Azaña was born in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, in 1880, and died in exile in 1940. He was one of the leading political figures on the left and held a number of government positions, including that of President of the Popular Front government that came to power in 1935. It was this government that was opposed by a coalition of army generals, Catholics, fascists, and monarchists who rebelled and plunged Spain into its bloody three-year Civil War. In 1939, Azaña crossed the border into France, never to return to Spain.
Azaña was a great lover of art, music, and literature, and a voracious reader. A number of his written works are political. His imprisonment in Barcelona by the right-wing government in 1934 became the material for his work Mi rebelión en Barcelona (My Rebellion in Barcelona, 1935). His book La velada en Benicarló (Vigil in Benicarló, 1939) is a dialogued novel in which an odd mix of people spend the night together commenting on the significance of the Spanish Civil War from their different perspectives.
Besides strictly political works, he published works of fiction: El jardín de los frailes (Garden of the Monks, 1927) and Fresdeval, an unfinished work that was published posthumously; a play, La corona (The Crown, 1933); and some literary criticism. He is also known as an accomplished translator. He and a close friend edited La pluma, a literary journal. His personal contributions to the journal have been gathered in the volume Plumas y palabras (Pens and Words, 1930).
Azaña's political and moral cause was freedom. He was also strongly repulsed by violence, as is witnessed in his commentaries in La velada en Benicarló. He believed all Spanish institutions needed to be liberalized if Spain was to become a truly free and modern society. One of his most ardent battles, and the one that probably gained him the greatest number of enemies, was against the narrowness, hypocrisy, and dominance of the Catholic Church in Spain.
His first novel, El jardín de los frailes, catalogues some of his hostilities toward this institution. Despite this animosity, Azaña was married in the church in 1929 to Dolores de Rivas Cherif--a woman twenty-two years younger than he, the sister of his close friend and collaborator, Cipriano. They had no children.
A difficulty arises in assessing Azaña because of his personality. He was known to be so shy that he remained a mystery even to his closest friends. In his semi-autobiographical work, El jardín de los frailes, he describes himself as a lonely and solitary figure. Friends and biographers have also mentioned his hypersensitivity and his pride as further obstacles to truly knowing the man.
References to a possible "secret life" are recorded in a novel written by Daniel de Bois-Juzan entitled Celui qui fut Pedro Muñoz (The Late Pedro Muñoz). Muñoz is a thinly disguised Azaña, president of the Republic of Turdénie, which is recognizably the Spanish Republic. Curiously, the novel vanished from bookstores almost immediately after being released in 1949.
Although never referring to his own personal life, Azaña did write about the romantic adventures of a nineteenth-century Spanish author (Valera en Italia: Amores, política y literatura), in whom Azaña admired the cautious maintenance of his private life, as well as his aversion to traditional Spanish society.
Sexuality does not appear in any of Azaña's works. Although he chronicles his growing political awareness and his absolute commitment to liberal freedom and revolutionary reforms, as well as sarcastically mocking the malignant influence of the church on the minds of the people, he also staunchly defends the privacy of personal life.
Author: Costa, Maria Dolores
Entry Title: Azaña, Manuel
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated February 4, 2002
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/azana_m.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date November 3, 2012
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates
The tragedy of Manuel Azaña and the fate of the Spanish Republic by Frank Sedwick
Publisher: Ohio State University Press, n.pl. (1963)
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