Back to the Classics, XIX Century

This is my fifth year doing the Back to the Classics challenge. Though I’ve read already 6 of the 12 books in the challenge, I’ve only posted reviews for two. And I feel for catching up. So be ready to see several short reviews for this and the TBR challenge as well, -which is new to me this year-.

Los pazos de Ulloa, The House of Ulloa in English, was written in 1886. Emilia Pardo Bazán was the mistress of my favorite author, Benito Pérez Galdós, and an accomplished novelist in her own merit. She’s from the Spanish region called Galicia. I remember as a young girl, 10 or 11, we did a family car trip around Galicia, and we visited her nice home there.

She’s the Spanish version of Zola. Naturalist, they call her. There’s a TV series based on the book. This book, -as well as Galdós’s Fortunata and Jacinta, render themselves well to screen adaptations. They are realist dramas that happen in Spanish small towns, places one can still film for a nice epoch drama. It’s the Spanish equivalent of the Victorian books and TV series and movies we are familiar with.

If one wants to understand a country, her country of birth, nothing better than going to its literature and art expressions of the past. Naturalist and realists of the XIX century are masters at giving you a whole universe with its people and its landscape.

The story is compelling. It’s one of those books with a simmering plot, and towards the end, the pace quickens and it becomes a mystery of sorts. The characters are lifted up from the print, so real one has the feeling of having lived at Ulloa for a while.

Time spent with XIX century Spanish lit for me, is time well spent. I admire Bazán’s command of language, her restraint and ability to disappear as a writer and to present you people and their lives in an intimate way but also from an omniscient point of view.

The novel is about Don Julián, a young and shy priest that moves to Ulloa, where Don Pedro lives the life of a master who is also enslaved to his own desires and to his subjects.

The best comparison I can find for it, it’s like if you gave calming pills to all the people in Wuthering Heights. There’s thematic similarities. Maybe Gothic literature is Naturalism/Realism unleashed! At Ulloa, the drama and tension build up masterfully, the tension inside the characters are du Maurier’s Rebecca like.

A very minor classic for those outside the Spanish language’s groove, but a book that won’t disappoint any of you who like a well told drama.

6 thoughts on “Back to the Classics, XIX Century

  1. “The best comparison I can find for it, it’s like if you gave calming pills to all the people in Wuthering Heights.” LOVE IT!

    Other than my current journey through Don Quixote, I have never read any Spanish literature. Incredible, right? I see that Penguin has published a translation of this. I will put it on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, Ruthiella. There’s so many literary traditions, and I want to read at least a sample from all, and that’s mind-blowing to me at times.

      I have to tell you that the Spanish from Spain literature has a few gems if you ever want to venture there. This could be your pick if you go for XIX century. I have a few suggestions, and there’s inexpensive translations available if you wish to go for something XX century. No rush. One day some of these books will cross your path, or you’ll get them when you are ready. I hope they won’t disappoint. They have a different yet recognizable feel to the Anglo literature of the same century.

      People in Wuthering Heigths were slamming doors, and always so hyperbolic. Here evil is never in your face, tragedy is always lurking. I’m not sure I’ve done justice saying they were all ‘calmed’. Now that I recall, there’s a quite tragic opening scene. It’s the way it’s narrated and that the main trait of the characters in the midst of abuse, it’s restraint as a coping mechanism, instead of the rage and challenging behavior that’s characteristic of WH, ha ha ha.


      • I’ve already done my XIX century and my woman author pick for this year, but Karen is consistent with these two categories (I mean, we can never read them all), so there is already next year.

        I liked Wuthering Heights, so the comparison works for me in any case. 😀

        And yes, suggestions for more Spanish literature are always welcome for either century! It is a long running lament that Americans read little in translation compared to other countries.

        Liked by 1 person

        • We are spoiled in America. There’s such a vast variety and quality in English. But purposefully adding more books in translation is a good goal in my opinion.

          I have an extensive post on my favorite books in Spanish, it’s almost finished. It may be of help to you for the future. I’m going to take time to finish it. I cherish it myself, it is something I want to do.


  2. Pingback: The Classics Club – Silvia Cachia

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