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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evading/Invading History: Adolescent Preoccupations with Reality, the Historical Present and Popular Culture in Spanish GenX Narratives

  • Author(s): Norberg, Paul G.
  • Advisor(s): Iarocci, Michael
  • et al.

The Spanish Generation X (GenX) refers to a group of writers, born in the 1960s and early 1970s, who published novels in the 1990s. Their work focused on a generation of Spanish adolescents who were raised during and the closing years of the Franco government and the Transition to democracy. Ray Loriga, José Ángel Mañas and Lucía Etxebarria are three writers who are consistently identified by critics as the figureheads of the generation. This dissertation explores the historical dimensions of their early texts.

GenX, a polemical group and categorical designation, is characterized by an emphasis on international popular culture, especially music, film and literature. The young characters in these novelists' works are alienated from society and their peers, immersed in the present, suspicious of the future, and indifferent to the past. They turn to gratuitous violence, sex and substance abuse in their search for meaning or in order to avoid the realities of their lives. While stylistically ranging from realism to postmodern skepticism about the real, the early novels of Loriga, Mañas and Etxebarria coincide in the representation of how Spain's young people grappled with the difficulties of a newly global, media-driven, consumerist society as Spain integrated into the European Union.

In my dissertation, I analyze how these novelists, who have frequently been criticized for their seeming historical and political apathy in fact engage history in their representations of the their era. While debates rage on about the recuperation of historical memory and political corruption, these authors I study engage in very different projects. They capture in myriad ways the peculiar sense of time and history that characterizes a culture saturated in quick-hitting television news clips, sensationalist television shows and distorted newspaper headlines. GenX novels reflect this new historical consciousness. Everything and nothing is historical; Kurt Cobain's and Ian Curtis' suicides (lead singer of Joy Division) become historical markers, signaling the passage of time instead of the attempted coup in 1981 or the death of Franco in 1975. History is easily lost to the quickened pace of life, and these novelists show how the attempt to recover and narrate the past often results in fragmented and sometimes mythical texts.

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