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A New York Times Best Book of the Year
Nobel Prize Laureate
Mazurka for Two Dead Men, the culmination of Camilo José Cela‘s literary art, opens in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War: Lionheart Gamuzo is savagely murdered. In 1939, as the war ends, his brother avenges his death. For both deaths, the blind accordion player Gaudencio plays the same mazurka. Set in backward rural Galicia, Cela’s excellent novel portrays a reign of fools, and works like contrapuntal music, its themes calling and responding, alternately brutal, melancholy, funny, lyrical, and coarse.
About the Author
Camilo José Cela, winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in 1916 in Galicia in a family with aristocratic roots. His father was a Spaniard, his mother of English birth but also with some Italian blood. His medical studies were interrupted due to the civil war, after which he returned to Madrid to study law. In 1942, he published the novel that made his name, La familia de Pascual Duarte. Since then he has devoted himself entirely to literature. He lived on Mallorca for decades, starting in 1954. In 1956 and until 1979, he published the magazine, Papeles de Son Armadans in which, during the Franco era, he could give space to the young opposition. He died in 2001.
Cela never forgets that the mazurka is a dance. He writes with gusto about that fundamental two-step of human existence: sex and death.
The definitive novel of how the Spanish Civil
War was actually experienced by ordinary people.
If there is any Spanish novelist who deserves the Nobel
Prize on the merit of narrative experimentation alone, it is without a doubt
Camilo José Cela.
— Miguel Ugarte
His most mesmerizing fiction, about life during the first
four decades of the twentieth century, a life so brutal that the Spanish Civil
War, when it occurs, seems a mere continuation of the ordinary. A fiendishly haunting story.
Cela is the Goya of Franco’s Spain.
— Paul West
There is a secret slot for Cela at his best, as
one of the great prose stylists, plural, of Spain—a man dangerously like us.
— Roberto Bolaño