Sender, Ramón (Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)
Ramón Sender 1902-1982
(Full name Ramón José Sender) Spanish novelist, essayist, playwright, and poet.
The following entry provides criticism on Sender's works from 1986 through 1991. See also Ramon Sender Literary Criticism.
Although he spent more than half his life in exile, Sender was considered one of Spain's leading novelists. His novels written after the Spanish Civil War helped to define the expatriate experience.
Sender was born in Alcolea de Cinca, Spain, on February 3, 1902, to a farmer's family. He earned a degree at the University of Madrid, where he was known for his reform political activities. He married twice and had one child. In the early 1920s he fought in Spain's war against Morocco, for which he received military honors. He was an editor and literary critic for El Sol, a liberal publication, and later worked as a freelance writer. Sender was an adamant opponent of the fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco, joining the army of the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936. He left Spain for a speaking tour of the United States and Europe in 1937 and, after the collapse of the Spanish Republic in 1939, was forced to be an exile for the rest of his life. In Mexico and the United States, he taught and lectured at several colleges and universities and contiuned to write in Spanish about his native land. Sender died in San Diego, California, on January 15, 1982.
Sender created nonfiction works, poetry, and plays but is best remembered as a novelist. While still in Spain, he wrote Imán (1930; Pro Patria), a novel focusing on the powerlessness of the underprivileged in Morocco. In Siete domingos rojos (1934; Seven Red Sundays), he profiled the lives and thoughts of a number of communist, anarchist, and trade union strikers in Madrid. Another novel of social protest, Mister Witt en el cantón (1936; Mr. Witt Among the Rebels), is set in 1873 during the time of the revolts against the first Spanish republic. Contraataque (1937; Counter-Attack in Spain), written after he left Spain, is a thinly disguised fictional autobiography based on his civil war experiences. His Proverbio de la muerte (1939; The Sphere) later enlarged as La esfera (1969) combines fantasy and reality in the story of a Spanish refugee on a transatlantic voyage. In 1940 Sender provided a new perspective on a much-maligned Spanish explorer in the play Hernán Cortés. He wrote a number of psychologically and symbolically complex novels from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, including El lugar del hombre (1939; A Man's Place), Epitalamio del prieto Trinidad (1942; Dark Wedding), El rey y la reina (1949; The King and the Queen), and El verdugo afable (1952; The Affable Hangman). In Mosén Millán (1953; Requiem for a Spanish Peasant), Sender portrays a young idealist who opposes monarchists and fascists, only to be betrayed by his own village priest. English translations of the three novels in the trilogy Before Noon (1957) brought Sender to the attention of a new generation of readers. These stories—which include Chronicle of Dawn, Violent Griffin, and The Villa Julieta—provide a nostalgic look at pre-Franco Spain told from the point of view of a young Republican refugee who is dying in a French prison camp during the civil war. Sender continued to write prodigiously until just a few years before his death, producing a number of novels, nonfiction works, and book of short stories, Relatos fronterizos (1970).
Critics have generally divided Sender's fiction into his pre-exile and post-exile periods. The former group, such as Pro Patria and Seven Red Sundays, is concerned with the reactions of Spaniards to the political and social turmoil which occurred during the approach and onset of the civil war. Sender's post-exile works, such as The Sphere and the Before Noon trilogy, were portrayed by critics as more philosophical in tone. Critics called attention to Sender's socially conscious narratives but also to his skillful blending of the surreal and the real. Most critics responded favorably to the nostalgic evocation of the author's youth in the Before Noon series. A 1974 Twayne World Authors Series study of Sender helped to bring the author more attention among English-speaking readers, as did more frequent essays on Sender in bio-critical dictionaries and reference books after that time. Later critics have taken a comparative literature approach to Sender's fiction or have deconstructed specific works. Most have agreed that he is one of the great Spanish novelists of the twentieth century and that the sheer volume and variety of his work call for more critical attention.
El problema religioso en Méjico (nonfiction) 1928
América antes de Colón (nonfiction) 1930
Imán [Pro Patria] (novel) 1930
El verbo se hizo sexo (nonfiction) 1931
Madrid-Moscú (nonfiction) 1934
Siete domingos rojos [Seven Red Sundays] (novel) 1934
Viaje a la aldea del crimen (nonfiction) 1934
Crónica del pueblo en armas (juvenilia) 1936
Mister Witt en el cantón [Mr. Witt Among the Rebels] (novel) 1936
Contraataque [Counter-Attack in Spain] (nonfiction) 1937
El lugar del hombre [A Man's Place] (novel) 1939
Proverbio de la muerte [The Sphere] (novel) 1939
Hernán Cortés (play) 1940
Mexicayotl (nonfiction) 1940
O. P.: Orden público (novel) 1941
Crónica del alba [Chronicle of Dawn] (novel) 1942
Epitalamio del prieto Trinidad [Dark Wedding] (novel) 1942
El rey y la reina [The King and the Queen] (novel) 1949
El verdugo afable [The Affable Hangman] (novel) 1952
Mosén Millán [Requiem for a Spanish...
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SOURCE: Trippett, Anthony M. “Introduction.” In Adjusting to Reality: Philosophical and Psychological Ideas in the Post-Civil War Novels of Ramón J. Sender, pp. 13-21. London, United Kingdom: Tamesis, 1986.
[In the following introduction to his full-length book on Sender's fiction after the Spanish Civil War, Trippett explains his study as an overview of past scholarship and a look at the themes of selected works.]
Sender studies present a number of intriguing difficulties. The author was uncooperative with biographers1 and sometimes rather unreliable when talking about himself. He was reluctant to polish his work once it was written2 and yet often moved later either to repudiate3 it or re-use the material for different ends4. Then there is the sheer volume of it all—more than a hundred full-length books and uncollected articles by the thousand5—with a range and variety to match. Furthermore, the issues and passions of the Spanish Civil War—central to large parts of his life and works—still live on in Spain and elsewhere and this can distort judgments6 on him.
A few years ago7 such difficulties might have deterred a potential student of Sender, now it is to be hoped they will only serve to whet his appetite. He can certainly count on a number of useful critical tools and studies to help...
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SOURCE: Trippett, Anthony M. “Eman hetan.” In Adjusting to Reality: Philosophical and Psychological Ideas in the Post-Civil War Novels of Ramón J. Sender, pp. 43-7. London, United Kingdom: Tamesis, 1986.
[In the following essay, Trippett discusses the importance of the theme of Satanism in one of Sender's novels, the implied criticism of the Catholic Church, and the ways in which Eman hetan forms the basis for Las criaturas.]
There has been some progress in criticism1 of Emen hetan, but no-one has yet done justice to its irony and no attempt has been made to relate the psychology of the characters to the action. I would suggest that there is an important link between Satanism, as seen in this book, and the characters who attend the Satanic ceremony the book describes. The linking of the ideas and the psychology2 of a character is important in Sender, and together with the essential ambiguity of Emen hetan qualify it as typical of Sender's post-Civil War work.
The narrator barely intrudes into the novel in the sense of his making explicit comments on the characters or the Satanists' sabbath. Any judgments or evaluations he makes are implicit in what the characters say, how they react with one another, and in the details of the action. The reader must seek them out.
Most of the sabbath is composed of...
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SOURCE: Vasquez, Mary S. “Ramón Sender and Wartime Defenses: Contraataque as Fictive Autobiography.” In Critical Essays on the Literatures of Spain and Spanish America, pp. 225-33. Boulder, Colo.: Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies, 1991.
[In the following essay, Vasquez separates the real from the fictional aspects of Contraataque, finding it less a piece of propaganda than a careful attempt at self-justification on the part of the author.]
Ramón Sender's 1938 Contraataque must be the most quickly dismissed, misread, and, I feel certain, unread, of all his non-essay works. And, in fact, those critics who through the decades set Contraataque aside after a phrase or a sentence, deeming it unworthy of any genuine scrutiny, consistently classified it within the essay genre, albeit as a perhaps more dashing sub-species, the propagandistic war chronicle and panegyric. I have argued elsewhere for a view of Contraataque as a novel.1 The focus of the present study will be upon the work as fictive autobiography, continuing the line of inquiry pursued by Kathleen Glenn in her analysis of Rosa Chacel's Memorias de Leticia Valle and by Marshall J. Schneider with respect to Sender's own Crónica del alba series. I will suggest that Contraataque is a highly purposive piece of autobiographical fiction designed to offer...
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King, Charles L. Ramón J. Sender: An Annotated Bibliography, 1928-1974. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1976, 287 p.
Extensive list of all works by and about Sender, to 1974, with annotations and complete indexes.
Kern, Robert W. “Sender, Ramón.” In Historical Dictionary of Modern Spain, 1799-1988, pp. 453-54. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1990.
A two-page biographical sketch.
Acker, Robert. “Gustav Regler and Ramón Sender: A Comparative Study of Their Mexican Exile.” In Latin America and the Literature of Exile: A Comparative View of the 20th-Century European Refugee Writers in the New World, edited by Hans-Bernhard Moeller, pp. 311-22. Heidelberg, Germany: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1983.
Presents an overview of Sender and German author Regler as literary figures in exile.
Barr, Lois Baer. Review of Homenage á Ramón Sender, by Ramón Sender. Romance Quarterly 37, no. 2 (May 1990): 248-49.
A review in English of a Spanish-language critical assessment of Sender's work.
Additional coverage of Sender's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors,...
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