Academic journal article Romance Notes

El Tiempo Entre Costuras: Colonial Nostalgia in the European Cultural Economy

Academic journal article Romance Notes

El Tiempo Entre Costuras: Colonial Nostalgia in the European Cultural Economy

Article excerpt

THE success of Maria Duenas's El tiempo entre costuras (2009) is the culmination of a gradual reconciliation of the Spanish national imaginary with the requirements of the postnational European cultural market. In this article, I explore the different ways in which Duenas's novel normalizes historical memory of the spanish colonization of Morocco in order to discard notions of Spanish exceptionalism and emphasize Spain's cultural proximity to Europe. I also argue that Duenas's ambivalent narrative combines the postnational drive towards a normalized Spanish identity and a nostalgic evocation of Francoist imperialism. This dual drive (postnational and imperialistic) allows Duenas to offer Spaniards a novel that manages to satisfy the desire for Spain to be fully integrated in the European Union while appeasing the anxieties that such an integration entails for Southern European countries like Spain.

Maria Duenas's novel El tiempo entre costuras, the story of a poor seamstress that moves to the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco following her lover and manages to build a successful business serving the European colonial elites while working as a spy for the British, has enjoyed outstanding commercial success selling over a million copies shortly after being published in 2009 (Doria). Duenas's novel was successfully adapted to television by Boomerang TV and Antena 3 Television in 2013 obtaining record viewership ratings at several points throughout its broadcast. Its final episode had a viewership of over five million spectators (27.8% market share) ("Datos de audiencia").

The commercial success of the novel and of its television adaptation can be attributed to a complex set of factors, in this article, I consider the success of El tiempo entre costuras as an example of the ongoing efforts to normalize discourses of Spanish national identity to make them pliable to the requirements of its integration in the European Union. I contend that it is not a coincidence that after decades of historical amnesia, the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco would become one of the focuses of attention of the Spanish cultural field precisely at the time when efforts to consolidate the European Union have intensified. Unlike the colonization of Latin America, which brings to mind the Black Legend of Spanish exceptionalism, the colonization of North Africa can be presented as a historical event that is shared by Spaniards with other fellow Europeans. In this sense, the surge of interest in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco that began with Ignacio Martinez de Pison's Una guerra africana (2000), Lorenzo Silva's El nombre de los nuestros (2001) and Carta Blanca (2004), Marian Izaguirre's El leon dormido (2005), seems to have reached a climatic point with the publication El tiempo entre costuras.

The adoption of the euro as the European single currency in 2002, and the contested attempt to approve a European constitution in 2004, among other events, made the supranational project that the European Union represents a tangible reality for millions of Spaniards and has triggered attempts to rearticulate Spanish national identity in an effort to comply with or resist the demands of an evolving European identity. To the extent that the consolidation of the European Union promotes downplaying national idiosyncrasies and favors the adoption of a common European identitarian discourse, we can argue that we are witnessing a postnational turn. I do not understand this postnational turn, however, as a radical abandonment of national categories. My reading of this process is deeply informed by Yasemin Soysal's argument that what defines postnationalism is precisely the different levels of membership in and allegiance to existing national identities. "These postnational forms," Soysal argues, "can be explicated ... In European Union citizenship, which represents a multitiered form of membership; and in subnational citizenships in culturally or administratively autonomous regions of Europe (e. …

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