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The Dilemma of Modernity

Ramón Gómez de la Serna and the Spanish Modernist Novel

John A. McCulloch

The Dilemma of Modernity is a study of the evolution of Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s narrative fiction within the context of European Modernism. At a time when Joyce, Kafka, Proust, and Woolfe were experimenting with prose fiction, very little is known about Spain’s contribution to the novel. Despite his years in Paris, when it was still considered the cultural capital of Europe, and his championing of the avant-garde in Spain in the 1920s through his literary salon Pombo, which attracted figures such as Borges, Picasso, Huidobro, Buñuel and Lorca, Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s work has suffered from critical neglect.
The Dilemma of Modernity sets Gómez de la Serna’s work within the cultural and historical context of the time and traces his evolution from aesthete to promoter of the avant-garde, modernist, and existentialist.


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Chapter 3. The Art of Un-Making Novels: El novelista (1923) 89


Chapter 3. The Art of Un-Making Novels: El novelista (1923) I am drunk from having swallowed the entire universe, on the quay from which I saw the darkness flow, and the barges sleep. Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918) Madrid es no tener nada y tenerlo todo. Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1888–1963) La soledad no se nota si está llena de cosas. Ramón Gómez de la Serna In El novelista (1923), normal narrative conventions are subverted through a departure from traditional plot devices, in a deliberate attempt to break with naturalistic organicity. El novelista is a novel which is essentially about the process of writing itself, and is therefore central for anyone attempting to come to an understanding of Gómez de la Serna’s poetics. The protagonist of El novelista is himself a novelist who is writing a varied collection of novels and stories, which when pieced together, form the overall work: El novel- ista.1 It is arguably Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s most ambitious work, in that it attempts to create a literary whole from a mosaic of individual anecdotes and potential novels in the making. Whilst the laying bare of the creative process on the part of Ramón is not a device which is exclusive to this work, Ramón takes the practice of ‘novela del novelar’ to new lengths, and in the process questions the relationship between fiction and reality. What first strikes the reader about El novelista is the...

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