Fernández Santos, Jesús

Fernández Santos, Jesús
b. 1926, Madrid; d. 1988, Madrid
   Jesus Fernández Santos was a prominent member of a group of Spanish novelists commonly known as the "Generation of the 1950s". The realistic orientation and engage approach to literature espoused by these writers became the predominant literary force in Spain during the 1950s and 1960s. Fernández Santos" 1954 novel Los bravos (The Untamed) is widely considered the first important novel of social realism of the post-war period and serves as a model for the development of social realistic fiction over the next fifteen years. With its emphasis on a collective protagonist and detailed portrayal of the harsh daily life in rural Spain, the novel conflicts sharply with the representation of the national identity promoted by the Franco regime during the same period.
   During the 1960s and 1970s Fernández Santos" narrative development paralleled the general movement in Spain towards a more diversified form of writing. His novels and short stories of this period reflected a growing concern for the existential dilemma of individuals rather than the social problems of the masses. His works also embodied many of the innovative stylistic and technical devices aimed at enhancing the complexity of structure and language. In his 1969 novel, El hombre de los santos (The Man of the Saints) and in Libro de las memorias de las cosas (The Book of Memorable Events), winner of the 1970 Nadal Prize, Fernández Santos probes the despair and emptiness of characters who are shaped by psychological rather than historical time and whose memory affords the only possible escape from solitude.
   In the final decade of his career Fernández Santos began to pursue a life-long interest in historical fiction. In Extramuros, for example, winner of the National Literary Prize in 1979, he explores the incestuous relationship of two nuns in sixteenth-century Spain who seek to save their convent from pestilence and drought through the contrivance of a miracle: the wounds of Christ's stigmata that one of the nuns inflicts upon the other. Fernández Santos also explores the psychohistorical dilemmas of women protagonists in other novels of this period, such as the 1982 Planeta Prize winner Jaque a la dama (Check the Lady), set in Spain and Italy before and after WWII, and La que no time nombre (The One Without a Name), which takes place primarily in medieval Spain.
   Throughout his career Fernández Santos worked to revivify his writing and to progress towards heightened psychological representation and technical sophistication. He stands as one of the most versatile writers of post-war Spain, but his most important contribution to Spanish letters are his early novels and short stories of social realism and his belief that fiction is an able vehicle for promoting social change.
   Further reading
   - Alborg, C. (1984) Temas y técnicas en la narrativa de Jesús Fernández Santos, Madrid: Gredos (a thorough study of themes and techniques in Fernández Santos" fiction, with a strong bibliography).
   - Herzberger, D. (1983) Jesús Fernández Santos, Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers (a detailed overview of Fernández Santos" fiction and essays up to 1981).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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