Camilo José Cela (SAY-lah) was born May 11, 1916, in Iria Flavia del Padrón, Spain. His father, Camilo Cela, was a customs official who wrote during his spare time. Young Cela attended the University of Madrid from 1933 to 1936, interrupting his higher education to enlist in the rebel army of Francisco Franco. He served for three years and rose to corporal. After the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War he returned to Madrid, attending the university from 1939 to 1943. His first novel, The Family of Pascual Duarte, was published in 1942 and brought him immediate renown. He was widely called Spain’s greatest twentieth century writer of fiction and is considered a master of Castilian prose, with an infallible ear for the language as it is lived and spoken.
Cela is also known for his formal experimentation. The Family of Pascual Duarte is the memoir of a convicted murderer awaiting execution; it is remarkable for its sustained atmosphere of brooding horror and for its insights into the character Duarte, a psychopath who has been compared with certain of Fyodor Dostoevski’s creations. Although it may be classed as an example of the traditional novel, succeeding works have gradually dispensed with most conventional novelistic devices in an effort to produce an imitation of life as Cela comprehends it. The Hive, the second novel to appear in English translation and the work that confirmed his reputation in the English-speaking...
(The entire section is 532 words.)