2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet: C is for Cela

Camilo Jose Cela Trulock (1916 – 2002) was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature “for a rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability”. He had a great influence on my generation. His life and opinions were controversial but as a writer he should be judged by the quality of his work.

Cela published his first novel, La familia de Pascual Duarte (The Family of Pascual Duarte), when he was 26, in 1942. This novel is also of particular importance as it played a large part in shaping the direction of the post-war Spanish novel. Some of his books can be considered crime fiction in a very broad sense. I would highlight the following novels:

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The Family of Pascual Duarte (Original title: La familia de Pascual Duarte, 1942). Pascual Duarte grew up in a brutal world of poverty, hatred, and depravity, which turned his life into an unrelenting nightmare. This novel consists of Duarte’s public confessions, written from his prison cell where he awaits execution for the series of murders he’s committed. In depicting the horrors of his life – including details about his despicable mother, his unfaithful wife, and his savage crimes – Duarte writes with a childlike sense of the world, portraying himself as a man deformed by the cruel hand of fate that led him down a bloody path. (Book summary taken from Google books)

The Hive (Original title: La colmena, 1951). Banned for many years by the Franco regime, Cela’s masterpiece presents a panoramic view of the degradation and suffering of the lower-middle class in post-Civil War Spain. Readers are introduced to over a hundred characters through a series of interlocking vignettes, transforming this book from a social document into a towering work of inventive fiction. Filled with violence, hunger, and compassion, The Hive captures the ambitions and constraints of life under a dictatorship. (Book summary taken from Google books)

San Camilo 1936: The Eve, Feast, and Octave of St. Camillus of the Year 1936 in Madrid. (Original title: San Camilo 1936, 1969). A story of history as it happens, by turns confusing and startlingly clear, echoing with news and rumours, defined by grand gestures and intimate pauses, the novel leads the reader into the ordinary life of extraordinary times. Beginning on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, San Camilo, 1936 follows a twenty-year-old student’s attempts to sort out his private affairs (sex, money, career) in the midst of the turmoil overtaking his country. In vivid and richly textured prose that distinguishes Cela’s work, the emotional reality of civil war takes on a vibrant immediacy that is humorous, tender, and ultimately transforming as a young man tries to come to terms with the historical moment he inhabits—and hopes to survive. (Book summary taken from Google books)

Mazurka for Two Dead Men (Original title: Mazurca para dos muertos, 1983). In 1936, at the beginning of the war, ‘Lionheart’ Gamuzo is a abducted and killed. In 1939, when the war ends, his brother, Tanis Gamuzo avenges his death. For both these events, the blind accordion player Gaudencio plays the same mazurka. Set in a backward rural community in Galicia, Cela’s creation is in many ways like a contrapuntal musical composition built with varying themes and moods. In alternately melancholy, humorous, lyrical or coarse tones, he portrays a reign of fools. (Book summary taken from Google books)

Camilo José Cela page in Wikipedia.

The Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012 is a Community Meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. By Friday of each week participants try to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. Click HERE to visit the contribution of other participants.

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