1989 Winner of Nobel Prize In Literature
Camilo José Cela
Camilo José Cela was born in the rural parish of Iria Flavia, in Padrón, Province of A Coruña, Spain, on 11 May 1916. He was the oldest child of nine. His father, Camilo Crisanto Cela y Fernández, was Galician and his mother, Camila Emanuela Trulock y Bertorini, while also Galician, was of English and Italian ancestry. The family was upper-middle-class and Cela described his childhood as being “so happy it was hard to grow up.”
The civil war ended in 1939 and Cela demonstrated his indecisiveness towards his university studies and ended up working in a bureau of textile industries. It was here where he began to write what would become his first novel, La familia de Pascual Duarte (The Family of Pascual Duarte), which was finally published when he was 26, in 1942.
Pascual Duarte has trouble finding validity in conventional morality and commits a number of crimes, including murders, for which he feels nothing. In this sense he is similar to Meursault in Albert Camus‘s novel The Stranger. This novel is also of particular importance as it played a large part in shaping the direction of the post-World War II Spanish novel.
Cela became a censor in Francoist Spain in 1943. Perhaps ironically, his best known work was produced during a period where his own writing came under scrutiny from his fellow censors, including La colmena (The Hive) which was published in Buenos Aires in 1951, having been banned in Spain. The novel features more than 300 characters and a style showing the influence of both Spanish realism (best exemplified by Miguel de Cervantes and Benito Pérez Galdós) and contemporary English and French-language authors, such as Joyce, Dos Passos, and Sartre. Cela’s signature style—a sarcastic, often grotesque, form of realism—is epitomized in La colmena.
From the late 1960s, with the publication of San Camilo 1936, Cela’s work became increasingly experimental. In 1988, for example, he wrote Cristo versus Arizona (Christ versus Arizona), which tells the story of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in a single sentence that is more than a hundred pages long.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1989 “for a rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability”.