If you’re strolling down Madrid’s Paseo de Recoletos (extension of Paseo de la Castellana), between Columbus Square (Plaza de Colón) and the Cibeles Fountain where Real Madrid celebrates its championships, you will inadvertently pass by a bronze statue of a bespectacled, long bearded man standing up straight, hands crossed behind his back holding his hat. He stares into the distance, pondering. A caption on the stone pedestal supporting the sculpture reads: to Mr. Ramón María del Valle Inclán.
The statue was commissioned by the nearby Círculo de Bellas Artes, renowned Spanish Cultural Institution and that’s all the information you will get. Who was this man? In my opinion, one of the most incisive, brilliant and vigorous Spanish writers of all time and pardon the adjectives but they are all accurate. Born in the late 19th century, Mr. Valle Inclán passed away a few months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Novelist, playwright and poet, Valle Inclán brought renewed excitement to the Spanish language. Roll over Cervantes. Valle arrived to bring new energy to the legacy the author of Don Quixote built for centuries to come. He had a distinct influence on Nobel Prize winners García Márquez and Vargas Llosa. He also portrayed Spanish society in a brutal manner, subverting style and content, no holds barred.
The stupidity of Spain’s ruling class at the turn of the century is exposed mercilessly. One finds in his play “Bohemian Lights” and his novel “Court of Miracles” a point of reference to explain the country’s present political state of confusion and the abuse of power by those who are supposed to promote the common good. He’s also hard to translate. His innovative use of the Spanish language makes it quite a task to transpose the intricacies of the idioms and colloquialisms which run through his works. However, such is the case with James Joyce to whom he is often compared. If the Irish novelist’s masterpieces (“Ulysses”, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”) can be found in sound Spanish translations, an effort should be made to make Valle Inclán available to English speaking lovers of world literature. It’s about time.