Old Spain and New Spain: The Travel Narratives of Camilo José Cela

Old Spain and New Spain: The Travel Narratives of Camilo José Cela

Old Spain and New Spain: The Travel Narratives of Camilo José Cela

Old Spain and New Spain: The Travel Narratives of Camilo José Cela

Synopsis

This is the first, book-length study of the six travel narratives published by the 1989 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Preliminary chapters focus on technical and thematic aspects of travel-writing, and on the author's approach to the genre. Cela's travel works, which appeared between 1948 and 1986, are examined in turn, with a focus on the construction of the narratives and also on the themes that are developed in each of them. There is an assessment of the author's treatment of topographical, cultural, historical, and social material in his accounts of the journeys he made through various areas and regions of Spain, as well as a consideration of the way in which these narratives reflect changes taking place in Spain during the Franco regime and in the decade following the dictator's death. David Henn teaches modern Spanish fiction, drama, and travel literature at University College London.

Excerpt

Camilo José Cela was born on 11 May 1916 in Iria Flavia, a hamlet adjacent to the Galician town of Padrón and which lies twenty kilometers southwest of Santiago de Compostela. He died, in Madrid, on 17 January 2002. in a literary career spanning nearly six decades, Cela published novels and short stories, travel books, poetry, criticism on literature and the plastic arts, dictionaries of eroticism and of scabrous usage, as well as countless essays and shorter pieces on a wide range of cultural and social matters. in 1956 he founded the literary magazine Papeles de Son Armadans [Papers of Son Armadans] and it quickly became a vehicle for the dissemination of creative and critical writing from within Spain and also from abroad. It was a point of contact with Spanish artists and intellectuals in exile, and a publication with a livelier and more independent approach than most of the cultural organs of 1950s Spain. Cela was the sole editor of this prestigious and handsomely produced magazine that he closed in 1979, four years after the death of General Franco, with the simple valedictory comment that it had served its purpose.

Yet the Galician author is still best known for three books that he published in the early part of his career: his first novel, La familia de Pascual Duarte [The Family of Pascual Duarte] (1942); his first travel book, Viaje a la Alcarria [Journey to the Alcarria] (1948); and his fourth novel, La colmena [The Hive] (1951). These works are now regarded as modern classics of Spanish literature. Cela continued writing travel narratives until the mid-1980s and fiction well into the 1990s, and in 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Although at the Stockholm ceremony the presentation address for the author included brief assessments of each of the principal novels he had published from the 1940s to the 1980s, there was just a passing reference to what were termed his “classic travel books of the 1940s and 1950s.” This sidelining of what is undoubtedly the second most important part of Cela’s creative output is typical of the general response to all but the first of his travel works.

Nonetheless, the award of the Nobel Prize stirred a new interest in Cela’s writing, an interest that had begun to flag in the 1970s and 1980s . . .

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