Satirizing Modern Spain on the Edge of Crisis: Robert Juan-Cantavella at the Quarterly Conversation

The Quarterly Conversation has a very good article on the young Spanish novelist Robert Juan-Cantavella and his satires of modern Spain on the edge of the current crisis. Whether or not you will ever read him, it is a very good summary of many of the cultural trends that have afflicted Spain in the last few years as the country moves farther from the transition to democracy after the death of Franco. While one article can’t describe a literary scene, he does sound like part of the literary scene where there is quite a bit of playfulness in stories. You can see some of that in my reviews of Fernando Iwasaki and Hipolito Navarro. The segment of from his novel is quite short, but looks like it has promise. Perhaps he’ll be translated or I’ll get a copy in Spanish one of these days.

Ever since the publication in 2001 of Otro, his first novel, Robert Juan-Cantavella has seemed to position his work as a continuation of a certain Spanish literary tradition as much as a cheeky raid on its vaults and a blithe taunt to anyone wishing to hold him accountable for his hijacking of or attacks on sacred cows. In Proust Fiction (2005), a story collection, Juan-Cantavella introduces into several of the pieces a character called Escargot—not really an alter-ego or a pseudonym, probably a heteronym . . .—and we learn that, were it not for him killing them all beforehand, a bunch of giants really would have been waiting for Don Quixote on that fateful day at the windmills. This is no mere comic gesture, not any more than an attempt by a bold young man to pretend that Spanish literature owes him something; it’s also, and more importantly, a way to insist that all creation is also recreation (in more than one sense of the word).

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