Rafael Chirbes

Rafael Chirbes was born in Tabernes de Valldigna, near Valencia, Spain, in 1949.  Early on in his life he was drawn to big cities like Salamanca, Madrid, and Barcelona. After finishing his studies in modern history in Madrid, he wrote literature and film reviews, as well as reportage for various journals. He lived in Paris and then, for some years, in Morocco, where he gave Spanish lessons.  After his return, ‘Mimoun’ was published in 1988 (Engl. ‘Mimoun’ 1992), the intense character study of a writer who retreats to a Moroccan village to complete his novel.  But due to cultural estrangement, and above all, due to the abysses of his own personality, he fails. The precise description of the maelstrom threatening to suck in the protagonist corresponds with the clear-cut, explicit language that depicts nature. A keen, observant eye is as typical of Chirbes as his empathy with his manifold characters from diverse social and geographical backgrounds. The following novels tackling the Franco regime and its aftermath gained Chirbes (whose paragons are, among others, Max Aub and Juan Mars) a reputation as an outstanding literary chronicler of Spain. In ‘Los disparos del cazador’ (1994; t: The Shots of the Hunter) Chirbes lets an old man look back on his career during the dictatorship; in ‘La buena letra'(1992; t: The Beautiful Letter) a woman reflects on how the opportunism of some family members affected her personal fate. The internal monologues not only express their hopes and disappointments, but also mirror the course of Spanish history. The plots develop on the basis of these broken memories, a narrative principle also followed by ‘La larga marcha'(1996; t: The Long March) and ‘La caída de Madrid'(2000; t: The Fall of Madrid). Their structure is, however, more complex; here, the varying points of view of the many individual characters compose one large picture.  “What I am writing about the Franco era today is, of course, expressed from a distance to the events described. The perspective has changed. It is not a question of historiography, but of memories: my personal memories during the act of writing.”  His most recent book, ‘Los viejos amigos'(2003; t: The Old Friends), reflects upon the end of the civil war generation and their ideals.  Apart from his work as an author, Rafael Chirbes writes travel reports for a gourmet magazine. He lives in a village between Valencia and Alicante.

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