Edited By Alison Ribeiro de Menezes and Catherine O'Leary
Spain Susana Bayó Belenguer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán as Franco There are many good novels, many good biographies, and some truly literary autobiographies, but the contemporary Spanish author Manuel Vázquez Montalbán must be applauded for having written, in Autobiografía del general Franco,1 an outstanding example of all three genres in one, and a meta-fictional and meta-historical work which manages to transcend the observation of Virginia Woolf that ‘biography is one of the most restricted of all the arts […] The novelist is free. The biographer is tied’.2 The author describes the book as a novel, and that it undoubtedly is, but a novel of such unique character that it might be examined from any of several perspectives and still refuse to be pinned down. Ira Bruce Nadel identifies the major challenge of the biography genre as creating ‘a work of truth’ and Lytton Strachey stressed that ‘a biographer’s equipment should consist of three things – a capacity for absorbing facts, a capacity for stating them and a point of view’.3 However, Vázquez Montalbán’s novel is largely presented as an autobiography, and the author’s art has been to place his work within a literary genre whose essence is the craft of persuasion, or at least of the beguiling illusion that here the inmost truth is revealed. At the most mundane level autobiography is literally literature of or about the self. A biography, especially a satirical biography posing as an autobiography, also seems to provide an ironic...
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