José Ángel Mañas is a contemporary Spanish novelist who is one of the major players in the so called Neorealist generation of Spanish authors, along with the likes of Gabriela Bustelo, Ray Loriga and Lucía Etxebarria. His novels are gritty, fast paced and aim to show true life in Spain, warts and all.
José Ángel Mañas was born in Madrid in 1971. He read Contemporary History and went on to study in Madrid, Sussex in the UK and Grenoble in France. He was only 23 years old when he released his first novel, Historias del Kronen, in 1994. The novel was then selected as a finalist for the Premio Nadal in the same year. The book became an instant cult classic, and was further embedded into Spanish culture after the film adaptation was produced by Montxo Armendáriz.
Following this success, Mañas moved to France in 1995 which is where he met his wife and lived for 7 years. During this time, he wrote a number of other novels in a similar style and content to Historias del Kronen which make up the 'Kronen Tetralogy'. These are Mensaka (1995), Ciudad Rayada (1998) and Sonko95 (1995), along with Autorretrato con negro de fondo (1999).
From this collection of works, Sonko95 must be highlighted for it contains a large number of the main elements that would in time come to define the later works by José Ángel Mañas, such as his meta-literary character. It is also related to the work Soy un escritor frustrado (1996) which describes the writing process of the author, and contains lots of references to the high and low points of success, something which Mañas has himself experienced.
The new millennium saw a development in Mañas' style including in the works Mundo Burbuja in 2001 and Caso Karen in 2005. In Caso Karen, we see the author openly criticizing the modern literature scene and its most prominent elements: authors, publishers, literary prizes and competitions, agents and conferences. He also includes a number of characters that are based on real people, such as Karen del Korral who has many of the characteristics of fellow author Lucía Etxebarria, Carina Martinell who is Carmen Balcells, and Armando Sala is Antonio Gala. In terms of structure, this novel is also the most complex in Mañas' career.
In 2007, José Ángel Mañas took his first leap into historical novels when he published El secreto del Oráculo. This book is based on Alexander the Great, and was short-listed for the Espartaco Prize in the category of best historical novel. He also tried his hand at non-fiction in 2008, with Un alma en incandescencia (2008) which was a book of aphorisms (astute sayings). The book was both inspired and illustrated by Franciam Charlot, a French artist. Also in 2008, José Ángel Mañas returned to his well loved Realist style in his latest novel La pella.
José Ángel Mañas is most famous for his contribution to the so-called Neorealist movement in contemporary Spanish novels. It is to this style that the 'Kronen Tetralogy' belongs, as all the novels are realist depictions of contemporary Spanish society. Along with the rest of the writers in this movement, Mañas criticizes and comments particularly on elements of pop culture and technology.
Speaking about this collection of works, Mañas has described them as being punk novels, where punk refers to the movements seen in music by the likes of The Ramones and Velvet Underground. Mañas believes that this movement in music draws a comparison with what he was trying to achieve with his style of writing - speed, rawness and authenticity.
In particular, in order to project this authenticity, Mañas makes use of all the types of incorrect spellings, colloquial errors and slang words that exist in the modern day spoken form of the Spanish language, but are not normally used in literature. This makes Mañas a perfect choice for people of a higher level of Spanish who want to study Spanish in Spain, and particularly in Madrid, as this is where the majority of the slang that Mañas uses comes from. It is through this true use of language that Mañas has helped to revitalize the world of contemporary Spanish literature.
Historias del Kronen was made into a film under the director Montxo Armendáriz. Despite missing out some of the important references from the book, it was still a success. Mañas won a Goya award for the screenplay of the movie.
Salvador García Ruiz adapted the novel Mensaka for the big screen, releasing it in 1998. In 2005, the film adaptation of Soy un escritor frustrado was screened under the title of Imposture, directed by Patrick Bouchitey.