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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 4. The Banquet Years II (1924–1929) 125


Chapter 4. The Banquet Years II (1924–1929) Existence and the world are eternally justified solely as an aesthetic phenomenon. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) En la noche, como los pájaros en sus jaulas, podemos en aqueste ambiente esponjar nuestro plumaje, regodearnos de nuestra vida sin grandes conflictos, de nuestra gran resignación de vivir y de morir. Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1888–1963). Parody and Influence in La mujer de ámbar (1927) Although nobody doubts the importance of Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s work to the avant-garde enterprise of the 1920s, his experimental approach to writing does not obviate the need to trace traditional literary influences in his work. As its title suggests, La mujer de ámbar (1927) is a highly lyrical novel where interest is largely sustained through an aesthetic rather than a social understanding of the world, in keeping with the author’s narrative fiction at large. Similar to many of Ramón’s novels, La mujer de ámbar recounts the attempts of a solipsistic character (Lorenzo) to find companionship during a sojourn in the city of Naples. Similar to many of Ramón’s characters, the protagonist of La mujer de ámbar is driven by a desire which is ultimately not attained, although the erotic pursuit of the ideal woman occupies much of the narrative. The city of Naples is depicted as being still very much rooted in the past—the recurrent reference to the volcano Mount Vesuvius acting as a constant reminder to...

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