Keys to New Spanish Literature at the Quarterly Conversation

The Quarterly Conversation has a short article from Antonio J. Rodríguez about some new writing in Spanish mostly from Spain. I didn’t find the article too compelling, partly because it is so brief that it feels just like name dropping. I wasn’t particularly by some of Rodríguez’s descriptions of the books, either. Something about them left me unenthused. The other thing that bugged me really has nothing to do with Rodríguez, but the sudden rush to see who the young are when very few authors even a few years older have yet to be translated into English. I’d like to know who any of my readers who know Spanish literature might consider as keys to contemporary Spanish literature and, perhaps, not in English?

It is well known to observers of Spanish fiction that for about the last five years most debates on our emerging authors have taken into account the so-called “Nocilla Generation,” a journalistic label coined after the publication of Agustin Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla Dream (2007) and used to group some writers whose works experimented interestingly with elements from Anglo-Saxon (McCaffery’s Avant-pop, David Foster Wallace, George Saunders . . . ) and pop culture that were not very common or appreciated in Spain at that time. Vicente Luis ­­Mora, Agustín Fernández Mallo, Robert Juan Cantavella, Germán Sierra, Juan Francisco Ferré, Jorge Carrión, and Oscar Gual are some of the most recurrent names. These authors were looking for new ways to—once again—bury the good old realism, and at the same time raise—once more—questions on the art of storytelling. In doing this, one of the main features of their style would be fragmentarism.

Many essays and texts published by these (relatively) young authors created a necessary disruption in Spanish fiction’s most recent history. But problems came once these efforts changed from innovation to mere trendy gesture; that is, when their way of doing things became the rule and not the exception. In our literary market, this change in trend, combined with the recently published Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists list by Granta (which is devoid of names linked to the “Nocilla” literature) and, even more importantly, what we may call the power vacuum brought about by the lack of a leader of American fiction (in Spanish eyes) after the death of Infinite Jest’s author, brings about one question: Where do we look now? Where do we find new references?