Catholic Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Mary R. Reichardt | Go to book overview

PILAR MILLÁN ASTRAY (1879–1949)

BIOGRAPHY

Pilar Millán Astray was born in 1879 during the Restauración, the Spanish equivalent of the Victorian period, in a family that belonged to the bourgeoisie of conservative La Coruña in the province of Galicia. She was the daughter of José Millán Astray and Pilar Terneros; her father was a bureaucrat and writer. The family moved to Madrid when don José was named director of the Madrid Prison. When Pilar was little more than twenty years old, she married Javier Pérez de Linares of the high society of Valencia in the Spanish Levant. They had three children, Javier and Carmen who were born in Valencia, and Pilar who was born in Madrid. When her husband died young, Pilar Millán Astray decided to become a professional writer to earn a living. She won the Blanco y Negro literary award in 1919 with her short novel La hermana Teresa [Sister Teresa]. Blanco y Negro was a very prestigious, monarchic, illustrated magazine. She also published frequently in newspapers and other magazines during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, among them ABC, La nación, El espectador, and El Sol. These were first-class publications; ABC and Blanco y Negro still exist today, and they represent the best of conservative journalism in Spain.

Millán Astray soon moved to theater, the genre that made her famous. She became the most important writer of sainetes of her time, at a moment when sainetes were very popular. These one-act plays, with a strong comic component and moralizing ending, and often featuring members of the middle class as protagonists, had held the favor of the public since the seventeenth century. Millán Astray extended the sainete to a three-act play, creating a hybrid between the sainete and bourgeois high comedy. The results are irregular, and sometimes it is obvious that a one-act play was artificially extended to get a longer performance. However, her success was extraordinary. She was the most performed playwright in Madrid during the 1923–1924 season, with more than one hundred performances. In 1926, critics declared her one of the three most popular playwrights, besides Muñoz Seca and Carlos Arniches. Her most

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