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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 7. The Poetics of Abstraction 177


Chapter 7. The Poetics of Abstraction Existence and the world are eternally justified solely as an aesthetic phenomenon (Friedrich Nietzsche) It’s a seat…But the word stays on my lips: it refuses to go out and put itself on the thing. Things are divorced from their names… I am in the midst of things, nameless things. Alone, without words, defenceless, they surround me, are beneath me, behind me, above me […] And then, all of a sudden, there it was, clear as day: existence had suddenly unveiled itself. It had lost the harmless look of abstract category: it was the very paste of things…the diversity of things, their individuality, was only an appearance, a veneer. This veneer had melted, leaving soft, monstrous masses all in disorder—naked, in a frightful, obscene nakedness. [‘Roquentin’, in La Nausea (1938) Jean-Paul Sartre] It is possible to read western history as a record of the breakdown of order leading towards disintegration. Roland Stromberg The individual has become a mere cog in an enormous organization of things and power which tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to transform them from their subjective form into the form of a purely objective life. George Simmel (1858–1918) In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche famously stated that ‘Existence and the world are eternally justified solely as an aesthetic phenomenon’,1 re-asserting the importance of the aesthetic ideal over moral, ideological, religious and social considerations. With these words Nietzsche gives voice to the per-...

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