Juan Benet Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Juan Benet was born Juan Benet Goitia in Madrid on October 7, 1927, to Tomas Benet and Teresa Goitia. Benet was one of those extraordinary individuals who successfully cultivated his talents in two often conflicting pursuits: the scientific rigor of modern engineering and the aesthetic demands of creative writing. He was an avid reader in his youth and came to know intimately such master novelists as Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, Fyodor Dostoevski, and Miguel de Cervantes. By the age of twenty, he was a regular participant in the literary tertulias of novelist Pío Baroja, one of the few modern Spanish writers whom Benet admired. He did not discover his true literary mentor (and his desire to be a writer), however, until 1947, when in a bookstore in Madrid he stumbled upon the work of William Faulkner. Faulkner’s influence on Benet was decisive, and much of Benet’s stylistic complexity, as well as his tragic vision of time and history, is rooted in Faulkner’s mythical Yoknapatawpha County and the decadent American South that Faulkner meticulously created.

Benet graduated from the School of Engineering in Madrid in 1954 and served as a civil engineer and contractor throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Much of his early work, however, was centered in the northwestern provinces of León and Asturias, where he constructed roads and dams for the Spanish government. Isolated in the mountains for long periods of time, with only his work crew as...

(The entire section is 430 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Novelist and essayist Juan Benet (buh-NEHT) was one of the leading figures in what has been termed the “New Wave” of Spanish literature. Benet, whose full name was Juan Benet Goitia, was born in Madrid in 1927, the son of Tomas Benet and Teresa Goitia. Benet’s childhood was dramatically affected by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. His father was killed early in the conflict. His family left Madrid and settled for the duration of the war in San Sebastian, where Benet began his education. After the war’s end, Benet returned with his family to Madrid, where he continued his studies and in 1948 enrolled in the University of Madrid’s School of Civil Engineering.{$S[A]Goitia, Juan Benet;Benet, Juan}

Throughout his youth, Benet’s older brother, Francisco, was an important shaper of the future author’s literary tastes, recommending books and encouraging Benet’s pursuit of a personal literary education to complement his university studies in engineering. Among those writers whose works would later have a profound influence on Benet’s own were William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, and Herman Melville. As a university student, Benet moved in circles that included many of Spain’s leading young writers and intellectuals, and his own literary career began in 1953 with the publication of his short play Max.

Benet graduated from the University of Madrid in 1954. He then moved to the northwest of Spain, where he remained until 1966 as a director of public works. The area of Spain in which he lived during those years became the inspiration for Región, the mythical setting of the majority of Benet’s novels. Often compared with Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Región has been described as a microcosm of Spain and Spanish society at the time of the civil war, with overtones of the decadence that would follow the war under Francisco Franco’s rule.

The first of Benet’s works set in Región is a collection of short stories. Published in 1961, Nunca llegarás a nada (you will never get anywhere) introduces Región and its inhabitants and establishes the themes and literary style that would...

(The entire section is 893 words.)