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Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano

Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano

The Spanish novelist, critic, and diplomat Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano (1824-1905) is primarily remembered for his novel "Pepita Jiménez" (1874), which won international fame.

Juan Valera was born in Cabra in the province of Cordova to an aristocratic family. He studied at the Sacro Monte in Granada. He prepared himself for a career in law and diplomacy that would afford leisure time for reading and writing. His father encouraged Juan in his literary pursuits.

Soon after completing his legal studies, Valera was named attaché in the Spanish ambassadorial staff of the Duque de Rivas in Naples (1847-1849). While in Italy, Valera studied Italian and other literatures. He then held various other diplomatic posts at Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Vienna, and St. Petersburg.

On his return to Spain in 1858 Valera devoted most of his time to writing criticism, poetry, and novels. He was the first critic to recognize the excellence of the poetry of Rubén Dario. Valera became blind in his last years but continued to write, dictating his works to his secretary.

Valera's publications comprise many volumes of literary criticism, poetry anthologies, and novels. Cartas americanas (1889-1890) is a critical work that deals with Spanish American writers. Florilegio de poesiás castellanas del siglo XIX (1902-1903) is an anthology of Spanish poetry. His novels include Pepita Jiménez (1874), Las ilusiones del doctor Faustino (1875), El comendador Mendoza (1877), Doña Luz (1879), Juanita la larga (1895), and Morsamor (1899).

Pepita Jiménez, Valera's first novel, is also his masterpiece. It is the story of a young seminarian who falls in love with Pepita, a widow. The setting of the novel reflects the warm, colorful, and emotional qualities of the people of Andalusia. Through Luis de Vargas, the priest-to-be and protagonist, Valera reveals the inner conflict such a person undergoes in the choice between taking Holy Orders forever or loving a woman as a life companion. Luis tries to convince himself at the beginning of the novel that Pepita is merely "a beautiful creature of God" whom he loves but only as if she were "his own sister." The analysis of his emotional state is both tender and psychological, at times disturbing, but the ordeal ends happily with Luis's decision to marry the charming Pepita.

Further Reading

A full-length study of Valera is Edith Fishtine, Don Juan Valera: The Critic (1933), which contains studies of his critical essays. For informative and critical treatments of Valera's works, there are excellent chapters in Aubrey F. G. Bell, Contemporary Spanish Literature (1925; rev. ed. 1933), and in L. A. Warren, Modern Spanish Literature (2 vols., 1929). A very useful if somewhat general account is in the book by Richard E. Chandler and Kessel Schwartz, A New History of Spanish Literature (1961).

Additional Sources

DeCoster, Cyrus Cole, Juan Valer, New York, Twayne Publishers 1974. □

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"Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/juan-valera-y-alcala-galiano

Valera y Alcalá Galiano, Juan

Juan Valera y Alcalá Galiano (hwän välā´rä ē älkälä´ gälyä´nō), 1824–1905, Spanish writer and diplomat. Of a leading liberal family, Valera was a diplomat until 1858, and he later became a senator and an ambassador. Among his major works are Cartas americanas (4 vol., 1889), on Spanish-American writers, and Florilegio de poesías castellanas del siglo XIX (5 vol., 1902–3), an anthology of Spanish poetry. His first novel, Pepita Jiménez (1874, tr. 1886), won international fame. Other novels include El comendador Mendoza (1877, tr. Commander Mendoza, 1893) and Juanita la Larga (1895).

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"Valera y Alcalá Galiano, Juan." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Valera y Alcalá Galiano, Juan." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/valera-y-alcala-galiano-juan

"Valera y Alcalá Galiano, Juan." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/valera-y-alcala-galiano-juan