Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Benet is considered one of Spain’s premier existentialist writers. Many critics consider A Meditation, Benet’s second novel, to be his best work. Benet’s previous novel, Volveras a Region (1967; Return to Region, 1985), had failed to attract critical attention, but in 1969, when A Meditation received the Biblioteca Breve literary award, the prize attracted readers’ attention toward Return to Region and Nunca llegaras a nada (1959; you will never get anywhere), an early collection of novellas.

Benet has written stories, novellas, plays, and essays in addition to his novels. Yet his work defies classification, for it consistently breaks with traditional boundaries of genre. In his fiction, he has cultivated a circuitous, wordy narrative almost devoid of plot and characterization. The first four—Return to Region, A Meditation, Un viaje de invierno (1972; a winter journey), and La otra casa de Mazon (1973; the Mazons’ other house)—take place in Region and have been customarily referred to as the Region cycle. Another novel, En el estado (1977, in the state), takes place in La Portada, an area similar to Region. Yet this last novel is different from Benet’s previous works in form and style. Nevertheless, in all of his fiction, Benet’s vision is one of man alone in an absurd and hostile universe, forced to reinvent himself in order to give meaning to his life.