Francis Cairns Publications

Liverpool Monographs in Hispanic Studies 2

Galdos's Novel of the Historical Imagination. A Study of the Contemporary Novels

P.A. Bly

LMHS 2. ISBN 978-0-905205-14-4. Cloth. xii+195pp. 1983.

The Spanish writer Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) was a prolific novelist, and ranks with Balzac and Dickens as a chronicler of nineteenth-century society. His 46 historical novels (the episodios nacionales) dealt with the major events of Spanish history in the first half of the nineteenth century. From about 1870 he began to publish contemporary social novels, and in 1881, with La desheredada, he inaugurated what he himself saw as a new style of writing.

The novels from 1881 to 1915, his serie contemporánea, are the subject of this study. Professor Bly argues that in them Galdós created a special type of historical novel which, by drawing subtle parallels between fictional action and political events, allegorised the political history of the recent Spanish past.

In the earlier novels of the series, the relationship between the fiction and its contemporary background has an allegorical dimension. Historical detail both provides a precise setting for the narrative, and indicates that the fiction represents the national reality, while the leading fictional characters symbolize public figures. The later novels, however, increasingly show disenchantment with Spanish politics, reflected in a diminishing use of historical material and in the emergence of characters who renounce social involvement in favour of the almost mystical pursuit of Christian values.

In arguing for this approach to the serie contemporánea, Peter Bly offers perceptive interpretations of all the novels, but devotes particular attention to the masterpieces La de Bringas, Fortunata y Jacinta and Miau. Because the novels relate to the major political trends and events of the period, a brief historical survey of the years 1860-1910 is provided as an appendix.


Modern Language Studies 16 (1986) 94-6 (Antony Percival): "an important work which breaks new ground in extending our understanding of the subtlety of Galdós's incorporation of history into his contemporary novels and his amazing creative and combinational skills in the art of the novel."

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 63 (1986) 97-9 (Eamonn Rodgers): "Professor Bly's thorough and stimulating study will certainly encourage many to read Galdós in a new way"

Kentucky Romance Quarterly 31 (1989) 238-9 (Lois Baer Barr): Bly's work contributes mightily to the study of the novels of Galdós

Critica Hispánica 5 (1983) 177-8 (Brian J. Dendle): "... one of the most fruitful studies of Galdós to appear in recent years; it deserves a place in the library of every galdosista"

Vida Hispánica 35 (1985) 38-9 (A.H. Clarke) "handsomely produced and very reasonably priced"

Hispania 67 (1984) 144 (Robert Kirsner): "Bly's dedicated efforts deserve our encomiastic thanks"

Modern Language Review 80 (1985) 483 (M. Gordon)