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The Hive (novel)

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Subject: 1951 in literature, Camilo José Cela, The Hive, La Colmena, La colmena (film)
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The Hive (novel)

This article is about the novel. For the film adaptation, see La colmena (film).
The Hive
Author Camilo José Cela
Original title La colmena
Country Spain
Language Spanish
Genre Experimental novel
Publisher Emecé Editores
Publication date 1951
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 350 pp (Spanish paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 84-7039-436-3 (Spanish paperback edition)
OCLC Number LC Classification PQ6605.E44 C6 1984

The Hive (Spanish: La Colmena) (also translated as The Beehive) is a novel written by the Spanish author Camilo José Cela, first published in 1951.

La Colmena

The novel is set in Madrid in 1942, after the end of the Spanish Civil War, and deals with the poverty and general unhappiness found in Spain by examining a multitude of fictional characters in varying levels of detail. It is notable in that it contains over 300 characters and is considered to be the most important novel written in post civil war Spain. Because of rigorous censorship Cela was unable to get La colmena published in his native Spain, and was instead forced to publish it in Buenos Aires.

The book consists of six chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter contains a number of short passages describing short episodes and focusing on a particular character. In this way a series of insignificant events and characters work together to form an important conclusion, much in the same way that a hive of bees works together to achieve something much more than they could achieve individually.


The novel itself is composed of two hundred and fifteen fragments separated by a blank space, grouped into seven chapters of different lengths.

ChapterNumber of sequences
ChapterNumber of sequences


The events of La Colmena occur in three days in December 1943, a date deduced from a news story which Rómulo the bookseller reads in a newspaper, where Martín Marco's proclamation also appears. The newspaper also informs us of the Yalta conference between the world leaders. However, because there are no more facts, the time of the story is offered to the reader in a vague manner: it is set in the first years of post war Spain, and in fact it could have been set anywhere between 1941 and 1945.

The duration of the story is brief as everything happens over the course of three days. The first six chapters happen in two days and the last occurs three or four days later. But the most significant thing is the chronological disorder, as facts are not told in the manner which they happen. If you were to read the novel in a traditional manner, you would need to re-order the chapters in the following order: I, II, IV, VI, III, V, Final.

Language and style



In La Colmena, Cela combines two linguistic levels, the cultured and the popular. One way of examining the novel would be in this manner:

Manner of speech
Voice of the
Narration, description
Cultured and literary
Dialogues, monologues
Colloquial and vulgar

La Colmena and Cinema

In La Colmena there are reference to the world of film, films, actors and spectators. La colmena was made into a film directed by Mario Camus (See La colmena (film)).

Editions available

ISBN 1-56478-268-9 (English)
ISBN 84-206-3439-5 (Spanish)
ISBN 84-239-7421-9 (Spanish)
ISBN 84-7039-436-3 (Spanish)

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