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Chaos and Coincidence in Contemporary Spanish Fiction

Anne L. Walsh

This book is an investigation of contemporary Spanish fiction, specifically a group of fictional texts (written and film) that appeared in Spain in the first decade of this century (2001- 2010). The author focuses on textual analysis and studies how chaos and coincidence appear in these narratives and shape them. The texts analyzed are Soldados de Salamina (2001) by Javier Cercas, Tu rostro manaña (2002-2007) by Javier Marías, La catedral del mar (2006) by Ildefonso Falcones, Volver (2006) directed by Pedro Almodóvar, Instrucciones para salvar el mundo (2008) by Rosa Montero and El asedio (2010) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, with reference to other texts by these authors also included. Though very different storytellers, these authors share an interest in chaos as a theme and as a narrative device. This work shows that the recurrence in their stories of the theme of chaos indicates a move away from postmodern apathy to a growing sense of empowerment, both for characters and for their readers.


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1 The Trend Thus Far 17


17 Chapter One: The Trend Thus Far Making Sense of Chaos Those who have lived during the twentieth century surely will not be surprised to see Harold Bloom refer to it as ‘The Chaotic Age’. Of course, he was particularly interested in categorizing its literature and judging it in relation to it predecessors (of the aristocratic and democratic ages). He saw the writings of Freud, Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Borges, Neruda and Pessoa as aptly belonging to just such a category since ‘a poem, novel or play acquires all of humanity’s disorders.’1 Similarly, Octavio Paz, referring specifically to modern poetry, named the contemporary age as ‘immoderate’, filled with ‘ruptures and revolutions.’2 By inference, the past century was one of chaos but, equally, it must be said, it was one of great creativity. Within that creativity, however, in Spain and elsewhere, most markedly in the last quarter of the twentieth century, there was a growing sense of futility. Fiction emphasised a theme of existential struggle that had little point beyond the struggle itself since activity rarely led to change and, if it did, that change was rarely, if ever, for the better. Thus, the term ‘chaotic’, and all its derivatives, have been understood popularly as negative. We speak of ‘the chaos’ of our lives, of our minds, of our thoughts and expectations, meaning that 1 Harold Bloom, The Western Canon (New York: Riverhead Books; Berkley; Penguin, 1994), p.18. 2 Cited in Stephen Miller, ‘The Spanish Novel from Pérez Galdós...

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