Historical Fiction in Spain
History, Memory and Mythscape
Medieval historical fiction is a popular genre in Spanish publishing. This essay interrogates the popularity of these novels, and explores the possible theoretical frameworks for understanding its contribution to Spanish cultural identity. It traces the rise of medieval historical fiction set in the “España de las Tres Culturas” from the early 1990s, with particular reference to 1992’s Quincentennial commemorations. Furthermore, the subject matter of these novels (convivencia between ethno-religious communities) links it to modern social and political issues – Islamic immigration, terrorism, cultural diversity, Holocaust memorialisation and historical memory – that also arose in the 1990s, giving it special relevance. To understand the contribution of this genre to Spain’s historical vision, this essays examines its relation to both history and memory, highlighting the problem of reading historical fiction in either of these ways. The paper concludes that a better way to understand historical fiction’s contribution to Spanish cultural identity is to see it as a part of a process of constructing a national mythscape, rather than as part of Spain’s history or collective memory.