Azorín (Pseudonym of José Martínez Ruiz) Essay - Critical Essays

Azorín (Pseudonym of José Martínez Ruiz)


Azorín (Pseudonym of José Martínez Ruiz) 1874–1967

A Spanish novelist, essayist, and dramatist, Azorín was one of the central figures in Spain's literary "Generation of '98." His style is concise and sensitive, with great attention to detail and to the commonplace. The pseudonym Azorín was derived from a character of the author's own invention. Fictional and real merged, with José Martínez Ruiz becoming Azorín in private as well as public life. He has also written under the names of Cándido and Ahriman.

Mirella D'Ambrosio Servodidio

The evolution and crystallization of Azorín's attitudes vis-à-vis Spain and her "problem" are revealed with unusual clarity in a given number of Azorín's short stories. These stories point to the change from youthful nonconformity regarding existing social and political conditions to serene conciliation with tradition, and they lay bare the complete volte face effected by Azorín with regard to both the letter and spirit of some of his earlier writings….

Even prior to the disaster of 1898, the early stories of Bohemia (1897) denote rabid dissatisfaction with Restoration Spain symbolized in part, by the "vida oficial" of Madrid. Rather than formulating general principles of national policy or studying the position of Spain at large, the stories of Bohemia strike out at the immediate society on the premise that minor social ailments may be symptomatic of widespread national disease. (p. 55)

Stories such as "La Ley" and "Envidia" represent outspoken clamorings against church and state; in both, the law is found wanting, and an inadequate vehicle for defending human rights. As he views the corruption and stagnancy around him, Azorín's criticism often hits a strident note. The stance of the writer is uncompromising, and social conventions and laws are swept aside…. Although the difficulties impinging on the role of social reformer are studied tangentially in several stories, the thrust of Azorín's criticism, at this juncture, lies more in the direction of disclosing social ills rather than in introducing concrete proposals for change. Always, the stories of Bohemia reveal restlessness and concern with the social order. However, Azorín's vision of Spain is not yet crystallized. His position is an iconoclastic one as he joins the other "angry young men" in agitation for change at any cost.

With the advent of the crisis of '98, full vent and expression are given to projects of reform. The general orientation is towards Europe, and the underlying attitude is ferociously critical…. It is in the political arena that Azorín and his companions sharpen and perfect their literary tools and develop critical acumen. Moreover, the threshold between theory and practice is crossed, and overt action is taken in several...

(The entire section is 946 words.)

Julian Palley

In Doña Inés there is the Nietzschean Eternal Return; there is the Proustian evocation of the past through a physical sensation; there is an historical or demiurgic … vision of change and the passage of time; there is time as duration, in the Bergsonian sense; and there are many other variations on the temporal theme in this short, poetic and eloquent novel…. There are also, of course, the things that Azorín loved and described so well with his hawklike vision. In Doña Inés the things themselves are images or symbols of the various aspects of time; they are the objective correlatives (in Eliot's sense) of the emotions that the contemplation of time and its effects produces in the author. (pp. 250-51)

Chapter II contains a detailed and loving description of the protagonist in the year of the novel, 1840…. At the end of the chapter the point of view shifts to the present, as the narrator, in his own voice, examines a daguerreotype that was made of her in 1840…. The faded daguerreotype symbolizes the passage of time, and the difficulty of evoking a life lived a century ago. The daguerreotype produces in the author the emotion of le temps perdu, of an irretrievable past; the object itself is the correlative, the image of that emotion.

The print of Buenos Aires that hangs in Doña Inés' room is one of those things, objects, that evoke in Azorín various emotions…. Within the structure of the work, the print of Buenos Aires also symbolizes the past and the future, the simple story out of which the novel is woven. It is the past of Diego el de Garcillán, who was raised in the Argentine capital; and it is the future of Doña Inés herself, who will pass her last years in Argentina, not far from the great city. (p. 251)

El tío Pablo appears to be a somewhat deformed self-portrait of the author. He is the personage most aware of the passage of time, of time as duration….

One of the most striking "images of time," in these chapters devoted to Don Pablo, and in the work itself, is that which Azorín calls el tiempo cristalizado. It refers to the experience of meeting someone after years of absence or separation; we have before us simultaneously, on such occasions, the reality of the present and the image in our...

(The entire section is 958 words.)

Leon Livingstone

Azorín's overall note of serenity masks a deep-seated disquietude. (pp. 6-7)

Despite their ideological association in the cultural revolution of the "Generation of 1898", Unamuno and Azorín have been generally considered virtually diametric opposites, separated, as one critic has recently reiterated, by a deep distance between their spiritual and literary styles. So firmly entrenched is this view that to seek to equate in any way the creator of the "delights of the commonplace"—as Ortega y Gasset characterized the art of Azorín in a now-celebrated, and somewhat oversimplified, phrase—with the existential anguish of the tormented philosopher of Salamanca can at first blush seem only an extravagant pretension, if not a veritable contrasense. For how can one bridge the gap between the tortured expression of the conflict of existence of the Basque and the affectionate cultivation of minute details of the Alicantine impressionist; between the poetics of dynamic self-creation and the static "esthetic of repose"; between the conversion of the novel into a vehicle of heroic self-pursuit and its unpretentious reduction to "algunas notas vivaces e inconexas—como lo es la realidad", as Azorín proposed in one of his early novels? The unheroic cultivation of the casual in Azorín is too obvious to ignore and in fact seems clearly confirmed by the author himself.

Azorín's first effort to counteract the constant erosion of temporal flux is to attribute to the past a solidity of permanence by "actualizing" it as he relives his former life. In this revitalization of the past, its resuscitation and restoration to a living present which salvages from oblivion that part of himself which antedates his current existence, the author seeks a firm foundation of self-consciousness on which to build his present identity. However, while the nostalgic tone of these personal reminiscences is in one sense an emotional cementing of the two time zones of being, in another it aggravates the cleavage between them as it establishes a sentimental gulf between the now and the then. And what is even more startling a revelation, between the now and the now! Indeed, an apt and adequate description of the fundamental tone of Azorín's expression would be "a nostalgia for the present"…. [The] relentless retrogression … forces on us the realization that life, both of man and his environment, is a continuous process of dying. In Azorín the bitter acceptance of this truth produces a deep and tragic melancholy … which is hauntingly expressed in the first novels. If the lyrical response provides a type of spiritual release it is clear that it is also a continuous reminder of the insufficiency of the proposed solution.

The real issue that Azorín faces in seeking to retrieve present reality from the engulfing current of time is clearly the need to impart to the fugitive moment a quality of eternity. By thus seeking to restore to the ever-receding past a status of presence through the revivifying effect of memory Azorín attempts to make reality impervious to the onslaught of change, to immortalize it in an aspect of timelessness that will place it beyond the reach of all-corrupting temporality. (pp. 9-10)

As a satisfactory solution to the problem of time continues to elude the author, the attendant failure to provide the necessary clue to an undivided identity in turn produces a psychological insecurity that is reflected in the characters who, like their creator, are caught in a helpless contemplation of their own schismatic personalities. (p. 14)

[It is in The Voluntad,] in the confrontation of the "I" and the "me" in a destructive stalemate, that the movement of time acquires a sudden terrifying reality. Time had been there all along but the abrupt realization that life is constantly slipping by has the force of a conversion no less epochal for Azorín than was Unamuno's traumatic realization of the reality of death. Henceforth, the problem of identity will be indissolubly linked in Azorín's consciousness to that of time. (p. 15)

In the balanced attraction of consciousness and unconsciousness lies the path to identity. In other words, identity is the net result of the interplay between the development of personality and an intentional depersonalization, between the cult of self and of selflessness, of time and timelessness.

These conflicting directions in Azorín are the result of a synchronic dual movement of extroversion and introversion, towards and away from external reality, a veritable cult of the world of objects in all their pristine solidity that is counteracted by a quasi-mystic revulsion against the physical in an unceasing aspiration to free the spirit from the constraints of the material world. (p. 18)

Certainly a dual track of precise realism and antirealistic abstraction is starkly characteristic of the art of Azorín himself. (p. 19)

In Azorín's art the realization of the fundamentally enigmatic nature of self, which fosters in us, and is actually reinforced by, the desirability of the loss of self as an antidote to the pain of self-consciousness, is productive of a peculiar narrative technique of concealment in which the nature of the action, the exact identification of the character, are intentionally withheld from the reader. Azorín is one of the first of the Spanish novelists of the twentieth century (if not the very first) to use this procedure of delayed disclosure, from which the later "neo-realists" will derive the maximum usage. (pp. 19-20)

[The role of plot is consequently relegated by Azorín] to a level of...

(The entire section is 2329 words.)