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García Hortelano, Juan 1928-1992

GARCÍA HORTELANO, Juan 1928-1992

PERSONAL: Born 1928, in Spain; died 1992.

CAREER: Writer.

AWARDS, HONORS: Premio Biblioteca Breve, 1959, for Nuevas amistades; Prix Formentor, 1962, for Tormenta de verano; Premio de la Critica, 1982, for Gramatica parda.

WRITINGS:

Nuevas amistades (novel), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1959, 7th edition, 1982.

Tormenta de verano (novel), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1962, 4th edition, 1970, translated by Ilsa Barea as Summer Storm, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1962.

Gente de Madrid, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1967.

(Translator) Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Semmelweis, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1968.

El gran momento de Mary Tribune, two volumes, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1972, 3rd edition, 1975.

Crónicas correspondidas, Alfaguara/Santillana (Madrid, Spain), 1973.

Apólogos y milesios, Lumen (Barcelona, Spain), 1975.

Echarse las pecas a la espalda: poesía (poetry), I. Peralta (Pamplona, Spain), 1977.

(Editor) El grupo poético de los años 50: una antología, Taurus (Barcelona, Spain), 1978, 2nd edition, 1980.

Cuentos completos (short stories), Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1979, revised and enlarged edition published in two volumes, 1992.

Los vaqueros en el pozo, Alfaguara/Santillana (Madrid, Spain), 1979.

Gramatica parda, Argos Vergara (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.

Preparativos de boda; Carne de chocolate, Almarabu (Madrid, Spain), 1986.

Mucho cuento (short stories), Mondadori (Madrid, Spain), 1987.

Los archivos secretos, Montena (Madrid, Spain), 1988.

(Editor and author of prologue) Carlos Barral, Antología poética, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1989.

Cuentos confidenciales (short stories), Editorial Popular (Madrid, Spain), 1989.

Riánsares y el fascista; La capital del mundo, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1994.

La incomprensión del comercio (poetry), edited by Antonio Martínez Sarrión, Visor (Madrid, Spain), 1995.

Muñeca y macho, B. Ediciones/Grupo Z (Barcelona, Spain), 1999.

Invenciones urbanas, Cuatro Ediciones (Valladolid, Spain), 2001.

Also author of introduction to Automne à Pékin, by Boris Vian, 1981. Contributor of poems to periodicals, including Revista de Occidente. Tormenta de verano was translated into eleven languages, including Italian and Czech.

SIDELIGHTS: Though not a prolific novelist, Juan García Hortelano was an award-winning writer whose critical reputation remains secure as one of the most talented authors of the 1950s generation. These Spanish writers sought literary objectivity in order to portray the moral chaos that resulted from the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. Many of Spain's best writers and thinkers had fled the country, and as a result, critics and audiences began to look to Latin America for its dynamic, modern writers such as Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortazar. As William M. Sherzer commented in Revista de Estudios Hispanicos, "The impact of the war on the Spanish novel was deadening, and it was not until a decade had passed after the end of that war that one found in the novel a reawakening of the realities and visceral problems of Spain. The timidity with which the writers of the forties avoided social issues did not pass on into the fifties, and the novel once again gravitated towards a strengthening of its traditional realistic form." García Hortelano clearly belongs to this group of writers from the 1950s, whose preoccupation was an unease with the lack of any center of values within Spanish society. He often addressed the problems of a growing bourgeois mentality and of the disappearance of moral and traditional values within Spanish culture.

In his first novel, Nuevas amistades, García Hortelano adopts a style of social realism, imposing limitations that his South American peers chose to avoid. "As a lifelong bourgeois and madrileño," explained Sherzer, "García Hortelano is fully aware of the harm caused and poor example given by the decadence of that social sector which so many non-bourgeois Spaniards strive to copy." The book recounts the empty existence of a group of young people belonging to Madrid's affluent middle class in the 1950s. It is the dialogue, rather than any interpretation by the narrator, that reveals the immorality and emptiness of this sector of Spanish society. Writing in Modern Spanish and Portuguese Literatures, Alberto Gil Novales was impressed with the concentrated power in García Hortelano's work, saying, "An incident, which first confronts only a few characters and then slowly the whole group with a fundamental realness … throws the narrative into a dangerous undertaking, filled with dynamism, skillfully wrought, that without losing any energy carries it until the very end." Tormenta de verano, which was later translated as Summer Storm, continues to examine the world of the Spanish bourgeoisie criticizing their moral corruption.

El gran momento de Mary Tribune marks a departure for the author, according to Sherzer. Here, "García Hortelano has developed his criticism of the bourgeoisie to the level of an intense description of the numb and unfeeling personality it generates—so much so that the main character of this two-volume novel never even receives a name." The narrative style is more experimental than in García Hortelano's earlier work, with more concentration spent on internal monologues. Several passages, in fact, are complete hallucinations on the part of the characters. The title character in El gran momento de Mary Tribune is a wealthy American tourist who is picked up in a Madrid bar and becomes the lover of the unnamed narrator. Being rich, she is as equally wrapped up in the materialistic world as her new madrileño friends. Despite this, Mary is differentiated by her likeable spontaneity and naïvety; she does not relate to her new friends' cynicism, but their attitudes gradually wear on her, and she sinks into alcoholism until she attempts suicide.

The author's final two novels, Los vaqueros en el pozo and Gramatica parda, further depart from realism and evidence the metafiction that gained popularity in the 1980s. In a review of the former title, James H. Abbott wrote in World Literature Today, "Through ambiguous interpersonal relationships, confusing incidents, the absence of a tightly-knit plot structure and the implied absence of characters, García Hortelano underscores the tenuous nature of reality and leaves the reader to think about existence itself."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Modern Spanish and Portuguese Literatures, Continuum (New York, NY), 1988.

PERIODICALS

Hispanic Journal, fall, 1981, Barbara C. Zinn, "The Proteus Principle in García Hortelano's El gran momento de Mary Tribune," pp. 115-122.

Hispanic Review, winter, 1993, Concha Alborg, review of Tormenta de verano, p. 120.

Modern Language Review, January, 1993, W.I. Pertaub, review of Los vaqueros en el pozo, p. 241.

Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispanicos, winter, 1994, Anthony Percival, "A Contemporary Spanish Inter-National-Textual Story: Juan García Hortelano's Los archivos secretos," pp. 316-322.

Revista de Estudios Hispanicos, October, 1979, William M. Sherzer, "Juan García Hortelano and the Spanish Social Novel," pp. 359-379.

World Literature Today, spring, 1980, J.H. Abbott, review of Los vaqueros en el pozo, p. 257, review of Cuentos completos, p. 262.

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