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About the Author: Pío Baroja

From Wikipedia:

Pío Baroja y Nessi (December 28, 1872 – October 30, 1956) was a Spanish Basque writer, one of the key novelists of the Generation of '98. He was a member of an illustrious family, one of his relatives was a painter and engraver, and his nephew Julio Caro Baroja was a well known anthropologist.

He was born in San Sebastian, Spain. Although educated as a physician, Baroja only practised this trade briefly. As a matter of fact, he would use his student's memories - some of them he would consider terrible - as the raw material for his novel The Tree of Knowledge. He also managed the family bakery for a short time and ran unsuccessfully on two occasions for a seat at the Cortes (Spanish parliament) as a Radical Republican. Baroja's true calling, however, was always writing, which he began seriously at the age of 13.

His first novel --La casa de Aizgorri (The House of Aizgorri, 1900)-- is part of a trilogy called La Tierra Vasca (The Basque Country, 1900–1909). This trilogy also includes El Mayorazgo de Labraz (The Lord of Labraz, 1903) which became one of his most popular novels in Spain.

However, he is best known internationally by another trilogy entitled La lucha por la vida (The Struggle for Life, 1922–1924) which offers a vivid depiction of life in Madrid's slums. John Dos Passos greatly admired these works and wrote about them.

Another major work --Memorias de un Hombre de Acción (Memories of a Man of Action, 1913–1931)-- offers a depiction of one of his ancestors who lived in the Basque region during the Carlist uprising in the 19th century.

Another of his trilogies is called La mar (The sea) and comprises La estrella del capitán Tximista, Los Pilotos de altura, and Los mercaderes de esclavos. Baroja also wrote the biography of Juan Manuel Antonio Julian Van Halen, a mariner who lived in the late 18th century.

However, some believe his masterpiece to be El árbol de la ciencia (1911) (translated as The Tree of Knowledge), a pessimistic Bildungsroman that depicts the futility of the pursuit of knowledge and of life in general. The title is ironically symbolic: The more the chief protagonist Andres Hurtado learns about and experiences life, the more pessimistic he feels and the more futile his life seems.

In keeping with Spanish literary tradition, Baroja often wrote in a pessimistic, picaresque style. His deft portrayal of the characters and settings brought the Basque region to life much as Benito Pérez Galdós' works offered an insight into Madrid. Baroja's works were often lively, but could be lacking in plot and are written in an abrupt, vivid, yet impersonal style. Sometimes he is even accused of grammatical errors, which he never denied.

Baroja as a young man believed loosely in anarchistic ideals, as other members of the '98 Generation. However, later he would derive into simple admiration of men of action, somehow similar to Nietzsche's superman. His vitalistic vision of life -although pessimistic- led his novels, his ideas and his figure to be considered somehow a precursor of a kind of Spanish fascism. In any case, he was not loved by Catholic and traditionalist ideologists and his life was at risk during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

Ernest Hemingway was greatly influenced by Baroja, although this is not fully appreciated by English-speaking critics.


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Goodreads rating: 3.90

Paperback, Published in Aug 2010 by Linkgua

ISBN10: 8498165709 | ISBN13: 9788498165708

Page count: 268

(San Sebastián, 1872-Madrid, 1956). España. Su padre (Serafín Baroja Zornoza), y su madre (Carmen Nessi y Goñi), pertenecían a familias distinguidas y conocidas en San Sebastián vinculadas con el periodismo y la imprenta. Pío fue el tercero de tres hermanos. Más tarde nació Carmen, también escritora ocasional. En 1891 terminó la carrera de medicina en Valencia y se doctoró en 1894 en Madrid con una tesis sobre el dolor. Fue mal estudiante y desde entonces mostró un carácter gruñón, arisco y descontento. Tímido y retraído, nunca se casó. Tras defender su tesis, marchó a Cestona, en el País Vasco. Pasó un año allí y después de una estancia en San Sebastián vivió en Madrid donde empezó a colaborar en periódicos y revistas de ideas sociales anarquistas y de izquierdas. En 1900 publicó su primer libro, una recopilación de cuentos titulada Vidas sombrías, la mayoría escritos en Cestona sobre gentes de esa región y sus propias experiencias como médico. El libro fue comentado por escritores como Miguel de Unamuno, Azorín y Benito Pérez Galdós. Poco después intimó con el anarquista José Martínez Ruiz, «Azorín», y pretendió entrar en la política. Tras su fracaso en la política, viajó por Europa (residió en París y Londres, y pasó por Italia, Bélgica, Suiza, Alemania, Noruega, Holanda y Dinamarca) y acumuló una impresionante biblioteca que instaló en el caserío de Itzea, donde pasaba los veranos con su familia. En 1935 fue admitido en la Real Academia de la Lengua. Durante la Guerra Civil fue amenazado por los carlistas y emigró a París. Volvió al término de la guerra y tuvo problemas con la censura. Identificado con las ideas liberales, repudió al comunismo. Murió en 1956. Su ataúd fue llevado en hombros por sus admiradores, Ernest Hemingway y Camilo José Cela.

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