Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez is among the most widely read Spanish novelists, and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is one of his most popular works. The 1921 Rudolph Valentino film and a 1962 World War II adaptation starring Glenn Ford further popularized the book. Its multicultural perspective, its warnings about the dangers of racism and of twisting logic to defend the indefensible, its prescience about World War II and the causes of modern conflagrations, and its antiwar sentiments based on realistic portraits of the horrors of war make The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse relevant to ages beyond its own. Its underlying picaresque conventions, roguish young hero, and competent, yet somehow innocent, older hero lend it charm and interest, and its character studies of the way in which war transforms individuals and instills a spirit of self-sacrifice and fortitude are psychologically convincing.

The book’s title is derived from the biblical book Revelation, which describes the four scourges that will afflict humanity at the end of time: Disease, War, Famine, and Death. Part 1 of the novel treats the life of the Desnoyers family before the onset of World War I; it ends with the Russian Tchernoff, the French-Argentine Julio Desnoyers, and the Spaniard Argensola discussing the suicide of a German woman and seeing her death as the beginning of the end. Drawing on memories of the famous engravings by Albrecht Dürer, they envision an apocalyptic beast, a blind force of evil, rising from the depths of the sea and threatening to engulf all humanity, with the four horsemen that signal its arrival brutally sweeping the earth ahead of it and...

(The entire section is 682 words.)