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The Perfect Copy: Clarín's Su único hijo and the Flaubertian Connection

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Noël M. Valis*
University of MichiganAnn Arbor


Copying as both duplication and writing informs the structure and thematics of Leopoldo Alas's Su único hijo (1891). In building an entire novel around a copy clerk, Alas, known as Clarín, taps into a rich literary tradition. He also ends up suggesting that the imaginative impulse emerges out of a deeply felt and little understood desire to copy. Clarín's own “corrective copying” of Flaubert illustrates the classic artistic formula of “schema and correction,” revision of the canonical schemata to come up with an “original.” His homage to Flaubert, reenacted textually through the issue of paternity in Su único hijo, operates paradoxically by denying the nihilistic implications of Flaubertian repetition and paternal absenteeism. Where Bouvard et Pécuchet is about copying and an absent father, Clarín's novel is about the inescapable paternal presence, the sign of individuality, and the assertion of self.

Research Article
PMLA , Volume 104 , Issue 5 , October 1989 , pp. 856 - 867
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1989

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