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Rafael Chirbes, as seen by Santos Alonso

Rafael Chirbes has been for 20 years the annoying and persistent punch, impertinent and politically incorrect, which has not failed to poke in the wounds of society: since 1988, the year of his first novel, he has appeared and re-appeared to annoy and remove society's mask to show its lacks and miseries. To some it is his rudeness with postmodern frivolity what is annoying, while to others it is his ideological dissidence. We can now confirm that he is the most socially aware novelist of our time. The whole of his work offers a critical, dialectic and historical (in the sense of the marxist term and with all the associated consequences) review of the current Spain, which means rescuing the old-time conscience that is largely missed in the present times of useful pragmatism, apparent economic welfare, and non-ideological thinking that also affect narratives.

It is a matter of attitude and commitment: a conflictive, dialectic and dissident attitude versus a political and ideological normalization, versus those who after going on quest for utopias and revolutionary changes, have lost their heavy luggages along the way and accommodated in positions of power as the new social winners. Commitment with a social reality and with the his own literary works. In the case of the former, not only by requesting social justice (an antiquated term for many), but also highlighting the contradictions and reporting the impostures and surrenders obliged by historical reasons. His work does not resign to becoming oblivious towards the memory of people, to "starting from the scratch", because for Chirbes there is no full stop in the course of history: The memories that forge rebellion or shameful indulgence, ideals or brutality, should never be forgotten for the sake of political correctness; and if mankind is a son oh its acts, people are sons of their merits and mistakes.

Regarding the commitment with his work, Chirbes talks about plausible fictions that not only analyze and explain a specific historical moment, but also reflect the ineludible truth of a writer who remains loyal to his own ideological convictions and risky literary bets. This way, the plots of his novels are based on a mechanism tensions, especially among the characters, and show a conflict originated in the confrontation between social classes, in the contrast between different visions and perspectives of reality, or in the disconnection of theory and praxis in some of the characters that have to withstand  the contradictions of going from being a dreamer, to becoming what they are in reality. Except Mimoun (1988) that has an existentialist component, the rest of Chirbes' novels compose a circular temporal trajectory of the recent Spanish history. Starting from present in En la lucha final (1991), the picture of old anti-Franco fighters accommodated in a society of welfare. Later there is a jump backwards to go through the period of Franco in La buena letra (1992), a harsh reflection about the consequences of civil war over the defeated, and the power of culture over those who have not had the opportunity to access it. Los disparos del cazador (1994) is another ruthless picture through the novel's main character of the arrogance of the Franco regime. La larga marcha (1996), is probably the most ambitious social and political analysis of the Franco regime, of its most characteristic groups and representatives, written in our days. La caída de Madrid (2000) completes the previous novel by narrating of the final days of the dictatorship. And finally, we return to the starting point, the present, through Los viejos amigos (2003) and Crematorio (2007), two devastating chronicles of desolation, of the ruins and leftovers from the utopia and revolution, of the defeats suffered.

Fundación Juan March
Castelló, 77 – 28006 MADRID – Spain
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