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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 5. Towards a Modernist Aesthetics (1930–1936) 145


Chapter 5. Towards a Modernist Aesthetics (1930–1936) There is one fact which, whether for good or for ill, is of utmost importance in the public life of Europe at the present moment. This fact is the accession of the masses to complete social power. Ortega y Gasset (1883–1963) in The Revolt of the Masses 1930 Nous voulons voyager sans vapeur et sans voile. Baudelaire (1821–1867) The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it. Frederich Nietzsche (1844–1900) Things fall apart, the centre will not hold. William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilised but non- Christian mentality. The experiment will fail. T.S. Eliot (1885–1965). It is widely perceived in Spanish literature—and European literature at large—that the 1930s mark a departure from the experimental techniques of the 1920s to a more socially realistic approach to writing. With the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and the ensuing economic crisis on a global scale, ac- companied by the rise of Fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain, it is generally assumed that the author increasingly felt a heightened sense of social respon- sibility which was at best expressed through a return to artistic verisimilitude and the depiction of the struggles and plight of the working man. It is as- sumed that during the decade of the 1930s the artist descended from his so called ‘ivory tower’ to engage with social issues,...

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