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...
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