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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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4 The Past is Ever Present 79

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79 Chapter Four: The Past is Ever Present One of the dominant themes to emerge in late twentieth-century Spanish fiction is, undoubtedly, that of historical memory. Many moments of the past, including though not restricted to the Spanish Civil War, have been examined through the eyes of memory, with the added ingredient allowed to fiction, namely that of subjectivity. Of course, historical accounts of the past have always included an element of subjectivity. With fiction, however, that element is overt and, as has been seen in the analysis of Soldados de Salamina, implies the presence of a vital ingredient, namely, imagination. Furthermore, there is an inherent paradox within historical fictions for, as Wolfgang Iser points out: If the past is to be made tangible in all its individualized ramifications, it must seem to be consistent. But historical consistency can only be a fiction, as otherwise the past would be artificially structured by non-historical categories. A fictitious consistency enables the singularities of history to be related to one another.1 Thus, in order to tell the past as it was, consistency must be added which was not originally present. Yet, without it, the telling is impossible. Nonetheless, there is a two-fold value in attempting to regain an insight into the past through setting stories in an historic time and location: it allows distance between the telling of the tale and the action, thus allowing a sense of twenty-twenty vision, a clarity to be brought to bear on events which only hindsight can...

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