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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681376158
Pages: 296
Publication Date: March 7, 2023

The Hive

by Camilo José Cela, translated from the Spanish by James Womack

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An NYRB Classics Original

The translator Anthony Kerrigan has compared the work of Camilo José Cela, the 1989 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, to that of Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Curzio Malaparte. These are, Kerrigan writes, “ferocious writers, truculent, badly spoken, foul mouthed.” However provocative and disturbing, they are also flatout dazzling as writers, whose sentences, as rigorous as they are riotous, lodge like knives in the reader’s mind. Cela called himself a proponent of “uglyism,” of “nothingism.” But he has the knack, the critic Américo Castro reminds us, of deploying those “nothings and lacks” to construct beauty.

The Hive is set over the course of a few days in the Madrid of 1943, not long after the end of the Spanish Civil War, when the regime of General Francisco Franco was at its most oppressive. The book includes more than three hundred characters whose comings and goings it tracks to hypnotic effect. Scabrous, scandalous, and profane, this virtuosic group portrait of a wounded and sick society was first published in Buenos Aires in 1951 because in Spain it could not be published at all. This new translation by James Womack is the first in English to present Cela’s masterpiece in uncensored form.