Home News An unpublished story by Luis Martín-Santos, and its unbearable lightness

An unpublished story by Luis Martín-Santos, and its unbearable lightness

An unpublished story by Luis Martín-Santos, and its unbearable lightness

As this year marks the centenary of the birth of Luis Martín-Santos (Larache, 1924 – Vitoria, 1964), and according to commemorative custom of notable anniversaries, his literary figure has been rightly revitalized, because His work, beyond cultural celebrations, maintains a consistent validity and renewed interest. A member of the generation of storytellers of the 1950s, along with Ignacio Aldecoa, Carmen Martín Gaite, Ana María Matute, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio and Juan Benet, with whom he would write a surprising volume of short stories -The Rotten Dawn-, his name was established in contemporary Spanish literature with a transgressive novel: «Time of Silence» (1962). With it he pushed the limits of conventional realism, fractured the narrative logic with an ironic plot, delved into the technique of interior monologue, recreating an elaborate language of sarcastic erudition, and criticized the secular scientific backwardness of an “inefficient old country” in the words of a generational companion, Jaime Gil de Biedma. That neonaturalism that followed the vicissitudes of a young doctor in search of rats for his research in the clearings of a desolate post-war Madrid, represented a turning point in the best critical customs. The impact of this novel among the writers of the moment was immediate: Francisco Umbral declared, with his steely insight, that this book was “a parody of the parody”; For Guillermo Cabrera Infante this novel “is, despite its opacity, a transparent and laconic book in its extreme verbiage”; and Alfonso Sastre, however, claimed that “the value of this novel, written from a rather notable lack of literary sensitivity, was greatly exaggerated”; without forgetting that for Mario Benedetti it is a work “imaginatively conceived, with characters who are not mere voyeurs and a happiness of telling that drags, seduces and provokes the reader” or the somewhat contradictory opinion of Juan Benet, who stated: “I was interested in that novel, but I didn’t like it at all.». And the well-founded opinion of his friend and colleague Carlos Castilla del Pino deserves a separate chapter, delving into the Barojian character of a work that would largely transform the narrative of his time.

His premature death in 1964 in a car accident would leave a second novel unfinished, Time of Destruction, republished in 2022 in the unabridged version, which made censorship at the time impossible. This is a “training novel” in which the protagonist, a promising judge, advances towards personal and professional decline, and where the author’s disruptive stylistic intention abounds. Martín-Santos’ intellectual profile was nourished by his training as a psychiatrist, anti-Franco commitment, a deep knowledge of literary classics, and a feverish curiosity towards all artistic innovation. In short, a clear scientific vocation that he shared with his tireless literary dedication. What perhaps could not be suspected, believing him to be the author of only one complete novel and another unfinished one, is that he was very close to the figure of the traditional graphomaniac, tireless creator of very varied fictions.

Complete works

Over the years, and with the collaboration of his heirs, the Galaxia Gutenberg publishing house has tackled the ambitious project of publishing his complete works, including numerous unpublished and rigorously critical versions.

The first volume, by the specialist Domingo Ródenas de Moya, summarizes all of his short fiction, mostly unknown texts, written between 1945 and 1964. We will find here unpublished stories, also the stories shared in volume with Juan Benet, and micro-stories that the the author himself called “Apologists”; One of them, the one entitled “Rudeness and the way to avoid it” which is published here in rigorous scoop, shows, despite its brevity, the most characteristic references of this narrative. A man, a “gentleman” if you will, approaches an old friend with whom he was in love; She performs the reverential and old-fashioned gesture of kissing his hand while she, gallantly, lies to him by praising her maintained beauty.. But the truth that he confesses to himself is that he is seeing her own decrepitude in the lady’s aging. He then enters into a figuration for which he imagines that he should have passionately bit the back of his neck; By making that impulsive wish would have fought the passage of time, she would have made the polite lie plausible, avoiding all traces of possible rudeness. This micro-story implies a suggestive absent structure, in which the reader fleetingly imagines an old love affair and, after that encounter, perhaps a begun or renewed romantic relationship. The soft forcefulness of the ending concentrates, as it should, the emotional charge of the story, and the surprise factor reinforces the narrative effectiveness. It is a text that also adjusts, in its minimalist brevity, to the concept of the story that a classic in the genre like Guy de Maupassant had, who defended its character as a “tranche de vie”, an anecdotal fragment of life inserted in a broader plot figuration that we can only intuit.

In this process of Martín-Santos’ editorial recovery, and according to the projected complete work, a second volume will be published containing his scientific essays, Freedom, temporality and transference in existential psychoanalysis and, at the end of this same year, the volume containing two unknown novels, “The Swollen Belly”, with notable social content, and “The Sack”, with a prison atmosphere and a certain self-referentiality. In the same way, his extensive poetic production will appear, as well as his forays into the theatrical genre. To these editorial initiatives it is worth adding the planned exhibition in November on his life and work at the National Library. The academic recognition of this literature, which has been studied for years in the university environment, is now incorporated into its rigorous edition, thus vindicating the originality and validity of the writer who dynamited the formants and themes of conventional realism, and expanded the margins of expressiveness. narrative. Those of us who have always admired him are in luck.