Arquitectura Viva
Friday, October 19, 2018

On Spanish History

Luis Fernández-Galiano

Juan Benet’s Return to Región is now fifty years old. A half-century has passed during which the nation Spain has gone from bimillennial to bicentennial and ended up a mythical space not unlike the novelist’s Región or Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha. Myth and symbol knot together two recent books about Spanish identity which, though similar in their covers, could not differ more in approach.

El descubrimiento de España uses with academic rigor and elegant prose the literary sources of Spanish romanticism to explore the construction of national identity in an orientalist crucible, and is appropriately presented with a Doré engraving of the great Mosque of Córdoba, a perfect representation of the romantic myth through which the country is perceived.

Por qué España claims to give a symbolic view of Spanish history, but is more like a hectic pleasure ride from Atapuerca to Almodóvar, adorned with anecdotes, and upholding an essentialist idea of Spanishness that seems to contradict the cover design of a Mudejar tracery which is almost an emblem of cultural syncretism.

Xavier Andreu Miralles refers to Mater Dolorosa. La idea de España en el siglo XIX, by José Álvarez Junco, as the canonical ‘modernist’ interpretation, understanding the nation as a cultural artifact against those who defend timeless national identities, such as Ignacio Merino, who would benefit from reading the latest book by Professor Álvarez Junco, Dioses útiles. Naciones y nacionalismo, a work which explains the Spanish case through comparison with other countries and other peninsular identities, combines scholarship with civic commitment, and serves as an intellectual guide in these turbulent times. If we are bound to return to Nación, let it be our guide.

Xavier Andreu Miralles
El descubrimiento de España
Taurus, Barcelona, 2016
398 pages

Ignacio Merino
Por qué España
Ariel, Barcelona, 2016
580 pages

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