“The Op-Ed Novel not only elegantly recounts a vital intellectual and cultural history of post-Franco Spain. Carefully exploring the careers of Spain’s most eminent writers, it demonstrates, too, the osmotic links between political journalism and literary fiction—salutary reading in the English-speaking countries, where politics and literature are still regarded as strangers to each other.”—Pankaj Mishra, author of Run and Hide
A new history of contemporary Spanish fiction through the prism of novelists’ newspaper columns.
Public intellectuals come in many different stripes, but most of them gain a following at least in part from their writing, whether in the form of magazine articles, newspaper columns, or full-length nonfiction. A few—James Baldwin and Joan Didion are celebrated examples—start out as novelists before turning to the rough-and-tumble of current affairs. In The Op-Ed Novel, Bécquer Seguín undertakes the first book-length study of how contemporary literature is shaped by opinion journalism, focusing on fiction writers who took to the papers in post-Franco Spain and became stewards of their country’s cultural, economic, and political future.
Following Spain’s transition to democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, internationally acclaimed novelists such as Javier Cercas, Antonio Muñoz Molina, and Javier Marías seized the opportunity to populate the opinion pages of the newly legal free press. The Op-Ed Novel analyzes how the argumentative styles and preoccupations of their columns in El País, Spain’s most widely read daily, bled into their fiction. These and other authors used their novels to settle scores with fellow intellectuals, make speculative historical claims, and advance partisan political projects. At the same time, their literary technique greatly invigorated opinion journalism.
A lively guide to the terroir of contemporary Spanish literature, The Op-Ed Novel offers a bird’s-eye view of both the post-Franco intellectual climate and the changing role of the novelist in public life.
The Op-Ed Novel not only elegantly recounts a vital intellectual and cultural history of post-Franco Spain. Carefully exploring the careers of Spain’s most eminent writers, it demonstrates, too, the osmotic links between political journalism and literary fiction—salutary reading in the English-speaking countries, where politics and literature are still regarded as strangers to each other.
In few places are novelists as powerful as in Spain, with the op-ed page serving as their pulpit and ring for political or cultural pugilism. In this hugely valuable study of the cross-fertilization between opinion writing and Spanish fiction, Seguín discovers a space where ideas are tested and novels are hatched. His book lets readers judge for themselves how much newspapers, novels, and public debate have been enriched as a result—and how much the opposite has happened.
Most Anglophone literary critics have clicked on an op-ed whose byline they recognize from the cover of a favorite novel, but few have thought to examine, as Bécquer Seguín does in this bold study, cases where the writing of novels and op-eds overlap so much as to become a single enterprise. Tracing the growth of a culture in which novels mimic, grow out of, or usurp the functions of op-eds—and vice-versa—this book forces us to rethink our understanding of institutions and of genre, as well as received ideas about fictionality, the status of the intellectual, and the always slippery category of ‘nonfiction.’
There are two types of intellectuals: the brave and everyone else. Bécquer Seguín analyzes why after Franco’s death Spain encouraged the former. His case study should serve as a lesson to America’s public intellectuals, if there is still such a thing, the majority having become dispensable entertainers.
- 312 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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