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Who was Vicente Blasco Ibanez?

Updated on December 3, 2016

Vicente Blasco Ibanez was a Spanish novelist and politician, who wrote the popular World War I novel Los cuatro jinetes del Apocalipsis (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), which was later made into a famous American motion picture in 1921. He was born in Valencia on January 29, 1867. At the age of 16 he went to Madrid, where he attended law school and supported himself by acting as secretary to Manuel Fernandez y Gonzalez, a writer of popular romances.

At this time, Blasco Ibanez became interested in politics, joined the antimonarchist movement, and in 1891 helped found the radical newspaper El Pueblo. An outspoken advocate of a republican Spain throughout his lifetime, he was a leader of the Blasquistas political party, whose members were known for provoking street fights with their opponents, and was jailed 30 times for political activities. He later served seven terms in the Spanish parliament as deputy from Valencia.

In 1909, Blasco Ibaiiez left Spain for South America, where he attempted to establish colonies in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and in Paraguay. He returned to Europe in 1914 and was active as a propagandist for the Allied cause in neutral Spain during World War I. His last years were spent in voluntary exile in the south of France, in protest against the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. Although Blasco Ibanez' death predated the second Spanish Republic, he must be considered as one of the republic's founders. He died in Menton, France, on January 28, 1928.

Writings of Vicente Blasco Ibanez

As a craftsman, Blasco Ibanez was masterful in building suspense. However, his style is rapid and unpolished, and his facile and voluminous output, especially during the last part of his life, tended to vitiate any solid underlying ideas and themes. His great weakness as a novelist was the lack of individuality in his characters, even the strongest of which, Valencian peasant figures, were more often than not only popular stereotypes.

Blasco Ibanez' fiction belongs to the realistic and naturalistic schools of 19th century Spain. His novels fall into three categories: regional works dealing with Valencia, which include his best books; novels of social protest; and works on cosmopolitan themes, which are both the most popular and the most inferior of his writings. In the first group, his best novel, La barraca (1898; Eng. tr., The Cabin, 1917), presents a stark picture of the wretched life of farmers on the outskirts of Valencia. It is a brutally realistic novel, reminiscent of Zola, and faithfully reproduces the local language and customs of the region. Other fine novels about Valencian peasants and fishermen include Flor de mayo (1895; Eng. tr., The Mayflower, 1921) and Canas y barro (1920; Eng. tr., Reeds and Mud, 1928).

Blasco Ibanez' social and political novels include La catedral (Shadow of the Cathedral) and El Intruso (The Intruder), which are strongly anticlerical, and La Horda, about the workers of Madrid.

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