Pío Baroja Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Pío Baroja (bah-ROH-hah) wrote short stories, essays, memoirs, and verse in addition to his many novels. Some of his novels are written in dialogue; in fact, Anthony Kerrigan presents The Legend of Juan de Alzate as a play in his introduction to The Restlessness of Shanti Andía, and Other Writings. Among Baroja’s last books are his seven volumes of Memorias (1955), in which he availed himself of whole sections lifted from his fiction, which is, in turn, often autobiographical.

Baroja’s first book was a collection of short stories, Vidas sombrías (1900; somber lives), which demonstrated a sympathetic tenderness for his characters that would diminish as his literary career advanced. Some of the stories are very short slice-of-life vignettes, and others concern the supernatural, such as “El trasgo” (the goblin) and “Medium.” Some explore the psychology of women: “Agueda” treats the romantic stirrings in the mind of a disabled girl in the manner of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (1944), and “Lo desconocido” (“The Unknown”) probes the sudden and temporary urge of a bourgeois woman, traveling on a train with her husband, to flee the confines of the coach into the fascination of the night beyond. Others of these early stories contain the nuclei of future novels, such as “Un justo” (a just man), which prefigures El cura de Monleón and “Los panaderos” (the bakers), which anticipates the trilogy The Struggle for Life.


(The entire section is 635 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Gerald Brenan dubbed Pío Baroja the greatest of Spanish novelists, second only to Benito Pèrez Galdós. Pedro Salinas called the gallery of Baroja’s characters “perhaps the richest” of Spanish literature. In 1972, G. G. Brown wrote that Baroja’s influence on the modern Spanish novel has been greater than that of all of his contemporaries put together, and added that although non-Spanish readers may find this “puzzling,” Baroja’s popularity in Spain is an “indisputable fact.” Brown’s aside is clearly directed at those English-language critics who have been cool in their appraisal of Baroja’s art.

Critic Gregorio Marañon attributed to Baroja a major role in forging a social conscience in the middle-class Spanish youth of his generation. Marañon characterized the books of Baroja’s Madrid trilogy, The Struggle for Life, as three breaches in the wall of self-absorption that blinded the Spanish bourgeoisie to the misery amid which the majority of their compatriots lived. Although the generación del 98, or Generation of ’98, counted among its numbers figures more intellectual than Baroja, he is the only one of them to have a significant following. Cela declared that the entire post-Civil War novel springs from his works and decried the fact that Baroja was not awarded the Nobel Prize. Indeed, the influence of Baroja is to be found in subsequent novels by such authors as Cela, Juan Antonio Zunzunegui, Miguel...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Barrow, Leo L. Negation in Baroja: A Key to His Novelistic Creativity. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1971. Explores the novelist’s technique of “creating by destroying” as a rebellion against conventional Western values. Discusses the style, dialogue, atmosphere, characterization, and landscape in his novels to explain how Baroja uses fiction to express his philosophical, political, and social attitudes.

Devlin, John. Spanish Anticlericalism: A Study in Modern Alienation. New York: Las Americas, 1966. Links Baroja with other prorepublican writers whose works exhibit strong anticlerical bias. Locates the source of his disdain for religion in the agnosticism that underlies his novels.

DuPont, Denise. Realism as Resistance: Romanticism and Authorship in Galdós, Clarín, and Baroja. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2006. Explores the boundaries between realism and Romanticism in novels by three Spanish authors: Baroja’s The Struggle for Life, Leopoldo Alas’s La regenta, and Benito Pérez Galdós’s first series of Episodios nacionales. All three novels feature quixotic characters who act as authors, which DuPont traces to the influence of an earlier Spanish author—Miguel de Cervantes.

Landeira, Ricardo. The Modern Spanish Novel, 1898-1936. Boston:...

(The entire section is 533 words.)