Félix de Azua: Historia de un idiota contado por él mismo [Story of an Idiot as Told by Himself]
The sub-title of this novel is El contenido de la felicidad or The content of happiness. As in Diario de un hombre humillado (Diary of a Humiliated Man), the hero is a mediocre man. His aim is to find what happiness is and, of course, he fails spectacularly. He is the by now fairly standard alienated man we have seen in many novels, going back to Moravia‘s Gli Indifferenti (Time of Indifference) and well covered by the likes of Camus, Peter Handke, Heinrich Böll and many others.
Our hero tries it all – boarding school, the army, sex (starting out with his uncle’s mistress), petty crime, politics, philosophy, science and literature. He works at a small publishing house, where they consider publishing an anonymous writer who has published various books such as Las erecciones de Jena [The Erections of Jena] (de Azúa wrote a book called Las lecciones de Jena [The Lessons of Jena]) and others whose titles resemble those of de Azúa. The anonymity of the author leads him to the conclusion that literature is as arbitrary as anything else and that its authors are insignificant, their lives, intelligence, character, morals, even existence are irrelevant. He ends up painted into a corner, blank, a wan smile in his face which he catches while shaving, remembering only that he has forgotten something but cannot remember what. Interesting reading but Moravia and others have done it better.
First published 1986 by Editorial Anagrama, Barcelona
No English translation