Ramón María del Valle-Inclán was born Ramón José Simón Valle Peña in Villanueva de Arosa, Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain, on October 28, 1866. His father, Ramón Valle Bermúdez, was an amateur writer and a seaman. Both of his parents belonged to distinguished families; it was from their names that he created his authorial name and the aristocratic titles he bestowed on himself: Ramón María del Valle-Inclán y Montenegro, Marqués del Valle, Vixconde de Viexín, and Señor del Caramiñal. These were names that also reflected his ties to Galicia, a region that is still known for its myths and legends, for the survival of its Celtic, pagan substratum, and for the rural, medieval ambience that characterizes both the many tiny farms of its mountainous interior and the small ports—such as Villanueva de Arosa—that dot its rocky coast. The landscape and the culture are often likened to those of Ireland and northern England, and their stamp on Valle-Inclán’s work was strong and lasting. From his earliest writing, he seemed to identify both with Galicia’s rural, oral tradition and with that of its declining aristocracy.
The Galician language also survives in Valle-Inclán’s work, for although he wrote only a few poems in his regional tongue, he infused Spanish with the Galician vocabulary, syntax, and tone. Like other writers of his generation who were not born in central Spain, he brought a critical vision to bear on the crisis confronting the nation; unlike most of his contemporaries, however, his harshness toward Castile never softened. He lived a large part of his life outside Galicia but continued to return and to stay for varying lengths of time.
Valle-Inclán first left Galicia in 1890, when he went to Madrid. He had studied law for two years in Santiago de Compostela, but he left the university after the death of his father. Although he had published a few short stories as a student, and he published a few others while he was in Madrid, it was during a trip to Mexico in 1892 that his career as a writer truly began, with the stories and newspaper articles that he wrote and published there. In 1895, after a period of several years in Pontevedra, where the library of one of his father’s friends enabled him to read widely in contemporary European literature, he published his first book, Femeninas. The following year, he went back to Madrid, where he began to establish himself as a writer. He frequented artists’ cafés; made friends with artists, critics, and writers (including the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío); and soon acquired a singular reputation for his extravagant bohemian appearance; his highly articulate, witty, and forthright opinions; and his famous lisp.
Because there is no definitive biography of Valle-Inclán and because he deliberately elaborated a complicated and at times contradictory series of anecdotes about his experiences, it is difficult to speak with certainty about many of the details of his life. It is certain, however, that he lived in Madrid from 1896 until 1912. During those years, he lost his right arm after a skirmish with another writer, Manuel Bueno. He published extensively, both fiction and drama, and was active in the theater. There he met the actor Josefina Blanco, whom he married in 1907. In 1910, he accompanied his wife’s theater company to South America and in Buenos Aires delivered a series of lectures about aesthetics.
In 1912, Valle-Inclán decided to move his family to Galicia; the first two of his six children had been born, and despite his publications and growing literary reputation, his financial situation was precarious. He continued to live in the north until 1924, although on many occasions he left to travel. In 1916, for example, as a correspondent for the Madrid newspaper El imparcial , he journeyed to France and the Allied war fronts. In 1921, at the invitation of the Mexican government, he made his second trip to Mexico, to participate in the centennial celebration of...
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