25 years have passed. And the protagonist of Kronen storiesCarlos has changed a lot. Like everyone. Like everything. Now he’s a very sick guy in his late fifties who can’t take one more party. In the first novel by José Ángel Mañas (1994 Nadal finalist) Carlos and his friends spent their almost adolescent nights in posh bars in the Francisco Silvela area of Madrid. With no other objective than to burn the hours and burn themselves, gambling their lives foolishly without too much emphasis or too much motive, almost shrugging their shoulders.
The novel, written by an unknown writer in his twenties, who sent the manuscript to an award also without much conviction and without much emphasis, catapulted the author. And the book, recently reissued by the Bala Perdida publishing house, remained as the portrait of the so-called Generation X, that of the postmovida in Spain, characterized, among other things, by the feeling of completion, that history had come to an end and that everything interesting had already been done by the older brothers, since the arrival on the Moon to the Transition. An existential emptiness that was well diluted in a whiskey and Coca-Cola.
Now, 25 years later, Mañas recovers his most famous character in The last spree (Algaida publishing house, Ateneo de Sevilla award). And his set-up is bitter, with some revenge from Mañas towards his creature: Carlos is a selfish and disbelieving screwball who walks alone through life, separated from his partner by an umpteenth infidelity, without children or friends or more affection than him. that he professes to himself. When he finds out that he suffers from a cancer with a very bad prognosis, he contacts an old colleague from the days of the Kronen to have that last spree. Mañas recognizes that the character is “infamous.” “That is the grace,” he says. But he warns that this Carlos should not be taken as a generational example of anything: “You don’t have to generalize. He is simply an unpleasant character carried with humor. I thought if I tried to do something more pretentious I was going to crash. I am not the voice of a generation. Nor did I want to be when I wrote the Kronen or now. For that they look for another. I wouldn’t know ”.
However, he considers that the spirit that animated the eighties and the nineties, which for him merge in the same period, is very different from the one that prevails now, since the crisis. Neither better nor worse, he insists: different: “Then there was a general disinterest in politics, what was called a certain militancy of cynicism. That changes in 2008. And with 15-M. Deep down, you are more of a child of your time than of your parents ”. And he adds, somewhat resigned, that one does what he can with his time.
The protagonist of The last spree he no longer embodies anyone and has enough to end up destroying himself. But, 25 years later, is there anything left of that somewhat decaffeinated nihilism? Eduardo Maura, 38, is professor of Philosophy at the Complutense University, ex-deputy for Podemos and author of the book The 90s: euphoria and fear in demo modernitySpanish critic. When talking about this generation, remember a phrase from Alejandro Amenábar: “We have freedom, but we don’t know what to do with it.” Maura recognizes that hedonism without means can define those years. Also having stayed in a no-man’s-land, between the generation that knew the Franco regime – and was perpetuated in power after the arrival of democracy – and that of 15-M. However, the question is not so simple: “They did not do politics, perhaps, but they did do it”, clarifies Maura, who cites the war in Yugoslavia, the restructuring of Europe after the fall of the wall or the birth of precariousness as examples of events – there are many more – that developed during those years and that condition the world today.
That precariousness that affected everything also reached that group of Mañas’s contemporary writers, himself included. Sociologist Luis Mancha, author of the documentary Generation Kronen, argues that the golden age of writers well paid by publishers, recognized by readers and sanctified thanks to the cultural supplements of the pre-Internet era ended them. Or rather: while they were there. They met her at the beginning, in her youth, but had to get off the gear later, already in her maturity. The world, indeed, was changing very fast.
Lucía Etxebarría, 53, who has just published – self-publishing – Extraordinary women, agrees with Maura and believes that that time was neither as apolitical nor as conformist as it is often defined. “In 1987 the students demonstrated against university fees. Today the fees cost much more, and I know it because I study at the university, and I don’t see anyone demonstrating for it. The fight was little, but we existed ”. And he adds: “In Mañas’s book, whom I respect a lot, there was a lot of machismo in the characters, a lot of implicit violence towards women. And it wasn’t as reportable as it is now. In that, undoubtedly, we have improved ”.
Oblivious to these theories about him, the character of Mañas, with cancer on his back, consumes what is left of his life on a sordid journey down national highways heading south. In this forward flight hides a certain greatness, not sought by the author. “Maybe this latest spree will dignify everything in the end. Maybe it’s the only coherent thing about a guy like that … “, says Mañas, relieved after freeing himself from his character:” I ended up fed up with the Kronen. Although I know that I will die sick of the Kronen ”.
They were called Gen Xers, a term popularized by Canadian writer Douglas Copland, who published a novel with that title in 1991. Mañas is not in agreement with including his characters in that category: “Copland spoke of the unlucky ones for the generational lottery. They were people who lived in the desert, without many possibilities …. My characters were not like that ”. In the opinion of this writer, the secret of the dazzling success consisted in the look: “That success is a lottery. I saw a reality that we had in front of us. People went to bars, everyone went to bars, but no one saw at that moment that there was a novel in bars. It is realism. And there is something about realism that attracts you ”.
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