Alas, (y Urena), Leopoldo (Enrique Garcia)
ALAS, (y URENA), Leopoldo (Enrique Garcia)
Pseudonym: Clarin. Nationality: Spanish. Born: Zamora, Spain, 25 April 1852. Education: University of Oviedo, B.A. 1869, J.D. 1871; University of Madrid, doctor of laws. Family: Married Onofre Garcia Arguelles. Career: Author and literary critic, 1877-1901; professor of political economics, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain, 1882-83; professor of law, University of Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain, 1883-1901. Died: 13 June 1901.
Obras selectas [selected works], edited by Juan Antonio Cabezas. 1947.
Cuentos, selected by Jose M. Martinez Cahero. 1953.
Preludios de "Clarin," selected by Jean-Francois Botrel. 1972.
Obra olividada: Articulos de critica [Forgotten Work: Critical Articles], selected by Antonio Ramos-Gascon. 1973.
Seleccion de snsayos [Selected Essays]. 1974.
Treinta relatos [Thirty Stories]. 1983.
Relatos breves [Selected Stories]. 1986.
Obras completas. 4 vols., 1913-29.
El senor y lo demas [The Gentleman and the Rest]. 1892.
Cuentos morales. 1896; as The Moral Tales, 1988.
El gallo de Socrates [Socrates's Rooster]. 1901.
Insolacion [Sunshine]. 1889.
Cuesta abajo [Downhill]. 1890.
Dona Berta, Cuervo, Supercheria. 1892.
La regenta [The Regent's Wife]. 1884.
Su unico hijo. 1890; as His Only Son, 1981.
Adios, "Cordera"! y otros cuentos. 1939.
Solos de Clarin. 1881.
La literatura en 1881 (with Armando Palacio Valdes) . 1882.
Sermon perdido. 1885.
Folletos literarios [Literary Pamphlets]. 1886-91.
Nueva campana. 1887.
Ensayos y revistas [Essays and Reviews]. 1892.
Palique [Small Talk]. 1893.
De la usucapion [legal study] (with Demofilo de Buen and EnriqueR. Ramos). 1916.
La publicidad y los bienes muebles. 1920.
Leopoldo Alas: Teoria y critica de la novela espanola [Leopoldo Alas: Theory and Criticism of the Spanish Novel]. 1972.*
Leopoldo Alas and "La regenta": A Study in Nineteenth-Century Spanish Prose Fiction by Albert Brent, 1951; Leopoldo Alas, critico literario by Sergio Beser, 1970; Leopoldo Alas: "La regenta" by John Rutherford, 1974; Leopoldo Alas: "Clarin" by Benito Varela Jacome, 1980; The Decadent Vision in Leopoldo Alas by Noel M. Valis, 1981; Dislocations of Desire: Gender, Identity, and Strategy in La regenta by Alison Sinclair, 1997.* * *
Leopoldo Alas, who used the pseudonym Clarín, was not only a man of letters but also a man of political influence. He is best known for the novel La Regenta (The Regent's Wife) , often regarded as one of the most significant works of Spanish fiction following the revolution of 1868. Alas is also regarded as an important writer of cuentos, or short stories. His best-known collection of short stories—Moral Tales (Cuentos Morales)—was published in 1896. In spite of his renown today, however, Alas was not favorably reviewed by the critics of his time.
Given the dates of his life and his Continental origins, it should not be surprising that Alas's fiction was heavily influenced by the twin, yet distinct, literary movements known as realism and naturalism. Alas both knew of and imitated the French writers Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola, the nineteenth-century writers largely credited with originating and codifying literary realism and naturalism. Like them, he concerned himself with restoring pathos to the tragedies of everyday life. Sexual license, religious hypocrisy, and social unrest were his dominant themes.
As the son of a government clerk and as a professor of law, Alas was temperamentally predisposed to issues of justice. Added to this was the volatile political situation in Spain at the time, a factor that helped determine his development first as a critic and later as a writer of fiction. During his lifetime Alas was most highly esteemed for his ability as a critic, but the dogmatic nature of his essays has, in posterity, diminished his authority as a thinker. On the other hand his fiction, less well received in his lifetime, is what he is remembered for today.
It may well be that Alas's activities as a critic, essayist, and journalist contributed to his ability to craft short stories with clearly discernible morals. For, while short fiction lends itself to innovation and experimentation, it can just as often serve the highest purposes of the moralist. Witness, for instance, the endurance of Aesop's fables, fairy tales, and cautionary religious legends.
Moral Tales, published in translation in 1988, makes Alas accessible to English readers. Each story has as its focus the everyday life of easily recognizable, almost stereotypical characters. The village priest in "The Priest of Vericueto" who clings, even on his deathbed, to his ruined parish and his laughable position of authority; Rosario Alzueta, the tiresome beauty of "Snob"; and His Serene Majesty of Hell, the satanic angel of "Satanmas Eve"—all share in common Alas's ironic, yet ultimately didactic, insistence on the obvious. In these stories appearances almost never represent things as they really are.
As a technician, Alas amply displays his natural affinity for the form of the short story. Most of the stories are exemplars of brevity, ranging, on average, from four to six pages. In fact, the longest story in the collection, "The Priest of Vericueto," suffers from its length. The story is somewhat convolutedly set up, with the narrator first receiving the story secondhand and then insisting on having it verified by having the teller introduce him to the priest. Perhaps Alas was straining to achieve realism in much the same way that Dante, accompanied by Virgil through purgatory and hell, leaves his pagan guide behind as he enters paradise. Alas's most successful stories in the collection are those told conventionally from a third-person point of view and having a clear moral.
Alas's sternest criticism is usually not aimed at the ordinary, necessarily culpable, human being. As "Satanmas Eve" and "Cold and the Pope" suggest, his harshest judgments are rendered against those who, through positions of power and authority, are corrupt in their manipulation of ordinary people. The stories also hint at a narrative achievement most commonly referred to today as magic realism. Although he was influenced by the attention to external detail associated with the naturalistic movement, Alas's forte was in rendering the internal, the psychological and spiritual, landscape of the human soul. Above all, Moral Tales is a collection concerned with the highest themes of love, death, belief, and betrayal. In other words, it is a collection preoccupied with the greatest subjects of the finest literature of all cultures.
Alas stands as testimony to the fierceness of his country's spirit in the period before the Spanish-American War and Spain's plunge into dictatorship and fascism. Moral Tales, which was written in a relatively short period late in Alas's life, is a fascinating summary of his struggle to render immortal the ephemeral but persistent disturbances of the human soul.