Leopoldo Enrique García Alas y Ureña, the third son of a local civil governor, was born on April 25, 1852, in Zamora, a town some 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Madrid, Spain. At the age of seven, he was sent to the Jesuit colegio of San Marcos in León, where he spent several happy months despite the fact that his blond hair, short and slight stature, and myopic vision set him apart somewhat from his schoolmates. It was there that he began to develop both the sentimentality and the sense of moral discipline that were to become so evident in his later thought and writing.
The following summer, Alas and his family moved to the northern city of Oviedo, where he was to spend the rest of his life and which was to be the setting for his masterpiece La regenta. While working for his bachillerato, he continued to develop an extremely competitive spirit, as he strove to compensate for physical weaknesses by a precocious and inquiring mind. During his fourth year of study, Alas and his classmates were profoundly moved by the revolution of General Juan Prim and its aftermath, and it was during this period that Alas began to contemplate the complexities of social justice and the disillusionments that arise when idealized hopes are dashed by the harsh realities of political life.
At age twenty, Alas was in Madrid, preparing for his doctorate and feeling nervous, melancholy, and increasingly homesick for his native Asturias. A naturally critical temperament and a stubborn reluctance to embrace philosophical or literary fads delayed his acceptance of Sanz del Río’s Krausism and the naturalistic approach being preached byÉmile Zola, but, as with his subsequent ideological views, once...
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