Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Like Prisoners in a Cave: A Problematic Search for Identity and Truth in Two Peninsular Novels

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2012), 89, (6), 615–625.

Abstract

This article analyses the problematic search for identity in a contemporary postindustrial, network society. Borrowing from the works of thinkers such as Jean Baudrillard, Manuel Castells and Paul Virilio, and their work relating to the sign and its relation to our material and symbolic reality, I look at two recent peninsular novels, El orden alfabético (Juan José Millás, 1998) and A caverna (José Saramago, 2000). In these works, the main characters attempt to create their own spaces of agency in the face of a society that alienates and exploits. Millás highlights this search for subjectivity through the reconstruction of the alphabetical (symbolic) order, while Saramago looks to recapture the romantic figure of an independent artisan, still intimately connected to the work he produces. Interestingly, both novels dialogue with the allegory of the Cave from Plato's The Republic in their representation and critique of the forces that produce the daily reality that we consume.

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Virilio, Paul, and Sylvère Lotringer, 2002. Crepuscular Dawn. Trans. Mike Taormina (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e)). Crepuscular Dawn Google Scholar

Anastasio, Pepa, 2001. ‘El orden alfabético por Juan José Millás: Salvación por la palabra’, in Monographic Review /Revista Monográfica, 17: 187-205. ‘El orden alfabético por Juan José Millás: Salvación por la palabra’, in Monographic Review /Revista Monográfica 17 187 205 Google Scholar

Baudrillard, Jean, 1994. Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press). Simulacra and Simulation Google Scholar

Bhabha, Homi, 1994. Location of Culture (New York: Routledge). Location of Culture Google Scholar

Bloom, Allan, 1968. The Republic of Plato (New York: Basic Books). The Republic of Plato Google Scholar

Castells, Manuel, 1996. The Rise of the Network Society (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers). The Rise of the Network Society Google Scholar

Grube, G. M. A. (trans.), 1992. Plato. Republic. Revised C. D. C. Reeve. (Indianapolis, I N, and Cambridge, MA: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.). Plato. Republic Google Scholar

Klobucka, Anna, 2001. ‘Introduction: Saramago's World’, in Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies, 6 (Spring): xi-xxi. ‘Introduction: Saramago's World’ Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies 6 xi xxi Google Scholar

Knickerbocker, Dale, 2003. Juan José Millás: The Obsessive-Compulsive Aesthetic (New York: Peter Lang Publishing). Juan José Millás: The Obsessive-Compulsive Aesthetic Google Scholar

Millás, Juan José, 1998. El orden alfabético (Madrid: Grupo Santillana de Ediciones). El orden alfabético Google Scholar

Posadas, Claudia, 1999. ‘La palabra es un órgano de la vision: entrevista con Juan José Millás’, in Siempre 2407. Available at: http://www.m323.com.mx/SIEMPRE/2407/Cultura/Cultura1.html (accessed 19 January 2010). http://www.m323.com.mx/SIEMPRE/2407/Cultura/Cultura1.html ‘La palabra es un órgano de la vision: entrevista con Juan José Millás’, in Siempre 2407 Google Scholar

Rollason, Christopher, 2004. ‘Globalisation and Particularism in the Work of José Saramago: The Symbolism of the Shopping Mall in A caverna’, in Global Neo-Imperialism and National Resistance: Approaches from Postcolonial Studies, ed. Belén Martín Lucas and Ana Bingas López (Vigo: Servicio de Publicacións da Universidade de Vigo), pp. 207-216. Global Neo-Imperialism and National Resistance: Approaches from Postcolonial Studies 207 216 Google Scholar

Saramago, José, 2000. A caverna (Lisboa: Editorial Caminho). A caverna Google Scholar

Saramago, José, 2002. The Cave. Trans. Margaret Costa (London: The Harvill Press). The Cave Google Scholar

Schönberger, Axel, 2001. ‘Zur function des platonischen Höhlengleichnisses in José Saramagos Roman A caverna’, in Studien zur brasilianischen undportugiesischen Literatur (Frankfurt, Germany: Domus Editoria Europaea), pp. 149-75. Studien zur brasilianischen undportugiesischen Literatur 149 75 Google Scholar

Sobejano-Morán, Antonio, 1991. ‘Poética de la postmodernidad’, in Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, 25, 1 (January): 95-108. ‘Poética de la postmodernidad’, in Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 25 95 108 Google Scholar

Virilio, Paul, and Sylvère Lotringer, 2002. Crepuscular Dawn. Trans. Mike Taormina (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e)). Crepuscular Dawn Google Scholar

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Smith, Carter