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  • Cela: Retrato de un Nobel by Francisco García Marquina
  • Stephen Miller
García Marquina, Francisco. Cela: Retrato de un Nobel. Guadalajara: Aache, 2016. Pp. 639. ISBN 978-8-41553-798-4.

This biographical and literary study is an updated, and much expanded, version of a book first published in 2005 by the Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies, and has debts to the author’s Cela: Masculino singular (1991). In this version, titled Cela: Retrato de un Nobel, the author acknowledges it is sometimes difficult to separate the author and his work, yet in general terms somewhat more than the first half of the book (pp. 19–386) centers on the biography, and the rest on the study of the work. In this second part, García Marquina features his own views while dialoguing with the most important secondary literature on Cela’s production.

Important about this heavily–end-noted work is that it was written by an accomplished poet, an experienced and perceptive essayist and contributor to Spanish national and provincial publications during an interval of fifty years. More definitive still is that García Marquina spent much time talking with, observing, and, truly, studying Cela from about the time he met his future second wife, Marina Castaño, in the mid-1980s until Don Camilo’s death on January 17, 2002. This is the period of Cela’s maximum fame/notoriety, but, most would argue, not the period of his greatest literary output. What García Marquina proposes—and accomplishes magnificently—is to present to readers a complete telling of Cela’s life and works from the perspective of his later years as witnessed and, at crucial points, participated in by García Marquina himself. At the same time, García Marquina gives his account of Cela’s family, upbringing in Galicia and Madrid, war experience, early challenges and successes, as well as his more than forty years of marriage to Rosario Conde and the fruitful years in Mallorca.

Between the literary vocations pursued life-long by Cela and García Marquina, and the twenty-years of age that separated them, there were things important to others that did not stand between them. García Marquina is very much aware of the clouds over Cela’s reputation because of his socio-political profile summarized by Eduardo Haro Tecglen in these terms: “La trayectoria de falangista, censor, confidente” which “pasó a ser la de cortesano” (209). This last stage of Cela’s life García Marquina attributes to the forty-one-years younger Castaño’s desire for a very high profile social life. Nevertheless, García Marquina acknowledges that that life style had its attractions for Don Camilo himself. Moreover, for García Marquina there is no doubt that Marina’s love and care for her husband made his last years healthier and happier than they otherwise probably would have been.

Part of the Cela-García Marquina relationship was their shared preference, during the greater part of the last seventeen years of the older man’s life, for living on Guadalajaran country properties in the area of the Paraje de El Canal on the Henares River. For years, before and after Cela’s 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature, they would meet and talk disinterestedly as neighbors and friends, far from the public sphere which often evoked such less desirable dimensions of Don Camilo’s character as arrogance and irascibleness, and, perhaps most unattractively, his penchant for picking or continuing fights with younger Spanish writers. García Marquina seems never to have been the object of Cela’s anger, but was keenly aware of how quickly it could erupt. [End Page 321] Their shared neighborhood, close to where Cela began his famous walking tour in 1946, written up and published as the masterpiece titled Viaje a la Alcarria, fomented a mutual esteem and confidence in each other that continued even after the summer of 1997, when the Celas moved to Puerta de Hierro near Madrid. Age was taking its toll and the octogenarian Cela had to be much closer to medical professionals and facilities. And even then the privileged relationship continued. García Marquina...


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