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Juan Valera

Juan Valera Juan Valera[3†]

Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano (October 18, 1824 - April 18, 1905) was a significant figure in 19th-century Spanish literature. He was not only a novelist but also a stylist, diplomat, and politician[1†][2†][3†]. His work is characterized by deep psychological analysis, especially of female characters[1†]. Valera was opposed to naturalistic narrative and believed that the novel was a form of poetry[1†].

Early Years and Education

Juan Valera was born on October 18, 1824, in Cabra, Spain[4†][5†]. His father was a Spanish artist named Juan Vivion de Valera[4†]. Unfortunately, his father passed away when he was just two years old[4†][5†]. After the death of his father, he was sent to live with his maternal relatives in Ireland[4†][5†].

Valera’s early education played a significant role in shaping his future. He was an intelligent and athletic young man who developed a passion for his cultural heritage at a young age[4†][5†]. This passion later influenced his involvement in the Gaelic revival, a national revival of interest in the Irish language[4†][5†].

After completing his schooling, Valera attended the Blackrock College and then the Rockwell College[4†][5†]. His love for rugby and his athletic abilities were evident during his time at these institutions[4†][5†].

Valera’s early years and education not only shaped his character but also laid the foundation for his future career as a novelist, stylist, diplomat, and politician[4†][5†].

Career Development and Achievements

Juan Valera’s career was marked by significant achievements in both literature and politics[6†][7†][3†].

In the literary world, Valera is best known for his novels, which are characterized by deep psychological analysis, especially of female characters[6†]. His most notable works include “Pepita Jiménez” (1874), “Doña Luz” (1879), “Juanita la Larga” (1895), “Las ilusiones del doctor Faustino” (1875), “Morsamor” (1899), and “El comendador Mendoza” (1877)[6†][7†]. He also made significant contributions to literary criticism and translation[6†].

In addition to his literary career, Valera also had a successful career in politics and diplomacy[6†][3†]. He served as a deputy, senator, and under-secretary of state in Madrid[6†]. As part of the diplomatic corps, he traveled to Europe and America[6†].

Valera’s career is a testament to his diverse talents and his ability to excel in multiple fields. His work in literature and politics has left a lasting impact on Spanish culture[6†][7†][3†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Juan Valera’s literary output was extensive and varied, encompassing novels, translations, literary criticism, short stories, plays, and numerous essays[3†][1†]. Here are some of his main works:

Valera’s prolific literary output also includes some very fine translations, including parts of Goethe’s “Faust” and “Daphnis and Chloe” (1907); literary criticism of “Don Quixote”, “Faust”, and other works; short stories, including “El pájaro verde” (1887; “The Green Bird”); plays (“La venganza de Atahualpa”); and numerous essays on religion, philosophy, history, and politics[3†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Juan Valera’s works, especially his narrative, revolved around two main topics: love and religion, and the philosophical fight between the two[8†]. He understood women and portrayed them accurately; in fact, most of the main characters in his books are women[8†]. His novels are characterized by deep psychological analysis of their characters, especially women[8†][1†][10†].

Valera was opposed to naturalistic narrative and held that the novel was a form of poetry[8†][1†][10†]. His rejection of Realism and Romanticism was caused by the restrictions of these two movements, through which he wasn’t able to entirely develop his fantasy in his works[8†]. He only used Realism when he chose to write real settings (like his home, Andalusia) or chose more realistic characters, although he always rejected the less appealing aspects of reality[8†].

His first novel, “Pepita Jiménez”, published in 1874, was notable for its terse, elegant style and masterful character development, and it marked the renaissance of the Spanish novel[8†][10†]. This novel is mostly written as if it were a letter and tells the story of a widow who agrees to help the father of a seminarian in keeping his son off his false vocation[8†].

Valera was greatly admired by his contemporaries and is considered one of the most important authors of the Spanish prose written in the second half of the 19th century[8†]. His works, especially “Pepita Jiménez”, were translated into multiple languages and sold numerous copies, reflecting his significant influence and the universal appeal of his writing[8†].

Personal Life

Juan Valera was born in 1824 in Córdoba, Spain[8†][3†]. He was one of the most educated men of his period, and his contemporaries greatly admired him[8†]. In 1861, he married Dolores Delavat in Paris[8†][3†]. During his diplomatic career, he served as an ambassador in various cities including Lisbon, Brussels, Vienna, and Washington[8†][3†]. It was during his time in Washington that he had an affair with Katherine C. Bayard, the daughter of the US Secretary of State[8†].

Valera was known to be an epicurean, an ironic literate who loved women and sex[8†]. His works often revolved around two main topics: love and religion, and the philosophical fight between the two[8†]. He had a deep understanding of women and portrayed them accurately in his books[8†].

During his last years, as he was turning blind, he held a popular night literary gathering in his house in Madrid[8†]. He collaborated in different magazines since his times as a student in Granada, and he was also director of several newspapers and magazines[8†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano’s legacy is marked by his significant contributions to Spanish literature and his influential role as a diplomat and politician[1†][3†]. His novels, characterized by deep psychological analysis and a unique poetic style, have left a lasting impact on Spanish literature[1†][3†]. His best-known works, including “Pepita Jiménez”, “Doña Luz”, and “Juanita la Larga”, continue to be celebrated for their masterful character development and elegant style[1†][3†].

Valera’s translations, literary criticism, short stories, plays, and essays on religion, philosophy, history, and politics further demonstrate his literary prowess and intellectual depth[1†][3†]. His letters to intellectual figures of his time provide valuable insights into many topics of his era[1†].

Beyond his literary achievements, Valera’s diplomatic and political career was equally noteworthy. He served in various capacities, including as a deputy, senator, under-secretary of state in Madrid, and as an ambassador to Lisbon, Washington, and Brussels[1†][3†]. He was also elected to the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1900[1†][3†].

Valera’s work continues to be studied and admired today, and his influence on Spanish literature and his insights into the human psyche remain relevant. His life and work serve as a testament to his intellectual prowess and his mastery of the written word[1†][3†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano: Spanish novelist [website] - link
  2. BrowseBiography - Juan Valera Life And Biography [website] - link
  3. Wikipedia (English) - Juan Valera y Alcalá-Galiano [website] - link
  4. Wikipedia (English) - Éamon de Valera [website] - link
  5. The Famous People - Éamon De Valera Biography [website] - link
  6. Transfermarkt - Juan Valera - Career stats [website] - link
  7. Wikipedia (English) - Juan Valera (footballer) [website] - link
  8. Classic Spanish Books - The life & works of Juan Valera [website] - link
  9. Encyclopedia.com - Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano [website] - link
  10. Britannica Kids - Juan Valera [website] - link
  11. Wikipedia (Spanish) - Juan Valera [website] - link
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