Intermediate Spanish Narrative Terminology

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson defines and gives examples of Spanish literary terms related to narratives. We'll talk about the narrative genre, four terms related to ways authors narrate, and two types of narrator.

Different Aspects

How was the last book you read? What was the type of narrator? Did the author jump back in time? Authors make these stylistic choices very carefully.

Let's learn a few Spanish literary terms that help us to understand what authors do to write those wonderful stories that entertain us. The narrativa (narrative) tells us a story, and authors use different methods to make these narratives come to life.

Narrative Genre

The género narrativo (narrative genre) of la crónica (lah KROH-nee-kah: the chronicle) involves an author telling historic events in chronological order, be they fact or fiction.

A great example of crónica is in the letters and diaries that Spanish conquistadors wrote about their observations of the indigenous cultures they met on the American continent. Here is an examples of crónica:

  • The author Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés wrote, in chronological order, about the first encounters between Europeans and indigenous people. Then he talks about the conquering events to form the first Spain colonies and, finally, about the advance of Spaniards towards the rest of the continent, particularly in what today is Peru.

Flashback

The term flashback (flashback) refers to a technique that allows authors to go back in time to reveal relevant pastimes from the present perspective. A good example of a flashback is in Cien Años de Soledad (A Hundred Years of Solitude) by the Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. This passage tells about two friends who are remembering pastimes:

Mientras Macondo celebraba la reconquista de los recuerdos, José Arcadio Buendía y Melquíades le sacudieron el polvo a su vieja amistad. (While Macondo was celebrating the recovery of his memory José Arcadio Buendía and Melquíades dusted off their old friendship.)

El gitano iba dispuesto a quedarse en el pueblo. Había estado en la muerte, en efecto, pero había regresado porque no pudo soportar la soledad. (The gypsy was inclined to stay in the town. He really had been through death, but he had returned because he could not bear the solitude.)

Stream of Consciousness

In Spanish, the term fluir de conciencia (floo-EER deh kohn-see-EHN-seeah: stream of consciousness) refers to when an author write out the thoughts and feelings that cross a character's mind. This can feel like an unedited rant of thoughts. An example is in the short story '' La Señorita Cora '' by the Argentinian author Julio Cortázar, in which a mom expresses her thoughts about her baby at a hospital:

No entiendo por qué no me dejan pasar la noche en la clínica con el nene, al fin y al cabo soy su madre... (I don't understand why they don't let me spend the night at the hospital with the baby, at the end of the day I am his mother...).

Predicting

In Spanish narrative, when there are indications of an event that will happen or when a character predicts a future event, we see an example of prefiguración (preh-fee-goo-rah-see-OHN: prefiguration).

For example, in the book La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) by the Spanish author Federico García Lorca, there is prefiguración in a conversation between a group of girls with a neighbor. They talk about the upcoming wedding of one of the characters in a tone that is not very optimistic, which creates a sense of how the wedding could end up.

Perspective

As a narrative story develops, there is a perspective or point of view made evident by comments characters make, the environment that surrounds them, and the tone the narrator uses. All of these aspects are el punto de vista (ehl POON-toh deh VEES-tah: point of view), also called la perspectiva (lah pehrs-pehk-TEE-vah: the perspective).

For instance, the character Esteban Trueba tells part of the story in La Casa de los Espíritus (The House of the Spirits) by Isabel Allende. The perspective of this character reveals a strong personality.

Types of Narrator

Here, we have the different types of narrator we find in narrative.

Omniscient Narrator

The narrador omnisciente (nahr-rah-DOHR ohm-nee-see-EHN-teh: omniscient narrator) is a narrator that knows all the events and characters' feelings but does not participate as a character. Here we have a passage from Pedro Páramo by the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo:

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