Pío Baroja y Nessi (December 28, 1872, San Sebastián–October 30, 1956, Madrid) was a Basque writer, one of the key novelists of the Generation of '98. Although educated as a physician, Baroja only practiced this trade briefly. 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 was La Casa de Aizgorri (The House of Aizgorri, 1900), which 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), offer a depiction of one of his ancestors who lived in the Basque region during the Carlist uprising in the 19th century. However, some believe his masterpiece to be El árbol de la ciencia (1911) (Translated as 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.
Ernest Hemingway was greatly influenced by Baroja, although this is not fully appreciated by English-speaking critics.
Works available in English
- Tree of Knowledge (1974). Howard Fertig: ISBN 0865273162
- Zalacain the Adventurer (1998). Lost Coast Press: ISBN 1882897137
- Caesar or Nothing (1976). Howard Fertig: ISBN 0865272247
- Youth And Egolatry (2004). Kessinger Publishing: ISBN 1419195409
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