Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Ramón María del Valle-Inclán (BAHL-yay-eeng-KLAHN) was a highly innovative dramatist as well as an accomplished novelist. His best-known and most influential plays include the three comedias bárbarasÁguila de blasón (pb. 1907), Divinas palabras (pb. 1920; Divine Words, 1968), and Luces de Bohemia (pb. 1924; Bohemian Lights, 1967)—and the three plays that are included in Martes de carnaval (1930; Shrove Tuesday carnival). He also published several collections of short stories, among them Femeninas (1895; feminine vignettes), Corte de amor (1903; court of love), Jardín umbrío (1914; garden of shadows), and three volumes of poetry that were collected and republished in 1930 as Claves líricas (lyrical clues).

Other work includes La lámpara maravillosa (1916; The Lamp of Marvels, 1986), an aesthetic statement written in poetic prose; translations from the Portuguese and Italian; and numerous critical essays and prologues. Many of these short pieces have been collected and republished by individual scholars, but there is not yet a complete edition of Valle-Inclán’s writing, one that would contain all of his essays, letters, and interviews, as well as the variants of the many works that were serialized in contemporary newspapers and magazines before their publication as books. The series of his collected works that Valle-Inclán initiated in 1913 (Opera omnia, 1913-1930) is not complete, nor is the two-volume edition Obras completas, which was first published posthumously in 1944. Espasa Calpe in Madrid has begun to publish critical editions of Valle-Inclán’s major plays and novels in the Cla icos Castellanos series; Bohemian Lights, The Tyrant, and La guerra carlista have appeared.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Ramón María del Valle-Inclán’s life and work have occasioned considerable controversy, much of it provoked by his eccentric personal manner, but there is no doubt about his reputation as one of Spain’s greatest authors: He is highly respected as a brilliant, versatile writer who was able simultaneously to ridicule and renovate Spanish prose, thereby linking an acute awareness of Spain’s diminished historical position with the quality of its language and literature.

Especially at the beginning of his career, his careful attention to form and style led many critics to place Valle-Inclán’s work with that of the Spanish-American Modernismo poets rather than with that of his Spanish contemporaries. These Spanish writers (including Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, Pío Baroja, Azorín, Jacinto Benavente y Martínez, and Antonio Machado), who are usually referred to as the generación del 1898, or Generation of ’98, seemed more explicitly concerned with revitalizing Spain’s literature and self-esteem. The richness of Valle-Inclán’s early stories and novels was recognized and praised, but he was reprimanded by critics such as José Ortega y Gasset, who found the work overly precious and wished that it were less mannered and more concerned with human, down-to-earth themes.

As Valle-Inclán matured as a writer, his work did, in fact, change considerably. The primacy of his aesthetic considerations never lessened, but his...

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Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Ramón María del Valle-Inclán is well known for work in other genres, especially prose fiction. Among his most important works are his cycle of four novels, published between 1902 and 1905, known as the Sonatas. In this cycle are Sonata de otoño (1902; Autumn Sonata, 1924); Sonata de estío (1903; Summer Sonata, 1924); Sonata de primavera, 1904 (Spring Sonata, 1924); Sonata de invierno (1905; Winter Sonata, 1924). The Sonatas were published together in English in 1924 as The Pleasant Memoirs of the Marquis de Bradomín: Four Sonatas. Among his other cycles are La guerra carlista, published between 1908 and 1909, which consists of Los cruzados de la causa (1908), El resplandor de la hoguera (1909), and Gerifaltes de antaño (1909), and El ruedo iberico, published between 1927 and 1958, which consists of La corte de los milagros (1927), Viva mi dueño (1928), and Baza de espadas, serialized in 1932 and published as a book in 1958.

Other noteworthy works by Valle-Inclán are his aesthetic treatise La lámpara maravillosa (1916; The Lamp of Marvels, 1986), his collection of poetry La pipa de kif (1919; the marijuana pipe), and his novel Tirano Banderas: Novela de tierra caliente (1926; The Tyrant: A Novel of Warm Lands, 1929).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Ramón María del Valle-Inclán’s mature plays, now considered to be among his finest and most innovative works, were largely unappreciated during his own lifetime. Much of his theater was deemed impossible to stage, and the avant-garde nature of his post-1920 works puzzled and outraged his contemporaries. The note of social and aesthetic rebellion and the distortions associated with expressionism and with Valle-Inclán’s favored artistic mode, the grotesque, help to explain this response to his work. The merits of his dramaturgy have been recognized by numerous modern critics, however, and advances in staging techniques have enabled directors and designers to mount productions of his most demanding plays with considerable success. As a critical perspective on avant-garde drama has evolved, Valle-Inclán’s importance as an innovator in technique and as a playwright whose thematic concerns are at once universal and illuminative of a fascinating period in Spanish history has been firmly established.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Almeida, Diane M. The Esperpento Tradition in the Works of Ramón del Valle-Inclán and Luis Buñuel. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000. Almeida takes a close look at esperpento—a Spanish style of black comedy—in the novels of Valle-Inclán and in the films of Luis Buñuel. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Andrews, Jean. Spanish Reactions to the Anglo-Irish Literary Revival in the Early Twentieth Century: The Stone by the Elixir. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991. Andrews examines the search for spiritual and aesthetic fulfillment in the works of Valle-Inclán and Juan Ramón Jiménez and contrasts them to contemporary Anglo-Irish works. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Flynn, Gerard C. The Aesthetic Code of Don Ramón del Valle-Inclán. Huntington, W.Va.: University Editions, 1994. An extensive analysis of the aesthetics of Valle-Inclán’s works. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Lima, Robert. Valle-Inclán: The Theater of His Life. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988. A full-length biography of Valle-Inclán, covering his life and works. Includes a bibliography and an index.

LoDato, Rosemary C. Beyond the Glitter: The Language of Gems in Modernista Writers Rubén Darío, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, and José Asunción Silva. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1999. LoDato examines the use of gems and jewelry as symbols in the works of Modernista writers Valle-Inclán, Rubén Darío, and José Asunción Silva. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Longhurst, Alex. “The Survival of Genre: Cervantine Paradigms in Unamuno, Valle-Inclán, and Pérez de Ayala.” In “Never-Ending Adventure”: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Spanish Literature in Honor of Peter N. Dunn, edited by Edward H. Friedman and Harlan Sturm. Newark, Del.: Juan de la Cuesta, 2002. This collection of essays about medieval and early modern Spanish literature includes Longhurst’s examination of the influence of Miguel de Cervantes on the work of Valle-Inclán and two other Spanish writers.

Schoolfield, George C. “Spain: Ramón María del Valle-Inclán.” In A Baedeker of Decadence: Charting a Literary Fashion, 1884-1927. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003. Schoolfield’s study of thirty-two Decadent writers devotes a chapter to the works of Valle-Inclán, which includes an examination of the Sonatas.