Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pedro Antonio de Alarcón

Pedro Antonio de Alarcón
Born: March 10, 1833; Guadix, Spain
Died: July 20, 1891; Madrid, Spain

Cosas que fueron, 1871
De Madrid a Nápoles pasando por París, Ginebra, etc., 1861
Juicios literarios y artísticos, 1883
Historia de mis libros, 1884
Diario de un testigo de la Guerra de Africa, 1859

El hijo pródigo, pb., 1857

short fiction
Historietas nacionales, Cuentos amatorios and Narraciones inverosímiles, 1881-1882 (a 3-volume collection)
Moors, Christians, and Other Tales, 1891
Tales from the Spanish, 1948
“The Nail,” and Other Stories, 1997

long fiction
El final de Norma, 1855 (Brunhilde: Or, The Last Act of Norma, 1891)
El sombrero de tres picos, 1874 (The Three-Cornered Hat, 1886)
El escándalo, 1875 (The Scandal, 1945)
El niño de la bola, 1880 (The Child of the Ball, 1892; also as The Infant with the Globe, 1959)
El Capitán Veneno, 1882 (Captain Spitfire, 1886)
La pródiga, 1882 (1882)

Cuentos, artículos y novelas, 1859
Other Literary Forms

Having served his apprenticeship in journalism, Pedro Antonio de Alarcón did all the kinds of writing that were normal in that métier: sketches of daily life (cuadros de costumbres), book reviews, theater criticism, political reporting, and even editorial writing, for he served as editor of several journals in his younger years. His ambition, however, was to be a literary man, and the short stories he published in various journals were the part of his youthful journalistic activity that he took most seriously. They are also the work which first earned him a reputation as a writer. Trading on that reputation, he published his first novel at the age of twenty-two and attracted still more attention with a controversial play when he was only twenty-four. He served as a war correspondent during the fighting in North Africa between Morocco and Spain in 1859-1860, and he published his war articles as a book in 1861. In the edition he prepared of his complete works, Alarcón included a volume of literary criticism, a volume of travel pieces, a volume of cuadros de costumbres, and a volume of occasional short poems, all culled from his years as a journalist. His true claim to literary importance, however, resided in his six novels and his more than three dozen short stories.

Although Pedro Antonio de Alarcón was not one of the outstanding writers of nineteenth century Spain, he made important contributions to the development of Spain’s short story. In Alarcón’s time, short fiction was limited to cuadros de costumbres, short sketches of popular customs, and the legend or fantastic tale. Alarcón introduced to Spain the techniques of the French short-story writers he admired, such as those of Honoré de Balzac and Théophile Gautier.

Although most of Alarcón’s stories are not the products of his imagination, he excelled as a storyteller. He is known principally as the author of El sombrero de tres picos (1874; The Three-Cornered Hat, 1886), based on a popular Spanish folktale. His Historietas nacionales, which narrate episodes of Spanish history, brought historical fiction into vogue, thus preparing for the Episodios nacionales (1873-1912; national episodes) of Benito Pérez Galdós. Alarcón’s achievement lies in having captured the spirit of Spain’s traditions and its people in his stories.

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