Quiroga, Elena (1919—)

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Quiroga, Elena (1919—)

Twentieth-century Spanish novelist. Born Elena Quiroga de Abarca in Santander, Spain, on October 26, 1919; daughter of Count San Martin de Quiroga (a minor noble) and Isabel Abarca Fornés; married Dalmiro de la Valgoma y Díaz-Varela, in 1950.

Born in Santander, Spain, in 1921, Elena Quiroga was the 16th of 17 children of Count San Martin de Quiroga, a minor noble, and Isabel Abarca Fornés . Following her mother's death in 1923, Elena lived with her father in rural northern Spain. At an early age, she learned to love books and read widely, although few women and girls enjoyed such freedom at the time. From age 9 to 14, she studied at a Catholic boarding school in Bilbao, but left it on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. She continued her schooling in Rome, returning to Spain in 1938, and had little direct contact with the war. Rather than attend university, she taught herself the literary craft.

Her first significant publication appeared in 1949, an immature novel entitled La soledad sonora (Sonorous Solitude). Quiroga's breakthrough occurred the following year, with the publication of Viento del norte (North Wind), which won the Nadal Prize. In 1950, she also married the genealogist and historian Dalmiro de la Valgoma y Díaz-Varela and left northern Spain to live in Madrid. Over the next decade she produced six more novels. Eschewing the social realism then in vogue in Spain, she explored the psyches of her characters and experimented with narrative techniques. She lived quietly, avoided celebrity, and her works were so innovative that they often attracted more attention from foreign readers than from Spaniards.

When her novel Escribo tu nombre (I Write Your Name) was nominated for the international Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1967, her renown in Spain grew. The next year, her husband became secretary of the Royal Academy of History, and the couple moved into a comfortable, historic apartment in the Academy's Madrid headquarters. Quiroga focused almost exclusively on the novel, generally ignoring other literary forms. Her penchant for technical innovation attracted broad interest among students of Spanish literature.


Zatlin Boring, Phyllis. Elena Quiroga. Boston: Twayne, 1977.

Kendall W. W. , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah