Authors: Pío Baroja

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Spanish novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

La casa de Aizgorri, 1900

Aventuras, inventos, y mixtificaciones de Silvestre Paradox, 1901

El mayorazgo de Labraz, 1903 (The Lord of Labraz, 1926)

La busca, 1904 (The Quest, 1922)

Mala hierba, 1904 (Weeds, 1923)

Aurora roja, 1904 (Red Dawn, 1924)

La lucha por la vida, 1904 (collective title for previous 3 novels; The Struggle for Life)

La feria de los discretos, 1905 (The City of the Discreet, 1917)

Paradox, rey, 1906 (Paradox, King, 1931)

La ciudad de la niebla, 1909

Zalacaín el aventurero, 1909 (Zalacain the Adventurer, 1997)

César o nada, 1910 (Caesar or Nothing, 1919)

El árbol de la ciencia, 1911 (The Tree of Knowledge, 1928)

Las inquietudes de Shanti Andía, 1911 (The Restlessness of Shanti Andia, and Other Writings, 1959)

El mundo es ansí, 1912

Memorias de un hombre de acción, 1913-1935 (22 volumes)

La sensualidad pervertida, 1920

La leyenda de Juan de Alzate, 1922 (The Legend of Juan de Alzate, 1959)

El cura de Monleón, 1936

Short Fiction:

Vidas sombrías, 1900

Idilios vascos, 1901-1902


Canciones del suburbio, 1944


El tablado de Arlequín, 1901

Juventud, egolatría, 1917 (Youth and Egolatry, 1920)

Nuevo tablado de Arlequín, 1917

La caverna del humorismo, 1919

Momentum catastrophicum, 1919

Divagaciones apasionadas, 1924

Entretenimientos, 1927

Aviraneta: O, La vida de un conspirador, 1931

Vitrina pintoresca, 1935

Pequeños ensayos, 1943

Ciudades de Italia, 1949

La obsesión del misterio, 1952

Memorias, 1955 (7 volumes)


Obras completas, 1946-1951 (8 volumes)


The father of Pío Baroja y Nessi (bah-RAW-kah ee NAYS-ee) may have been responsible for his son’s writing career. Though a mining engineer by profession, he was also a poet and author of the libretto for perhaps the only opera in the Basque language, and he brought up his son on Spanish and Basque ballads and legends. Young Pío Baroja, who disliked discipline and rules, hated school. In one autobiographical work, he describes satirically his uninspired teachers. He did, however, read widely, including translations of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Friedrich Nietzsche, Honoré de Balzac, and the great nineteenth century Russian writers, and he trained himself in observation and self-analysis.{$I[AN]9810001520}{$I[A]Baroja, Pío}{$S[A]Nessi, Pío Baroja y;Baroja, Pío}{$I[geo]SPAIN;Baroja, Pío}{$I[tim]1872;Baroja, Pío}

Because of his antipathy toward textbooks, he twice failed his final examinations in the medical school of Valencia, but he finally earned a degree in Madrid in 1893. After one or two dull years spent practicing medicine in Cestona, a small Basque town, Baroja gave up that career and joined his brother in Madrid to run the family bakery. Lack of customers gave him leisure to wander the streets of the Spanish capital and to get acquainted not only with the laboring classes but also with the derelicts of back streets and gutters who figure in his trilogy of novels, The Struggle for Life.

A lucky financial investment allowed him to give up commerce and concentrate on writing. In 1899, Baroja made his first move to Paris, where he initially wrote articles for newspapers. Fiction remained his chief love, however. In 1900, he published a volume of short stories, Vidas sombrías, then started on the first of his trilogies, three novels written in dramatic form and portraying the once healthy Basque culture as it succumbed to alcohol and industrial progress. He returned to Spain in 1912, to divide his time between his home in the Basque village of Vera del Bidoasoa and his mother’s apartment in Madrid. Although he grudgingly gave his support to Francisco Franco as the lesser of two evils at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he left Spain voluntarily for Paris in the summer of 1936 and did not return until 1940.

Baroja composed his works rapidly, and he produced sometimes as many as three or four novels a year. He tended to give greater attention to action than to characterization or style. Life has no plan, he said, so a novel that imitated life need have no plot. After reading Balzac, he was seized by the ambition to fictionalize the Spanish scene in several series of novels. He also began a long series called Memorias de un hombre de acción (recollections of a man of action), which consisted of semihistorical novels with one of his ancestors as the chief character.

Baroja’s novels, powerful in their restraint and understatement, won him election to the Spanish Academy in 1936. The chief flaw of his novels is considered to be lack of structural unity. He had a marvelous gift for describing people and scenes, but a sudden idea could lead him into reflections unconnected with the plot, digressions which reveal him as a sincere, open-minded liberal. His typical theme is the life of a physical or spiritual vagabond, maladjusted because of his early life and seeking to break out of the ironic trap of civilization. To Baroja, action is a cure for all ills. Let human beings will, and they can recover whatever they have lost, from health to dignity. He criticizes the degeneracy of Spain and shows pessimism about the possibility of improvement. For someone with those convictions, it was easy to revive the picaresque novel of Golden Age Spain, as he did in Zalacaín el aventurero.

Baroja never married. He seemed to know little about love, and few of his novels can be classified as love stories. All but one of his nearly one hundred books were banned when Francisco Franco took over Spain. From then on until his death in Madrid, October 30, 1956, Baroja lived under the dictatorship, publishing inoffensive novels and memoirs about his past and what people had formerly thought of him or said about him.

BibliographyBarrow, Leo L. Negation in Baroja: A Key to His Novelistic Creativity. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1971. Explores the novelist’s technique of “creating by destroying” as a rebellion against conventional Western values. Discusses the style, dialogue, atmosphere, characterization, and landscape in his novels to explain how Baroja uses fiction to express his philosophical, political, and social attitudes.Devlin, John. Spanish Anticlericalism: A Study in Modern Alienation. New York: Las Americas, 1966. Links Baroja with other prorepublican writers whose works exhibit strong anticlerical bias. Locates the source of his disdain for religion in the agnosticism that underlies his novels.DuPont, Denise. Realism as Resistance: Romanticism and Authorship in Galdós, Clarín, and Baroja. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2006. Explores the boundaries between realism and Romanticism in novels by three Spanish authors: Baroja’s The Struggle for Life, Leopoldo Alas’s La regenta, and Benito Pérez Galdós’s first series of Episodios nacionales. All three novels feature quixotic characters who act as authors, which DuPont traces to the influence of an earlier Spanish author–Miguel de Cervantes.Landeira, Ricardo. The Modern Spanish Novel, 1898-1936. Boston: Twayne, 1985. A chapter on Baroja surveys the novelist’s achievement and discusses Paradox, King and the other novels in the trilogy dealing with “The Fantastic Life.” Considers the novel the bitterest of the three in attacking social ills.Murphy, Katharine. Re-Reading Pío Baroja and English Literature. New York: Peter Lang, 2004. Murphy points out the many structural similarities between Baroja’s early fiction and the novels of his contemporaries in England and Ireland, most notably Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, E. M. Forster, and James Joyce. Her examination focuses on how Baroja and the English-language authors treat human consciousness, the identity and role of the artist, European landscapes, and questions of form, genre, and representation.Murphy, Katharine. “Subjective Vision in El árbol de la ciencia and Jude the Obscure.” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 79, no. 2/3 (March, 2002): 331-353. Murphy compares Baroja’s novel to Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, examining how both novels use a single-consciousness technique that reflects the modernist interest in subjective experience. She also finds similarities between the two novels’ creation of characters who cannot be explained by the reader or the author.Patt, Beatrice P. Pío Baroja. New York: Twayne, 1971. Excellent introduction to the writer and his works. Briefly discusses Baroja’s attitudes toward the church and state. Reviews Baroja’s use of extended dialogue in Paradox, King; points out how it permits him to introduce personal prejudices into a work he considered “half-fantasy, half-satirical poem.”Reid, John T. Modern Spain and Liberalism. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1937. Extensive study of Baroja’s novels as documents chronicling the social and political climate in his country. Claims the novelist intends that his works serve as statements of the principles of liberalism that counter the fascist tendencies of his homeland.Turner, Harriet, and Adelaida López de Martínez, eds. The Cambridge Companion to the Spanish Novel: From 1600 to the Present. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Essays trace the development of the Spanish novel, including Baroja’s The Tree of Knowledge, El mundo es ansí, and other novels. Situates him within the broader context of Spanish literature.
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