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...
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