Chacel, Rosa

Chacel, Rosa
b. 1898, Valladolid; d. 1994, Madrid
   Rosa Chacel was proud of having been born in 1898, as she liked to associate herself with the iconoclastic spirit of the "Generation of 1898". Chacel's education, life and career, however, were very different from those of the 1898 writers, all of whom were male, although she was fortunate that her parents recognized and encouraged her artistic talents. Chacel spent her first ten years in Valladolid where, owing to a sickly constitution, she was home tutored. After the family moved to Madrid in 1908, she studied art, first in the School of Arts and Crafts (Escuela de Artes y Oficios) (1910) and then in the School of Fine Arts (Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando) (1915). Chacel also frequented the Ateneo and Ramón Gómez de la Serna's vanguard enclave at Café de Pombo. Her fiction is frequently associated with vanguardism, but though she flirted with vanguard linguistic virtuosity in the 1920s and 1930s, she found a unique voice in exile after the Spanish Civil War (1936–9). Her mature style carries traces of vanguardism but it also incorporates the psychological depth and introspection we associate with high modernism.
   In 1921 Chacel married the painter Timoteo Pérez Rubio and accompanied him to Rome where he had a scholarship at the School of Art. During her stay in Rome (1922–7), Chacel devoted herself to reading José Ortega y Gasset, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust, among many others. She also travelled, especially to the culturally avant-garde Paris. Towards the end of the Roman period, Chacel abandoned her earlier inclinations towards the plastic arts and found her vocation in fiction writing. In Rome she wrote her first novel Estación. May vuelta (Round Trip Station) (published 1930). Chacel claims it was written under the influence of Ortega's philosophy, and it is the most avant-garde of her novels. Loosely modelled on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which made a great impact on Chacel when she read it in the early 1920s, the novel narrates the vicissitudes of a young man's relationships with two women and his coming into consciousness of his artistic vocation. More than a narrative, it is a series of moments in which the protagonist's consciousness is revealed. Once re-established in Madrid in 1927, Chacel collaborated in the Revista de Occidente and other journals, where she demonstrated a philosophical sophistication equal to that of contemporary male intellectuals, with essays like her response to Georg Simmel's ideas on love, "Esquema de los problemas practices y actuales del amor" (Outline of the Current Practical Problems of Love) (31 (1931): 129–80). Between 1940 and 1950, Chacel divided her time between Rio de Janeiro, where her husband worked, and Buenos Aires, where her son Carlos attended school. She published articles in prestigious Latin American journals, such as Sur, but her artistic production slowed.
   In 1941 she published Teresa, a novelized biography of the romantic poet José Espronceda's mistress, originally commissioned for a biography series initiated by Ortega. In 1945 Memoirs of Leticia Valle (Memorias de Leticia Valle) appeared. While traces of vanguardism remain in the elliptical nature of the narrative, Memoirs represents a new kind of novel that has affinities with the nouveau roman. All events are revealed from the perspective of the narrator-protagonist (an eleven-year-old girl) who has apparently seduced her teacher. The novel has complex implications for gender as Leticia seems to be equally loved by and in love with her very masculine (machista) tutor and his feminine, musical, and intuitive wife. Between 1950 and 1958 Chacel wrote her finest novel, La sinrazón (Unreason) (published in 1961). La sinrazón is a first-person narration from the perspective of the male protagonist, who is entangled in relationships with two women. His schizophrenia eventually destroys him, and he commits suicide, like the central male character in Memoirs of Leticia Valle. Thus, in retrospect, the novel is narrated by a dead man, a configuration that casts the entire novel in a singular light. La sinrazon is in many ways the embodiment of the philosophical ideas on eros that Chacel developed in her essay Saturnal, which continued the critique of love in the west she had begun in her essay in Revista de Occidente. There she views eros as a totality that cannot be separated from other aspects of life. (Chacel was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a stay in New York from 1959 to 1961 to work on the essay; she completed it in Brazil the late 1960s.) Chacel began to keep a diary while in exile, which was eventually published as Alcancía, Ida (Alcancía, Outward Journey) (1946–66) and Alcancía, Vuelta (Alcancía, Return Journey) (1967–81) in 1982. She also published an autobiography of her first ten years of life—Desde el amanecer (As Dawn Breaks) — in 1972. In 1974 Chacel returned permanently to Madrid. With the aid of a Fundación March grant she was able to complete the novel Barrio de Maravillas (Maravillas District), which won the Premio de la Crítica in 1976. It became the first novel in a trilogy that includes Acrópolis (1984) and Ciencias naturales (Natural Sciences) (1988). These dialogued novels centre on the subtle permutations in relations between members of different classes and genders in the lives of young girls growing up in a Spanish society.
   By Chacel's own assessment, the major influences on her fiction-writing were Proust, Joyce, and Ramón Gómez de la Serna. Her modulated handling of human subjectivity (male as well as female), however, makes one think more of Virginia Woolf, who, like Chacel used sexual ambiguity in her psychological portraits. In addition to the novels mentioned, Chacel also published a book of novel projects Novelas antes de tiempo (Novels Before Their Time) (1981), collections of stories—Sobre el piélago (1952), Ofrenda a una virgen loca (Offering to a Mad Virgin) (1961), Balaam y otros relates (Balaam and other Stories) (1962), and Icada, Nevda, Diada (1971), —another book of poetry, Versos prohibidos (Forbidden Verses) (1978), and several essays of a theoretical nature— La confesión (Confession) (1971), Los títulos (Titles) (1981), Rebañaduras (Parings) (1986), and La lectura es secreto (Reading is a Secret Activity) (1989). Although forgotten and unread for many years in her native Spain, Chacel's work gained significant recognition towards the end of her life. Chacel comes as close as any twentiethcentury Spanish woman writer to achieving canonical status. Her writing habits were slow and laborious, but the care and meticulousness of her craft paid off in works of lasting achievement.
   See also: feminist writing; novel; women's writing
   Major works
   Chacel, R. (1930) Estación. Ida y vuelta, Madrid: Editorial Ulises.
   —— (1945) Memorias de Leticia Valle, Buenos Aires: Emecé.
   —— (1960) La sinrazón, Buenos Aires: Losada.
   —— (1971) La confesión, Barcelona: Edhasa.
   —— (1976) Barrio de Maravillas, Barcelona: Seix Barral.
   Further reading
   - Ministerio de Cultura (1990) Rosa Chacel, Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1987, Barcelona: Anthropos (includes good biographical notes and bibliography).
   - Crispin, J. (1969) "Rosa Chacel y las “ideas sobre la novela" ”, Insula 262: 10 (a study of Chacel's theory of the novel in relation to Ortega).
   - Johnson, R. (1986) "Estación. Ida, y vuelta, de Rosa Chacel: un nuevo tiempo para la novela", in F. de Burgos (ed.) Prosa hispánica de vanguardia, Madrid: Editorial Orígenes, pp. 201–8.
   - Mangini, S. (1987) "Women and Spanish Modernism: The Case of Rosa Chacel", Anales de la Literatura Española Contemporánea 12: 17– 28 (an important study by a leading Chacel scholar).
   - Rodríguez, A. (1983) "Los diarios de Rosa Chacel", Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos 399: 145–7.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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  • Chacel, Rosa — ▪ Spanish writer in full  Rosa Clotilde Cecilia María del Carmen Chacel Arimón  born June 3, 1898, Valladolid, Spain died July 27, 1994, Madrid       leading mid 20th century Spanish woman novelist and an accomplished essayist and poet who, as a… …   Universalium

  • Chacel, Rosa Clotilde Cecilia Maria del Carmen — ▪ 1995       Spanish novelist and poet (b. June 3, 1898, Valladolid, Spain d. July 27, 1994, Madrid, Spain), as a member of the Generation of 1927, balanced her dense narrative style with surrealist imagery and psychological insights. Chacel… …   Universalium

  • Chacel, Rosa — ► (1898 1994) Novelista española. En 1930 publicó la novela Estación ida y vuelta y en 1936 el libro de poemas A la orilla de un pozo. En 1987 se le concedió el premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas. Obras: Memorias de Leticia Valle (1945) y la …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Rosa Chacel — (Valladolid, 3 de junio de 1898 Madrid, 7 de agosto de 1994) Escritora española. Publicó su primera novela en 1930 Estación ida y vuelta. Permaneció exiliada en diferentes países entre los años 1938 y 1974. Fue premio de la Crítica en 1976 por su …   Enciclopedia Universal

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