José Manuel Caballero Bonald: The War

War is an absurdity, a kind of general disorder. After so many centuries of fighting, the great works of world literature are books dedicated to war, from the sacred Hindu books to Bible, above all the Old Testament, and next the Iliad and Odyssey. All these are wars, descriptions of wars, of people killing people. And this is really nonsense. If one thinks about it coldly it seems that nobody can really explain the fact that war continues to exist, that there is the legal possibility, in quotation marks, that people kill people. And I think the fact that it continues to be a disaster of human development. We have not developed sufficiently to avoid perpetuating wars. I was a little child when the war started. I was eight or nine, and I was twelve when it ended, so my memories are vague. But yes I have a series of concrete facts that have been engraved in my memory, for example looking out from the balcony of my house and seeing a dead man lying on the street bleeding. This is an indelible image of someone who had been shot. More than the war, because I was child of the war, almost I like to say a child of the Republic who also lived the Civil war. But most of all I like to consider myself an adolescent of the post-war period. The first adolescents of the war were the people of my age. They were the poet group, or the literary group of ’50. And the worst was the post-war period, the revenge, the fighting, the violation of rights, the persecution of those defeated unto death. That was the atrocity of the post-war period which remains, still, a matter in the air without justification. There hadn’t been a court to judge these atrocious crimes, not in war, but in the post-war period, I mean, above all, the persecution of those defeated, of those who were not thinking in the same manner as the victorious, this persecution unto death. The war is a backdrop that appears in my literary work constantly. There is no specific subject linked to the war except for some poems, but generally what I have always done is to use my memory. Memory is for me the triggering factor of literary action. Should I not have a memory, I could not write. I write from this memory, modifying the memories, in accordance with the needs of the continuity of narration or of the poem. But in any case it is my memory which always acts. And in this sense all my memory is flooded with the memory of the war. The novels, many poems, and in all of the novels there is always someone who has lived through the war, someone who had suffered from war. Someone who has fought in the war and the consequences of that fighting. In the end, there have always been problems linked to the Civil War, in an inexorable manner.

 

José Manuel Caballero Bonald

José Manuel Caballero Bonald, born 11 November 1926 in Jerez, is a Spanish novelist, lecturer and poet. He studied Astronomy in Cádiz and later Philosophy and Letters in Seville and Madrid. Since his youth, since his freedom, he committed against Franco’s dictatorship. He belongs to the poet group of ’50 along with Ángel Valente, Claudio Rodríguez, José Agustín Goytisolo and Jaime Gil de Biedma, among others. He lived outside Spain for several years and on his return he began working for the Lexicography Seminar of the Royal Spansih Academy. He received the Boscán and Critics’ Awards in 1959, Biblioteca Breve Award in 1961, National Album Award in 1969, Barral Award (which José Manuel Caballero Bonald rejected) and the Critics’ Award, Critic’s Prize and ‘Pablo Iglesias’ Literatura Award in 1977, Ateneo de Sevilla Prize in 1981, Plaza y Janés Award in 1988, Andalucía Literature Award in 1993, Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid in 2000, XIII award of Reina Sofia in Ibero-American poetry in 2004, the National Prize for letters in 2005 and the National Prize of poetry 2008, International Prize of the Poetry of Federico García Lorca in 2009.
He lives halfway between Madrid and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

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