BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Entertainment: Arts
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 12:25 GMT
Cela: Spain's unflinching chronicler
Camilo Jose Cela
Cela: Bon viveur with a taste for the grotesque
The Nobel Prize winning Camilo Jose Cela has died, leaving behind a remarkable literary legacy.

Camilo Jose Cela's breakthrough novel, The Family of Pascual Duarte, was published first in Argentina and not in his native Spain.

The book was deemed too violent and crude for the Spain of the 1940s, which was in the early stages of General Franco's long dictatorship.

It is now often cited as having breathed new life into Spanish literature in the years immediately following the bloody 1936-39 civil war.

The novel owed its freshness in part to the unusually straightforward language Cela used to tell the tale of a rural, uneducated man who commits a series of brutal murders without really knowing why and ends up being executed.

Key works
The Family of Pascual Duarte
The Hive
San Camilo
Journey to the Alcarria
Jews, Moors and Christians
The Windmill and Other Short Fiction
The Secret Dictionary

Cela's subject matter would also have struck Spanish readers as original - though its darkness reflected wider European literary developments of the day.

Another well known work, The Hive, published in 1951, takes place in the cold, depressing post-war years and tells the story of starving writers who sit for hours during the winter in Madrid's literary cafes.

Over his lifetime, Cela produced more than 70 works, including essays, poems and travel books, and 10 novels.

The son of a Spanish father and English mother, Cela was born in 1916 in comfortable surroundings in the town of Iria de Flavia, in the north-western region of Galicia.

He was recruited as a private to fight on the side of the rebel forces led by the future dictator - another native of Galicia - but received serious wounds.

Camilo Jose Cela in 1995
Cela won the Cervantes prize in 1995

Cela later published an anti-fascist magazine that became a forum for opposition to the 36-year Franco dictatorship.

He befriended the American writer Ernest Hemingway, whom he described as a great influence.

In 1989, after winning the Nobel Prize, he was asked how he would like to be remembered.

Using the crude language common to his fiction, Cela said he would like this epitaph: "Here lies someone who tried to screw his fellow man as little as possible."

See also:

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Arts stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Arts stories