Ramón Sender

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Sender, Ramón (Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Sender, Ramón 1902–

Sender is a prolific but uneven Spanish novelist whose literary reputation is still being appraised. He has progressed through many literary styles and trends, from social realism to more experimental forms of writing. He became enmeshed early in his career with the political and social problems of pre-civil war Spain. After fighting on the side of the republicans, Sender moved to the United States, where he took up citizenship. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)

The mysterious "presence" that lurks behind commonplace existence has had a special attraction for Ramón J. Sender, who, though transplanted to American soil, remains one of the leading contemporary Spanish novelists. Years before Existentialism had become a recognized movement in France Sender was experimenting in the novel with the notion that the heart of human reality is concealed in a nonrational and phantomlike quality (Orden público [1931] and Siete domingos rojos [1932], for example) which, despite its elusiveness, is a force immediately at hand. Bolder—and less organized—than the French in his expression of ideas, and less dedicated to novelistic technique as a goal in itself, he evinces a lusty primitivism whose existentialist affinity is an aspect rather than a systematic trend of thought. His writings therefore should not be viewed with the strict interpretation of Existentialism, which is possible in Sartre's case. (p. 234)

Sender … often leaves us with the impression that he is trying to fathom the mysterium tremendum of an inscrutable Deity. Unquestionably he considers it his literary responsibility to demonstrate the "primordial vision," as Jung puts it, that leads the poet to pry into the mystery and chaos, the land of demons and gods that lies beyond the ordered world of reason. Moreover, he appears willing to fulfill his poetic mission instinctively, but his reflective self compels him at the same time to rebel at the thought of losing his "freedom" in a vicious circle that leads inevitably to the realm of death, which a person supposedly realizes himself in his own ruination. Hence the subject of mortality is one of his major preoccupations. (p. 237)

Sherman H. Eoff, in his The Modern Spanish Novel (reprinted by permission of New York University Press; copyright © 1961 by New York University), New York University Press, 1961.

Sender is a novelist with philosophical inclinations. As such he is interested in seeking explanations behind reality—not only the reality of Spain of his day, but of human existence, as well. (pp. 168-69)

An examination of Sender's first novel reveals, under literary symbols, that he discovered in the worst of situations and people a small light shining in the midst of the surrounding darkness of chaos and cruelty. This note is his saving grace; it pervades and becomes the touchstone of all his major works; it is also the starting point for the philosophical system which he develops and continually reelaborates in succeeding editions of La Esfera (1947). (p. 169)

Sender, revolutionary in temperament from youth, quite naturally assimilated the anticlerical spirit of the leftist groups which he joined. There also can be no doubt that his great personal tragedies [the loss of both his brother and wife to Fascist firing squads]—in the shadow of official Catholic alliance with the insurgents—intensified his anticlericalism. (pp. 170-71)

Sender's works tend to fall into two general classifications: works before and during the [Spanish] Civil War, and works after. The earlier group evokes the fights, illusions and hardships of his fellow Spaniards before and during the Republic. Contraataque reflects the agonizing pain of that war. His later works reveal a continual philosophic evolution and search for values in the twentieth century world of turmoil. As would be expected, anticlericalism is found, particularly in his earlier period, although it is not entirely absent—at least by indirection—in...

(The entire section is 5,531 words.)