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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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5 Tragedy is Comedy 93

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93 Chapter Five: Tragedy is Comedy One of the dominant themes in the films of Pedro Almodóvar may be said to be the chaos of modern life. The everyday rush, the unplanned event, the arguments, accidents, unscheduled meetings all form and inform the backdrop against which Almodovarian characters struggle to survive. Even when the predominant flavour is one of comedy, there is an element of tragedy which resonates with the viewer. Paradoxically, the reverse is also true: that when there is a dominance of tragedy, there is just enough comedy to create a balance of credibility. However, that is not to say that everything in an Almodóvar film is credible. More often than not, the chaotic lives of the characters are laden with coincidences that stretch the limits of verisimilitude. In fact, it is the sheer mass of coincidences, coming quickly one after the other, that causes a viewer to be unable to comprehend any of Almodóvar’s characters without reference to the postmodern chaos that ensues and that impels the various plots. Thus, chaos and coincidence may be seen as structural devices that drive the plots forward while also being recognizably characteristic of everyday life. Events that facilitate or impede life (chance meetings, delays, accidents, repetitions of previous events) form the basis of dramatic tension, solve or create problems, divert attention from, or attract focus on to, the actions and reactions of the characters. As devices of rhetoric, they form a persuasive axis around which a viewer’s...

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