With this volume of the Hudson Review, the magazine features an exemplary selection of Spanish authors and writings, juxtaposing the modern against the established, such as Edith Grossman, Antonio Muñoz Molina, and Lorna Knowles showcased with the likes of William Carlos Williams, Jorge Luis Borges, and Pablo Neruda. Reading almost like a highly compact and sleek version of a staggering anthology, the issue does not aim to define the Spanish identity, but instead to spotlight a variation of strong voices and create a mosaic of cultural and social experiences.
In the only featured memoir piece, “A Double Education,” Antonio Muñoz Molina describes his incipient quest to become a “real” writer, as pitted against the backdrop of the impending death of General Francisco Franco and the destruction of Spain’s endless years of dictatorship. As a university student struggling to make ends meet, Molina believes in the passion and the determination of the revolutionist political movement, yet he lacks the strength of conviction to whole-heartedly join his peers and stand at the picket lines. Afraid of the threat of arrest or a beat down, Molina prefers to hole up in his small, rented room and devour literature. He admires the likes of Faulkner, Mario Vargas Llosa, Borges, Proust, even the iconic pulp fiction of Raymond Chandler. Like an addict, Molina cannot wait to get his hands on the next book, the next world of characters. Yet for all the intense studying, Molina struggles to write.
Seven months after Franco’s death, Molina attends a gathering in Fuente Vaqueros for the fortieth anniversary of Spanish poet García Lorca’s murder. As he watches the crowd and indulges in the sentiment of the moment, Molina realizes that “it had felt great to stay by myself in a room of one’s own, but it was even better to stand in the middle of a crowd sharing its strength and its fear, experiencing the civic joy, the uplifting strength of a collective purpose.” It is the combination of experience and craft that constitute a writer, that propel inspiration. Writing is not only a practiced art form, but a means of communication, of dialogue with the world at large. Molina’s experience at Lorca’s commemoration ceremony shows that no matter how many books an individual consumes, an author needs experience and interaction with humanity in order to authenticate and breathe a sense of life into his or her work. As a young writer wading through a sea of half-finished novellas, vaguely-formed essays, and other relics from the past five years of undergraduate and graduate studies, Molina’s personal revelation rings as words of wisdom.
The featured William Carlos Williams poems are undeniably a brief, albeit telling reflection of the poet’s signature style. “Ode to My Socks” is a quirky, almost whimsical poem that on the surface is nothing more than a celebration of Williams’s socks. However, one must not ignore the poet’s use of language, metaphor, and crisp imagery. The socks become more than two lifeless scraps of wool. His feet become “like two decrepit firemen” while the socks are “that embroidered fire, / those luminous socks.” Something as simple as socks are cause for excitement, for gratitude, thus symbolizing the joys of the ordinary in everyday life.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Hudson Review is rare in having remained a forum for intelligent, well-written criticism and cultural commentary on a broad spectrum of topics. In fact it belongs to a tiny handful of magazines where the first criterion of inclusion is literary merit.” A rather esteemed compliment, especially from such a credible publication. But the praise is not unwarranted, as this issue of the magazine confirms the hype.