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||Camilo José Cela (1916-2002) - surname in full Cela y Trulock|
Spanish writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989. Camilo José Cela continually experimented with the novel form, but he also published travel books and Diccionario secreto (1968-72), a thesaurus of forbidden words end expressions. His works are marked by pessimism, brutal realism, and sardonic humor. Cela wrote with great detail, describing landscapes, environments and hundreds of individuals in his work.
"Through the process of thought man begins to discover hidden truth in the world, he can aim to create his own different world in whatever terms he wishes through the medium of the fable. Thus truth, thought, freedom and fable are interlinked in a complicated and on occasion suspect relationship. It is like a dark passageway with several side-turnings going off in the wrong direction; a labyrinth with no way out. But the element of risk has always been the best justification for embarking on an adventure." (from Nobel Lecture, 1989)
Camilo José Cela was born in Iria-Flavia into a large middle-class family. Cela's mother, Camila Emmanuela Trulock y Bertorini, was of British origin. Camilo Cela y Fernandez, his father, worked as a customs official and was a part-time author. The family moved in 1925 to Madrid. "I was educated in the schools of Jesuits, the Escolapians, and the Marists, but my sensibility was formed on the streets," Cela once said. ('Cela, Camilo José,' in World Authors 1950-1970, edited by John Wakeman, 1975, p. 288) After contracting tuberculosis, Cela spent three years at the sanatorium of Guadarrame, reading classic literature. From 1933 to 1936 and from 1939 to 1943 he studied medicine, philosophy and law at the University of Madrid. His first poem, 'Amor immenso', was published in Fábula de la Plata.
At the age of twenty, Cela's studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). He served as a corporal with Franco's army in the Twenty-fourth Regiment of the Infantry of Bailén, a noteworthy choice of a side in the war because literary history knows more writers who were against Franco, starting from Hemingway, Orwell, and García Lorca. (Another Spanish Nobel winner, Jacinto Benavente, sympathized Franco.) Cela witnessed cruelties against civilians. His active duty was curtailed in 1939 by an injury: in a battle, he was hit in the chest by a sharpnel of a grenade. Later Cela used his experiences in many of his stories.
After resuming his studies, Cela finally graduated at age 27. In 1944 he married María del Rosario Conde Picavea; they had one son, who became an anthropologist. The marriage ended in 1989. Just before the Nobel Prize Cela had met Marina Castaño, a radio journalist, who was 40 years his junior. Cela considered her as his muse. They married in 1991 and at the same time Cela lost touch with several old friends.
devoting himself entirely to writing, Cela worked briefly as a censor
during Franco's dictatorship and tried bullfighting, painting and
acting. The Family of Pascual Duarte (1942) marked the
Cela's literary career. The novel was traditional in form, but due to
its controversial content, it was banned in his homeland and first came out in Argentina. Eventually it was published in 1946 by Zodíaco (Barcelona),
accompanied by a prologue written by Gregorio Marãnon.
purported autobiography, Pascual Duarte's prison memoirs, a soul mate
of Albert Camus's
execution for the murder of his mother. His life reflects the crude
reality of rural Spain in Franco's time. The central characters are the
transcriber, Joaquín Barrera López, Santiago Lurueña, Cesáreo Martín,
and Pascal Duarte himself. The transcriber says at the beginning that
"certain passages, which were too crude, I have preferred to cut out
rather than rewrite".
dealing with the darker side of life, cumulative violence, horror, and
despair, introduced the literary style called tremendismo.
It has been described as a "harsh and exacerbated realism, with a
tendency to emphasize grotesque imagery and violence." ('The Politics of Travel Writing in Fascist Spain' by Javier Torre, in Not So Innocent Abroad: The Politics of Travel and Travel Writing, edited by Ulrike Brisson and Bernard Schweizer, 2009, pp. 66-67) Pascual is both a bloody criminal and victim
of a destructive social environment. He is born into a dysfunctional
family. Both of his parents are alcoholics, his mother, who never
bathes, has no empathy or compassion for him,
and Pascual himself has two unsuccessful marriages. This
modern classic, which had enormous influence on Spanish
literature, can be interpreted in many ways – as the voice of a
repressed people condemned by a dictatorial regime, or as a story of
spiritual emptiness like in Camus's novel The Stranger (1942).
Cela leaves open the moral question: "Whose fault? Pascual's?
Unlike the novel, Ricardo Franco's very liberal screen adaptation from 1976 is not a first-person narration. Cela had nothing to do with the screenplay, but when Franco showed him the finished movie in his house, he was satisfied with the result. (Spanish Film and the Postwar Novel: Reading and Watching Narrative Texts by Norberto Mínguez-Arranz, 2002, pp. 77-78)
La Colmena (1951, The Hive) captured three days in the life of Madrid in the aftermath of the Civil War. In the fragmented chronology, which took more than five years to construct, appears some 250 to 360 characters. The novel portrays the poverty, degradation, and hypocrisy of post-war society. In the center of the story writers sit for ours in cafés in winter, observing the world. "The customers of cafés are people who believe that things happen as they do because they happen and that it is never worth while to put anything right. At Doña Rosa's they all smoke and most of them meditate each alone with himself, on those mall, kindly, intimate things which make their lives full or empty." Cela's work inaugurated a novelistic style known as objectivismo, a kind of documentary realism, which drew on cinematic montage technique. Inspired by this new method of narration, writers used camera and taperecorder in order to eliminate the author's voice. However, Cela presents reality in satirical light, strongly colored. The Hive was originally published in Latin America; in Spain it was banned because it was considered subversive by the government censors.
"After the lunch time the waste ground is the resort of old people who come there to feed on the sunshine like lizards. But after the hour when the children and the middle-aged couples go to bed, to sleep and dream, it is an uninhibited paradise with no room for evasion or subterfuge, where all know what they are after, where they make love nobly, almost harshly, on the soft ground which still retains the line scratched in by the little girl who spent the morning playing hop-scotch, and the neat, perfectly round holes dug by the boy who greedily used all his spare time to play at marbles." (from The Hive)
Pabellón de reposo (1944) was first published in
serialized form in the Madrid weekly El Español.
It told about four men and three women who are dying of tuberculosis.
(Cela had a penchant for the number three.) According to Cela, he was
forbidden to read his book to terminally ill patients. ". .
. there are no assassinations, no turbulent love affairs, no
physical blows upon anyone, and only a minimum of bloodshed, enough for
the reader to be sure that he is dealing with patients that are
suffering with tuberculosis and not just rheumatism or people who have
gone mad because of syphilis." (Understanding
Camilo José Cela by Lucile C. Charlebois, 1998, p. 20)
Cela lived largely in Madrid until 1954, when he moved to his new house in La Bonanova, Palma de Mallorca. There he became friends with the artist Pablo Picasso, who produced coloured chalk drawings for Gavilla de fábulas sin amor (1962, Loveless Fables). Cela's literary review, Papeles de son Armadans, which appeared from 1956 to 1979, provided an open-minded forum for contributions from international writers and artists. On the other hand, it has been claimed that during the 1960s, Cela volunteered to serve as an informer for Franco's regime.
In 1957 Cela became member of the Spanish Academy, a conservative institution, which he managed to upset with his Diccionario secreto (1968-72), a compilation of "unprintable" but well-known words and phrases. After the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, King Juan Carlos appointed Cela to Spain's Parliament in 1977 to help oversee the literary style of the new constitution. Full professorship was granted him at the University of Palma de Mallorca in 1980.
San Camilo, 1936 (1969) is Cela's bitter masterpiece, his first novel to confront the topic of the Civil War. At times every every character is revealed to be corrupt. Narrated as an internal monologue by a young man, the novel was set on the eve of the war. A central symbol is the mirror: "A man sees himself in the mirror and even feels comfortable addressing himself in a familiar way, the mirror has no frame, it neither begins nor ends, or yes, it does habve a splendid frame gilded with patience and with gold leaf but the the quality of its pane is not good . . . " In Mazurca para dos muertos (1983, Mazurka for Two Dead Men) Cela returned again to the war years. In the rainy Galician mountains, a local townsperson is kidnapped and murdered; at book's end, his killing is avenged by his brother according to the ancient folk law. The novel went through eighteen editions by 1990 and Cela was awarded the prestigious Premio Nacional for Literature.
Consistently an experimental novelist, Cela's work of the 1940s and 1950s met with greater critical acclaim than his later novels, which were attacked as unduly whimsical. Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son (1953) was composed in the form of a madwoman's letters. Viaje al Pirineo de Lérida (1965) was a travel book based upon notes of a trip made seven years earlier. Izas, rabizas y colipoterras (1964) had pathetic and grotesque photographs of prostitutes. Oficio de Tinieblas 5 (1973) was an atemporal anti-novel without protagonist, plot, character delineation, or development. It consisted of over one thousand unpunctuared short paragraphs and prose fragments. After its publication Cela gave up his novelist status and did not return to the genre for nearly a decade.
Cela also published books of travels – he enjoyed traveling in
Rolls-Royce – operas, poetry, essays, short stories, memoirs, and
unclassified works, spin-offs of his narratives. Significant examples
are the seven volumes of Nuevas
escenas matritenses (1965-66), Los apuntes
carpetovetónicos (1965), Los viejos amigos
(1960-61), Historia de
España (1958). Miscellaneous works include Enciclopedia
del erotismo (1982-86) and Viaje a la Alcarria (1948),
which presented on one level an escape from the urban milieu to
country life. María Sabina (1966) was his first play.
Among Cela's other works are Christo Versus Arizona (1988), Los caprichos de Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
(1989), El camaleon soltero (1992), Memorias,
entendimientos y voluntades (1993), and La Cruz de San Andrés
(1994), which won the Planeta award. In 1995 he received the Miguel de Cervantes Prize.
In the 1990s Cela played with religio-erotic and sadistic themes, and used unreliable, limited narrators who unwrite and rewrite the text. Cela defined novel as a genre into which everything fits. ('Interview: Camilo José Cela' by Theodore S. Beardsley, Jr. and Camilo José Cela, in Diacritics, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring, 1972) Camilo José Cela died from chronic heart disease in Madrid on January 17, 2002. His last words were "Viva Iria Flavia!" Before his death Cela was accused of plagiarism by a Spanish writer, María del Carmen Formoso Lapido, who claimed that her novel formed the basis for the La Cruz de San Andrés. Cela described the accusations as a "fallacy".