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Summary Article: Cela, Camilo José (1916–2002)
from World Literature in Spanish: An Encyclopedia

Winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature, this Galician-born Spaniard founded the Spanish literary style of tremendismo—novels emphasizing the repulsive, the grotesque, and the violent. He fought in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) on the Nationalist side (rebels led by Francisco Franco) but was discharged after being wounded. Later, he would publish the journal Papeles de Son Armadans (1956–1979), which served as a print venue for young antifascist writers.

La familia de Pascual Duarte (1942; Pascual Duarte's Family, 1946) is the first tremendista novel, in which Pascual's father dies of rabies; a pig bites off the ear of Pascual's infant brother, and Pascual himself commits several murders, including knifing his own mother. Another important novel by Cela is La colmena (1951; The Hive, 1953), which combines realism (depicting life as it is rather than idealizing it) with the more experimental style of stream of consciousness (transcribing thoughts as they occur with scarce attention to grammatical structure or coherency). The novel contains little action and, in large part, presents the poor people of Madrid's literary cafés in the early post–civil war years.

Cela's work became increasingly experimental: San Camilo, 1936 (1969; Eng. trans., 1991) offers a surrealist description of the day the Spanish Civil War began; Cristo versus Arizona (1988; Christ versus Arizona, 2007) is a 100-page, one-sentence-long story of a duel at the OK Corral in the U.S. Wild West.

Elected a member of the Real Academia Española in 1957, Cela was also a member of the Constitutional Convention that wrote the Spanish Constitution of 1978 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco. In all, Cela authored 13 novels, several books of poetry and drama, short stories, travel books, and even a dictionary of vulgarisms. His standing as one of the most important writers of 20th-century Spain is further evidenced by his winning Spain's most prestigious literary award, the Cervantes Prize, in 1995. Cela died in Madrid.

See also Censorship and Literature in Spain; Francoism, Fascism, and Literature in Spain; Nobel Prize Literature in Spanish; Novel in Spain: 1900 to Present.

Work By:
  • Christ versus Arizona. Trans. Martin Sokolinsky. Dalkey Archive Rochester, NY, 2007.
  • San Camilo, 1936. Trans. J. H. R. Polt. Duke University Press Durham, NC, 1991.
  • Work About:
  • Camilo José Cela Number. The Review of Contemporary Fiction 4.3 (Fall 1984). Special Issue.
  • Cela Conde, Camilo José, Cela, mi padre. 3rd ed. Temas de Hoy Madrid, 2002.
  • Charlebois, Lucile C. Understanding Camilo José Cela. University of South Carolina Press Columbia, 1998.
  • Pérez, Janet. Camilo José Cela Revisited: The Later Novels. Twayne New York, 2000.
  • Oxford, Jeffrey
    Copyright 2011 by Maureen Ihrie and Salvador A. Oropesa

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