Thursday, July 17, 2008

Forgotten Giants: Ramón del Valle-Inclán

"Gradually, my eyes closed from sheer weariness and the monotonous, regular lapping of the water finally plunged me into amorous dreams, feverish and restless, a representation and symbol of my life. I woke up at dawn with my nerves jangling as if I had spent all night in a hothouse amongst exotic plants giving off rare, penetrating, aphrodisiac perfumes. Above my head, I could hear the sound of confused voices and the flap of bare feet, accompanied by much splashing and coming and going. It was the time for sluicing down the deck. I got out of bed and went up to the bridge. There I stood breathing in the light wind that smelled of tar and seaweed. The heat at that hour is delicious. You can feel voluptuous tremors in the air; the horizon laughs beneath the lovely sun." --from Spring & Summer Sonatas, Ramón del Valle-Inclán

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"Ramón del Valle-Inclán (1866 - 1936), a great novelist and dramatist practically unknown outside of Spain, from about 1920 onward developed a style of dramatic writing that he called esperpento (the grotesque or ridiculous), in which the world is depicted as inhabited by tragicomic, almost mechanically actuated marionettes. As Valle-Inclán explained it, the artist can see the world from three different positions. He can look upward, as if on his knees before it, and present an idealized, reverent picture of reality; he can confront it standing on the same level, which will lead to a realistic approach; or he can see the world from above -- and from this distant vantage point it will appear ridiculous and absurd, for it will be seen as through the eyes of a dead man who looks back on life. Valle-Inclán's esperpentos, notably Las Galas del Defunto (The Gale of Death) and Los Cuernos de Don Friolera (The Horns of Don Friolera), written about 1925, are bitter caricatures of life in which deformed and ugly lovers are pursued by witless and ridiculous husbands while the rules and mannerisms of society appear as mechanical and dehumanized as machines gone mad and functioning in a void." --Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd (1961)

"Some critics view him as being the Spanish equivalent to James Joyce; however, due to a lack of translations his work is still largely unknown in the English speaking world, although his reputation is slowly growing as translations are produced.">>MORE

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