Spain Literature

By | December 31, 2021

At the end of the civil war (April 1939) some writers had been shot (Federico García Lorca and Ramiro de Maeztu among the best); others had fled into exile (Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Ramón Pérez de Ayala, Luis Araquistain, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Salvador de Madariaga, Américo Castro, Pedro Salinas, José Bergamín, Rafael Alberti, José Ferrater Mora, etc.).

Many books have been written on the civil war: among the best we remember Una isla en el mar rojo by W. Fernández Flórez, also translated into Italian (Milan 1942) and Madrid de corte a ceka by Augustín Foxá, also translated into Italian (Milan 1943). But perhaps the most profound and human is a libretto, Españoles en Paris, which Azorín (José Martínez Ruiz) published on his return from France, where he had taken refuge at the outbreak of the 1936 revolution: the whole war seen with the sadness of the poorest and most disconsolate emigrant; a war that is not even talked about, as if it were a family misfortune; war without a heroic picture, reduced to a tragic game of chance, to an infinite desire for peace and goodness. Azorín is one of the three last survivors, with Jacinto Benavente and Pio Baroja, of the 1898 generation; and the volume that Ramón Gómez de la Serna dedicated to him (Madrid 1930, new ed. with additions, Buenos Aires 1944) is in a certain way the portrait of the whole generation that gave the most vital works of modern Spanish literature. Ramón Gómez de la Serna, today in Argentina, does not belong there either by age or by temperament, but more and better than many others he was able to understand its spirit and relive its drama. Pio Baroja has already written 94 works; his latest novels, Susana, 1940, and Laura o la soledad sin remedio, 1941, inspired by a generic anti-communism, are rather mediocre; now he perhaps has nothing more to say, but he vented himself by writing his literary memoirs, full of rancor, bitterness and resentment. Jacinto Benavente, from 1939 to today has represented eleven new dramatic works, including La honradez de la cerradura ; Los niños perdidos en la selva ; Don Magínel de las magías ; Aves y pájaros: but he added nothing to his glory as a lucky playwright.

The philosopher José Ortega y Gasset also recently returned to Spain. Among his works of recent years: Estudios sobre el amor, 1941; Historia como sistema and Esquema de las crisis, 1941, trans. ital., Milan 1946; Teoría de Andalucía, 1941; Prólogo to a libro de caza, 1946. For Spain 2002, please check

Among the works of history, literary criticism, philology and various erudition published after the civil war are particularly notable: the critical edition of Juan Boscán’s masterful translation of Baldassar Castiglione ‘s Cortegiano, edited by Angel González Palencia (Madrid 1944); a volume by Juan Estelrich on Juan Vives, the Spanish Renaissance philosopher (Madrid 1941); critical essays by Ramón Menéndez Pidal (La lengua de Cristóbal Colón, Madrid 1942 and Poesía juglaresca y juglares, Buenos Aires 1942); La vida turbulenta de Quevedo by Luís Astrana Marín (Madrid 1945); César Borgia by Antonio J. Onieva (there 1944); Felipe IV y on época by Bernardino de Pantorba (there 1944); Cristóbal Colón by Antonio Ballesteros Beretta (there 1945); El Cardenal Julio Alberoni by Luciano Taxonera (there 1946); Alfonso X y Sancho by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester (there 1945) and some volumes of critical essays by Guillermo Díaz Plaja: Introducción al estudio del romanticismo español, 1939; El espíritu del barroco, 1940; La poetry lírica española, 1940; Hacia un concepto de la literatura española, 1942.

The first serious literary movement of the Spanish postwar generation was that of the magazine Escorial (Madrid, between 1941 and 1944); Poets such as Dionisio Ridruejo, Gerardo Diego, Adriano del Valle, Dámaso Alonso, narrators such as Juan Antonio Zunzunegui, Emiliano Aguado, José María Sánchez Silva, Samuel Ros (d.1945), Rafael García Serrano (author of a volume of tales about bullfights, Los toros de Iberia, and a novel about the war, La fiel infantería), Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, Eugenio Montes, who in 1944 published a particularly significant volume on Italy, Melodía italiana ; critics and essayists such as Pedro Laín Entralgo, Pedro Mourlane Michelena, Antonio Marichalar and José L. Aranguren, author of an extensive essay on the philosophy of Eugenio d’Ors (Madrid 1945). Even if the magazine has ceased its publication, it can be said that in a certain way it fulfilled the function in Spain that the Ronda had in Italy (in the post-war period: rediscovering a tradition that was almost lost.

Even in fictional literature today there are indications of a good recovery: Juan Antonio Zunzunegui published between 1940 and 1946 three of the most successful novels of the Spanish postwar period: El chiplichandle (bilbaina dialectal distortionof the English shipchandler), ¡Ay… estos hijos! and El barco de la muerte. Basque by origin and training, Zunzunegui is the novelist of Bilbao, its port and its rías ; a whole world that he discovers and describes with rapid, lively, colorful prose. Ramón Ledesma Miranda wrote with Almudena one of the most beautiful novels about nineteenth-century Madrid, with a Fogazzarian pace and the grace of the most castizo romance. Ignacio Agustí, Catalan, director of the Barcelona-based magazine Destino, began instead with Mariona Rebull, 1944, and El viudo Rius, 1946, the story of a Barcelona character and family of the early twentieth century, which will include four novels: it goes under the title La ceniza fué arbol. José Pla, who for many years wrote in Catalan, has recently published several works in Castilian: memories of old Catalonia, interpretations of the Catalan landscape, biographies of painters and commentaries on themes of various humanity.

The novelist who truly constituted the “literary case” of recent years is Camilo José Cela, a native of Galicia (IriaFlavia, 1916), who suddenly went to fame at the age of 25 with the novel La familia de Pascual Duarte, 1941, trad. ital., Rome 1944; two other novels followed, Pabellón de reposo, 1942, and Nuevas andanzas de Lazarillo de Tormes, 1944; a volume of short stories, Esas nubes que pasan, 1945, and a book of verses, Pisando la dudosa sombra, 1945 most valid Baroja. Another particularly lucky novel is Nada, Barcellona 1943, by Carmen Laforet, who at the age of 24 had, with it, one of the most coveted literary awards (the “Nadal Prize”) and one of the greatest public successes; interesting novel and new also for the technique; far from the picaresque tragedy of Cela, but with an equally heated and murky atmosphere.

Spain Literature