Pío Baroja Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The father of Pío Baroja y Nessi (bah-RAW-kah ee NAYS-ee) may have been responsible for his son’s writing career. Though a mining engineer by profession, he was also a poet and author of the libretto for perhaps the only opera in the Basque language, and he brought up his son on Spanish and Basque ballads and legends. Young Pío Baroja, who disliked discipline and rules, hated school. In one autobiographical work, he describes satirically his uninspired teachers. He did, however, read widely, including translations of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Friedrich Nietzsche, Honoré de Balzac, and the great nineteenth century Russian writers, and he trained himself in observation and self-analysis.{$S[A]Nessi, Pío Baroja y;Baroja, Pío}

Because of his antipathy toward textbooks, he twice failed his final examinations in the medical school of Valencia, but he finally earned a degree in Madrid in 1893. After one or two dull years spent practicing medicine in Cestona, a small Basque town, Baroja gave up that career and joined his brother in Madrid to run the family bakery. Lack of customers gave him leisure to wander the streets of the Spanish capital and to get acquainted not only with the laboring classes but also with the derelicts of back streets and gutters who figure in his trilogy of novels, The Struggle for Life.

A lucky financial investment allowed him to give up commerce and concentrate on writing. In 1899, Baroja made his first move to Paris, where he initially wrote articles for newspapers. Fiction remained his chief love, however. In 1900, he published a volume of short stories, Vidas sombrías, then started on the first of his trilogies, three...

(The entire section is 694 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Pío Baroja y Nessi was the third son of Serafín Baroja y Zornoza (1840-1915) and Carmen Nessi y Goñi (1849-1935). The young Baroja was extremely knowledgeable about his ancestry and careful to note that he was seven-eighths Basque and one-eighth Italian; his mother’s surname, Nessi, was of Italian origin. His father was a mining engineer with a literary bent who was more concerned with what his friends thought of him than with the esteem of his family. An older brother, Ricardo Baroja (1871-1953), a painter and inventor, also was a writer. In 1879, the senior Baroja took his family to live in Madrid, then they moved to Pamplona; in 1886, they moved once again to Madrid.

Although not an exceptional student, Baroja entered the School of Medicine in Madrid at the age of fifteen and by 1891 completed his medical studies in Valencia. Two years later, he completed his thesis and obtained a position as practitioner in the Basque village of Cestona. The pettiness of small-town life and the suffering and the poverty that he was forced to witness daily disgusted him, and he decided to abandon his medical career. What he did not abandon, however, was the medical knowledge he had acquired; his novels are peopled with a host of doctors, and his dialogue bristles with the names and exploits of the heroes of medicine and physiology.

Baroja returned to Madrid to help his brother manage the family bakery, which allowed him to become familiar with the...

(The entire section is 585 words.)