Biography of Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920)

Benito Pérez Galdós.

Novelist and dramatist Spanish, born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on May 10, 1843, and died in Madrid on January 4, 1920. Highest representative - together with Leopoldo Alas Clarín, "Clarín" - the realistic power that dominated the second half of the 19th century Spanish narrative, Pérez Galdós is unanimously recognized as one of the greatest novelists in Spanish literature.


Tenth son of a family accommodated of Basque origin (his father was Lieutenant-Colonel of the army), was a withdrawn and observant child he/she showed an early vocation for reading, music and drawing since childhood. In 1862, some love with a cousin, disapproved by his family, prompted his parents to send him to study law at Madrid, where he/she arrived in the autumn of that year.

Portrait of Benito Pérez Galdós

Upon arrival, the young man felt fascinated by the capital, which became one of the best portraitists. Soon replaced the classes by the literary life: began to attend the sessions of the Ateneo and most prestigious gatherings, the coffees of Fornos or Swiss; He/She has published journal articles in the nation and the Debate; and showed an early inclination to the theatre (he tried his fortune with some dramas and comedies such as the expulsion of the Moors, who badly does well don't wait, the strong man and a young man's advantage). It also took contact with the young Spanish krausist movement, whose creator, Giner of the Ríos, Francisco, prompted him to write novels. In 1868, the young Benito decided to try his luck with the narrative. Thus, La Fontana de Oro, historical novel set in the struggles between absolutists and Liberals of the period of Fernando VII, which had much in common with the aftermath of "The glorious" in which appeared the novel appeared in 1870.

The success led him to follow the same path. He/She did not finish the race laws, because their dedication to literature became full and only was interrupted by long journeys along Spain and other countries. Bachelor inveterate, maintained several relationships that never gave what the Madrid scene, not even the maintained with Emilia Pardo Bazán, discovered in the wake of the correspondence that remained. Between their loved ones, Concha-Ruth Morell, Lorenza Cobián González, names are known, and which would be his last love, Teodosia Gandarias. Love that remained with the second of those mentioned, was born a daughter named María.

Its progressive ideology marked his novels from the beginning. Thus, the image offered of absolutists in La Fontana de Oro landmark to a series of negative characters of conservative ideology that fill their first novels; among them is the protagonist of perfect Doña, monstrous synthesis of religious fanaticism and ultra-conservative ideology. Subsequently, the improvement of its narrative technique led him to abandon this extreme Manichaeism, although in life he/she maintained a more radical position, which led him to the Congress of Deputies on two occasions: the first in 1886, by the liberal party of Sagasta, and the second in 1907, by the Republicans. In 1909, he/she became, together with Pablo Iglesias, head of the social-republicana coalition.

Their ideology caused him much criticism among the sectors more conservatives in Spanish society. Criticism that, while not prevented his entry into the Academy in 1889, it dynamited his candidature to Nobel Prize in 1912. However, the ideology was never preclude maintained deep friendship with Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, known for their conservatism to wishful thinking, and, moreover, their love affairs with the Pardo Bazán, who either never noted for his liberalism.

From 1892, he/she decided to return to the theatre adapting novels own for later, to compose written for the scene. His play was the first attempt to break with post-romantic dramaturgy which prevailed in the madrilenian undercard.

His last years were sad: blind, had to be cared for by a daughter taking one of their relations and met certain economic difficulties, as well as a general for his work between contempt of the attempt of overcoming of realism that occurred in the early years of the century.


The work of Pérez Galdós is divided into two sections, which correspond to the novel and the theater. Apart are its numerous newspaper articles, not too well studied; in 2004, José Carlos Mainer and Juan Carlos Ara Torralba specialists gathered much of these writings in a volume titled critical prose.


Despite abundant production, it was not given Galdos to write on how to romanticize. Just an article, published in 1870, entitled "Observations on the contemporary novel in Spain" allows to set some theoretical elements, all time in writings such as prologues to La Regenta, "Clarín", or the flavor of the Tierruca, of Pereda, as well as his admission in the Academy speech, just it goes beyond common places on realism and naturalism.

In that article, suggests the author as the basis for the novel observation of a particular social group, in its understanding of the urban bourgeoisie and their ideals and aspirations. At the same time, it is necessary to disregard the romantic novel, based on prototypes and not the observation of the reality. As teachers in the art of narrating, always stood out Galdós Balzac and Dickens, which came to be translated, although from a French version.

The galdosiana novel presents two aspects: the independent novels and the Episodios Nacionales, collection of forty-six novels in which portrays the history of the 19th-century Spain, grouped into five series of ten novels, the last of which did not conclude.

With respect to the independent novels, the first already show a great novelist, although they still suffer from certain elements from the romantic novel folletinesco Court, as well as an excessive ideological Manichaeism which will be filing in later works. Are these works La Fontana de Oro (1870), La Sombra (novel of fantastic character which, in spite of deviating from the general line of what will be the work of Galdós, introduces the character of the loco, which will develop in the following and which will reappear frequently in his works as spokesman for the truth or as a way to show)(, through the deformed, the absurdity of reality), and the bold, which is published, as before, in 1871 and that revisits the historical topic and the ideological question of the defence of liberty against the absolutism.

Political concern and the social theory, which continues to suffer from certain Manichaeism, are the cornerstones of his following works, already set in contemporary times and, although still not focusing on Madrid life, something that will happen later. They are perfect Doña (1876), Gloria (1877), the family of León Roch and Marianela, both of 1878.

After a brief hiatus, in 1881 he/she published La Desheredada, novel that marks the beginning of a second phase, usually called "center stage" or "naturalistic stage". This stage will usually be Madrid and characters will move within the broad spectrum of the city bourgeoisie, from the wealthy merchants to new nobles, passing through the cloud of officials who try to pretend what they don't have. The name of "naturalist" due to certain observable similarities between these novels and French, observable naturalism in the determinism of La Desheredada or Lo prohibited (1884-85) or the incorporation of certain unpleasant descriptions, but basically, the vision of Galdós is not novel naturalist, consistently pessimistic and more concerned with document that literary work. La Desheredada will follow the friend Manso (1882), El Doctor Centeno (1883), torment and Bringas (both 1884). El Doctor Centeno author initiates a technique that will have wide continued throughout his work: the return of the character. Felipín Centeno, appeared in Marianela, becomes co-star of this novel together with Alejandro Miquis, brother of doctor Augusto Miquis, appearing in La Desheredada and who has appeared in several novels more. Also there are other characters which have a main part in later works. In this way, accomplished author give his work a sense of unity and greater credibility.

At the time, begin to show new techniques that demonstrate a more mature Narrator: interior monologue, free indirect style, Narrator character, different perspectives through different characters, all in the service of a greater insight into analysis from the characters. Gradually, it will be these people who show us the reality through his own experiences and reflections. In the same way, the introspection of the protagonists offers a different perspective on these issues. This introspection is manifested, at the time, on the stage, that goes from the streets to interiors, carefully described frequently. Within the experimentalism that involves the use of these new techniques, notably the friend Manso, in which the introspection of a character created and destroyed by the Narrator foreshadows the "Montpellier" unamunianas.

Separate chapter deserves Fortunata and Jacinta (1887), the most successful novels of the author, in which the fresco of the madrilenian society is broader. History faces of two women in love with the same man, Juanito Santa Cruz, prototype of the gandul gentleman that wastes money that their parents, merchants in the Centre of Madrid, have managed to save. In this triangle author reflect the national situation in which everything is destroyed without use it: Juanito leaves Fortunata, girl's lower class who would have been happy and useful to marrying someone like her, to marry his cousin Jacinta, which you only attached you a certain affection and, moreover, not can give childrenon the other hand, gives Fortunata. All this is framed in Madrid in the years ranging from "The glorious" (1868) to the restoration (1875), years in which, as in the novel, all hopes of national regeneration was foiled. The complicated plot of this work covers most of the city and reflects one number of social States, much higher than the rest of the galdosiana work.

Benito Pérez Galdós. Fortunata and Jacinta

After Fortunata and Jacinta, publishes Galdós Miau (1888), the unknown, Torquemada at the stake and reality (the three of 1889) and Ángel Guerra (1891). At this stage of their production, begins to gain importance as dream world, which is mixed with the real thing so the protagonists arrive in their introspection, living in worlds apart from the present. Both locos is no longer as those above commented how much people living with a supernatural obsession that blend with your daily living. It is the case of the appearances of God to Luisito gallows in Miau, the conviction of Torquemada that San Pedro carving that has particular devotion has embodied in a well-known priest yours or the protagonists of Meow or Ángel war mystical hobbies. The religious theme, which always obsessed to Galdós, manifests from these novels as a source of comfort to a reality which you want to run away and, at the same time, a form of civil behavior that drives to work for the good of others, and work the Orozco of the unknown and reality, novels that they assume, in addition, return to the multiple perspective and the use of techniques that, like the letters, or the dramatic, allow to demonstrate how difficult precisely know the reality.

The figure of the usurer, that has its galdosiana incarnation in Torquemada - character who had already appeared in Fortunata and Jacinta and the forbidden-, gives rise to a tetralogy, comprising the novels titled Torquemada at the stake (1889), Torquemada in purgatory (1894) and Torquemada, Torquemada on the cross (1893) and San Pedro (1894). The protagonist will achieve, to the passage of time, Ascend socially to be Marquis and Senator of the realm, although it continues to be so primitive as in its origins and refuses to any type of internal despite being tormented by spiritual doubts evolution. The attitude of the usurer, opposite to the spiritual evolution of the protagonist of Ángel war, serves as a transition to the next stage of the novels of Galdós, which is usually dated in 1892 with the publication of Tristana. This will continue to halma and Halma, continuation of the previous one, both from 1895, and mercy (1897). At this stage, the ethical problems posed by the novels are interwoven with the issue of the imagined reality vs. the vivid. Of them, highlights especially Nazarín and mercy, presenting two heroes to the margin of the bourgeois society in which up to then had moved: the first is a priest who decides to leave the villages to preach the Gospel and to live according to the doctrine of Christ, which will take you to collide with the environment, which does not believe in his message and thatIn addition, mistreated him. The tour of towns close to Madrid is presented as a quixotic journey in which the protagonist cannot help but succumb.

Mercy is starring the maid "Benina", which, given the situation of misery that lives her mistress, decides to be begging to keep it. The figure of the maid beggar exalts to be equated with the Jesus Christ in the final pages of the novel. As in previous works, we have here two parallel realities, the made up excuses with which the maid justified before her mistress money obtained alms (which will end up crossing in reality) and that the moro Almudena, beggar "Benina" friend, tells the protagonist about treasures hidden under the ground which could get through spells, eventually also becoming realityAlthough in very different ways and for different purposes.

From 1892, Galdós returns to the theatre and from 1898 to the Episodios Nacionales, which leaves him little room for independent novels. Cassandra (1905), the delighted gentleman (1909) and the reason of unreason (1915) are the latest of these El Abuelo (1897). In them, the imagined world trumps the real anticipation of the search of Unamuno comfort in what you want to believe.

The drafting of the Episodios Nacionales occupied the author since 1873, which published the first, Trafalgar, until 1912, date of Cánovas, the last thing the author came to the conclusion. Five series that form the collection, the first two (corresponding to the war of independence and the reign of Fernando VII, respectively) are the best, every time presenting two unit histories: the Gabriel Araceli in the first and the Salvador Monsalud at the second (even if in this appear and several players as Juan of Pipaón or Genara of Barahonathat they allow to know from various points of view the problematic national situation of the era fernandina). The second series was completed in 1879 and the author decided not to continue, arguing the excessive proximity of the events of the reign of Isabel II, to whose proclamation reached the last episode published (a fractious more and some less Friars). Such closeness would have prevented him from performing a work fair from the historical point of view. Until 1898 not returns to deal with episodes; Indeed, in this year comes to light Zumalacarregui, first of those dedicated to the Carlist Wars and the minority of Isabel II. In this series and the other two, the characters vary and do not always have the same connection from the first two series. In addition, the narrative technique is no longer the same, they also dream world invades the characters (thus, the mad scribe which writes a history of Spain as he/she believes it should be) and the problematical reality Clio is manifested through the presence, especially in the fifth series, symbolic characters like the Musewhich accompanies the protagonist during the brief reign of Amadeo of Savoy. On the other hand, nor do we have a unified narrative technique, but that memoirs and novels in third person mingle with cases as the epistolary novel, which is excellent example La Estafeta Romántica.

Benito Pérez Galdon: Episodios Nacionales. Bailén.

Benito Pérez Galdós, Episodios Nacionales. Trafalgar.


After initial attempts cited, Galdós returns to the theatre in 1892. His fondness for the genre and the dramatic technique seen in frequent references and, even in the acting scenes in novels such as La Desheredada or reality. Thus, in 1892 Debuts reality, adaptation of the eponymous novel, which was followed, in 1893, the Madwoman in the House, which was a success, as well as Gerona, adaptations both of the homonymous novels. These followed the of San Quintin (1894), the damned (1895) and will (1895). In 1896 he/she returned to adapt one of his novels, perfect Doña, which also harvest a significant success.

Benito Pérez Galdós accompanied the actress María Guerrero and Fernando Díaz de Mendoza.

It will not Galdós Theatre until 1901, the year of the premiere of Electra, which constituted a success which was accompanied by a resounding scandal. This will continue to soul and life (1902), Mariucha (1903), and grandfather (1904), new adaptation of novel and again at the service of awareness to the welfare state of the country. Grandpa, as before in Mariucha, criticized the pride of caste which prevents the ruined noble to earn a living working and, simultaneously, the pride of blood, once abandoned grandfather not accompany it their escape but the bastard granddaughter who does not belong to their lineage.

Later are Barbara and love and Science (1905), Zaragoza (1907), Pedro Minio (1908) and Cassandra (1910), his best play, new adaptation of a novel and again attacking the misunderstood religion.

His latest works are Celia in the underworld (1913), Alceste, tragicomedy of 1914, Sor Simona (1915), the miser (1916) Solomon and Santa Juana de Castilla (1918). Posthumous, and completed by the Hermanos Álvarez Quintero, Anton Knight was represented in 1921.


CASALDUERO, Joaquín: Life and work of Galdós (1843-1920), Madrid, 1961.

GULLÓN, Ricardo: Galdos, modern novelist, Madrid, 1987.