Critical Evaluation

José María de Pereda’s literary career can best be described as that of an author in search of a style. He started writing when he was twenty-one years old, creating an unpretentious comedy which he rewrote and produced in Santander much later. After that, he continued to write regularly but was not much of a success. He thirsted for recognition, but it was not until 1881, with the publication of EL SABOR DE LA TIERRUCA that he received public acclaim. What distinguished this work was its local flavor, its regional appeal. This was the key for Pereda, and he continued to write in this style. The publication of SOTILEZA established his reputation as an important writer of the period.

Pereda is credited with the creation of the Spanish regional novel. To be sure, there are historical precedents, but he was the first to write novels that can thus be specifically labeled. Moreover, Pereda succeeded in integrating popular language with literary language. Again, there were many other writers who attempted this unification and had some successes, but Pereda was the first novelist to do so consistently and with widespread appeal.

Pereda is a master of dialogue. In SOTILEZA the characters speak with the rhythms and color of everyday speech. In capturing, for example, the local verbal flavor of the Santander fishermen, Pereda transposes to the written page the dynamics and movements of the spoken word.

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