Few consider Benito Pérez Galdós a master of the short story. During the era, the author downplayed his own works as “obrillas," while contemporary Emilia Pardo Bazán outright critiqued his inability to write in such a reduced space. While Galdós’s small corpus of twenty-four tales pales in comparison with Pardo Bazán’s enormous short fiction oeuvre, his stories offer engaging works of fantasy. Revealing Galdós’s conception of the short story as primarily a mode of the fantastic, these works also elucidate issues addressed in the author's much larger works. This paper considers one story in particular, “Tropiquillos,” published in the 1890 edition of La sombra. Together the trope of the failed indiano, the experience of this autodiegetic narrator, the work’s narrative structure and surprise ending articulate a perceived crisis of masculinity linked to transatlantic emigration in late 19th century Spain. As the protagonist-narrator contemplates his own decadence, moral and physical decay, and imminent death, Galdós’s bucolic story allegorizes the emigrant experience; however, when read in conjunction with larger works that also feature indianos, “Tropiquillos” exemplifies the colonial returnee as a dynamic character in the author's ambivalent and shifting stance towards the Americas, as well as points to the complex intersection of masculinity, empire, and the nation within shifting degeneration/regeneration discourses of the era.
- Spanish Peninsular Studies