Sender, Ramón José

Sender, Ramón José
b. 1901, Chalamera de Cinca; d. 1982, San Diego (California)
   One of the most famous and prolific Spanish writers of his generation; his life was split into two by the Civil War and subsequent exile in the USA. In his Spanish phase he was a left-wing revolutionary who was celebrated both as a novelist and multifaceted journalist. After 1939 his commitment to radical change gave way to a concern to understand and provoke in others the understanding of a reality that might not be subject to change. While he published articles and novels throughout the western hemisphere, censorship in Spain ensured that nothing he wrote was available there for more than twentyfive years. In the twilight of Francoism his works and films of his works became popular in Spain. He returned briefly in 1974.
   Sender spent his early life in his beloved Aragon. He saw action during his military service in Spanish Morocco and this radicalized him. Thereafter almost a thousand newspaper articles and six novels allow us to chart the ideological trajectory of this highly heterodox revolutionary up to 1939. Particularly noteworthy are those articles describing the repression of Casas Viejas in 1933. The outbreak of the Civil War led to his being separated from his wife and her murder behind the insurgent Nationalists" lines. Subsequently Sender was engaged in pro-Republican government propaganda missions in the USA and France. He broke with the communists and was thereafter to become passionately anti-communist—see the novel Los cinco libros de Ariadna (The Five Books of Ariadne). While there is a particular aspect to the dispute-Sender was accused of deserting his post—it is best considered in the broader context of the role of communism during the Civil War, a subject that continues to arouse strong passions. Exile destroyed what remained of his family life; he became estranged from his children when he tried to establish himself in Mexico. In time he regained a relative stability with American citizenship, a second marriage and a post at the University of Albuquerque in 1947, and the period until he moved to Los Angeles in 1963 was particularly productive. Some critics suggest that Sender's powers began to decline after 1970 although he continued writing until his death.
   Sender's pre-1939 work is concerned with analysing the immediate Spanish reality surrounding him, discovering what is wrong with it and trying to change it. Personal experiences, military service, imprisonment under Primo de Rivera and the Madrid telephone workers" strike of 1931, provide the material both for newspaper articles and the early novels Earmarked for Hell (Imán) and Seven Red Sundays (Siete domingos rojos). The concerns are the same whatever the immediate focus and Sender's prize-winning novel, Mr Witt Among the Rebels (Míster Witt en el cantón) which explores failures in the First Republic during the nineteenth century, was undoubtedly intended as a warning to his fellow revolutionaries in 1935. It was followed by The War in Spain (Contraataque), Sender's pro-Republican propaganda work. In the post-1939 exile fiction there was much that was new: American themes—in particular pre-Columbian myths—historical settings far removed in time or space from twentieth-century America or Spain; and some material that defies easy classification; however, a kernel involved the assimilation and reassessment of his recent experience. Autobiogra-phical elements are evident in the nine-novel sequence Before Noon (Crónica del alba) but they are also there in Las criaturas saturnianas (The Children of Saturn) where a host of characters seek values for themselves in a disturbing world they no longer recognize. Moral, philosophical and psychological questions—even in the war novel Requiem for a Spanish Peasant (Requiem par un campesino español) —are pre-eminent. While on occasions Sender is evi-dently dealing with his own internal demons and guilt associated with the death of his first wife, his works subvert cherished beliefs in a manner significant to all readers—he had been to Hell and had returned to speak of it. The form of the novels supports the challenge of the content. Thus the reader has to contend with an eloquent murderer, Saila in The Sphere (La esfera); a wellintentioned executioner, Ramiro in The Affable Hangman (El verdugo afable); and a persuasive suicide, Pepe in Before Noon. Reality is seen as more confusing than was portrayed in the pre-1939 novels.
   In 1995 the Spanish academic world celebrated Sender through two conferences. His rehabilitation is now possible thanks to the work of the Grupo de Estudios del Exilio Literario (Exile Literature Study Group) at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona and the Proyecto Sender supported by the Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses in Huesca who publish a regular Boletín Senderiano.
   See also: Aub, Max; Ayala, Francisco; novel
   Major works
   - Sender, R.J. (1930) Imán, Madrid: Cenit; trans. J. Cleugh, Earmarked for Hell, London: Wishart, 1934 (novel).
   —— (1932) Siete domingos rojos, Barcelona: Balagué; trans. P.Chalmers Mitchell, Seven Red Sundays, London: Faber & Faber, 1936 (novel).
   —— (1936) Míster Witt en el cantón, Madrid: EspasaCalpe; trans. P.Chalmers Mitchell, Mr Witt Among the Rebels, London: Faber, 1937 (novel).
   —— (1938) The War in Spain, trans. P.Chalmers Mitchell, London: Faber, 1937; Counter-Attack in Spain, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1937; Contraataque, Madrid and Barcelona: Nuestro Pueblo, 1938 (war report).
   —— (1942) Crónica del alba, Mexico, 1942; trans. W. Trask Chronicle of Dawn, Doubleday, 1944; trans. W.Trask and F.Hall, in Before Noon, University of Mexico, 1958 (included in a series of novels); Crónica del alba, Barcelona: Delos-Aymá (nine novels).
   —— (1968) Las criaturas saturnianas, Barcelona: Destino (novel).
   —— (1947) La esfera, Buenos Aires: Siglo Veinte; trans. F.Giovanelli, The Sphere, London: Gray Walls Press, 1950 (novel).
   —— (1952) El verdugo afable, Santiago de Chile: Nascimiento; trans. F.Hall, The Affable Hangman, London: Jonathan Cape, 1954 (novel).
   —— (1957) Los cinco libros de Ariadna, New York: Iberica (novel).
   —— (1992) Réquiem por un campesino español, P. McDermott (ed.), Manchester: Manchester University Press (this novel was originally published as Mosén Millán in 1953).
   Further reading
   - King, C.L. (1974) Ramón J.Sender, New York: Twayne Publishers (the first full-length study in English).
   - Lough, F. (1996) Politics and Philosophy in the Early Novels of Ramón J.Sender, 1930-1936: The Impossible Revolution, Lewiston and Lampeter: Edwin Mellen (this study argues that the early novels are best understood with reference to the philosophy of Schopenhauer; it also analyses three later novels which incorporate pre-Civil War material).
   - Trippett, A. (1986) Adjusting to Reality: Philosophical and Psychological Ideas in the Post-Civil War Novels of Ramón J.Sender, London: Tamesis (an exploration of the impact of defeat and exile).
   - Vásquez, M.S. (ed.) (1987) Homenaje a Ramón J. Sender, Newark, NJ: Delaware.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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  • Sender, Ramón José — ▪ Spanish novelist born Feb. 3, 1902, Alcolea de Cinca, Spain died Jan. 15, 1982, San Diego, Calif., U.S.       Spanish novelist, essayist, and educator whose works deal with Spanish history and social issues.       After studying at the… …   Universalium

  • Ramón José Sender Garcés — ( February 3 1901 ndash January 15 1982) was an Aragonese Spanish novelist, essayist and journalist. Life He was born in Chalamera, Huesca in the autonomous region of Aragon in Spain. After participating in the Spanish Morocco War in the 1910s… …   Wikipedia

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