Azaña, Manuel 1880-1940

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AZAÑA, Manuel 1880-1940

PERSONAL: Born January 10, 1880; died November 3, 1940, in Montauban, France. Education: Colegio de Maria Cristina, Escorial; attended University of Madrid, c. 1898; attended Sorbonne, University of Paris.

CAREER: Government of Spain, minister of war, 1931, prime minister, 1931-33, president, 1936-39.

MEMBER: Ateneo de Madrid (intellectual club; secretary-general, 1920s; president, 1930).

AWARDS, HONORS: Spanish Minister of Public Instruction prize, 1925-26, for biography.

WRITINGS:

El jardín de los frailes, Compania general de artes graficas, [Madrid, Spain], 1900.

La libertad de asociacion: Discurso leido, M. G. Hernandez (Madrid, Spain), 1902.

Estudios de politica Francesca contemporanea, Saturnino Calleja (Madrid, Spain), 1919.

Memorias de su vida, escritas por el mismo, Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1920.

(Editor) Juan Valera, Peptia Jimenez, Ediciones de "La Lectura" (Madrid, Spain), 1927.

La novella de Pepita Jimenez, Ciudad Lineal (Madrid, Spain), 1927.

Valeria en Italia: amores, politica y literature, Editorial Paez (Madrid, Spain), 1929.

Estebanez Calderon y Valera, [Mexico], 1929.

Plumas y palabras, Compania Ibero-americana de Publicaciones (Madrid, Spain), 1930.

La corona: drama en tres actos, Compania Ibero-americana de Publicaciones (Madrid, Spain), 1930.

Tres generaciones del Ateneo; discurso leido, [Madrid, Spain], 1930.

Una politica (1930-1932), Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1932.

Presente y futuro de la republica Española, Embajada de España en Mexico, 1932.

La invencion del "Quijote": y otros ensayos, Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1934.

En el poder y en la oposicion (1932-1934), Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1934.

Mi rebellion en Barcelona, Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1935.

Discursos en campo abierto, Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1936.

An año de guerra, ]Valencia, Spain[, 1937, translation published as A Year of War in Spain, Friends of Spain (London, England), 1937.

(With others) Spain's War of Independence: President Azaña; Premier Negrin; Defense Minister Prieto; Alvarez del Vayo, Delegate to the League of Nations; Martinez Barrio, President of the Cortes,and Portela Valladares, Leader of the Centrist Party, put the Case of the Spanish Republic before the World, Spanish Embassy (Washington, DC), 1937.

Madrid, Friends of Spain (London, England), 1937.

Memorias intimas y secretas de Manuel Azaña, [Santiago de Chile)], 1938.

La velada en Benicarlo, Editorial Losada (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1939, translation by Josephine Stewart and Paul Stewart published as Vigil in Benicarlo, Fairleigh Dickinson Press (Teaneck, NJ), 1982.

Obras completas, Ediciones Oasis (Mexico), 1966.

Ensayos sobre Valera, Alianza Editorial (Madrid, Spain), 1971.

Memorias politicas y de guerra, Critica (Barcelona, Spain), 1978.

SIDELIGHTS: Manuel Azaña is best known for his role during Spain's transition from monarchy to the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco, which came about during the Spanish Civil War. Azaña began his career as an intellectual and author, writing novels, plays, and a highly regarded biography of Juan Valera. He became active in politics and organized the party Accion Republicana, and when the republican government was formed in 1931 he served as the minister of war. He worked on the constitution of the new government and took the office of prime minister in October 1931. Azaña's time in office was short but pivotal, as he guided the nation through modernization efforts, including reforms in agriculture and education. He was also very intolerant of dissenters, and responded violently to opposition. Politically he was increasingly drawn to the left, and was defeated in 1933 by the right-wing of the government. As political turmoil increased in the next few years, Azaña was briefly imprisoned by his political enemies, though by January 1936 the left had returned to power in Spain. Azaña again took the post of prime minister, though he soon appointed a replacement and accepted the position of president, a lesser position. Having lost confidence in the government, however, he soon left Madrid; in 1939 he fled Spain entirely and spent a period of exile in France. Azaña died November 4, 1940, in Montaubon, France.

Azaña's written works were published in 1966, providing an overview of his career as a writer. His first creative work was El jardín de los frailes, which many consider his best creative work. He also wrote a handful of plays, some of them political, beginning with La corona, which is less well regarded. He wrote extensively about Spanish history and the contemporary troubles of the Spanish Civil War. Among the more widely read of these volumes are A Year of War in Spain, and La velada en Benicarlo, the latter an imaginary dialogue. La velada en Benicarlo reveals Azaña's disillusionment with Spain's government and perhaps the waning of his own political powers.

Reviewing the author's posthumously published Obras completas for the Times Literary Supplement, Hugh Thomas suggested that the work diminishes Azaña's reputation: "a group of disillusioned politicians and professional people complain ineffectively of the indignities of revolution—admittedly in prose unequalled by any other contemporary head of state."

Azaña was also a memoirist, producing nearly 1,000 pages of his observations and recollections of the dramatic period in which he lived. Frank Sedwick, reviewing the Obras completas for Hispania, called Azaña's memoirs "a veritable gallery of all the personalities who made the Republic move or, as was more often the case, kept it inert." Sedwick called the memoirs "a document without equal of its kind in Spanish history." Azaña's memoirs were published separately as Memorias politicas y de guerra in 1978.

Among the most highly regarded of Azaña's literary efforts are his writings about Juan Valera, a nineteenth-century social critic. Azaña's biography of Valera was never published, though it won a prize from the Minister of Public Instruction for 1925-26. The original work is thought to be lost, but Azaña produced several other works from that material, including a study of Valera's novel Pepita Jimenez and an edition of the novel, both in 1927. In 1929 Azaña published a study of Valera's time in Italy, Valera en Italia: Amores, politica y literature. These and other writings about Valera were collected in 1971 as Ensayos sobre Valera, along with several journal articles of the 1920s.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

PERIODICALS

American Historical Review, February, 2000, review of Manuel Azaña: entre el mito y la leyenda, p. 294.

Booklist, March 1, 1979, Earl M. Gladden, review of Memorias politicas y de guerra, p. 1044.

Choice, December, 1982, review of Vigil in Benicarlo, p. 587; James T. Shaw, "The Spanish Civil War Fifty Years Later: High Points of the Literature," pp. 1005-1006; January, 1996, G. W. McDonogh, review of Portrait of an Unknown Man: Manuel Azaña and Modern Spain, p. 852.

Hispania, March, 1969, Frank Sedwick, review of Obras completas, p. 159; Cyrus DeCoster, review of Ensayos sobre Valera, p. 968.

History Today, May, 1999, Paul Preston, "Franco and Azaña: Victor and Vanquished," p. 17.

Times Literary Supplement, February 21, 1975, Hugh Thomas, review of Obras completas, p. 195.*