traditional narratives of the Catholic Church and Spanish society. Rosa, the middle sister, represents the professional businesswoman, who in the process of economic achievements has detached herself from her sexuality and her humanity. Ana, the oldest of the sisters, is the traditional housewife who is reliant upon her husband for economic security, and for whom sex has procreative rather than pleasurable ends. The three are haunted by the past, as traumatic events such as incest, sexual molestation as a child, rape, witnessing physical abuse against their mother, and their father s abandonment in 1975 converge to affect their identities and lives. There is an undercurrent of criticism of the burying of the past that took place in Spain during the Transition to Democracy; rather than confronting the past a pact was made to silence it. These women overcome their traumatic secrets only after confronting them. The narratives in Amor challenge the recent historical and political past while simultaneously criticizing Spain s consumerist, global, corporate-driven society of the 1990s. 7 This absurd death was recorded in various newspapers, including the Washington Post.
16 9 Chapter 1: Punk, Realism, and Indifference to History and Politics as Critical Gestures in José Ángel Mañas Historias del Kronen and Ciudad rayada Y es que parece mentira, que después de las vanguardias, de dadá, de surrealismo, de cincuenta años de contracultura, y veinte de punk, la gente todavía siga mirándote por encima del hombro diciéndote cómo tienes que escribir y qué es buena literatura. Esto del punk quiere decir sólo eso: que nadie tiene el monopolio de la buena escritura o de la buena literatura. (Mañas, Duende 81) Miguel: Si es que todo está muy mal. Mucha Expo y mucha olimpiada pero en Madrid no hay dinero. (Mañas, Historias del Kronen 205) José Ángel Mañas emerged on the Spanish literary scene in 1994 with Historias del Kronen, a novel that brought him national attention when it was a finalist for the prestigious literary prize, el Premio Nadal. His work has been generally characterized as an offshoot of dirty realism or blank fiction, 8 giving the reader an unfiltered feel for what it was like to be a young Spaniard in Madrid in the 1990s. Carmen de Urioste aptly calls it punk costumbrismo, incorporating a countercultural aspect of his writing while maintaining the link to a textual representation of the daily life of a Spanish youngster. Mañas is consistently included in the Spanish literary generation best known as La Generación X, also known appropriately as La Generación Kronen (referencing the influence of Mañas novel on his generational peers). The language of Historias and subsequent novels is vulgar and replete with slang, the narrator s voices evoke orality and a lack of completed education, 9 the time is the present, and the stories told are of characters getting high and/or drunk, having sex, listening to music, partying at bars, selling drugs, witnessing or engaging in violence, and avoiding trouble with the law. The attitude expressed by some of these juvenile protagonists is that the future holds no guarantees and the past is an inherited burden, so why not indulge in the fruits of the present? Yet in spite of this dreary (depending on your perspective) outlook and portrayal of segments of the Spanish Generation X of the 1990s, in Historias del Kronen and Mañas fourth novel, Ciudad Rayada (published in 1998), sociopolitical and historical concerns play a crucial role in shaping the characters and questioning what the historical and political means in the audiovisual age. These concerns are not always addressed by critical analysis of the Generation X narrative, as these issues are concealed by an unwillingness on the author s part to reimagine Spain s recent past and the novel s shortage of historical and political thematics. These moments of historical and political apathy themselves serve as a commentary on the historical in 8 See María Pao s article, Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Historias del Kronen as Blank Fiction. 9 The exception here being Soy un escritor frustrado, a story which is told by a University Professor in Spain. However, the vulgar language and its content, as well as the nonsensical violence, remains. The narrative voices in Mensaka are either still in school or school dropouts.
17 10 contemporary Spain. Mañas texts, or more specifically the protagonists, exhibit a tendency towards self-serving nihilism which causes indignation in the Spanish reader looking for a promotion of community, redemptive possibilities of the rebellious protagonists and a brighter future under the new Spanish democratic state. What these novels do is call into question the messianic potential of the new government, the Socialist s control and influence on Spanish society, and the European and global project. The narrative in Historias takes place in 1992 as Spain shines in the global spotlight; Barcelona hosts the Summer Olympics, Sevilla the World Expo, and Spain celebrates the five-hundredth anniversary of Colón s discovery of America. This historical context serves as the backdrop for Historias del Kronen and later Ciudad rayada, as Spain s transformation from an isolated dictatorship to an interconnected global player is complete. Carlos, the protagonist and first-person narrator of Historias del Kronen, describes to the reader with brutal honesty and a lack of self-awareness his everyday life. Among the characteristics of Historias which contribute to a different portrait of history and the inherited burden of the past are the presence of repressed dissident sexualities which Carlos takes advantage of, the mediation through television of history and politics framing the narratives and heightening the sensationalism of current events, and Carlos constant resistance to los sermones de siempre or societal pressures directed at his reluctance to change and grow up. This includes his interactions with his father and his grandfather, who both relate their family s histories which tie in with Spain s histories, as well as the many friends and girlfriends who attempt to change Carlos. His disconnect from reality is assisted by the American audiovisual and literary culture proliferated in Spain, the effects of drugs and alcohol, and an intentional insensitivity and opposition to feeling and expressing emotions (i.e. showing weakness). The characters, and in particular Carlos friend Miguel, lament the inclusion of Spain in the European project and the economic struggles masked by the appearance of Spain s global success. Finally, the absence of Carlos redemption and an authorial attitude subtlety critical of the protagonist contribute to a reading that sheds light on young Spaniards interactions with reality and hints at a negativity that dissipates (for most) with maturity. The novel ends with Carlos continuing on down the same destructive path while his friends, one by one, break off down other roads. Ciudad possesses some of the same qualities which lead to a reading of Spanish youth culture s lack of engagement with Spain s past and current politics, and the young characters experiences of contemporary reality mimic those of Historias. Political corruption that is notably absent in Historias is witnessed by the protagonist in Ciudad, another first-person narrator named Kaiser. An aspiring drug-dealer, Kaiser takes the reader along an adventurous ride through Madrid bars, concerts, and its outskirts, and his drug-induced narration satirizes Spain s history and finds gratification in the pleasures afforded by sex, drugs and music. Kaiser, in contrast to Carlos, does not live solely off of his parent s wealth (in this case, his father), choosing instead to make his own money as an up and coming drug dealer. In addition to witnessing firsthand the political corruption rampant during the Socialist leadership, Kaiser also witnesses police corruption and the ability of the Spanish press to spin the events to fit its own depiction/narrative. Violence committed by Kaiser fits into a detached, unemotional state of mind, reminiscent of Carlos drug-induced and possibly intentional murder of Fierro towards the
18 11 end of Historias. Ciudad ends with Kaiser and his girlfriend looking out over Madrid at night, happy and intoxicated, holding on to their youth and fighting the impending future. Critical Minefields: Polemic Literature breeds Polemic Responses Before entering into an analysis of the historical and political engagement of Historias del Kronen and Ciudad rayada, it would be beneficial to embark on a short history of the literary criticism on José Ángel Mañas. Critical attitudes regarding Mañas are contentious to say the least, which corresponds to the polemical and provocative nature of his early novels. Critic Germán Gullón lays out the skeptical critical landscape in his introduction to Historias del Kronen, contrasting it to the overwhelming public support with ten editions in one year: (L)a crítica reaccionó con cautela, expresando opiniones contrapuestas, las de quienes la aceptaron sin reparos, e incluso encontraron en el mundo del Kronen un mensaje que la sociedad debía escuchar, el que la juventud exigía un hueco que no le acabamos de hacer, y las de los que se aferraron a la defensa de unos valores estéticos, que si bien altamente loables, carecen de toda responsabilidad social. (XVIII-XIX) One of the anchors of the negative reactions to Mañas and others of his generation is the lack of aesthetic qualities essential to great literature. The social engagement evident in Historias and Ciudad detracts from its artistic value, as does the vulgarity and orality of the language, the simplicity of the plot, and the emphasis on the cotidiano or every day life of these young characters. Furthermore, contentious perspectives regarding Mañas texts hinge in part on whether or not the repugnant behavior presented in the novel by Carlos and his friends is celebrated or repudiated by the author. Gullón points out that one of the traps of these novels is the play between appreciating and denouncing the values embodied in Carlos and his comportment. Hay que leer bien, sin caer en la trampa de que el autor comparte los valores de ese mundo que representa. Él es su portavoz, no su defensor (XXIV). Gullón nods at the hypocrisy that Carlos decries in Historias: A los neorrealistas de hoy se les niega que esa forma de novelar tenga valor, porque las costumbres representadas resultan repudiables. Los bien pensantes rechazan el mundo de la droga, aunque luego ellos mismos pueden disfrutar de un porrete para distenderse de un día de trabajo duro, o un güisqui, o un programa de basura de la tele. (IX) Certainly a difference in degrees of substance usage should be noted, but even the characters dispute how often they should get high or drink. Miguel chastises Roberto and Carlos for their addiction to the next fix. Pero qué vicioso. Acabas de pillar tu piedra y ya quieres meterte lo siguiente. No sabes disfrutar del presente (60).
19 12 Another of the commonly negative responses to Mañas novels is that they lack originality, due primarily to their realist characteristics, and instead of creating an imagined world his texts merely imitate and evoke reality. Gullón once again confronts these assessments: No obstante, y poco a poco, las acusaciones de falta de originalidad que se lanzaron sobre los neorrealistas [and in particular, Gullón is talking about Mañas] [...] han perdido toda credibilidad. Por un lado, los escritores que les influyeron, como Raymond Carver, son considerados hoy maestros del género literario y, por otro lado, el que forjó la casilla, generación X, Douglas Coupland, se ha convertido en uno de los auténticos innovadores de la lengua y de la narrativa, corta y breve, en lengua inglesa. (xiii) As Gullón points out, while writers such as Raymond Carver and Douglas Coupland once suffered from critical negativity, they are now considered to have contributed substantially to American literature of the late twentieth century. Mañas and other GenX authors do not deny the influence of the Dirty Realists on their aesthetics, although Cintia Santana has written a very compelling article which problematizes this connection through the lens of translation. Nonetheless, the link between the Spanish GenX and the American Dirty Realists is evident. Regarding the recording device as literary tool, Juan Angel Juristo makes a comment in this vein in his review of Mañas second novel, Mensaka. Creo indefensible el hecho de que grabar horas de conversaciones de bares y, luego, plasmarlas en un papel represente algo que tenga la semejanza más tenue con el hecho literario (1). On the other hand, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán describes the language as una jerga que es en realidad la mezcla de diversas jergas operantes (7), 10 refuting to a certain extent the idea of merely recording conversations since what Mañas does is blend different colloquialisms to cause the sensation of informal, youthful speech patterns. The jerga operates as an evocation of the way young people talk; it isn t a replica of their speech. Juristo also points to the impact that the consumer market for literature has had on Mañas success. La importancia, entonces, del espacio reservado queda a merced de algo que tiene poco que ver con la calidad que se le otorga a una obra, y sí con la expectación que despierta el mercado editorial (1). In other words, for Juristo Mañas popularity stems more from the efforts of the publishing world and less from the quality of his literary production. Certainly there were other forces at work in the commercial success of Mañas first offerings in addition to his aesthetics, but the continued relevance of Historias del Kronen in literary criticism and the ten novels he has published since 1994 indicate that the market s forces were not the only factor contributing to his success. Furthermore, Historias del Kronen was a finalist for the Premio Nadal in 1994, the fiftieth anniversary of the award, a very prestigious literary 10 I am not sure if he means this as a compliment, however.
20 13 award with many entries and a very well-respected panel. 11 And although the capitalist marketplace of rapid buying and selling is one of the critical targets of Mañas novels, the market-place is also the unavoidable vehicle through with one s texts must circulate. Carmen de Urioste points to the fact that the movida was an accepted form of rebellion by the government and certain pockets of society, whereas the insubordination on the 90s intended to be truly subversive (also destined for failure, since its benefactor was the publishing world). Frente a la cultura de apariencia rebelde e innovadora desarrollada en la década de los 80, denominada movida madrileña, pero ampliamente aceptada por ciertos sectores sociales como por el gobierno --promotor de la misma--, la cultura joven de los años noventa desea ser identificada como una cultura verdaderamente subversiva e independiente, olvidando de hecho que en su caso el patrocinador es el mercado. (Novela y Sociedad 46) The danger of identifying an aesthetic or social movement as countercultural is that once it has become commercially successful and accepted/co-opted into the mainstream, the countercultural edge appears to be compromised. Leslie Haynsworth looks at this phenomenon in Generation X music from the United States. Her conclusion is that [t]he increasing absorption of Gen X values and practices into mainstream youth culture signifies a perhaps irrevocable loss of pure countercultural status, which is troubling for a movement that is self-defined through its oppositional stance (57). Are Mañas novels already co-opted by the marketplace? Is it realistic to expect the counterculture to ignore the marketplace? Some like Juristo criticize Mañas anti-establishment pose as nothing more than a commercial ploy to sell books, and there might be some truth to this criticism. Professional writing is nothing new in Spain, but unlike the financial struggles a writer like Ramón del Valle-Inclán had to endure at the turn of the 20th century (satirized in his Luces de Bohemia), a writer in the late 1990s could survive, albeit relying upon other sources of income such as writing newspaper articles or movie scripts. As John Hooper described it, Within a few years, authorship in Spain ceased to be a hobby and became a profession. By writing articles as well as books and haciendo bolos (working the lecture circuit), authors nowadays can make a decent living (404). Toni Dorca phrases the question as follows: tenemos derecho críticos y profesores a censurar a los jóvenes por acercar la literatura al público y venderse al mejor postor?; dicho en otras palabras, es lícito censurar que una porción cada vez mayor de jóvenes sin empleo se procure un sustento mediante la escritura? (311). This decade in Spain saw out-of-control unemployment rates that were especially high for young people. In 1998 one in every three year old in Spain was unemployed; that percentage grew to 44% for year olds. Spain as a country had an overall 20.9% unemployment rate in 1997 and 18.9% in To put this in perspective, the next closest country in the EU-15 was Finland, with 15% and 13.2%, novels were entered in 1994 for the award. ( _ html). The panel consisted of Pere Gimferrer, José María Guelbenzu, Robert Saladrigas, Andrés Teixidor and Antonio Vilanova. ( 1994/01/07/045.html). Rosa Regàs won the award for her novel, Azul.
21 14 respectively. 12 Thus, Spain s unemployment rate was 5% higher than any other country that belonged to the EU Is it any wonder that young authors in Spain sought to capitalize on their texts to the fullest, even if it gave the impression of a less valid aesthetic form? Certainly becoming an author is not the best way out of a personal economic crisis, so possibly Dorca s next statement gets to the core of the argument, that the writers who are supposedly subversive and are selling subversion are not really so counterculture after all. Existe, por consiguiente, un recelo hacia los jóvenes creadores que pretenden explotar bajo un disfraz de rebeldía las ansias de consumo de la sociedad. Paradójicamente, los propios escritores tienen conciencia de esta problemática y la trasladan a las páginas de su ficción (Dorca 310). The self-awareness exhibited in these texts demonstrates that Mañas understands this dilemma and even satirizes this very situation in his second novel, Mensaka. The young characters are in a rock band and attempt to get signed by a major international record label after a local label takes advantage of them and fails to make them rich, famous and successful. They have to sell out in order to make it big, leaving behind one of their band members and best friends in the process. Another example is Soy un escritor frustrado, in which a university professor steals the novel of his young female student and it becomes a best-seller. The publishing houses promise him an award for his second novel; the only problem is that he (or rather, his young sequestered student) hasn t written it yet. Possibly because of the self-awareness exhibited by the authors, Toni Dorca refuses to believe that solely because a novel has become a consumer product it must necessarily be lacking in quality. Me resisto a creer que este comercio al por mayor tenga que redundar necesariamente en perjuicio de la calidad de nuestra literatura (311). Leslie Haynsworth also concludes that a subcultural movement such as the Gen X can maintain a sense of authenticity and control the values associated with it even as it has become integrated into the mainstream. [T]he history of alternative rock s incorporation into the music mainstream suggests that this kind of shift in a subculture s relationship with the dominant culture in fact gives the subculture leverage to infiltrate and reshape the dominant culture largely on its own terms (57). While giving away a bit of its rebellious credibility, a commercially successful subculture can reach a larger audience and spread its message further. Mañas image as punk-rock rebel writer was carefully crafted in the beginning of his literary career, not only in his writing but also in his interactions with the media. This is not to say his affection for punk music or his writing was falsified or empty, but rather that it was utilized as a tool to increase his public presence and cement his counterculture status. In a recent interview Mañas was asked if he wants to be known in the future as a punk writer. No, no es una cosa,... en la época me consideraba un punk de la literatura, y creo que si pones eso... a mí eso retrataba muy bien lo que intentaba entonces, lo que estaba haciendo iba un poco en esa línea (Corbalán 341). The implication from this quote is that, among other things, he no longer considers himself to be a literary punk, but at one time he did. As 12 In May 2004, the EU15 was comprised by the following 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
22 the epigraph to this chapter suggests, punk initially designated a rebellion against established aesthetic norms, much like Dada and Surrealism before it. The fact that this overtly rebellious stance has diminished as Mañas has become commercially successful and part of the literary establishment may speak to the power of the market to accommodate, promote and manage subversive cultural products. A good example of the transformation of Mañas image between 1998 Ciudad Rayada and 2005 El Caso Karen can be seen by comparing photographs taken of the author for promotional campaigns for the two novels. These two photographs were taken for different publications and with two very different audiences in mind. The much younger and rebellious author has dreadlocks, wears a casual zipper sweatshirt and a snarl, hasn t shaved in a few days, chugs a beer in one photo, flips off the camera in another, and finally covers up the camera with his hand. This Mañas appeals to the younger, wayward public reflected in the themes of his first four novels in particular. An older and more mature Mañas can be seen gently leaning against a window, wearing a nice black sweater with a short haircut accentuating his grey hair and a smile on his face. The hedonistic, no future young kid has grown up. The transformation is astounding. 15
23 16 El Duende de Madrid, Especial de Verano Article in El País, March 10, What is Mañas place within the Spanish literary field? Earlier in this chapter I cited Germán Gullón, who pinpointed Raymond Carver and Douglas Coupland as two literary antecedents to Mañas and the Spanish Generation X writers. Gullón also traces Mañas writing to another well-known realist writer of Spanish literature at the turn of the 20th century. El neorrealismo lo que ha hecho es reingresar el personaje en la vida social [...] Lo mismo, salvadas las distancias, que hiciera don Pío Baroja en la primera mitad del siglo, pues fue él quien puso al personaje en contacto con el medio social (xi-xii). Literary precedents reside both locally and abroad. Critic Matthew Marr asserts that Mañas follows Hemingway s suit in sociopolitical resistance to governmental interference regarding individual