Generation of 1898 Short Fiction
The Generation of 1898 refers to a group of Spanish short-story writers, novelists, poets, and essayists that was profoundly influenced by Spain's humiliating loss in the Spanish-American War (1898). As a result of their defeat by United States, Spain not only lost the valuable colonial lands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam, it also was dealt a severe blow to its national pride. The collapse of the Spanish empire, which had survived for nearly 400 years, prompted an orgy of national reflection. Young writers and intellectuals were at the forefront of this self-examination, criticizing the apathetic response of the Spanish people as a spiritual malaise and attacking the old governing order as responsible for the defeat. The Generation of 1898 believed that literature could be utilized to regenerate their country through biting social and political criticism, a renewed interest in the Spanish landscape, and a new interpretation of Spain's artistic tradition. The short stories produced by Generation of 1898 during this time incorporated these defining characteristics.
Recent critics have found the Generation of 1898 to be a limiting and confusing category. They cite recurrent comparisons between the Generation of 1898 and another popular Spanish literary movement in the early years of the twentieth century, known as modernismo. To differentiate between the two movements, they argue that the Generation of 1898 writers produced fiction and essays preoccupied with Spanish nationalism and social commentary, and the modernistas were concerned with aestheticism and literary innovation. It has been noted that several Spanish authors from that time were influenced by both movements, and they have been at one time or another included in both categories. Confusion regarding the two groups has led commentators to assert that the concept of the Generation of 1898 has obscured a clear understanding of Spain's aesthetic and intellectual development at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the term has become firmly entrenched in literary jargon, a growing number of voices are calling for its elimination from the vocabulary of modern literary historiography.