The Generation of '98 overview

"Generation of '98" is the name used to bring together a group of Spanish writers, essayists and poets that were profoundly affected by the moral, social and political crisis in Spain caused by the military defeat against the US and which meant the loss of Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898. This generation of writers made a great contribution to the Spanish language, and they're still considered some of the best writers of the 20th century.

Spanish Generation of '98

Classics Spanish Books - Spanish Generation of '98

This group was started by what was called "The Group of Three", composed by Baroja, Azorín and Maetzu, who started to write with a heavy left winged and critical view but who moderated their ideals as time went on and evolved to a more traditional concept of good and bad. The name "Generation of '98" caused some polemic: Baroja and Maetzu denied the existence of such a generation, but Pedro Salinas affirmed it after a thorough investigation.

At least at the beginning of the movement, the authors shared a deep friendship for one another, and they all agreed in their opposition to the Restoration. Although they each had their distinctive style, they do share some points:

  • They made a clear distinction between the real squalid Spain and the false official Spain. They were worried about the identity of the country, which stemmed from the debate known as "Ser de España" (Being Spanish) that would continue in the coming generations.
  • They feel a deep affection towards the miserable Castile, with its dusty and forgotten villages. They revalue its landscapes and tradition, its traditional and spontaneous language. Many writers spent a lot of time traveling across it's immense plains, writing books on their journeys and studying and bringing back to life the Spanish literary myths of the "Romancero"
  • Classics Spanish Books - Valle Inclán
  • They break and renew the classical molds in which the different literary genres where encased. Examples of this are the "nivola" of Unamuno; the impressionist novel of Azorín, who experiments with space and time; or the almost theatrical or cinematographic novel of Valle-Inclán.
  • They reject the aesthetics of Realism, preferring a language which was closer to the people, with a shorter syntax. They also recovered traditional and folkloric words used by peasants.
  • They tried to bring Spain up to date with the philosophical movements that were popular in Europe, particularly the ones of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Bergson.
  • Pessimism is quite common in these writers, as well as a critical and dissatisfied attitude that helps them sympathize with Romantics like Larra.
  • They all share the thesis of Regenerationism, which consisted in investigating, in a scientifically and objectively correct manner, the causes of Spain's decline as a nation.

These authors of the Spanish Generation of '98 had several places in which they gathered to talk about literature, politics and whatever they had in mind. Because Madrid was the epicenter of the literary activities in Spain, all of their literary gatherings took place in the capital, where most of the writers lived or at least spent some time. Benavente and Valle-Inclán presided the gatherings in Café Madrid, which Rubén Darío, Maeztu and Baroja attended. A bit later they started meeting in the Cervecería Inglesa, while Valle-Inclán, the Machado brothers, Azorín and Pío Baroja went to Café de Fornos. Valle-Inclán, a man of great prestige in his time, ended up presiding the gathering at Café Lyon d'Or and at Café de Levante, which was, without doubt, the most attended literary meeting.


Classics Spanish Books - Primo de Rivera

Regenerationism was a reformist movement that began in Spain after the Disaster of '98 and lasted until the beginning of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship (1923). The loss of the colonies and the insecurities within the Peninsula brought on some deep and bitter attacks against the Government. Regenerationism wanted to internally transform people so that these changes would project on to the rest of the human activities. The writers of the Spanish Generation of '98 had much in common with those who approved of Regenerationism, and they usually met with one another to discuss Spain's problems.

Spanish schools in Spain were thought of as the main tool through which this could be achieved. Culturally, it was a great time for Spain, almost comparable to the Golden Age, which is why it was named "The silver Age of Spanish literature". Although the implemented economic changes were quite successful, the same can't be said for the political ones: several periods of crisis made it impossible for the Restoration to work, and it finally led to Primo de Rivera's dictatorship.

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