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.)