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Camilo José Cela (1916-2002) - surname in full Cela y Trulock


Spanish writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989. Camilo José Cela continually experimented with the novel form, but he also published travel books and Diccionario secreto (1968-72), a thesaurus of forbidden words end expressions. His works are marked by pessimism, brutal realism, and sardonic humor. Cela wrote with great detail, describing landscapes, environments and hundreds of individuals in his work.

"Through the process of thought man begins to discover hidden truth in the world, he can aim to create his own different world in whatever terms he wishes through the medium of the fable. Thus truth, thought, freedom and fable are interlinked in a complicated and on occasion suspect relationship. It is like a dark passageway with several side-turnings going off in the wrong direction; a labyrinth with no way out. But the element of risk has always been the best justification for embarking on an adventure." (from Nobel Lecture, 1989)

Camilo José Cela was born in Iria-Flavia into a large middle-class family. Cela's mother, Camila Emmanuela Trulock y Bertorini, was of British origin. Camilo Cela y Fernandez, his father, worked as a customs official and was a part-time author. In 1925 the family moved to Madrid, where Cela studied medicine, philosophy and law at the University of Madrid. His first poem, 'Amor immenso', was published in Fábula de la Plata.

At the age of twenty, Cela's studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). He served as a corporal with Franco's army in the Twenty-fourth Regiment of the Infantry of Bailén, a noteworthy choice of a side in the war because literary history knows more writers who were against Franco, starting from Hemingway, Orwell, and García Lorca. (Another Spanish Nobel winner, Jacinto Benavente, sympathized Franco.) Cela witnessed cruelties against civilians. His active duty was curtailed in 1939 by an injury: in a battle, he was hit in the chest by a sharpnel of a grenade. Later  Cela used his experiences in many of his stories.

After resuming his studies, Cela finally graduating at age 27. In 1944 he married María del Rosario Conde Picavea; they had one son, who became an anthropologist. The marriage ended in 1989. Just before the Nobel Prize Cela had met Marina Castaño, a radio journalist, who was 40 years his junior. Cela considered her as his muse. They married in 1991 and at the same time Cela lost touch with several old friends.

Before devoting himself entirely to writing, Cela worked briefly as a censor during Franco's dictatorship and tried bullfighting, painting and acting. The Family of Pascual Duarte (1942) marked the beginning of Cela's literary career. The novel was traditional in form, but due to its controversial content, it first came out in Argentina. In the purported autobiography, Pascual Duarte's prison memoirs, a soul mate of Albert Camus's Mersault awaits execution for the murder of his mother. His life reflects the crude reality of rural Spain in Franco's time – the book was banned for some years, and eventually published in 1946 by Zodíaco (Barcelona), accompanied by a prologue written by Gregorio Marãnon. The story, dealing with the darker side of life, cumulative violence, horror, and despair, was typical for the literary style called tremendismo (anguish plus violence?). Pascual is both a bloody criminal and victim of a destructive social environment. He is born into a dysfunctional family. Both of his parents are alcoholics, his mother, who never bathes, has no empathy or compassion for him, and Pascual himself has two unsuccessful marriages. This modern classic, which had enormous influence on Spanish literature, can be interpreted in many ways – as the voice of a repressed people condemned by a dictatorial regime, or as a story of spiritual emptiness like in Camus's novel The Stranger (1942). Cela leaves open the moral question: "Whose fault? Pascual's? Society's?" The author said once, that it is "not easy to apply the norm to something abnormal."

La Colmena (1951, The Hive) captured three days in the life of Madrid in the aftermath of the Civil War. In the fragmented chronology, which took more than five years to construct, appears some 250 to 360 characters. The novel portrays the poverty, degradation, and hypocrisy of post-war society. In the center of the story writers sit for ours in cafés in winter, observing the world. "The customers of cafés are people who believe that things happen as they do because they happen and that it is never worth while to put anything right. At Doña Rosa's they all smoke and most of them meditate each alone with himself, on those mall, kindly, intimate things which make their lives full or empty." Cela's work inaugurated a novelistic style known as objectivismo, a kind of documentary realism, which drew on cinematic montage technique. Inspired by this new method of narration, writers used camera and taperecorder in order to eliminate the author's voice. However, Cela presents reality in satirical light, strongly colored. The Hive was originally published in Latin America; in Spain it was banned because it was considered subversive by the government censors.

"After the lunch time the waste ground is the resort of old people who come there to feed on the sunshine like lizards. But after the hour when the children and the middle-aged couples go to bed, to sleep and dream, it is an uninhibited paradise with no room for evasion or subterfuge, where all know what they are after, where they make love nobly, almost harshly, on the soft ground which still retains the line scratched in by the little girl who spent the morning playing hop-scotch, and the neat, perfectly round holes dug by the boy who greedily used all his spare time to play at marbles." (from The Hive)

Pabellón de reposo (1944) was first published in serialized form in the Madrid weekly El Español. It told about four men and three women who are dying of tuberculosis. (Cela had a penchant for the number three.) According to Cela, he was forbidden to read his book to terminally ill patients. ". . .  there are no assassinations, no turbulent love affairs, no physical blows upon anyone, and only a minimum of bloodshed, enough for the reader to be sure that he is dealing with patients that are suffering with tuberculosis and not just rheumatism or people who have gone mad because of syphilis," the author explained.

Cela lived largely in Madrid until 1954, when he moved to his new house in La Bonanova, Palma de Mallorca. There he became friends with the artist Pablo Picasso, who produced coloured chalk drawings for Gavilla de fábulas sin amor (1962, Loveless Fables). Cela's literary review, Papeles de son Armadans, which appeared from 1956 to 1979, provided an open-minded forum for contributions from international writers and artists. On the other hand, it has been claimed that during the 1960s, Cela volunteered to serve as an informer for Franco's regime.

In 1957 Cela became member of the Spanish Academy, a conservative institution, which he managed to upset with his Diccionario secreto (1968-72), a compilation of 'unprintable' but well-known words and phrases. After the death of  Generalissimo Francisco Franco, King Juan Carlos appointed Cela to Spain's Parliament in 1977 to help oversee the literary style of the new constitution. Full professorship was granted him at the University of Palma de Mallorca in 1980.

San Camilo, 1936 (1969) is Cela's bitter masterpiece, his first novel to confront the topic of the Civil War. At times every every character is revealed to be corrupt. Narrated as an internal monologue by a young man, the novel was set on the eve of the war. A central symbol is the mirror: "A man sees himself in the mirror and even feels comfortable addressing himself in a familiar way, the mirror has no frame, it neither begins nor ends, or yes, it does habve a splendid frame gilded with patience and with gold leaf but the the quality of its pane is not good . . . " In Mazurca para dos muertos (1983, Mazurka for Two Dead Men) Cela returned again to the war years. In the rainy Galician mountains, a local townsperson is kidnapped and murdered; at book's end, his killing is avenged by his brother according to the ancient folk law. The novel went through eighteen editions by 1990 and Cela was awarded the prestigious Premio Nacional for Literature.

Consistently an experimental novelist, Cela's work of the 1940s and 1950s met with greater critical acclaim than his later novels, which were attacked as unduly whimsical. Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son (1953) was composed in the form of a madwoman's letters. Viaje al Pirineo de Lérida (1965) was a travel book based upon notes of a trip made seven years earlier. Izas, rabizas y colipoterras (1964) had pathetic and grotesque photographs of prostitutes. Oficio de Tinieblas 5 (1973) was an atemporal anti-novel without protagonist, plot, character delineation, or development. It consisted of over one thousand unpunctuared short paragraphs and prose fragments. After its publication Cela 'abdicated' his novelist status and did not return to the genre for nearly a decade.

Cela also published books of travels – he enjoyed traveling in his Rolls-Royce – operas, poetry, essays, short stories, memoirs, and unclassified works, spin-offs of his narratives. Significant examples are the seven volumes of  Nuevas escenas matritenses (1965-66),  Los apuntes carpetovetónicos (1965),  Los viejos amigos (1960-61), Historia de España (1958). Miscellaneous works include  Enciclopedia del erotismo (1982-86) and Viaje a la Alcarria (1948), which presented on one level an escape from the urban milieu to country life. María Sabina (1966) was his first play. Among Cela's other works are Christo Versus Arizona (1988), Los caprichos de Francisco de Goya y Lucientes  (1989), El camaleon soltero (1992), Memorias, entendimientos y voluntades (1993), and La Cruz de San Andrés (1994), which won the Planeta award.

In the 1990s Cela played with religio-erotic and sadistic themes, and used unreliable, limited narrators who unwrite and rewrite the text. Or as Cela himself stated: "Novel is everything that says 'novel' underneath the title." Camilo José Cela died from chronic heart disease in Madrid on January 17, 2002. Before his death Cela was accused of plagiarism by a Spanish writer, María del Carmen Formoso Lapido, who claimed that her novel formed the basis for the La Cruz de San Andrés. Cela described the accusations as a 'fallacy.'

For further reading: El Nuevo Lazarillo De Camilo J. Cela - Politica Y Cultura En Su Palimpsesto by Eloy E. Merino (2000); Camilo Jose Cela Revisited: The Later Novels by Janet Perez ((1999); Understanding Camilo José Cela by Lucile C. Charlebois (1997); Contemporary World Writers, ed. by Tracy Chevalier (1993); Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, ed. by Jean-Albert Bédé and William B. Edgerton (1980); Camilo Jose Cela by D. W. McPheeters (1975); Camilo José Cela by D.W. McPheeters (1969); Forms of the Novel in the work of C.J. Cela by D.W. Foster (1967); The Novels and Travels of Camilo José Cela by Robert Kirsner (1963); La novelística de Camilo José Cela by Paul Ilie (1963); Camilo José Cela by A. Zamora Vicente (1962)

Selected works:

  • La familia de Pascual Duarte, 1942
    - The Family of Pascual Duarte (translation by Anthony Kerrigan, 1964) / Pascual Duarte and His Family (translated by Herma Briffault, 1965)
    - Pascal Duarten perhe (suom. Pirkko-Merja Lounavaara, 1973)
    - film 1976, prod. Elías Querejeta Gárate, dir. by Ricardo Franco, starring Jose Luis Gomez (as Pascual Duarte), Paca Ojea, Hector Alterio, Diana Perez de Guzman. "The characters speak Estramadurian dialect and the images alternate between cool, distant narrative style taken over from Cela's 1942 novel and the gruesome brutality of the killings... The director said of the 'hero': 'he doesn't kill because he is a criminal, Pascal acquires the condition of a criminal because he kills'. The film refuses detailed psychological explanations and leaves the viewers to draw their conclusions about the generation of killers who went on to rule Spain for three decades." (from The BFI Companion to Crime, edited by Phil Hardy, 1997)
  • Pabellón de reposo, 1944 [Rest Home]
  • Nuevas andanzas y desventuras de Lazarillo de Tormes, 1944 [New Adventures and Misfortunes of Lazarillo de Tormes]
  • Esas nubes la dudosa luz del día, 1945 [Those Clouds that Go Past]
  • Mesa revuelta, 1945 [Hotpotch]
  • Pisando la dudosa luz del día, 1945 [Treading the Dubious Light of Day]
  • Esas nubes que pasan, 1945 [The Passing Clouds]
  • El bonito crimen del carabinero y otras invenciones, 1947 [The Tidy Crime of the Policeman and Other Tales]
  • Cancionero de la Alcarria, 1948 [Songbook of the Alcarria]
  • San Juan de la Cruz, 1948 (as Matilde Verdú)
  • Viaje a la Alcarria, 1949
    - Journey to Alcarría (translated by Frances M. López-Morillas, 1964) - TV film 1976, dir. Antonio Giménez Rico, starring Luis Ciges, Antonio Gamero, Joaquín Hinojosa, Julia Lorente, Juan Loriente, Mariano Ozores, Felix Rotaeta
  • El gallego y su cuadrilla y otros apuntes carpetovetónicos, 1949 [The Galician and His Troupe and Other Notes]
  • La naranja es una fruta de invierno, 1951
  • La colmena, 1951
    - The Hive (translated by J.M. Cohen and Arturo Barea, 1953)
    - Mehiläispesä (suom. Leila Ponkala, 1983)
    - film 1982, prod. Televisión Española (TVE), Ágata Films S.A., dir. by Mario Camus, screenplay José Luis Dibildos, starring Victoria Abril, Ana Belén and Concha Velasco, Camilo José Cela (as Matías Martí)
  • Ávila, 1952 (rev. ed., 1968)
  • Santa Balbina 37, gas en cada piso, 1952 [37 St. Balbina Street or Gas in Every Apartment]
  • Timoteo el incomprendido, 1952 [Timoteo the Misunderstood]
    - film 1968, in TV series Cuentos y leyendas, dir. Benito Alazraki, starring Mary Carrillo and Fernando Rey (as Timoteo)
  • Del Miño al Bidasoa, 1952 [From the Miño to the Bidassoa]
    - TV mini-series 1990, prod. Televisión Española (TVE), dir. José Briz Méndez, starring Nicolás Dueñas, José Antonio Labordeta and Antonio Ferrandis
  • Baraja de invenciones, 1953 [Pack of Tales]
  • Café de artistas y otros relatos, 1953 [Artists' Cafe]
  • La cucaña, 1953 [The Greasy Pole]
  • Mrs Caldwell habla con su hijo, 1953
    - Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son (translated by J. S. Bernstein, 1968)
  • Ensueños y figuraciones, 1954 [Daydreams and Imaginings]
  • La catira. Historias de Venezuela, 1955 [The Blonde]
  • Vagabundo por Castilla, 1955
  • Mis páginas preferidas, 1956 [My Favorite Pages]
  • Judíos, moros y cristianos, 1956 [Jews, Moors, and Christians]
  • El molino de viento y otras novelas cortas, 1956 [The Windmill and Other Short Novels]
  • La rueda de los ocios, 1957 [The Wheel of Leisure Time]
  • La obra literaria del pintor Solana, 1957 [The Literary Works of Solana, the Painter]
  • Nuevo retablo de don Cristobita, 1957 [Don Cristoba's New Tableau]
  • Cajón de sastre, 1957 [Hodge-podge]
  • Los cuatro Ángeles de San Silvestre ó Noria del Tiempo ido y Buena Voluntad del que vendrá, 1957
  • Recuerdo de Don Pío Baroja, 1958 [Memories of Don Pío Baroja]
  • Historias de España. Los ciegos. Los tontos, 1958 [Stories About Spain] 
  • Primer viaje andaluz, 1959 [First Andalusian Journey]
  • La rosa, 1959 [The Rose]
  • Cuaderno del Guadarrama, 1959 [Guadarrama Notebook]
  • La cucaña: memorias, 1959
  • La verdadera historia de Gumersinda Costulluela, moza que prefirió la muerte a la deshonra, 1959
  • Los viejos amigos, 1960-61 (2 vols.) [Good Old Friends]
  • Cuatro figuras del '98: Unamuno, Valle-Inclán, Baroja y Azorín, 1961 [Four Important Poeple of the Generation of '98]
  • Homenaje y recuerdo a Gregorio Marañón (1887-1960), 1961 (editor)
  • Tobogán de hambrientos, 1962 [Tobogan of Starving People]
  • Gavilla de fábulas sin amor, 1962
    - Loveless Fables (tr. 1994)
  • Obra completa, 1962-1989 (vols. 1-12, 14-17)
  • Las compañías convenientes y otros fingimientos y cegueras, 1963 [Advisable Companionships]
  • Toreo de salón. Farsa con acompañamiento de clamor y murga, 1963 [Armchair Bullfighting]
  • Once cuentos de fútbol, 1963 [Eleven Stories About Soccer]
  • El solitario y Los sueños de Quesada de Rafael Zabaleta, 1963 [The Recluse and Quesada's Dreams, by Raphael Zabaleta]
  • Garito de hospicianos o guirigay de imposturas o bombollas, 1963 [Gambling Den of Hospiced]
  • Diez artistas de la escuela de Mallorca, 1963
  • Izas, rabizas y colipoterras. Drama con acompañamiento de cachondeo y dolor de corazón, 1964
  • Cuentos: (1941-1953): Nuevo retablo de Don Cristobita: arbitrios, figuraciones y alucinaciones, 1964
  • Viajes por España, 1965-68 (3 vols.)
  • Páginas de geografía errabunda, 1965 [Pages about Wandering]
  • La familia del héroe, 1965 [The Hero's Family]
  • Viaje al Pirineo de Lérida, 1965 [Voyage to the Pyrenean Lerida]
  • : Apuntes carpetovetónicos, 1965
  • Nuevas escenas matritenses, 1965-66 (7 vols.) [New Scenes from Madrid]
  • XAM, 1966 (with Cesáreo Rodríguez Aguilera)
  • Dos romances de ciego, 1966
  • Madrid. Calidoscopio callejero, marítimo y campestre de Camilo José Cela para el Reino y Ultramar, 1966 (illustrated by Juan Esplandiu)
  • Caleidoscopio callejero, marítimo y campestre de C. J. C. para el reino y ultramar, 1966
  • El ciudadano de Iscariote Reclús, 1966 [Citizen Iscariote Reclus]
  • Viaje A U.S.A., 1967 [Journey to the USA]
  • María Sabina, 1967 (play, music by Balada, prod. in New York, 1970)
  • Diccionario secreto, 1968-72 (2 vols.) [Secred Dictionary]
  • El carro de heno o el inventor de la guillotina, 1968 (play) [The Haywain or the Inventor of the Guillotine]
  • Café de artistas: y otros cuentos, 1969 [Artists' Cafe and Other Short Stories]
  • La bandada de palomas, 1969 [The Flock of Pigeons]
  • San Camilo, 1936: Visperas, festividad y octava de San Camilo del ano 1936 en Madrid, 1969
    - San Camilo: 1936: The Eve, Feast and Octave of St. Camillus of the Year 1936 in Madrid (translated by J.H.R. Holt, 1992)
  • Homenaje a El Bosco I, 1969 (play)
  • Al servicio de algo, 1969 
  • Timoteo el incomprendido y otros papeles ibéricos, 1970
  • Barcelona. Calidoscopio callejero, marítimo y campestre de Camilo José Cela para el Reino y Ultramar, 1970 (illustrated by Federico Lloveras)
  • La cucaña, 1970
  • La bandada de palomas, 1970
  • Cinco glosas y otras tantas verdades de la silueta que un hombre trazó de sí mismo, 1971 [Five Glosses of So Many Other Truths about the Silhouette that a Man Drew of Himself]
  • Obras selectas, 1971 [Selected Works]
  • La mancha en el corazón y los ojos, 1971 [La Mancha in One's Heart and Eyes]
  • La bola del mundo: escenas cotidianas, 1972 [The Globe: Everyday Scenes]
  • Fotografías al minuto, 1972
  • Cristino Mallo, 1973
  • A vueltas con España, 1973 [Again... Talking about Spain]
  • Balada del vagabundo sin suerte, 1973  [The Luckless Vagabond's Ballad and Other Loose Papers]
  • Oficio de tinieblas 5, 1973 [Service of Darkness 5]
  • Cuentos para después del baño, 1974 [Stories to Read after One's Bath]
  • El tacatá oxidado, 1974 [The Rusted Walking Frame]
  • Prosa, 1974 (edited by Jacinto-Luis Guerña)
  • Diccionari català-castellà [i castellà-català], 1974
  • El Reto de los halcones: antología de la prensa apocalíptica española en la apertur, 1975
  • Danza de las gigantas amorosas, 1975
  • Rol de cornudos, 1976 [Catalog of Cuckholds]
  • Enciclopedia del erotismo, 1976
  • El molino de viento, y otras novelas cortas, 1977
  • Crónica del cipote de Archidona, 1977
  • La insólita y gloriosa hazaña del cipote de Archidona, 1977
  • Café de artistas y otros papeles volanderos, 1978
  • La Celestina / Fernando de Rojas, 1979 (adaptation)
  • Obra completa, 1962-1978 (10 vols.) [Complete Works]
  • Los sueños vanos, los ángeles curiosos, 1979 [Futile Dreams, Strange Angels]
  • Vuelta de hoja, 1981 [Next Page]
  • Lectura del Quijote, 1981 (4 vols.)
  • El espejo y otros cuentos, 1981 [The Mirror and Other Short Stories]
  • Los vasos comunicantes, 1981 [Cummunicating Vessels]
  • Album de taller, 1981 [Workshop Album]
  • Obra completa, 1962-83 (14 vols.) [Complete Works]
  • Mazurca para dos muertos, 1983
    - Mazurka for Two Dead Men (translated by Patricia Haugaard, 1992)
    - Masurkka kahdelle kuolemalle (suom. Sanna Pernu, 1986)
  • El juego de los madroños, 1983 [The Game of the Three Strawberry Trees]
  • La obra completa, 1973-1984 [Works]
  • Madrid, color y silueta, 1985 (illustrated by Estrada Vilarrasa)
  • De genes, dioses y tiranos: La determinación biológica de la moral, 1985
    - On Genes, Gods and Tyrants: The Biological Causation of Morality (translated by Penelope Lock, 1987)
  • Enciclopedia del erotismo, 1982-86 (3 vols., rev. ed. Diccionario del erotismo, 2 vols., 1988) [Encyclopedia of Eroticism]
  • Nuevo viaje a la Alcarria, 1986 [New Journey to the Alcarria]
  • La resistible ascensión de Arturo Ui, de Bertolt Brecht , 1986 (translator)
  • El asno de Buridán, 1986
  • Dedicatorias, 1986
  • Conversaciones españolas, 1987
  • Cristo versus Arizona, 1988
    - Christ Versus Arizona (translation by Martin Sokolinsky, 2007)
  • Las orejas del niño Raúl, 1989
  • Vocación de repartidor, 1989
  • Los Caprichos de Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, 1989
  • Reloj de arena, reloj de sol, reloj de sangre, 1989
  • Galicia, 1990 (illustrated by Zaxiero, photographs by Vitor Vaqueiro)
  • Obras completas, 1989-90 (37 vols.) [Complete Works]
  • El hombre y el mar, 1990
  • Cachondeos, escarceos y otros meneos, 1991  
  • Blanquito (peón de Brega), 1991
  • Desde el palomar de Hita, 1991
  • Páginas escogidas, 1991 [Selected Pages]
  • Torerías: El gallego y su cuadrilla, Madrid, Toreo de salón y otras páginas taurinas, 1991
  • El camaleón soltero, 1992
  • Memorias, entendimientos y voluntades, 1993 [Memories, Understandings, and Wishes]
  • El huevo del juicio, 1993 [The Egg of Judgement]
  • La sima de las penúltimas inocencias, 1993
  • Cachondeos, escarceos y otros meneos, 1993
  • El asesinato del perdedor, 1994 [The Murder of the Loser]
  • La cruz de San Andrés, 1994 [St. Andrew's Cross]
  • La dama pájara y otros cuentos, 1994 [Lady Bird and Other Short Stories]
  • A bote pronto, 1994
  • El color de la mañana, 1996
  • Poesía completa, 1996
  • Diccionario geográfico popular de España, 1998
  • Madera de boj, 1999
    - Boxwood (translated by Patricia Haugaard, 2002)
  • Historias familiares, 1999 [Family Stories]
  • Cuaderno de El Espinar. Doce mujeres con flores en la cabeza, 2002
  • Retorno a Iria Flavia: Obra Dispersa y Olvidada, 1940-2001, 2006 (ed. Olivia Rodríguez Gonzáles)
  • Correspondencia con el exilio, 2009 (foreword by Eduardo Chamorro)

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