Time and structural technique in some twentieth century Spanish novelists
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The importance of the theme of time and history in contemporary ideology can be amply illustrated from twentieth-century Spanish literature. This reflects a general Western tendency: time has become an almost obsessive concern and finds expression as such in the works of Proust, Ortega and Faulkner, to mention only three of a host of relevant figures. The Spanish novel boasts a large number of works illustrative of the theme. Fiction, as a literary genre, is especially apt for the expression of the idea of time, for its very form is temporal in nature: the writer constructs his work in the medium of time, the reader peruses it in a temporal process of assimilation and, on a more profound level, the novel's plot represents a fictional duration, an action which can only occur in a developing context of time. "Plot", here, is to be considered synonymous with 'horizontal structure', by which is meant the development of the novel's thematic and narrative elements throughout the work's consecutive form. Levi-Strauss provides a useful definition which may be applied to stock literary teaminology: "Form is defined by opposition to a content which is foreign to it; but structure has no distinct content. It is the content itself apprehended in a logical organisation. A novel's structure is the embodiment of meaning in form; since it is fundamentally dynamic and temporal, this structure may ideally represent the meaning, or human significance, which is embodied in nan's experience of time. In the context of contemporary culture and sensibility, this meaning is uncertain: since the turn of the century, time has been conceived of as a negative property of the human condition. The collapse of faith in a meaningful universe has given rise to a metaphysic of vital dis¬ orientation which has resulted in a pessimistic evaluation of time and history. Some authors of fiction write specifically about time; a number of these may write about the metaphysical implications of time; but only a minority succeed in creating a novel-form which incorporates an organic correspondence between a content and a structure both subordinate to the generic theme of time. This thesis purports to examine certain novelistic structures found in a small group of twentieth-century Spanish novels, and to relate them to the concepts of time defined in those works. Human experience is here accorded formal expression via a structure which emphasises the problematical nature of the contemporary response to time as an essential property of the human condition.