Ramón Gómez de la Serna

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Gómez de la Serna, Ramón

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Gómez de la Serna, Ramón 1888–1963

Gómez de la Serna was a Spanish poet, dramatist, essayist, and novelist who is best known as the inventor of a new genre, the greguería, a kind of serendipitous parable.

El teatro en soledad, written in 1911 by Ramón Gómez de la Serna, and Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore, written about ten years later, are strikingly similar in many significant ways. Coincidence cannot be the explanation, and it is extremely unlikely that Pirandello knew about Ramón's play, which was published in an obscure Spanish journal. The key to the explanation of this phenomenon may be found by turning to Paris during the "Banquet Years" and especially to the cubist school of painting. (p. 59)

El teatro en soledad is a very important document in the history of pre-Pirandellism in Spain. The first twenty of the eighty pages are devoted to the "Depuración preliminar" in which Ramón describes his state of mind … and his purpose in writing the play…. He also speculates about literature in general, rejects almost all manifestations of the Generation of '98, meditates about artistic creation, and gives his opinions about the future of literature…. In short, this part of the manuscript is a type of literary manifesto. (p. 60)

Like Sei personaggi, El teatro en soledad is a play which serves to dissect the theater and the techniques employed destroy theatrical illusion by showing people and elements which should remain behind the scenes. There are several levels of reality; in fact, in the list of characters the participants are separated into two groups in both plays: characters and actors. In addition, the author and the spectators, who were to become so important in Pirandello's theater-within-the-theater trilogy, are discussed. The characters are even more important in Ramón's play than in Pirandello's, since the stage belongs to them completely during most of the play. The actors and characters do not occupy the stage simultaneously as they do in Pirandello's play, and the actors are unaware that the characters exist; however, the characters have a critical attitude toward the actors very similar to that shown in Sei personaggi.

The actors in Ramón's play are presented as a rather sorry lot: poorly dressed, unattractive, and disagreeable. They converse about several problems associated with the mixture of levels of reality, such as when they criticize Enrique, an actor, for playing only himself instead of his role. After the director has left, the actors complain about his control of them …, a complaint rather similar to that found in Questa sera si recita a soggetto. (p. 62)

The characters who arrive after the actors and stagehands have left for the night constitute the core of the play. They are autonomous characters, just as Pirandello's Sei personaggi are, and they are also searching, because they are characters without a drama. But unlike Pirandello's characters, they do not even have a story; indeed, they are self-sufficient and do not want an author. They appear to be searching for an absolute expression of true drama.

In both plays the stage itself, stripped of illusion, occupies an important position. Although many details are reversed, the first stage directions of the two plays give similar impressions. (p. 63)

In Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore the main desire of the characters is to represent their drama on the stage. They suffer when the actors try to play a scene from their life because it lacks authenticity…. The characters of El teatro en soledad, even though they are also actors, have a similar problem…. Later they further discuss the difficulty of representing true emotions on the stage….

The theater-within-the-theater techniques used by Pirandello, which even include such extreme devices as participation by spectator-actors, interruptions, and scenes in the lobby, have led to the decrease or destruction of aesthetic distance. That is, the observer is no longer separated from the art...

(The entire section is 2,552 words.)