Delibes Setién, Miguel

Delibes Setién, Miguel
b. 1920, Valladolid
   Writer
   In 1975, Miguel Delibes was named member of the Royal Academy of Language. In his acceptance speech, Delibes spelt out what have constituted the thematic components of his works: the myth of progress, solidarity, ecology, childhood, death, the city versus the country, ethical and moral concerns. A social realist, Delibes" mission in his novelistic discourse has been to grasp the essence of Spanish life in order to explore human experience in post-Civil War Spain.
   Delibes launched his career with two undistin-guished novels, La sombra del ciprés es alargada (The Long Shadow of the Cypress) (1947), and Aún es de día (It Is Still Daylight) (1949). The former, which won the 1947 Nadal Prize, explores the horrors of war and the question of isolation and death. However, his most definitive novel based on the Spanish Civil War, The Stuff of Heroes (337A, madera de héroe), would not be published until forty years later (1987). The Stuff of Heroes undermines the Nationalist government's myth of a crusade in which Francoists attempted to justify the regime's excesses during the Spanish Civil War and its subsequent efforts to stifle opposition in the name of an authentic Spanish identity. The novelist, nevertheless, discovered his true voice in The Path (El camino) (1950), a Bildungsroman that recounts a small boy's childhood experiences on the eve of his forced departure to go to school in the city. Two contending points of view, the young boy's and that of narrator's, explore on the one hand, a vision of the present and the past, and on the other, a realization that the past must be abandoned for a future of progress. What Delibes questions is the kind of progress that the young boy's education is supposed to engender.
   Delibes explores and subverts indirectly the Francoist rhetoric of economic and social progress in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Smoke on the Ground (Las ratas, 1962) and Los santos inocentes (The Holy Innocents) (1981). Set in rural Spain, both novels highlight the horrid living conditions of the rural folk. The childprotagonist and his father in Smoke on the Ground live in a cave and make a living by killing water rats and selling them to be eaten in the local tavern. The village oracle, the protagonist is remarkably knowledgeable about the natural world, based on careful observation of his environment and nature. The same idea of living in harmony with nature runs through Las santos inocentes as well as El disputado into del señor Cayo (The Fight for Señor Cayo's Vote) (1978). Closely linked with the theme of nature is that of solidarity among individuals. Delibes demonstrates this idea effectively in La hoja roja (The Red Leaf) (1962) in which an old man finds himself completely abandoned by society after his retirement. The novelist believes that if human beings have lost their ability to be in solidarity with each other, it is because of unmediated technological and industrial progress devoid of moral and ethical concerns. The writer's preoccupation with the reckless quest for technological progress is evident in Parábola del náufrago (Parable of the Shipwrecked Man) (1969). As in the anti-Utopian novels such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984, Delibes analyses the nightmare associated with the annihilation of human will and reason. Parábola del náufrago underlines individuals" auto-matization in a technologized world to the extent that they lose their identity. Like other post-war novelists such as Juan Benet, Juan Goytisolo, Torrente Ballester and Martín-Santos, who have attempted to criticize some of the Francoist myths and policies, Delibes also challenges some of the Nationalist government's myths. He, however, discloses alternative ways of comprehending human reality by proposing a possible world for the Spaniard. Delibes substitutes his own vision of a world distinct from the Francoist ideologically constructed one in Five Hours with Mario (Cinco horas con Mario, 1966) in which the ideals of the defunct protagonist become a blueprint for a new Spain. The new Spain in Delibes" view is not one in which progress is defined as the physical and material well-being of a few in the society who exploit and dehumanize others. Progress is the sensible balance between the traditional and the modern. It also signifies for Delibes the individual who lives in close collaboration with nature and emerges as an integral part of it.
   Major works
   Delibes Setién, M. (1947) La sombra del ciprés es alargada, Barcelona: Ediciones Destino (novel).
   —— (1950) El camino, Barcelona: Ediciones Destino; trans. J. and B.Haycraft, The Path, London: Hamilton; New York: John Day Co, 1961 (novel).
   —— (1962) Las ratas, Barcelona: Ediciones Destino; trans. A.Johnson, Smoke on the Ground, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972 (novel).
   —— (1966) Cinco horas con Mario, Barcelona: Ediciones Destino; trans. F.M.López-Morillas, Five Hours with Mario, New York: Columbia University Press, 1988 (novel).
   —— (1969) Parábola, del náufrago, Barcelona: Ediciones Destino (novel).
   —— (1987) 337A, madera de héroe, Barcelona: Ediciones Destino; trans. Frances M.López- Morillas, The Stuff of Heroes, New York: Pantheon Books, 1990 (novel).
   Further reading
   - Agawu-Kakraba, Y.B. (1996) Demythification in the Fiction of Miguel Delibes, New York: Peter Lang (a well documented study of some of the Francoist myths and how those myths are undermined).
   - Alonso de los Ríos, C. (1971) Conversaciones con Miguel Delibes, Madrid: Magisterio Español (based on conversation with Delibes, this work deals with issues that concern him in life and their representation in his novels).
   - Díaz, J.W. (1972) Miguel Delibes, New York: Twayne (provides biographical information on Delibes and analyses some of his novels and short stories).
   - Rey, A. (1975) La originalidad novelística de Miguel Delibes, Santiago de Compostela: Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (scrutinizes themes, style and the originality of Delibes" artistic creation).
   YAW AGAWU-KAKRABA

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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