A tribute to Francisco Umbral

Francisco Umbral, also Paco Umbral, (May 11, 1935 - August 28, 2007) was a Spanish journalist, novelist, biographer and essayist.

Although he was born in Madrid, a city that has inspired most of his work, his early years were spent in Valladolid. His mother travelled to Madrid for his birth, because he was an illegitimate child. His mother's indifference and distance from him marked him with an enduring sadness, as did the infant death of his only son, from which event was born his saddest and most personal book, Mortal y rosa, (A Mortal Spring). This created in the author a characteristic haughty manner, devoid of hopefulness, absolutely submerged in literature, which has provoked many polemics and emnities.
In Valladolid he began his journalistic career at El Norte de Castilla, under the tutorship of Miguel Delibes. In 1961 he went to Madrid as a correspondent and quickly became a prestigious reporter and columnist in magazines such as La Estafeta Literaria, Mundo Hispánico and Interviú, and in influential newspapers such as Ya and ABC, although he is best known for his writings for the daily newspapers El País (founded in 1976 just after the death of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and the restoration of constitutionalism and democracy) and El Mundo (founded 1990). At El País he was one of the reporters who best was able to describe the countercultural movement known as La Movida, but his literary quality undoubtedly came from his creative fecundity, his linguistic sensibility and the extreme originality of his style, very careful and complex, creative in its syntax, very metaphorically developed and flexible, abundant in neologisms and intertextual allusions; in sum, of a demanding lyric and aesthetic quality. He practices a species of anti-bourgeois criticism of customs and manners, without renouncing a romantic ego, and, in the words of Novalis, has the intent of giving the dignity of the unknown to the everyday, impregnating it with a desolate tenderness. As a political reporter, Umbral is a highly trenchant writer. Having become a successful journalist and writer, he worked with Spain's most varied and influential magazines and newspapers. Francisco Umbral was awarded with the Premio Nadal (1975), Premio Cervantes (2000), among others.

Francisco Umbral, a prolific writer who was an acerbic observer of his contemporary Spain, died early Tuesday, 28th of August. He was 72.


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