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Echoes of Alienation in the Novels of Alvaro Pombo

Lynne E. Overesch-Maister
Anales de la literatura española contemporánea
Vol. 13, No. 1/2, Special Issue on the Spanish Novel (1930-1986) (1988), pp. 55-70
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27741839
Page Count: 16
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Echoes of Alienation in the Novels of Alvaro Pombo
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Abstract

Alvaro Pombo, winner of the 1983 Premio Herralde for his novel "El héroe de las mansardas de Mansard," is one of the most promising new Spanish novelists. He combines the moral-philosophical themes of an Iris Murdoch or a Henry James with keen observation and a highly developed psychological insight in his creation of novels that criticize Spanish society from a humanistic, rather than socioeconomic standpoint. The central theme that runs through all of Pombo's novels is man's lack of perception, which eventually alienates him from society, from family, and even from himself. Taking his cue from T.S. Eliot's statement that "Humankind cannot bear too much reality," Pombo asserts that man lives much of his life on a superficial level, that he acts according to what he sees —or even worse, according to what he wants to see. The author believes that this mode of being inevitably bears catastrophic results for both the individual and those who surround him, who become his victims. Pombo refers to the classical allegory of Plato's cave, then complements it with twentieth-century theories of psychology and phenomenology. Thus the shadows man perceives may be colored by his ill-founded reduction to life to literature, his obsession with fantasy, his agoraphobia, or his nihilism. To bring these theories cogently to bear on the plots of his novels, Pombo creates a constellation of episodes and images that echo fragments of the main theme, both re-inforcing it and refracting it into its various psychological, ethical, and religious ramifications. A study of Pombo's use of reflection in three of his novels reveals how the appearance/reality dualism that underscores the author's thesis is present on all levels—in style and structure, as well as in content.

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