Ayala, one of Spain's literary greats, reaches 100

17th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

17 March 2006, MADRID — The Don of Spanish letters, Francisco Ayala, celebrated his 100th birthday, feted by King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and a host of literary luminaries.

17 March 2006

MADRID — The Don of Spanish letters, Francisco Ayala, celebrated his 100th birthday, feted by King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and a host of literary luminaries.

The king lauded the "personal and literary contribution" of Ayala, whose life and work, the monarch said, "reveal the commitment of an intellectual who has taken on as his own the era in which fate set him down".

"His analysis of reality - rigorous, rational, incisive and free - far from leading us to pessimism, has permitted us to glimpse hope, which is the most realistic way possible of realizing our dreams," Juan Carlos said during a birthday gala for the writer at the National Library in Madrid.

Born in Granada, Ayala burst onto the Spanish literary scene in the 1920s, with The Boxer and An Angel (1929), followed by Hunter At Dawn (1930).

His later word Bewitched was also hailed one of the greatest works of Spanish literature.

But during the 1970s, he made something of a comeback with his novel The Garden of Delights.

The writer was one of the thousands of Spaniards who fled to the Americas after the fascist victory in the 1936-1939 civil war.

Yet despite his status as a cultural icon of the civil war exiles, Ayala said he had never wanted to be a symbol, an attitude he said served him well when he first returned to Spain in 1960, 15 years before the death of dictator Francisco Franco, helping  Ayala to "accept reality as it was, to not fool myself or generate false hopes".

Ayala was accompanied to the ceremony by his wife Carolyn Richmond, who has translated some of his works into English, and the rest of his family.

At a press conference in Madrid, he expressed gratitude for the attention on the occasion of his birthday, but said he would prefer that the focus be on the struggle for the dignity and autonomy of the human spirit.

Ayala also touched on the phases of his life: from childhood in Granada, where a teacher told his parents he would never amount to anything; to a youth spent largely in pre-civil war Madrid; his long exile in Argentina, Puerto Rico and the United States; and his return to Spain to take part in the democratic transition that followed the death of Franco.

Thanks to the transformation that followed Franco's death, Ayala said, Spain "is today a modern country, for good and for ill, like any other in Europe".

Reflecting on his 100th birthday, the author said he does not believe in immortality and always looks ahead.

"Since I was born," he said, "I have known and had the awareness that I was going to die, and with that awareness one can move tranquilly."

He also professed an indifference toward the way people remember him when he is gone: "I don't impose anything on anyone. Let everyone recall me however he likes."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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