Why Tiempo de silencio

A required—and traditionally reviled—required reading in secondary schools throughout Spain, the novel marks a turning point in 20th-century Spanish literature, yet it is firmly rooted in Madrid's fertile literary chronotope cultivated by writers such as Mesonero Romanos, Bécquer, Pérez Galdós, Pardo Bazán, Valle-Inclán, Baroja, Ibáñez, and Cela. The superimposition of metaspaces from works as far flung as Joyce's Ulysses, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Cervantes' Don Quixote, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and Goya's painting El aquelarre further amplifies the spatial dimensions of Martín-Santos' ambitious fictional universe.

In this voyage of dialectical realism, Pedro is a promising young scientist who moved to Madrid to research cancer in an exotic breed of rats imported from a sparkling modern laboratory in the United States. His prospects are limited by the sad state of research in 1949’s post-war Spain. His under-heated lab is unable to breed enough rats to meet his scientific needs. As his last lab rats die out, Pedro discovers that an underling has diverted a few specimens to Muecas, a man from Madrid’s shantytowns to the south. A resourceful survivor from small-town Toledo, Muecas employs his own brand of the scientific method—which involves a perverse application of “human heat”—to breed the valuable specimens. Muecas is wildly successful where the government’s institute failed miserably.

Pedro’s descent from his tattered middle-class boarding house in central Madrid through the Golden-Age “cyst” of the Barrio de las Letras to this post-apocalyptic underworld proves to be his undoing. The novel offers readers an unflinching view of the city's rigid social strata, along with what is arguably the best existing "cartography" of the periphery of Madrid at this time—an ad hoc belt around the city that was home to hundreds of thousands of internal émigrés, yet languished in a netherworld off the edge of 1949's maps.

A chapter-by-chapter analysis of spatial data (collected from the TdS TEI/XML file)

The Madrid Corpus

Working backwards from Tiempo de silencio, I have identified a constellation of books that are connected to the literary space created by Luis Martín-Santos. I started with 10 TEI-encoded works (*) and then expanded beyond that to 22:

  1. ESM: 1842, Escenas matritenses, Mesonero Romanos*
  2. LFO: 1870, La fontana de oro, Benito Pérez Galdós
  3. NTV: 1871, La novela en el tranvía, Benito Pérez Galdós
  4. LDE: 1881, La desheredada, Benito Pérez Galdós*
  5. LBR: 1884, La de Bringas, Benito Pérez Galdós
  6. MIA: 1888, Miau, Benito Pérez Galdós
  7. INS: 1889, Insolación, Emilia Pardo Bazán*
  8. TRI: 1892, Tristana, Benito Pérez Galdós
  9. LMI: 1897, La misericordia, Benito Pérez Galdós*
  10. LBU: 1904, La busca, Pío Baroja*
  11. HOR: 1905, La horda, Blasco Ibañez*
  12. ADC: 1911, El arbol de la ciencia, Pío Baroja
  13. CDP: 1913, Camino de perfección, Pío Baroja
  14. LTS: 1920, La torre de los siete jorobados, Emilio Carrere
  15. LDB: 1921, Luces de Bohemia, Ramón del Valle-Inclán*
  16. COL: 1950, La colmena, Camilo José Cela
  17. EJA: 1955, El Jarama, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio
  18. LCT: 1956, La conciencia tranquila, Carmen Martín Gaite*
  19. LPI: 1959, La piqueta, Antonio Ferres*
  20. CDV: 1961, La calle de valverde, Max Aub
  21. TDS: 1962, Tiempo de silencio, Luis Martín-Santos*
  22. CDM: 1963, El campo del moro, Max Aub