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Poetics and Narrative

29 September, and 1 October 2009
Image of the Lecture

Juan Manuel de Prada, as seen by Juan Ángel Juristo

Until now, the work of Juan Manuel de Prada has been -and I guess it will continue being- a constant quest to show a number of tendencies from a world that opens to new perspectives with each new book. His early days as a writer and his posterior fame come from an excessive passion and fascination for a time period already past: the literary bohemia of Madrid stretching between the end of the 19th century until our Civil War. That young Juan Manuel de Prada met two enthralling figures, Ramón, and his example Pedro Luís Gálvez, a sort of poet and bohemian, an adventurer who has had a great magnetism in Prada's imaginary world. It could be argued that his first novel, Las máscaras del héroe, starts and ends -like a kind of marvelous and amazed circle- in the picture of a Gálvez inmersed in the society of Madrid previous to the Civil War. This figure had a precedent in Gálvez, the last short story of his second book El silencio del patinador, but it is in this novel where the character is completely defined to the point that he becomes more or less an epic character.

But if there is someone from this period to whom Juan Manuel de Prada feels indebted to, this is without doubt Ramón Gómez de la Serna. His first book Coños is a tribute to Senos, something so obvious that it is almost unnecessary to mention, although it is in Las máscaras del héroe where Ramón reaches such depth that he almost stands for a reenactment of the Ramón that was, and also the one he could have been, similarily to what happens with Gálvez. The truth is that the gravitational center of the novel rotates around both characters, and the narration is a hidden tribute to two key books of that period: La novela de un literato by Rafael Cansinos Assens, and Automoribundia by Ramón.

Later, Juan Manuel de Prada published La tempestad, an incursion into the detective novels, although full of expressionist symbolism like a Giorgione picture exposing a dark world full of meanings in its lights and shades, which was awarded with the Planeta Award. Afterwards, Prada returned with Las esquinas del aire, a thrilling narration that is a beautiful tribute to the sportswoman and writer Ana Martínez Sagi, which was further completed with the book of essays Desgarrados y excéntricos, on which the author goes back once again to this time period and pictures all kind of bohemians, particularly Gálvez and Armando Buscarini.

In his last two novels, La vida invisible and El séptimo velo, he apparently abandons this imaginary world. In the first one, Prada narrates a crazy and disturbed love story incarnated in the figure of the young writer Losada, who discovers the story of Fanny, a woman who disappears without leaving a single clue. In El séptimo velo, a very ambitious novel, the author attempts to recreate a story of love and war in an occupied France applying the weapons of Victor Hugo. Nevertheless, even if these seem to be very far away from the author's early works, the two novels do link with great coherence with the topics he primes: the tearing, the catastrophe of war, treason by denouncement... Behaviors that reach a dramatic, if not monstrous, intensity in our Civil War and in the World War that followed several years later. A period of time especially admired by our author.

Fundación Juan March
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