Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in ROMANCE NOTES 49.1 (2009): 61-69. Copyright 2009 University of North Carolina Department of Romance Languages.


José María Salaverría’s (1873-1940) inclusion into Spain’s so-called Generation of 1898 seems questionable for many critics. In classical studies about the writers of this generation, such as those by José Luis Abellán, Donald Shaw or Inman Fox, Salaverría is not present. Even in more recent works, for instance Nuevas perspectivas sobre el 98 (1999), edited by John Gabriele, or Spain’s 1898 Crisis (2000), edited by Joseph Harrison, no chapter investigates Salaverría’s contributions to Spanish literature in this period. Salaverría shares many characteristics with the members of the Generation of 1898: He was born in the same era, grew up in Spain’s periphery, praised the region of Castille, and mostly cultivated the essay genre. Nevertheless, he showed some deviations from the authors of the Generation of ‘98: He did not receive a university education, started to publish later – in 1906 –, traveled around the world, and maintained a very critical attitude towards his contemporary writers. Thus, in Retratos (1926) and Nuevos retratos (1930), Salaverría disparages authors such as Pío Baroja, Miguel de Unamuno, Ramiro de Maeztu and Azorín.

Although biographical approaches to study literature may be problematic, Salaverría’s personal circumstances and auto-marginalized position among his writing contemporaries seem essential to understanding his own theories about Spain. The difficulties that Salaverría had to face in his private life because of his shy manner and humble social class made him believe in the necessity of self-improvement and willpower. His vision for Spain tends to follow a similar path. The solution he finds to solve the crisis the country was experiencing at the beginning of the twentieth century involves awakening its citizens and creating a transnational spiritual homeland consisting of Spain and Spanish America. Therefore, Salaverría considers willpower to be necessary in both the personal and the national realms. In his book La afirmación española (1917), he expresses these thoughts clearly: “Lo que yo deseo es llevar mi pasión hasta la idea de España y fundirme místicamente con España, de manera que, para afirmarme a mí mismo y escapar al aniquilamiento de mi ser, necesite afirmar a mi Patria, justificarla, exaltarla” (134).