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Benito Pérez Galdós

Benito Pérez Galdós Benito Pérez Galdós[1†]

Benito Pérez Galdós (May 10, 1843 – January 4, 1920) was a Spanish realist novelist[1†][2†]. Born in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain[1†][3†][1†], he moved to Madrid at the age of 20 where he spent most of his adult life[1†][2†]. He is regarded as the greatest Spanish novelist since Miguel de Cervantes[1†][3†][1†][4†]. His enormous output of short novels chronicling the history and society of 19th-century Spain earned him comparison with Honoré de Balzac and Charles Dickens[1†][3†][1†].

Early Years and Education

Benito Pérez Galdós was born on May 10, 1843, in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain[1†]. He was the tenth and last son of Lieutenant Colonel Don Sebastián Pérez and Doña Dolores Galdós[1†]. His family was of middle-class status[1†][3†][1†].

Galdós’ early education took place in an English school in the Canary Islands[1†][5†][6†]. This early exposure to English education might have influenced his later works and writing style. In 1862, at the age of 19, Galdós moved to Madrid to study law[1†][3†][1†]. However, he soon abandoned his legal studies and took up journalism[1†][3†][1†]. This decision marked the beginning of his literary career and his lifelong dedication to writing.

His early years in Madrid, away from his family and familiar surroundings, might have shaped his perspective on life and society, which is reflected in his later works. His decision to abandon law and pursue journalism indicates his passion for writing and social issues from an early age[1†][3†][1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Benito Pérez Galdós’ career began in earnest when he moved to Madrid in 1862 to study law[1†][3†]. However, he soon abandoned his legal studies and took up journalism[1†][3†][5†]. His early career in journalism started with his contributions to local newspapers with satiric poems, essays, and a few stories[1†][7†]. In 1865, Galdós began publishing articles on politics and the arts in La Nación[1†][8†].

His literary career took off with his 1868 Spanish translation of Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers[1†][8†]. Inspired by the leading realist writers of his time, especially Balzac, Galdós published his first novel, La Fontana de Oro, in 1870[1†][8†]. This marked the beginning of his journey as a novelist.

Galdós was a prolific writer, publishing 31 novels, 46 Episodios Nacionales (National Episodes), 23 plays, and the equivalent of 20 volumes of shorter fiction, journalism, and other writings[1†]. His enormous output of short novels chronicling the history and society of 19th-century Spain earned him comparison with Honoré de Balzac and Charles Dickens[1†][3†].

In the 1880s and ’90s, Galdós wrote a long series of novels dealing with contemporary Spain, beginning with Doña Perfecta (1876)[1†][3†]. Known as the Novelas españolas contemporáneas (“Contemporary Spanish Novels”), these books were written at the height of the author’s literary maturity and include some of his finest works[1†][3†].

Galdós’ work was recognized during his lifetime. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912[1†]. Despite not winning, this nomination testifies to his significant contribution to literature.

First Publication of His Main Works

Benito Pérez Galdós was a prolific writer, publishing a vast number of works that have had a significant impact on Spanish literature[3†][1†]. Here are some of his main works:

Galdós’s works have been translated into English, and he has slowly become popular in the Anglophone world[3†][1†]. His plays are generally considered to be less successful than his novels, but “Realidad” (1892) is important in the history of realism in the Spanish theatre[3†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Benito Pérez Galdós was a towering figure in modern Peninsular Spanish literature and is considered the greatest Spanish novelist of the 19th century[9†][3†]. His literary output and writings are simply prodigious[9†]. More than Walter Scott and more than Honoré de Balzac, Galdós wrote 77 novels, 22 published plays, and the equivalent of 20 volumes of shorter fiction, journalism, and other writings[9†].

Galdós’s work is characterized by a unity of vision, developed through a constant enrichment of technique and a growing historical understanding of his century[9†]. His novels form a totality, in part, because of the practice common to other novelists of the 19th century by which many characters appear and reappear throughout a whole cycle of novels[9†].

The central theme, which informs this mass of material, is provided by the novelist’s determination to portray, analyze, and relive, for the edification of his people, the liberal revolutionary origins of modern Spain, the movement from absolutism to constitutional monarchy, from the old feudal order to a modern nation state[9†].

After writing novels for 20 years, Galdós tried his hand at theatre. Beginning with his novel “Realidad” (1892, Reality), he recast several of his novels into dialogue to be staged as theatre[9†]. Though his plays never achieved the artistic quality of his novels, many of them were superior to the outmoded romantic melodrama of his contemporaries[9†].

Galdós’s works have been translated into English, and he has slowly become popular in the Anglophone world[9†][3†]. His plays are generally considered to be less successful than his novels, but “Realidad” (1892) is important in the history of realism in the Spanish theatre[9†][3†].

Personal Life

Benito Pérez Galdós was a somewhat reclusive man[5†]. He was known to be very timid, hated talking in public, and liked to go unnoticed[5†][7†]. Despite his significant literary output, he led an easy life, living first with two of his sisters and later on with his nephew José Hurtado de Mendoza[5†][7†].

Galdós never married[5†][10†]. He had a great fondness for politics, although he did not consider himself a politician[5†][1†]. His political beginnings were liberal, later embracing moderate republicanism and, later, socialism under the leadership of Pablo Iglesias Posse[5†][1†]. In his liberal beginnings, he joined the Sagasta Progressive Party and in 1886 he became a deputy for Guayama, Puerto Rico, in the courts[5†][1†]. At the beginning of the 20th century, he joined the Republican Party and in the legislatures of 1907 and 1910 he was a deputy to the Cortes for Madrid for the Conjunción Republicano Socialista; in 1914 he was elected deputy for Las Palmas[5†][1†].

He traveled all over Europe at different times, and made a special study of Spain, journeying third class, in carriage and on horse, throughout the country, always by day, and usually in the company of a servant[5†][10†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Benito Pérez Galdós is considered, after Cervantes, the best author of all Spanish literature, and he’s recognized as the best novel writer of the 19th century[7†]. His enormous output of short novels chronicling the history and society of 19th-century Spain earned him comparison with Honoré de Balzac and Charles Dickens[7†][3†][1†]. He remains popular in Spain, and is considered as equal to Dickens, Balzac and Tolstoy[7†][11†]. Some of his works have been translated into English, as he has slowly become popular in the Anglophone world[7†][1†].

The central theme, which informs this mass of material, is provided by the novelist’s determination to portray, analyze, and relive, for the edification of his people, the liberal revolutionary origins of modern Spain, the movement from absolutism to constitutional monarchy, from the old feudal order to a modern nation state[7†][9†]. His astounding number of literary works form a totality, in part, because of the practice common to other novelists of the nineteenth century by which many characters appear and reappear throughout a whole cycle of novels, but even more importantly, because of a unity of vision, developed through a constant enrichment of technique and a growing historical understanding of his century[7†][9†].

Despite his significant literary output, Galdós was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912[7†][1†]. His anticlericalism caused him to be successfully boycotted by the most conservative sectors of Spanish society, represented in traditionalist Catholicism, who did not recognize his intellectual and literary value[7†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Benito Pérez Galdós [website] - link
  2. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Benito Pérez Galdós [website] - link
  3. Britannica - Benito Pérez Galdós: Spanish author [website] - link
  4. Infoplease - Pérez Galdós, Benito [website] - link
  5. IMDb - Benito Pérez Galdós - Biography [website] - link
  6. IMDb - Benito Pérez Galdós [website] - link
  7. Classic Spanish Books - The life & works of Benito Perez Galdos [website] - link
  8. Google Books - Doña Perfecta - Benito Pérez Galdós [website] - link
  9. Oxford Academic - A History of the Spanish Novel - The Life and Works of Benito Pérez Galdós [website] - link
  10. The Literature Network - The Life of Benito P�rez Gald�s [website] - link
  11. Goodreads - Author: Benito Pérez Galdós (Author of Marianela) [website] - link
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