Journal of Catalan Studies/Revista Internacional de Catalanisme

[Ressenyes / Reviews]

Narrativa i turisme a Mallorca (1968-1980)

Pilar Arnau, Narrativa i turisme a Mallorca (1968-1980), Menjavents, 29 (Palma: Edicions Documenta Balear; Kassel: Edition Reichenberger, 1999), ISBN 84-89067-54-6, 276 pp. Prleg de Pere Rossell Bover.
P. Louise Johnson
University of Sheffield

According to the author, Narrativa i turisme a Mallorca (1968-1980) is 'una versi desacademitzada de la matrise presentada a la Universit de Toulouse le Mirail el 1995' (p. 20). The study's generic focus is prose fiction (novel and short story), for as Pere Rossell says in his prologue, poetry as a medium could no longer reflect the extent of the rapid and multi-dimensional changes occasioned by the tourism revolution. In this sense, suggests Rossell, tourism had positive consequences for the evolution of modern literary expression in Mallorca, and particularly for narrative. For both Pilar Arnau and Rossell, it is in the work of the so-called 'Generaci dels 70' that the 'illa de la Calma' image promoted by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century writers is definitively consigned to the waste bin. The transformation, as Arnau seeks to show, is brusque and invariably brutal in human terms.

The volume is bipartite, with notes and a bibliography. In Part I Arnau presents an overview of economic data and sociological issues. She also gives a useful summary of tourism's historical development on the island, from its elitist origins in the late eighteenth century, through the nineteenth-century Romantics, to the Franco regime's Plan de Estabilizacin (devaluation of the peseta; huge increase in package tourism) and beyond. In Part II she introduces Miquel dels Sants Oliver, Coloma Rossell and Lloren Villalonga as literary precedents of the 'Generaci dels 70' in fictionalizing the experience of mass tourism, before examining the Generation itself. Arnau's approach by her own admission is descriptive rather than analytical. She offers a brief synopsis of the life and work in turn, of Guillem Frontera, Gabriel Janer Manila, Biel Mesquida, Maria Antnia Oliver, Jaume Santandreu, Gabriel Toms and Antnia Vicens, and then gives a more detailed description of individual works, often with extensive quotation.

These writers are united in presenting 'una crnica molt pessimista de la societat mallorquina contempornia' (p. 178) and in so doing they underline literature's critical function. Several draw on direct experience of working in the tourism industry to reveal the extent of the exploitation and corruption which results from an entrepreneurial 'fast-buck' imperative, a short-term and short-sighted response to the tourist hordes. Major subjects for the Generation include the rise of a pseudo-bourgeoisie derived from rural peasant stock and the decline of the island aristocracy; the ruling classes' lack of support for indigenous culture; the consumer society that arrives with tourism; the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church to moral and social upheaval, and the hypocrisy associated with attempts by the Church simultaneously to make moral and financial capital from the native population's misfortunes and the tourist influx. (In Cam de coix however, Jaume Santandreu adopts a unique perspective among these writers: 'La seua singularitat resideix en el fet d'oferir una alternativa moral als conflictes humans: el comproms cristi ents com a militncia social combativa,' p. 160). Maria Antnia Oliver and Antnia Vicens examine the situation of Mallorcan women between the traditional (oppressive and misogynistic) patriarchal values and the 'emancipation' brought about by tourism (work possibilities for women away from the family home; offspring moving to resort centres), but emancipation seems to have its counter in tourism's perpetuation of insular 'masclisme'. A final key theme which has a precedent in Villalonga's Les fures (1967) and achieves a satirical apotheosis in Andrea Vctrix (1974; Premi Josep Pla 1973, but strangely overlooked by Arnau), is the phenomenon of the 'picador' and gigolo, of hetero- and homosexual male prostitution.

Arnau's study is less comfortable with any degree of formal experimentation identified in her selected authors (e.g. Biel Mesquida); she comments more than once that a particular work displays 'una manca d'estructura lineal', and her actual focus is rather on thematic innovation ? or on the engagement with a new reality in its moral and social dimensions in particular. Arnau comments that these writers generally were the first to experiment linguistically by incorporating foreign words and phrases into their narratives; and she cites Antnia Vicens's 'aproximaci psicolgica' as 'una primcia'. On both counts, Lloren Villalonga (at least) had already set a precedent of sorts. Pilar Arnau's account is therefore very much a view of tourism and society as a reality confronted by a particular 'generation' of writers, rather than an exploration of tourism as it appears in Mallorcan narrative of the time: while she looks at Mort de dama (1931) and Les fures as fictional forebears, a more appropriate focus would certainly be Andrea Vctrix. Although Narrativa i turisme a Mallorca (1968-1980) has its limitations, it is an accessible and readable introduction to the subject with a useful bibliography.