Gerald Brenan Essay - Critical Essays

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy

Gerald Brenan

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Gerald Brenan was an English writer, whose books on Spain—THE SPANISH LABYRINTH: AN ACCOUNT OF THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL BACKGROUND OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, THE LITERATURE OF THE SPANISH PEOPLE: FROM ROMAN TIMES TO THE PRESENT DAY, and SOUTH FROM GRANADA—still enjoy high repute, as do his two autobiographical volumes, A LIFE OF ONE’S OWN: CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH and PERSONAL RECORD: 1920-1972, and his ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS: HIS LIFE AND POETRY.

Born in Malta to Hugh and Helen Brenan, Brenan spent much of his childhood being shuffled around, first to Ireland and then to his father’s various military postings in South Africa, Ceylon (now SriLanka), and Calcutta. In 1904 the Brenans settled into a big oldstone house in the village of Miserden, near Cirencester in south-central England.

Told that he would have to attend the military college at Sandhurst, the twenty-year-old Brenan fled England with a much older eccentric named John Hope-Johnstone on a walking trip to Central Asia, a failed undertaking that anticipated a longtime prejudice for difficult living circumstances and grueling travel.

Much of Brenan’s life, off and on, was spent in small villages in southern Spain, near Malaga, where he gathered around him numerous expatriates and visiting men of letters such as Bertrand Russell and V.S. Pritchett and a succession of young women who usually caused him intense jealousy.

Brenan’s sexual career is recounted...

(The entire section is 480 words.)