Castillo-Puche, José Luis

Castillo-Puche, José Luis
b. 1919, Yecla (Murcia)
   Writer
   Castillo-Puche subscribes to the view that a serious work of fiction must contain an existential conflict. A good novel should include everything that deals with human beings and try to explain them. These views characterize his narratives, the three prevalent elements of which are conflict, technique and language. Conflict includes humanity's confrontation with destiny. Castillo-Puche's technique is shaped by the belief that the linear form of the novel does not truly reflect the human condition, for dreams, nightmares, fantasies, disorderly thinking, and unexpected incidents do not occur in chronological sequence. His novels, therefore, often experiment with point of view and chronology, and abound in lyricism and humour. His vocabulary features expressions from his native Murcia, including popular speech. Con la muerte al hombro (With Death on Your Back) (1954), his first novel, portrays a spiritual and physical invalid, living unhappily in his native village. Past and present are bridged by the unhappy protagonist's life. Sin camino (Without a Path) (1956), possibly autobiographical, shows the pitfalls of a religious vocation overwhelmed by worldly temptations. El vengador (The Avenger) (1956) narrates the thirst for revenge of those returning from the Civil War. Hicieron partes (They Divided the Spoils) (1957) received the Laurel Prize for Catholic novels and the prestigious Cervantes Prize. Hicieron partes emphasizes that money is the root of all evil, portraying six underprivileged families whose lives are disrupted by a large inheritance. Misión a Estambul (Mission in Istanbul) (1954) essays the spy thriller with mixed results. Jeremías el anarquista (Jeremiah the Anarchist) (1975) denounces Spain's social and political imbalances, while Como ovejas al matadero (Like Sheep to the Slaughterhouse) (1971) revisits the theme of priests confronting the dichotomy of spirit and flesh. This is the first volume of a trilogy, El cíngulo (The Priest's Girdle). Hemingway, much admired by Castillo- Puche, was a frequent companion when the American writer lived in Madrid. Castillo- Puche's essays treat Hemingway's influence on Spanish letters and include a biography, Hemingway entre la vida y la muerte (Hemingway Between Life and Death) (1968).
   Most of Castillo-Puche's narratives take place in Hécula, the fictional name of his native Yecla.
   His most studied work, the "trilogy of liberation", comprises El libro de las visiones y las aparicioanes (The Book of Visions and Apparitions) (1977); El amargo sabor de la retama (The Bitter Taste of Broom) (1979) and Conocerás el poso de la nada (You Shall Know the Dregs of Nothingness) (1982), three novels set in Hécula and all treating religious fanaticism, ignorance and hypocrisy.
   Further reading
   - Belmonte-Serrano J. (1993) " La madre: Mito y realidad en la narrativa de José Luis Castillo- Puche", La Chispa " 93: Selected Proceedings, New Orleans, LA: Tulane University Press, pp. 27–31 (an analysis of some motifs appearing in his novels).
   - Diez de Revenga, F.J. (1995). "Castillo-Puche en los orígenes de su novela", Murgetana 91: 89–98 (a study of the origins of the author's narrative).
   - Roberts, G. (1973) Temas existenciales en la novela española de posguerra, Madrid: Gredos (chapter V studies Castillo-Puche).
   GENARO J. PÉREZ

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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