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Searching for personal identity through shadows of the past: Literary fantasy in novels of Carmen Martín Gaite and Javier Cercas
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8527-274X
2013 (English)In: Time & Space: Time and Space in Speculative Fiction / [ed] Professor Britt-Inger Johansson, 2013Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Fantasy, history and human experience make up many of Spain’s contemporary historical novels, as was the case in the magical realist fiction of Latin America. In Spain’s case, postmodern speculative fiction has often served to settle accounts with the nation’s traumatic, dictatorial past. An example of this is Carmen Martin Gaite’s The Back Room (El cuarto de atrás, 1978), a multi-layered fantasy novel with autobiographical details that laid the foundation of subsequent Spanish historical novels in which memories and realities, both personal and collective, deal with a recent past that for several decades was forcefully silenced. In so doing, they bring certain existential and ethical matters to the fore, e.g. the individual’s stances and choices in circumstances more or less beyond his or her control.

Personal identity, the search for truth and the uncovering of past experiences are at the core of contemporary Spanish novels, oftentimes molded in non-linear time sequences and with elements of metafiction, imagination, dreams and fantasy, thereby appealing to the historical and personal conscience of the reader.

My paper discusses some of the main characteristics of such novels, in particular Carmen Martín Gaite’s The Back Room but also more recent novels such as Javier Cerca’s Soldiers of Salamis (Soldados de Salamina, 2001).


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Keywords: memory, trauma, conscience, ethical and existential stances
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URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-20143OAI: diva2:662130
Interdisciplinary symposium hosted by SALT (Forum for -Advanced Studies in Arts, Literature and Theology) at Uppsala University, Sweden; 23 Apr 2013
Available from: 2013-11-06 Created: 2013-11-06 Last updated: 2013-12-10Bibliographically approved

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