Pío Baroja y Nessi|
28 December 1872
San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa, Spain
30 October 1956 (aged 83)|
|Resting place||Madrid, Spain|
|Occupation||Author, novelist, biographer, physician|
|Literary movement||Generation of '98|
Serafin Baroja (father)|
Carmen Nessi y Goñi (mother)
Pío Baroja y Nessi (28 December 1872 - 30 October 1956) was a Spanish writer, one of the key novelists of the Generation of '98. He was a member of an illustrious family, his brother Ricardo was a painter, writer and engraver, and his nephew Julio Caro Baroja, son of his younger sister Carmen, was a well-known anthropologist.
The young Baroja studied medicine at Valencia and took a medical degree at the Complutense University in Madrid at 21 and mining engineering. Although educated as a physician, Baroja practiced only briefly. His memories of student life became the raw material for his novel The Tree of Knowledge. He also managed the family bakery for a short time, running unsuccessfully on two occasions for a seat at the Cortes Generales (the Spanish parliament) as a Radical Republican. Baroja's true calling, however, was always writing, which he began seriously at the age of 13.
Baroja's 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.
Baroja is best known internationally for another trilogy, 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 Baroja's trilogies is called La mar (The sea) and comprises La estrella del capitán Chimista, Los Pilotos de altura and Los mercaderes de esclavos. Baroja also wrote the biography of Juan Van Halen, a Spanish military adventurer.
Baroja's masterpiece is considered 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 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's works offered an insight into Madrid. Baroja's works were often lively but could be lacking in plot. They are written in an abrupt, vivid, yet impersonal style. He was accused of grammatical errors, which he never denied.
While young, Baroja believed loosely in anarchism, like others in the '98 Generation. He later admired men of action, similar to Nietzsche's superman. Catholics and traditionalists denounced him, and his life was at risk during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). In Youth And Egolatry (1917), Baroja described his beliefs as follows:
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.
Ernest Hemingway was greatly influenced by Baroja and told him when he visited him in October 1956, "Allow me to pay this small tribute to you who taught so much to those of us who wanted to be writers when we were young. 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."
Baroja died shortly after this visit and was buried in the Civil Cemetery of Madrid.