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No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis This book explores the fluid boundaries between realism and romanticism, while considering this oscillation between discourses as the legacy of the Quijote to the nineteenth-century Spanish novel. More subtly, however, the passage also suggests that national sovereignty is embodied in violent struggle itself, as if to say that there is nothing more quintessentially Spanish than armed resistance to empire.
At the same time, the atavistic temper of this template for the nation is not difficult to discern. Indeed, if one of the basic effects of historical fiction is to underscore and exploit the proximities between narrative fiction and historical narrative, it is partly in order to explore the way in which these two narrative modes and their representative strands reciprocally engage and illuminate one another. An early encounter between the two characters in La corte de Carlos IV conveys the power-relations that govern their initial interactions:.
The scene in which the marriage is arranged is tellingly simple, divested of the markers of social distinctions, and inclusively colloquial. Just as important as the transformation itself, however, is the primary mechanism of this metamorphosis over the course of the ten novels, and to put it succinctly, that mechanism is war. The phenomenon registers the social mobility that soldiering in fact afforded men of all stripes throughout the nineteenth-century, to be sure, but it also insinuates a third proposition that I believe subtends the first series.
If the guerrillas are a template for the nation collectively, it follows that the soldier-guerrillero becomes the template for the new citizen.
The closing image of Gabriel on the battlefield in La batalla de los Arapiles is as follows:. Yo vi aquel glorioso signo de guerra a una distancia como de cinco varas.
To put it in symbolic terms, after the eagle is vanquished, middle class domesticity is promptly ushered in. Indeed, the links between anti-imperial soldier and bourgeois pater familias have been structurally embedded in the series all along, for these two personae are in effect the two faces of Gabriel as soldier-protagonist and Gabriel as aging bourgeois narrator. In step with most first-person narrative, then, the process by which the character has become the narrator comes into relief toward the end of the tale.
With these ideological structures in view, it will be useful to turn finally to more direct consideration of the representation of war itself in the first series of Episodios nacionales. War is the very crucible in which both the new nation and its emergent social identities are forged. Most fascinating about this proposition, however, is that it emerges from a discourse also characterized by a consistent criticism of that very violence.
No Episodio transpires without the attempt to represent and tacitly condemn the consequences of orchestrated killing. Neither he nor the readers of his tale are spared the details of the suffering that is unleashed at battle:. Similarly, in Zaragoza , Araceili gives grisly, first-hand accounts of the cumulative effects of war, hunger and disease on the inhabitants of the city:. To ascribe a quasi-pacifist dimension to such gestures, however, misses the point that, rhetorically, such violence is ultimately narrativized as a materially and symbolically productive force.
In contrast to earlier, romantic-historicist constructions of Spanish identity as essentially Christian, medieval, and premodern, the first series of Episodios delivers a narrative in which struggle against imperial oppression becomes the touchstone for the birth of modern Spain.
In this regard, the project may in fact be the most protracted Spanish literary construction of national identity in terms of the political struggle for freedom. In the basic dialectic of nation against empire, the first series in effect eclipses the history of Spanish imperialism. In the first series of Episodios Spanish imperialism is symbolically expunged from the national imaginary, which is constructed in opposition to French imperialism.
In this regard the first series suggests something that recent historical inquiries into nineteenth century Spanish nationalism can easily overlook; that is, the conceptual separation of nation and empire that was undoubtedly operating below official political discourse at the level of the everyday living experience of most Spanish citizens.
In such a context, it is worth recalling with Fredric Jameson the profound affinities between modernity and the organized violence we call war:. It is finally as a war machine that the efficiency of the state is judged; and no doubt modern warfare offers a very advanced form of collective organization indeed. Within the universe of the first series of Episodios nacionales , the relationship between war and the modern is, no doubt, as intimate as Jameson suggests. In its examination of the relationship between the individual and the collective, in its analogizing of the birth of the nation and the birth of the bourgeois subject, and in its probing of the nexus between the then of the Napoleonic era and the now of s Spain, the series tacitly fuses together two disparate traditions of thinking concerning modern sovereignty.
In effect, it suggests that there is a close relationship between the sovereign nation commonly inscribed within an intellectual tradition that includes Bodin, Rousseau, Hobbes, Montesquieu and the sovereign individual typically associated with Lockean thinking and classical liberalism. While identification with the heroic guerrillero by a largely bourgeois Spanish reading public in the s can certainly be read in terms of national mythmaking, such identification also begins to contaminate the realm of peaceful, civic life and bourgeois domesticity with the violence of war.
It points to a lingering conscience concerning the violence that subtends the quotidian order of the day, a violence that, as recent political theorists have argued, is ultimately grounded in the sovereign power over life and death themselves.
Agamben, Giorgio. Stanford University Press, Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, Blanco, Alda. Cardona, Rodolfo.
His first novel La Fontana de oro , was printed in , and later in the same year appeared El Audaz. Send an eBay message Newsletter Add World of Books to your favourites and receive email newsletters about special promotions! Woodcut by Jost Amman. His Napoleonic Code has influenced the legal systems of more than 70 nations around the world. Signed by the author to the title page.
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