Pío Baroja

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Charcoal and pastel portrait of Baroja by Ramón Casas, c. 1904.

Pío Baroja y Nessi (1872-1956), Spanish writer of the famed ‘generation of ’98’, was trained in medicine but devoted his life to the writing of novels and, to a lesser extent, plays. 

He is the best-known of a family of writers and literary folk, the grandson of printer and publisher Pío Baroja and brother of writers Carmen and Ricardo Baroja. He was quite prolific, writing dozens of novels and novel series, which he grouped into nine trilogies and two tetralogies, plus several “loose” novels and half a dozen plays.

Baroja’s writing is always political, though he was sometimes criticized for the inconsistency of his views. To this he responded, famously:

I have always been a liberal radical, an individualist and an anarchist. In the first place, I am an enemy of the Church; in the second place, I am an enemy of the State. When these great powers are in conflict I am a partisan of the State as against the Church, but on the day of the State’s triumph, I shall become an enemy of the State. If I had lived during the French Revolution, I should have been an internationalist of the school of Anacharsis Cloots; during the struggle for liberty, I should have been one of the Carbonieri.

Though he received little acclaim in the English-speaking world, he was widely admired as a “writer’s writer,” especially by Hemingway, who wrote to him in the last year of his life: “I deplore the fact that you have not yet received a Nobel Prize, especially when it was given to so many who deserved it less, like me, who am only an adventurer.”

This paucity of recognition is visible in the English-language Wikipedia entry, especially when compared with the excellent and extensive Spanish-language article.