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Miguel Delibes

Miguel Delibes
Delibes in 1998
Born Miguel Delibes Setién
(1920-10-17)17 October 1920
Valladolid, Castile and León, Spain
Died 12 March 2010(2010-03-12) (aged 89)
Valladolid, Castile and León, Spain
Resting place Cementerio del Carmen, Valladolid
Occupation Novelist, journalist, newspaper editor
Language Spanish
Nationality Spanish
Genre Narrative fiction, Essays
Literary movement Post-civil war literature
Notable works El camino
Spouse Ángeles de Castro (m. 1946, d. 1974)
Children Miguel, Ángeles, Germán & Elisa


Miguel Delibes Setién (Spanish pronunciation: ; 17 October 1920 – 12 March 2010) [1] was a Spanish novelist, journalist and newspaper editor associated with the Generation of '36 movement. From 1975 until his death, he was a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, where he occupied chair "e".[2] He studied commerce and law and began his career as a columnist and later journalist at the El Norte de Castilla. He would later head this newspaper before gradually devoting himself exclusively to the novel.

As a connoisseur of the fauna and flora of his geographical region and someone passionate about hunting and the rural world, he could give form in his works to all matters relating to Castile and hunting from the perspective of an urban person who had not lost touch with that world.

He was one of the leading figures of post-Civil War Spanish literature, for which he was recognized through many awards. However, his influence extends even further, since several of his works have been adapted for the theatre or have been made into films, which won awards at competitions such as the Cannes Film Festival, and television shows.

He was marked deeply by the death of his wife in 1974. In 1998 he was diagnosed with colon cancer, an illness from which he would never fully recover. As a result, his literary career came almost entirely to a halt. He fell into apathy and became virtually isolated until his death in 2010.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life and training 1.1
    • Early literary career 1.2
    • Literary apogee 1.3
    • Years 1980 and 1990: awards 1.4
    • Literary halt and final years 1.5
    • Death 1.6
    • Awards 1.7
  • Works 2
    • Television adaptations 2.1
    • Movie adaptations 2.2
  • References 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • External links 5


Early life and training

Miguel Delibes at age six in a school photograph of the Colegio de las Carmelitas of Valladolid.

Miguel Delibes was born in Valladolid on October 17, 1920 as the third of eight children from the marriage between María Setién and Adolfo Delibes. His father was born and died in the Cantabrian town Molledo, where Miguel spent many summers. The writer was named an adopted son of Valladolid in 2009.[3][4] The name Delibes was of French origin and came from Toulouse. Miguel's grandfather was a brother of French composer Léo Delibes and had moved to Spain to participate in the construction of the railway in Cantabria.[5] His father was a professor of law at the School of Business of Valladolid.[6] Miguel attended the College of Our Lady of Lourdes in Valladolid, where he finished high school in 1936. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he enlisted in 1938 as a volunteer in the Navy of the nationalist forces. As a volunteer, he served on the cruiser Canarias, which operated in the Mallorcan region.[6][7] In 1939, at the end of the war, he returned to his hometown and enrolled at the School of Commerce. After finishing his course, he started law studies. He further enrolled at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios (School of Arts and Crafts) of Valladolid. This helped to improve his artistic skills and to get in 1941 a contract as caricaturist of El Norte de Castilla, the leading newspaper of Valladolid and dean of the Spanish daily press.[8]

From that moment the doors to journalism opened for the only 21-year-old Delibes. He published his first newspaper article in El Norte de Castilla, entitled El deporte de la caza mayor (The sport of big game hunting) and obtained a professional journalist permit in 1943, following an intensive course in Madrid.[9] The newspaper appointed him to the post of editor of the film criticism section while he continued to make caricatures. Two years later, he became professor of Business Law, teaching at the School of Commerce. On April 23, 1946 he married Ángeles de Castro, who later became one of his greatest literary inspirations.[9] They honeymooned in Molledo, Cantabria.[10]

Early literary career

After his marriage the literary career of Miguel Delibes really started to take off. It was the beginning of a three-year period that marked his career: in 1947 he began writing his first novel, La sombra del ciprés es alargada (The Cypress Casts a Long Shadow) and his son Miguel was born. Miguel would later become a famous biologist.[9] In 1948, he received the Premio Nadal for La sombra del ciprés es alargada which marked the beginning of his emergence on the Spanish literary scene. Shortly after, his daughter Ángeles was born. She would also become a known biologist and researcher. 1949 saw the publication of a new book Aún es de día (It is still daytime), that was subject to censorship. As professor of history at the College of Commerce he also had to face Francisco Franco's censors when dealing in his classes with the victory of the "nationalists" in the Spanish Civil War (on whose side he himself had fought for three years as a volunteer). Half way through the year Germán, his third child was born. He would become professor of prehistory at the University of Valladolid.[11]

In 1950 a new stage in the writer's literary career commenced: after suffering a bout of tuberculosis,[12] he published El camino (The road], his third novel. The novel tells the discovery of life and the experiences of a boy who moves from the countryside to the city. The work constituted his final consecration in the Spanish post-war narrative. That year saw the birth of his daughter Elisa, who became a graduate in Hispanic Studies and French.[11]

In 1952 he was appointed deputy director of the newspaper El Norte de Castilla, so that his battles with the censors became increasingly direct and frequent. The writer entered a new phase in his life in which he would publish a new work virtually every year, namely: Mi idolatrado hijo Sisí (My adored son Sissi)'(1953), La partida (The Party) (1954), Diario de un cazador (Diary of a hunter) (1955) - Premio Nacional de Narrativa (National Prize for Fiction) - Un novelista descubre América (A novelist discovers America) (1956), Siestas con viento sur (Siestas with southern wind) 1957) - Premio Fastenrath (Fastenrath Award) -, Diario de un emigrante (Diary of an emigrant) (1958) and La hoja roja (The red leaf) (1959). This last novel was existentialist in content and deals with a photographer who recalls his life on the brink of his retirement. In 1956 his son Juan Delibes was born. He would become a biologist and fan of hunting and fishing like his father.[13] In 1958 the writer was appointed director of El Norte de Castilla.[14]

Literary apogee

Miguel Delibes in the 1960s in his "refuge" of Sedano (Burgos).

The 1960s represented the heyday of Delibes literary career. The period was marked by the birth of his sixth son, Adolfo (later a graduate in biology) and a visit by the writer to Germany, where he visited several universities. The literary period opened with the publication of Viejas historias de Castilla la Vieja (Old tales of Old Castile) (1960) and Por esos mundos (In these worlds) (1961).[15] In 1962, Delibes published Las ratas (The rats), one of his masterpieces. It constructs a story from a series of autobiographical anecdotes which evoke the rural environment of a Castilian village that has disappeared. The book won the Premio de la Crítica (Critics Award for Castilian fiction).[15] In the same year Camino, the last of his seven children, would be born. Camino later graduated in Philosophy and Letters. Also in that year, the film version of El camino, directed by Ana Mariscal, was shot. 1963 was a turbulent year: Delibes resigned on 8 June as director of El Norte de Castilla after several disagreements with Manuel Fraga, Minister of Information and Tourism.[15] In 1964, he spent six months in the United States as a visiting professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature of the University of Maryland. After his return, he wrote and published Cinco horas con Mario (Five hours with Mario), which is considered his masterpiece. The novel is the monologue of a woman who holds a wake at her husband's body while she recounts the memories of her dead husband. Other books published upon his return from the US included USA y yo (The USA and I) and La milana. In the following years he visited Czechoslovakia and published Parábola del náufrago (literally: The parable of the shipwreck, translated into English as The hedge by Frances M. Lopez-Morillas).[16][17] Later in the 1970s, he followed up with several books about hunting, an activity about which he was passionate, and stories. Subsequently he published Un año de mi vida (A year of my life), a personal diary.

On February 1, 1973, Miguel Delibes was elected to the Royal Spanish Academy, occupying chair "e", vacant after the death of Julio Guillén.[2][18] That same year, in December, he was also elected to the Hispanic Society of America. Before the end of the year, he published El príncipe destronado (The dethroned prince), his eleventh novel.[19] On November 22, 1974 his wife, Angela de Castro, died at the age of 50. Her death profoundly marked the writer for the rest of his life.

Finally, on May 25, 1975 he delivered his inaugural address to the Royal Spanish Academy. Damaso Alonso, one of the leading members of the Generation of '27 and then president of the Royal Spanish Academy handed the academic medal to Miguel Delibes[2][19] His induction speech which dealt with The meaning of progress from my work was later edited by him as a book entitled Un mundo que agoniza (A world that is dying). That same year, his twelfth novel Las guerras de nuestros antepasados (The wars of our ancestors [20]) saw the light. In the next three years, he published several books on hunting and his only book about fishing, Mis amigas las truchas (My friends the trouts). The period closed with the publication of El disputado voto del señor Cayo (The contested vote of Mr Cayo), his thirteenth novel.[21] In 1979, the stage adaptation of Five hours with Mario premiered in Spain starring the leading actress of Valladolid Lola Herrera. Due to its success, the play was revived several times. That year, he released Castilla, lo castellano, los castellanos (Castile, Castilian, the Castilians), a narrative anthology.[21]

Years 1980 and 1990: awards

Delibes in El Escorial (July 1991).

In 1980, the International Booksellers Seventh Congress that was held in Valladolid paid tribute to the writer. The big title of this period was Los santos inocentes (The holy innocents), published in 1981. The book is a form of social radiography that recounts the degradation of a rural family through the actions of the caciques of rural Extremadura. In 1982 he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, sharing it with Gonzalo Torrente Ballester;[22] and he participated in the Congress "A literature for man", held in Reggio Emilia, Italy. During this decade he published books on hunting, stories, and collections of newspaper articles. In 1983 he was inducted as Doctor honoris causa by the University of Valladolid. The following year, the Junta of Castile and León awarded him the Literature Prize .[23] In the same year, Miguel Delibes was named 'author of the year' by the Spanish booksellers who bestowed the Golden Book award on him in recognition.[24] At the end of the year, The holy innocents was adapted into a film. The actors Alfredo Landa and Francisco Rabal received the actor's award at the Cannes Film Festival for their roles in the movie.[25] In 1985 he published El tesoro (The treasure) and received the Knight of Arts and Letters of the French Republic. In the following years he was named a favorite son of Valladolid, he published Castilla habla (Castile speaks), got an honorary doctorate of the Complutense University of Madrid and attended the theatrical adaptation of works like The red leaf and The wars of our ancestors.[26] His 1987 book Madera de héroe (The stuff of heroes [27] ) deals with the notion of heroism during the Spanish Civil War. It won the Premio Ciudad de Barcelona.

On May 7, 1990 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by

Preceded by
José Hierro
Recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature
Succeeded by
Juan Rulfo
Preceded by
Dulce María Loynaz
Recipient of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize
Succeeded by
Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Video: Entrevista a Miguel Delibes: "De pequeño me turbaba la idea de que mi padre muriera" El escritor explica por qué la muerte siempre ha estado tan presente en toda su obra
  • Video: Entrevista a Miguel Delibes: "La televisión ha sustituido a la figura de el abuelo como contador de historias"
  • Watch the series "El camino", a close adaptation of the novel of Miguel Delibes directed by Josefina Molina
  • El Norte de CastillaA biography of the author in
  • Cátedra Miguel Delibes
  • Miguel Delibes at the Centro Virtual Cervantes
  • Special edition of Diario on Miguel Delibes
  • Special edition of on Miguel Delibes
  • Interview with Miguel Delibes in El País Semanal 2007
  • Royal Decree 753/1999, of 30 Abril, according the Gold Medal for Merit in Work to Miguel Delibes Setién.
  • Miguel Delibes E-books

External links

  • Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) (1994). Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991. Madrid: Centro de las Letras Españolas.  


  1. ^  
  2. ^ a b c  
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^  
  6. ^ a b Escuela Internacional del Español. "Miguel Delibes". Retrieved 19 October 2009. 
  7. ^ Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) ‘‘Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991’’, p. 29
  8. ^  
  9. ^ a b c Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 30.
  10. ^  
  11. ^ a b Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 31.
  12. ^  
  13. ^ (19 October 2009). "Juan Delibes de Castro". 
  14. ^  
  15. ^ a b c Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 33.
  16. ^ Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 37.
  17. ^ The hedge, Miguel Delibes, translated from the Spanish by Frances M. Lopez-Morillas, New York, Columbia University Press, 1983
  18. ^ Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 39.
  19. ^ a b Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 40.
  20. ^ The wars of our ancestors, Miguel Delibes, translated from the Spanish by Agnes Moncy, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA, 1992
  21. ^ a b Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 42.
  22. ^  
  23. ^  
  24. ^ Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 45.
  25. ^  
  26. ^ a b c Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 46.
  27. ^ The stuff of heroes , Miguel Delibes, translated from the Spanish by Frances M. Lopez-Morillas, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1990
  28. ^ Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas (Ministerio de Cultura) Miguel Delibes: Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas 1991, p. 49.
  29. ^ The heretic, Miguel Delibes, translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam, The Overlook Press, 2006
  30. ^  
  31. ^ Cátedra Miguel Delibes (22 October 2009). "La Cátedra Miguel Delibes". 
  32. ^  
  33. ^ Michael Eaude (14 March 2010). "Miguel Delibes obituary". The Guardian (London). 
  34. ^ Asociación Colegial de Escritores de España (15 December 2007). "Miguel Delibes, Premio Quijote de las Letras Españolas". Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  35. ^  
  36. ^  
  37. ^  
  38. ^ (5 January 2010). "La SGAE propone de nuevo a Miguel Delibes para el Nobel". 
  39. ^  
  40. ^ El País (12 March 2010). "Muere Miguel Delibes, alma del castellano". Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  41. ^  
  42. ^  
  43. ^ "Investidura de Miguel Delibes como doctor Honoris Causa por la Complutense. Junio de 1987 (Gaceta Complutense)" (PDF). 
  44. ^ (10 July 2009). "Miguel Delibes será nombrado mañana Hijo Adoptivo de Molledo". Retrieved 20 November 2009. 
  45. ^ Miguel Delibes condecorado con la Medalla de Oro al Mérito Turístico de Cantabria


The following novels of Miguel Delibes have been adapted for the cinema:

Movie adaptations

  • El camino, five episodes directed by Josefina Molina and broadcast on Spanish television in April 1978.

Television adaptations



His funeral was held in the morning of the following day March 13 in the Cathedral of Valladolid. His remains were cremated and buried in the Pantheon of Illustrious Men of Valladolid among personalities such as José Zorrilla and Rosa Chacel. Valladolid City Council granted the privilege of moving to that cemetery and bury with Delibes the cremated remains of Ángeles, the wife of the writer, thus honouring his long-expressed wish.[42]

During the early days of March 2010 his health worsened, and on 11 March, the writer was already in critical condition, conscious but heavily sedated, and his family expected his death within hours.[39] Miguel Delibes finally died at his home in Valladolid early in the morning of March 12, 2010, at the age of 89 years as a result of the colon cancer that was first diagnosed in 1998 and from which he had never fully recovered.[40] His funeral chapel was installed that morning in the reception room of the Town Hall of Valladolid. It was visited by such personalities as Lola Herrera, Concha Velasco, the Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, the President of Castile and León Juan Vicente Herrera and the Minister of Culture Ángeles González-Sinde, among others, as well as over 18,000 people.[41]

The events in memory of the writer in Valladolid during the weekend following his death. In the picture, Mejuto González, referee of the Spanish first league match between Real Valladolid and Real Madrid, accompanies the grandson of the writer at the release of a white dove as a tribute to Miguel Delibes.
Miguel Delibes's casket at the funeral chapel installed in the reception hall of the Town Hall of Valladolid.


Similarly, the Junta of Castile and León as well as numerous Spanish and international cultural and intellectual institutions proposed him repeatedly as a candidate for the Nobel Prize, the last time by the Society of Authors and Publishers in 2010 along with Ernesto Cardenal and Ernesto Sabato.[38]

The president of the autonomous community of Castile and León gave him in November 2009 the Gold Medal of Castile and León in recognition of "his defense of Castilian" and described the author as a "master storyteller".[37]

Following the publication of The heretic his writing career came virtually to a halt, mainly because of the colon cancer that affected the writer during the final phase of writing his last great novel.[32] He was largely incapacitated and fell victim to an ever greater apathy. His last book, La Tierra Herida (The wounded earth) published in 2005, takes the form of a dialogue between him and his eldest son, Miguel Delibes, the former head of Doñana national park. The book is a moving account of climate change.[33] In 2007 he received the Quijote Prize for Spanish Literature,[34] although in later years his literary production was practically nil, with just a few titles, such as De Valladolid (About Valladolid). Since he was incapacitated, Juan Carlos I and Sofia of Greece, the king and queen of Spain, personally visited the writer at his home in Valladolid after he was awarded the Vocento Prize for Human Values.[35] He was recognized by his city with the creation of the Route of the Heretic based on his novel and the construction of the Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes, which is both a conservatory and auditorium as well as a convention center.[36]

His last major work, El hereje (The heretic),[29] a tribute to Valladolid, was published in 1998 and was awarded the National Fiction Prize.[30] When receiving the award, the author stated that at 79 years of age he "had hung up his writing tackle." At the beginning of the millennium, the Miguel Delibes Chair was founded. The Chair has its seat at the universities of New York and Valladolid and has as its objectives to promote the study of contemporary Spanish literature, make this literature known in the United States and disseminate it through new technologies.[31]

Plaque of Miguel Delibes installed by the city of Valladolid as a tribute to his novel The heretic.

Literary halt and final years


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