Authors: Pedro Antonio de Alarcón

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Spanish short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

El final de Norma, 1855 (Brunhilde: Or, The Last Act of Norma, 1891)

El sombrero de tres picos, 1874 (The Three-Cornered Hat, 1886)

El escándalo, 1875 (The Scandal, 1945)

El niño de la bola, 1880 (c, 1892 also known as The Infant with the Globe, 1959)

El Capitán Veneno, 1882 (Captain Spitfire, 1886)

La pródiga, 1882 (True to Her Oath, 1899)

Short Fiction:

Historietas nacionales, Cuentos amatorios, and Narraciones inverosímiles, 1881-1882 (a three-volume collection)

Moors, Christians, and Other Tales, 1891

Tales from the Spanish, 1948

“The Nail,” and Other Stories, 1997


El hijo pródigo, pb. 1857


Diario de un testigo de la Guerra de Africa, 1859

De Madrid a Nápoles pasando por París, Ginebra, etc., 1861

Cosas que fueron, 1871

Juicios literarios y artísticos, 1883

Historia de mis libros, 1884


Cuentos, artículos y novelas, 1859


Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (ahl-ahr-KAWN) was born on March 10, 1833, in Guadix, a small town in the province of Granada. Unable because of family poverty to study law at the University of Granada, as he dreamed of doing, Alarcón was urged toward the priesthood. At heart, however, he wanted to write, and Sir Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas claimed more of his time than his studies. While still in college, he decided to write a series of four novels to be set at the four compass points. He started with a tale of the north, Brunhilde: Or, The Last Act of Norma (also known as The Final Aria of Norma), with local color gleaned from guidebooks on Spitzberg.{$I[AN]9810001523}{$I[A]Alarcón, Pedro Antonio de}{$I[geo]SPAIN;Alarcón, Pedro Antonio de}{$I[tim]1833;Alarcón, Pedro Antonio de}

Pedro Antonio de Alarcón

(Library of Congress)

With a friend, Alarcón founded a periodical devoted to literature, science, and art. He also wrote a play which pleased its audience but was lampooned by critics. With the outbreak of war in Africa in 1859, he enlisted to serve as a soldier-reporter. He returned with a manuscript of his experiences that earned him enough money to finance a trip to Naples, Italy, to write another travel book.

The years 1872-1884 marked Alarcón’s greatest literary activity. Several novels, including The Scandal in 1875 and The Child of the Ball (also called The Infant with the Globe) in 1880, were published during this period, as were some of the novellas at which he excelled. One of the best is the 1874 work The Three-Cornered Hat, based in part on a somewhat bawdy ballad, “The Miller of Arcos,” which Alarcón turned into one of the world’s masterpieces of humor. Among family treasures in the archaic town of Alarcón’s childhood were a scarlet cape and a three-cornered hat that had belonged to his grandfather, a councilman of the town. The story they suggested was originally written to order for a Cuban humor magazine. It had several subsequent adaptations, including a 1919 ballet version by Manuel de Falla.

The Three-Cornered Hat exemplifies Alarcón’s love for the color and traditions of his native Andalusia. The Three-Cornered Hat is often classified as a long short story, the genre which earned Alarcón his most lasting recognition. Other stories found in anthologies include “The Checkbook” and “The French Sympathizer.” Another of Alarcón’s better-known longer works is Captain Spitfire, the story of a misogynist who is wounded in Madrid street fighting in 1848 and then hospitalized among three women.

In 1875 Alarcón was elected to the Spanish Academy, but ongoing critical attacks on his works, especially on those with religious implications, discouraged him from further fiction writing. He did, however, publish a somewhat pathetic account of his literary career, Historia de mis libros (history of my books) in 1884. Ill following several strokes, he died in Madrid on July 20, 1891.

BibliographyAtkinson, William C. “Pedro Antonio de Alarcón.” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 10 (July, 1933): 136-141. Written to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Alarcón’s birth, Atkinson reviews several novels and concludes that Alarcón’s characters are types and that he never ceased to be a Romantic.Combs, Colleen J. Women in the Short Stories of Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997. Examines Alarcón’s treatment of female characters.DeCoster, Cyrus. Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. Boston: Twayne, 1979. The most complete source of material on Alarcón available in English. It provides a complete survey of Alarcón’s short fiction and also covers his novels, poetry, drama, sketches, and essays. Supplemented by an annotated bibliography.Fernandez, James D. “Fashioning the Ancien Regime: Alarcón’s Sombrero de tres picos.” Hispanic Review 62 (Spring, 1994): 235-247. Discusses the story’s use of folktale, its emphasis on historical time and place, and its use of popular sources. Comments on the ambivalence in the story between Alarcon’s nostalgia and his modernity.Hespelt, E. Herman. “Alarcón as Editor of El látigo.” Hispania 20 (1936): 319-336. Focuses on Alarcón’s brief career as a radical journalist and quotes extensively from the political and social satire he wrote for this short-lived periodical.Quinn, David. “An Ironic Reading of Pedro de Alarcón’s ‘La última calaverada.’” Symposium 31 (1977): 346-356. Through a structural analysis of the text, David Quinn refutes the notion that the ending of “The Last Escapade” shows the benevolent intervention of divine Providence.Winslow, Richard W. “The Distinction of Structure in Alarcón’s El sombrero de tres picos and El Capitán Veneno.” Hispania 46 (1963): 715-721. Argues that El sombrero de tres picos should be considered a short story, whereas El Capitán Veneno is in every sense a novel.
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