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Camilo José Cela

Camilo José Cela Camilo José Cela[7†]

Camilo José Cela (May 11, 1916 - January 17, 2002) was a renowned Spanish writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989[1†][2†]. He was born in Iria Flavia, Spain[1†][2†], and is perhaps best known for his novel “La familia de Pascual Duarte” (1942; The Family of Pascual Duarte)[1†]. His literary production primarily includes novels, short narratives, and travel diaries, characterized by experimentation and innovation in form and content[1†]. Cela is also credited by some critics with having established the narrative style known as tremendismo, a tendency to emphasize violence and grotesque imagery[1†].

Early Years and Education

Camilo José Cela was born on May 11, 1916, in Iria Flavia, Spain[1†][3†]. His father, Camilo Crisanto Cela y Fernández, was a customs official who wrote during his spare time[1†][4†]. His mother was Camila Emanuela Trulock y Bertorini[1†][3†]. Between 1921 and 1925, Cela lived in Vigo, after which his family moved to Madrid[1†][3†]. Here, he was enrolled in the Piarist School[1†][3†].

In 1931, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to spend the next year in a sanatorium at Guadarrama[1†][3†]. While at the sanatorium, he spent his time reading and, subsequently, began work on his novel titled 'Pabellón de reposo’[1†][3†].

He enrolled into the Medicine Faculty of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, in 1934, but soon dropped out and began attending classes at the Arts department of the same university[1†][3†][1†]. At the university, he was tutored by Spanish poet Pedro Salinas with whom he shared his first poems and works[1†][3†]. Pedro Salinas was known to have influenced him greatly to pursue a career in writing[1†][3†].

His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War[1†][5†]. He took part in the war and was seriously injured[1†][5†]. He served with the army of the nationalist leader Francisco Franco[1†][6†].

Career Development and Achievements

Camilo José Cela’s career as a writer began in earnest after the Spanish Civil War[7†]. His first novel, “La familia de Pascual Duarte” (The Family of Pascual Duarte), was published in 1942 when he was 26[7†]. This novel established his reputation in Europe and is considered to have given new life to Spanish literature[7†][1†]. The novel is traditional in form and was both a popular and critical success[7†][1†].

In 1951, Cela published his second novel, “La colmena” (The Hive), which solidified his critical and popular reputation[7†][1†]. The novel, with its fragmented chronology and large cast of characters, is an innovative and perceptive story of postwar Madrid[7†][1†].

Cela’s other notable works include “San Camilo, 1936” (1969), which is one continuous stream of consciousness, and “Cristo versus Arizona” (1988)[7†][1†]. He also wrote a Galician trilogy— “Mazurca para dos muertos” (1983; Mazurka for Two Dead People), “La cruz de San Andrés” (1994; “St. Andrew’s Cross”), and “Madera de boj” (1999; Boxwood)[7†][1†].

In addition to his novels, Cela wrote numerous short narratives, poetry, and plays[7†][8†]. His acute powers of observation and skill in colorful description are also apparent in his travel books, based on his trips through rural Spain and his visits to Latin American countries[7†][1†]. The most noted of these are “Viaje a la Alcarría” (1948; Journey to the Alcarría), “Del Miño al Bidasoa” (1952; “From the Miño to the Bidasoa”), and “Judíos, moros y cristianos” (1956; “Jews, Moors, and Christians”)[7†][1†].

Cela was elected to the Royal Spanish Academy in 1957[7†][9†]. He served as a Spanish senator from 1977-79[7†][9†]. Over the course of his career, he won numerous awards, including the national literature prize in 1984 (for Mazurka For Two Dead Men), the Prince of Asturias prize in 1987 (for his life’s work), the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989, and the Cervantes Prize in 1995[10†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Camilo José Cela’s literary career was marked by his innovative and experimental style, which breathed new life into Spanish literature[7†][1†]. Here are some of his main works:

Cela’s works are characterized by their experimentation with form and content, and his narrative style known as tremendismo, a tendency to emphasize violence and grotesque imagery[7†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Camilo José Cela’s work is characterized by a unique and instantly recognizable style, thanks to his characteristic handling of the estribillo (tag line), alliterative and rhythmic prose, parallelistic constructions, grotesque caricatures with moments of tenderness, unabashed lyricism with ever-present irony, and the incorporation of popular sayings or proverbs, vulgarities, and obscenities in the context of academically correct and proper passages[11†].

Cela’s view of humankind and the world is strongly pessimistic, and his works form a general indictment of human society. He sees people as moral and ethical degenerates upholding institutions that are invariably rotten[11†][4†]. His novels, short narratives, and travel diaries are characterized by experimentation and innovation in form and content[11†][12†][1†]. He is credited by some critics with having established the narrative style known as tremendismo, a tendency to emphasize violence and grotesque imagery[11†][12†][1†].

His short stories and novellas range from the exquisitely crafted stylistic tour de force, in which popular language or regional dialect is captured in all of its inimitable regional flavor, to the condensed, violent shocker, the prose poem, and the ironic vignette[11†][12†]. The itinerant wanderings of the narrator of picaresque novels are updated in his travel books, as Cela adapted the form to covert sociopolitical commentary[11†][12†].

Cela was also a refreshingly frank, if somewhat arbitrary and arrogant, critic[11†][12†]. His works chronicle the political, social, and psychological legacy of the Spanish Civil War[11†][13†], and his stylistically diverse works of fiction have made him considered the most important prose writer of contemporary Spain[13†].

Personal Life

Camilo José Cela was born in the rural parish of Iria Flavia, in Padrón, A Coruña, Spain, on May 11, 1916[7†][14†]. He was the oldest child of nine[7†]. His father, Camilo Crisanto Cela y Fernández, was Galician. His mother, Camila Emanuela Trulock y Bertorini, was a Galician of English and Italian ancestry[7†]. The family was upper-middle-class and Cela described his childhood as being "so happy it was hard to grow up"[7†].

He lived with his family in Vigo from 1921 to 1925, when they moved to Madrid[7†]. There, Cela studied at a Piarist school[7†]. In 1931 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and admitted to the sanatorium of Guadarrama, where he took advantage of his free time to work on his novel Pabellón de reposo[7†]. While recovering from the illness Cela began intensively reading works by José Ortega y Gasset and Antonio de Solís y Ribadeneyra[7†].

After winning the Nobel Prize he returned to the Spanish mainland to live (he had lived on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca for many years), and in 1991 he divorced his wife of almost fifty years, María del Rosario Conde Picavea, to marry Marina Castaño[4†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Camilo José Cela: Spanish writer [website] - link
  2. The Nobel Prize - Camilo José Cela – Biographical [website] - link
  3. The Famous People - Camilo José Cela Biography [website] - link
  4. eNotes - Camilo José Cela Biography [website] - link
  5. The Nobel Prize - Camilo José Cela – Facts [website] - link
  6. Britannica Kids - Camilo José Cela [website] - link
  7. Wikipedia (English) - Camilo José Cela [website] - link
  8. Library of Congress - Camilo José Cela [website] - link
  9. The Guardian - Camilo José Cela [website] - link
  10. Goodreads - Author: Camilo José Cela (Author of The Family of Pascual Duarte) [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Camilo José Cela Critical Essays [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Camilo José Cela Analysis [website] - link
  13. eNotes - Camilo José Cela Cela, Camilo José [website] - link
  14. The Nobel Prize - Camilo José Cela – Facts [website] - link
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