Books and Authors That Described the Spanish Exile

El Pais had an interesting article about the Spanish authors who went into exile and the works that reflect that exile. I’ve read a little of Aub (my review was luke-warm), but none of the works here are familiar to me. I think a couple sound interesting. You can read some excerpts here.

Max Aub, La gallina ciega. Diario español

Max Aub.

max Aub publicó en vida dos fragmentos ampliados de sus diarios: Enero en Cuba recogió su estancia insular en 1968 y La gallina ciega, su regreso a España en 1969. En su inicio, puso una execración de Franco; en su final, una zumbona carta al ministro solicitando su beneplácito para publicarlo. Y en medio, afirma: “No intenté ser imparcial”, porque “no soy juez, sino parte”. Le fastidió casi todo… Que las coquinas de 1969 no supieran como las de 1936, que España se hubiera convertido en el lugar de veraneo internacional y, sobre todo, que nadie se acordara de lo sucedido entre 1936 y 1939, ni de la vida cultural republicana, ni de quienes se fueron al exilio. Asistir a una comida con Luis Buñuel y Dámaso Alonso, o al reencuentro con el fascista Santa Marina son experiencias inolvidables, contadas en esta prosa conceptuosa y restallante. (Joaquín Mortiz. México, 1971).

Cuentos para el andén #3 Out Now

Cuentos para el andén #3 is out now. I didn’t find it as interesting as the first two. The stories in the second one were quite good. At least with this issue there is a short story form Max Aub, an author who I have read only in novel form. I can’t say I was knocked out by his story, but it was worth reading nonetheless.

¿POR qué me juzgan? ¿Con qué derecho? Todos ustedes son funcionarios, luego elévenme un monumento; y que acabe mi vida con la gloria que merezco.

Jueces son, luego funcionarios, dependientes de superiores; el ministro en el altar mayor, el subsecretario a la derecha y el oficial mayor a la izquierda. No juego con las palabras. Jamás jugué. Si lo hice, no me acuerdo. Lo maté por viejo. No él, yo.

The Playing Card Novel of Max Aub – At El sindrome Chejov

El sindrome Chejov has a post about the playing card novel written by Max Aub (1903 – 1972), a Spanish novelist and short story writer . It is a clever novel printed on playing cards. The novel is printed on the reverse side of the suit, which could make for an interesting game of poker when everyone is holding their cards up, but would not be the best set if you don’t like cheaters. A new edition of the book was just republished for the first time since 1964. It is a little pricy at 50 euros, but an intriguing approach to story telling nonetheless. It is worth a look even if you don’t speak Spanish.

I reviewed a book of his, Field of Honor, sometime ago. I wasn’t impressed with it. You can see why here.

Writing the Spanish Civil War: Field of Honor by Max Aub – a Review

Field of Honour
Max Aub
Verso ( 2009), pg 253

Political novels, especially those written in the heat of the moment, can suffer from didacticism, that need to explain, justify, or apologize which when read latter makes conversation that was once so important seem stiff, bereft of context. At best it can read as a time capsule, but often the need to explain over powers complexity. Moreover, as history progresses those ideas that were so worth devoting pages to are no longer that important. Sure, they are relevant to a specialist, but they cannot go beyond their moment because the ideas no longer inform the current moment.

Written in 1939, the year of the Republican defeat, Max Aub’s Field of Honor falls into this trap and despite moments of brilliance the book is mired in conversations about the need for communist, anarchist, flangeest (a mix of Catholicism and fascism) and Carlist (a form of monarchism)  solutions to the problems of Spain. The conversations are more fragments of ideas than cogent argument, which is perhaps fitting its timeliness, and they do show a certain side of the coming troubles, but they neither make an interesting argument, or really convey the experience of the times. He is effective in showing the different ideas that were being discussed, but in of themselves they are not particularly compelling.

It is unfortunate the weakness of the political arguments distract so much, because the other elements are very well written. The book follows Rafael Lopez Serrador a poor youth from a small village in Spain as he goes from young man to revolutionary, struggling against industrialists, switching to fascist side, and ultimately finding what he really is. In one way it is a coming of age story as Serrador learns about sex, the avarice of man kind, and confronts violence. As a coming of age story, even one of political awakening, Aub captures a world, an impression that out lasts the times. Aub’s strength is to capture a communal experience and he can convey what a town or a battle is like in a way that goes beyond just a historical description, and gives one the sense of the times. His description of the fire bull (a bull with burning pitch on its horns) is not only an effective symbol of Spain on the edge of war, but an excellent depiction of small town life. His quick, imagistic sentences serve his expansive, summary approach, and the result is a sweeping view of the end of Republican Spain.

Ultimately, Field of Honor has moments of brilliance but is slowed by the political discussions. Since it is part of a cycle it would be interesting to see if he is able to use more of the good parts and avoid the conversational fragments.