Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Madrid. Spain’s capital city, in which a person’s fate is determined by economic status and simple chance. In one passage, Camilo José Cela writes of a Madrid street as assuming, at nightfall, a “half-hungry, half-mysterious air, while a little wind, prowling like a wolf, whistles between the houses.” He then describes with the precision of an anthropologist who stays out late the rich seeking diversion, the homeless, those who wander from bar to bar.

In another scene, a poor man finds himself sitting next to a policeman in a bar and offers the policeman an opinion about the city’s law enforcement policies. “‘It doesn’t seem fair to me to arrest the black-market women in the underground. People have got to eat. . . . I think if a few poor women sell cigarettes it’s wrong for you of the police to be after them.’” The policeman answers that he does as he is told. The policeman’s life story, revealed in a few stark paragraphs before this reply, helps make his short statement resonate throughout the book. For many in the novel, the best odds for survival lie in doing as one is told.

Café La Delicia

Café La Delicia (ka-FAY lah day-LEE-see-uh). Madrid café which, despite its name, offers less delight than tedium. Most of its patrons are impoverished, having barely enough to pay for the cups of coffee they buy so they will be allowed to spend their hours there. The café is...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Foster, David W. Forms of the Novel in the Work of Camilo José Cela. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1967. Contains a helpful chapter analyzing the unique “slice of life” structure and imbricated patterning of The Hive in contrast to the widely varying compositional designs of the rest of the author’s novelistic oeuvre.

Henn, David. C. J. Cela: “La Colmena.” London: Grant & Cutler, 1974. The most comprehensive study of Cela’s novel. Provides a concise biographical sketch of the author and a useful historical backdrop to the action of the work. Includes extended sections on theme, style, and structure, as well as a detailed chapter on the symbolic importance of the figure of Martín Marco.

Ilie, Paul. Literature and Inner Exile: Authoritarian Spain, 1939-1975. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Considers a definition of inner exile as the deep-seated alienation from the dominant values of a society in which one is constrained to remain a participating member. Though not a study of Cela or his works, this in-depth critical analysis of the sociopolitical consequences of Franco’s unforgiving rule captures the estrangement of protagonists such as Martín Marco.

McPheeters, D. W. Camilo José Cela. New York: Twayne, 1969. An excellent starting place for any investigation into Cela’s life and work. The author’s literary output is considered within the historical and aesthetic context of his day. The chapter dedicated to The Hive is an excellent introduction to the novel.

Roy, Joaquín, ed. Camilo José Cela: Homage to a Nobel Prize. Coral Gables, Fla: University of Miami Press, 1991. Specialized essays commemorating Cela’s 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature. Contains three pieces on The Hive: Thomas Deveny’s “Cela on Screen: La colmena”; Bernardo Antonio González’s “Reading La colmena Through the Lens: From Mario Camus to Camilo José Cela”; and William M. Sherzer’s “The Role of Urban Icons in Cela’s La colmena.” Also includes essays on two other influential Cela works: The Family of Pascual Duarte and San Camilo, 1936.