Aub, Max

Aub, Max
b. 1903, Paris; d. 1972, Mexico City
   Max Aub was born to a German father and French mother who left France to live in Spain on the outbreak of WWI. On leaving school, Aub did not opt for a university education but instead became a travelling salesman. He indulged his passion for literature in the periods of leave between his business trips around Spain, which gave him an intimate knowledge of his adopted country and its linguistic diversity. Aub collaborated on the literary review España; his early works Geografía (Geography) and Fábula verde (Green Fable) show him to be a follower of Ortega's theory of art for art's sake. However, he underwent a profound transformation when fascism loomed over Europe, inveighing against Ortega for persuading his generation to turn its back on the pueblo and popular culture. The outbreak of the Civil War found Aub in Madrid, and although his poor eyesight prevented him from becoming a combatant, he worked actively for the Republican cause, collaborating with Malraux in 1938 in a film version of L'Espoir (Sierra de Teruel, titled Spanish Earth in the UK). After the war, he was lucky to escape with his life: after fleeing Franco's Spain he was interned in prisons and concentration camps in France and Algeria for three years before finally being released to emigrate to Mexico. Aub produced many novels, short stories, poetry and one-act plays. His enduring work, however, remains the collection of novels and short stories produced between 1943 and 1968, entitled El laberinto mágico (The Magic Labyrinth). Inspired by such writers as Jules Romains and Roger Martin du Gard, Aub uses the technique known as unanimism to portray the tortuous events of the Spanish Civil War and its after-effects in exile: hundreds of characters appear and re-appear—often in more than one novel—in a confused sequence of tragic events as the Second Republic is defeated in a war of attrition by the Nationalist armies. Many of the characters of Field of Honour (Campo cerrado), Campo de sangre (Field of Blood), Campo abierto (Open Country), Campo del moro (The Moor's Field) and Campo de los almendros (The Almond Grove) are taken from history and bear their real names; others ("Hope" for Hemingway) are disguised but nonetheless historical; finally, there are the myriad fictitious characters. Like the Spanish writers of the "Generation of 1898", Aub is concerned to understand the "problem of Spain". His intellectual heroes debate the causes of the cataclysm that has overtaken them. A committed writer, Aub never allows his political engagement to descend into propaganda. If there is cowardice and treachery, it is just as likely to be encountered on his own side as on the enemy's. And towering above examples of human frailty and degradation amidst this holocaust are portrayals of human love, loyalty and sacrifice.
   Further reading
   - Thomas, G. (1992) The Novel of the Spanish Civil War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (an analysis which contains frequent references to the novels and short stories of El laberinto mágico).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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