Intento de escapada
Marcos, a shy and hard working student of the Fine Arts, has his routine disrupted by the arrival of the famous Jacobo Montes in his small city, the great social artist of the day whose transgressive work is an effort to denounce contemporary capitalism. Almost by chance, Marcos ends up becoming his assistant and with him learns to see reality with new eyes; especially on the matter of immigration, an issue Montes tries to work on in the city. For Marcos, the experience is baptism by fire, and it doesn’t end up the way he expected. Montes’ methods border on the unacceptable. And when theory is turned to practice, things run the risk of getting out of hand. It is at this moment that art transforms into a grotesque and dangerous game. This is a profound and venomous critique of more radical contemporary art and the cynical attitude that is hidden behind certain “risky” artistic practices.
«Escape Attempt demonstrates the value he radiated in those not so distant days in which he approached the Regional Publishers of Murcia with the aim of publishing his magnificent and original short stories… In the face of so many empty narrators, lacking fictitious qualities, Miguel Ángel Hernández overflows with ideas… Equipped with many bibliographical sources on the routes of modern art, Hernández, armed with a solid base, has achieved a complex and difficult work (but it is much more accessible than I was expecting) that has allowed him to sow his ideas about art, the situation it now finds itself in, the perversity within which it shelters itself, the narcissism of the creator and bad artists» (Ramón Jiménez Madrid, La Opinión de Murcia).
«Miguel Ángel Hernández’s cautionary reflections in Escape Attempt, his first novel, on the myths and lies of modern art, on the abyss that lies between genius and inventiveness, could this time reach more people than any of his essays… a “bildungsroman”, a novel of initiation in art and in life…Through Helena, his history of art teacher, Marcos meets the famous artist Jacobo Montes, obvious literary double of the polemical Santiago Sierra (whose last performance you will remember, in which thirty people, hired through the Public Employment Services, had to write the phrase “Work is dictatorship” for nine days in a huge amount of notebooks) whose works of protest dazzle Marcos and transforms him, involving him in his decisions: good or bad; art or nausea.From this point onwards, Miguel Ángel Hernández devises a kind of road movie of the inner workings of Marcos’s mind and the low funds of the city, that grips us and doesn’t let us go until it places us firmly in front of a meta-literary mirror capable of facing all the individuals (artists, galleries, critics and collectors) of the art world that deserve it» (Leonardo Cano, Paisaje Eléctricos Magazine).
«A well orchestrated combination of novel of initiation, art critique and social commentary… The most important of these is without doubt the moral compass of the work, that sensation of complexity, of perpetual questioning, of doubts that are (or should be) the SALT of intellectual life. Behind it all, the great question of the moment is found: How do we escape a system capable of recycling everything?» (François Monti, Numerocero.es).
«This book invites reflection and asks a few questions: what role does art play, should the aesthetic be ethical, can an artist be a son of a bitch and still be an artist, should art always be ethical or even legal, what if the value of a life, does everything have a price, is human dignity something intrinsic or is it an attribute that is defined and imposed from the outside, etc.» (Devaneos.com).
«At the heart of this story by Miguel Ángel Hernández is a sort of atonement. This the valiant result of the need that many of us who dedicate ourselves in one way or another to art have had to draw the curtain back, leave the pretensions and the complex justification theories to one side, and recognise that contemporary art is nothing more than a game, a game that is sometimes serious and interesting, sometimes absurd and disastrous, a game that changes nothing, a game that simply gets out of hand» (RealidadesInexistentes.com).
«The members of the most recent Herralde Prize jury did well to recommend the publication of the singular first novel by Miguel Ángel Hernández (1977) from Murcia… Attractive and accomplished in its composition, it is, however, its content that deserves the most attention… This story of complex human relationships, maintained by motives of power, humiliation, dignity and sex, has traces of an interesting psychological exploration, slightly dostoyevskian, whose general design is consistent with a classical approach to the coming of age story… The novel hinders indifference» (Santos Sanz Villanueva, El Mundo).
«Despite the fact that the first readers of this book emphasised the fact that Escape Attempt seems to be a “novel of ideas”, it is not only this that makes it exceptional: in reality, all novels transmit ideas. That we often forget this does not mean that they do not, but simply that their ideas are trivial. This is not the case in Escape Attempt, which allows the reader to exhale, relieved, and say to themselves (and this is what makes it exceptional): finally a Spanish novel of ideas whose ideas are actually good» (Patricio Pron, El Boomeran (g)).
«Intelligent fiction that seems first of all to be about the world of contemporary art, but that in reality is about the exploitation of human beings and art’s many repudiations of its ideals in the face of money’s capacity for corruption… Miguel Ángel Hernández has brought fresh air with a highbrow, intelligent and entertaining novel» (J.M. Pozuelo Yvancos, ABC).
«We do not stand before a simple novel, written in linear form. There is no doubt that reading it is entertaining and one enjoys every one of its pages, becoming, in a certain way, the perfect accomplice to a plot that does not lack the feel of the detective mystery. However it is equally true that Miguel Ángel Hernández has accomplished a difficult, delicate and complicated feat of structuring. The result is a work complete with integrity and the rare ability to perfectly fit pieces together, after an editing job closer to that of the film industry than to literature. It has a solid plot, a connecting thread which the author makes sure to nourish with new stories, unexpected twists and novel situations. At the same time, it does not stop drawing attention to the presence within its pages of a real theory of the meaning of modern art… Miguel Ángel Hernández has begun his novelistic trajectory with strong start and a great deal of wisdom, with the humility and patience of a much more experienced and mature writer» (José Belmonte, La Verdad).
«This novel, which received the special mention of the Herralde Prize, centres its discussion on contemporary art. It does so with presence and solidity, in addition to good narrative, a strong command of textual structure and a rare ability in our country to blend a good plot with good ideas» (Jordi Corominas I Julián, Revista de Letras).
«In the first extensive narrative he has published, the writer focuses on a world that he knows intimately (he is a teacher of this subject at the University of Murcia): the territory of modern art… buried in Miguel Ángel Hernández’s elegant prose, the reader advances, spellbound, through the pages of this unprecedented story, that will take them from surprise to revulsion, from indignation to contemplation, from shock to silence. … Escape Attempt is a novel about art, but above all it is a novel about the miseries of the human spirit, about those dark corners of our inner world where we do not like to look. Read it calmly and it will enrich you, as well as overwhelm you» (Rubén Castillo, El Noroeste).
«There are many who believe that, considering its distortion on so many different levels, many questions need to be asked in order to have a clearer vision of current art. Some of them, intelligently formed and with the most convincing characteristics of today’s novelistic landscape, and with a style that verges on the most vibrant of the moment, are being posed by Miguel Ángel Hernández… a critical novel on many different aspects of the social and artistic reality» (Santiago Aizarna, El Diario Vasco).
«Escape Attempt is almost a thriller, not because the book really is anything like a thriller, but because of that sensation of anxiety that grows as you get to know the characters» (Luna Miguel, Go Mag).
Miguel Ángel Hernández (Murcia, 1977) is a professor of History of Art at the University de Murcia. He has been director of CENDEAC (Centro de Documentación y Estudios Avanzados de Arte Contemporáneo), Research Fellow del Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, Massachusetts) and Society Fellow of the Society for the Humanities (Cornell University). He is the author of diverse books of short-stories, essays and art critic books.