Ramón Pérez de Ayala’s accomplishments can best be summarized in terms of the attributes of the famed generación del 1898, or Generation of ’98, of which he is generally considered a member. Like most of the leading writers of this generation, he was active in the political as well as the literary arenas of his time, seeking radical changes in both and hoping to effect a cultural and literary renaissance in Spain. Accordingly, he excelled in writing essays on current political and cultural topics together with novels that had no less a goal than the improvement of the world. In these novels, he was able both to express and to transcend the circumstances of his time and place. Combining an intensely regional viewpoint with universal human concerns, Pérez de Ayala fused invention and philosophy in an artful rendering of reality. His greatest achievements in the novel derive from the classical vision that informs his work, transforming individuals into archetypes, local politics into universal motifs.
It is undoubtedly as a result of this vision that Pérez de Ayala’s novels have been translated into English, German, Japanese, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Swedish. Many of them have received a great deal of international critical attention and acclaim, particularly Belarmino and Apolonio, widely regarded as his best. Critics of Pérez de Ayala may note that he exposes the fictionality of his characters with the aplomb of Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, ironically invites the reader to skip “superfluous” sections with no less technical dexterity than Julio Cortázar, and explores the boundary between dream and reality with the eloquence of Jorge Luis Borges. Pérez de Ayala received considerable recognition during his lifetime. He was awarded the Spanish National Prize for Literature for Tiger Juan in 1926, was elected to the Royal Spanish Academy in 1928, and was spoken of in that same year as a candidate for the Nobel Prize.