Private and public spheres : history, society, and culture in the novels of Jesus Fernandez Santos
The Spanish novelist Jesus Fernandez Santos (1926-1988) published twelve novels and four collections of short stories between 1954 and 1988. Over the years his work has been the subject of many articles and five monographs which have, overwhelmingly, studied his fiction in terms of changing narrative modes, constant themes, geographical determinism in rural communities, and existential anguish. However, an important and valid approach to analysing his work involves the assessment of Jesus Fernandez Santos as a dissident voice within the system, a serious critic of the main ideological tenets of the Francoist regime. From his belief that man is a product of historical circumstances, he explored the consequences of the socio-economic and political structures of the country and the prevailing culture on the lives of his characters, exposing the negative effects in terms of lack of sense of personal worthiness, alienation, inability to communicate with others, lack of community spirit, and so on. In so doing, he challenged the triumphalistic myth of the regime: that the Spanish individual and national identity constituted an eternal essence that Franco was helping to safeguard and develop. Thus, Jesus Fernandez Santos's narrative can be viewed as a counter-discourse. In my thesis I study three aspects of the narrative of Fernandez Santos that have been particularly neglected in previous studies. First, the theme of challenging social values by making individuals aware of the injustices of the system and presenting the transformation of social and political relationships as a valid goal in life. The author maintained that the personal is always political, that we are all part of the system. Second, I examine his perception of Catholicism as a negative influence on the development of the self and his criticism of the Catholic Church as an institution that colluded with Franco's regime in order to maintain the political and social status quo. A third aspect of Jesus Fernandez Santos's narrative that I have studied is the author's attitudes to women and feminist issues. Although Fernandez Santos's sympathetic approach to women has been acknowledged in general terms by others, I have undertaken a more detailed analysis. In my thesis I have studied how the author includes women's voices to present their perspective within the general framework of society and culture.