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Bikupan by Camilo José Cela
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Bikupan (original 1951; edition 1978)

by Camilo José Cela (Author), Irmgard Pingel (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6204610,883 (3.7)37
"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 flat-out dazzling as writers, whose sentences, as rigorous as 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 and 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group portrait of a wounded and sick society was first published in Buenos Aires in 1950 because in Spain it could not be published at all.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"--… (more)
Member:Jannemangan
Title:Bikupan
Authors:Camilo José Cela (Author)
Other authors:Irmgard Pingel (Translator)
Info:Stockholm : Atlantis, 1978
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Skönlitteratur, Spanien, 1900-tal, HBTQ

Work Information

The Hive by Camilo José Cela (1951)

  1. 00
    Books Burn Badly by Manuel Rivas (alalba)
    alalba: Dos novelas corales en las que se habla de las consecuencias de la guerra civil espanola
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English (21)  Spanish (12)  Catalan (7)  French (1)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
La colmena
Camilo José Cela
Publicado: 1951 | 187 páginas
Novela Realista

El estraperlo, los rencores, la tuberculosis y el hambre, maltrataban a la población española de posguerra. La colmena, con más de doscientos personajes empeñados en seguir adelante, refleja la dolorosa cotidianidad de la sociedad madrileña de la época. Inauguró un tono realista y desgarrador en la narración, del que el autor se convirtió en su primer defensor. En 1951, para escapar de la censura, se publicó en Argentina y supuso una ruptura con la novela del momento.
  libreriarofer | Dec 20, 2023 |
Reason read: 1001 botm August 2023, TIOLI #10
translated by J. M. Cohen
This book is a work of literature by Camilo Jose Cela, written in 1950. It is an experimental novel but readable. It is also a realistic novel. It is set in Madrid, 1943 following the civil war and deals with poverty and unhappiness. There are over 300 characters and they're lives are connected in various ways. It consists of six chapters and an epilogue and many short episodes that focuses on particular characters.The title The Hive is a description how all these individuals work together to achieve something more than the individual. The time period covers three days in 1943. The newspapers tell us the date and what is occurring in the world (The Tehran conference of world leaders; Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin. The story though broken up into these fragments is also not told in chronological order. There is a plot, but it is not a big part of this story and the ending is vague. The sense of dread builds through the chapters. The kicking out of the penniless man out of Rosa's cafe, the death of the lady in Chapter 2, the various characters with their pains and loneliness and then the conclusion and what is to be done?
Characters: are sketched out, some more than others. Female characters often have become prostitutes to help their families. Some are widows with pensions, some like Rosa have their business. Some have even said the Madrid is the main character with all these various characters giving definition to Madrid. This is an interesting idea and fits well as we are given many street addresses throughout the town.
"is a powerful piece of documentary realism portraying the poverty, moral degradation, and hypocrisy of the society of the time. All social layers are present, from the well-to-do man looking for forbidden pleasures to the beggar desperately searching for a place to spend the night." https://literariness.org/2022/10/12/analysis-of-camilo-jose-celas-the-hive/.

Some lines that I liked;
pg 55 "the aim of wars to reduce the number of people who can their necessary jobs in comfort."
pg 82. "I won't hear of a Labor contract."
pg 171 "one cannot smoke a scented, delightful cigarette."
"resort of old people who come there to feed on sunshine like lizards" (Isn't that a great line). His prose is often very beautiful to read. It is notable to have little or no plot and there are events with really no resolutions; a death of a woman, a suicide, and why is Marco being sought by who? But as real life, how often do we really know the truths about those who live their lives around us? ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 4, 2023 |
ne hanno fatto un film che le era piaciuto
  perseveranza | Mar 24, 2021 |
Like Ulysses and Berlin Alexanderplatz, this is one of those modernist books that tries to find a way for the novel to engage with the complexity of the twentieth century city, in this case Madrid in the winter of 1942. Instead of invading the consciousness of a single protagonist or showing us the shifting relationships of a small group of characters, Cela takes 160 "main characters" and shows us brief scenes from their lives over the space of a few days, rapidly cutting back and forth between different characters and also shifting backwards and forwards in time unpredictably. Some of the characters have scenes that cross-over several different storylines, others just seem to pass through without any important interactions, just providing an ironic contrast to what has gone before.

Cela doesn't want to hide anything under a veil of respectability here, which obviously accounts for the difficulty he had getting the book past the Spanish censor (it eventually had to be published in Buenos Aires). Middle-class businessmen and their wives cross paths with whores, con-men, child-abusers, voyeurs, cops, impecunious poets, and worse. There is the murder of an old woman, treated with as much attention as the ejection of a non-paying customer from Doña Rosa's café; there is a lover concealed in a laundry-hamper; several people are clearly dying of TB; there are gypsies and shanty-town dwellers and all the poverty and squalor and unemployment of the Posguerra. So there's a lot of misery, but there's also a surprising amount of dry humour around. If people are in trouble, Cela is interested in how they got there: a couple of times he breaks off to tell us what has happened to all someone's children and grandchildren for no obvious reason except that he wants us to know how that kind of family develops.

Fascinating and complicated: this is one of those books where you end up letting it all wash over you the first time through, intending to come back and read it more carefully, paying full attention to who is who. But perhaps the washing-over is the point: there's a scene where Cela talks about the way we look at our fellow-passengers in the tram and imagine their stories, and that seems to be a good illustration of what this book is trying to reproduce. ( )
1 vote thorold | Jul 23, 2020 |
Street benches - an anthology of troubled times
(with apologies to the author)

Black market trader warily reclines
An old man seeking to ease his asthma
The priest reading his breviary lines
The printer lunches with his wife Alma.
A young girl worn out in her deep loves moan
The musician rests his horn on his knee
Reading a romance grossly overblown
While the little girl likes to watch men pee.
A blind woman waits for the hours to pass
A woman with cancer fighting the pain
As the typist gulps lunch coarse bread crass
The morons mouth gaping dribbles again
Broad bottomed girls fat sardines in excess
Impregnate the planks with stale smells of flesh

Fragments or vignettes of prose are set down in generally non chronological order to capture life in Madrid during a few days in 1942. The second world war rages in the distance and many people are hungry, some in fear of retribution following the Victory of Franco that ended the Spanish Civil war. Life goes on but life in hard times is a struggle which rarely brings out the best in people. The reader concentrates on these fragments which radiate out from the cafe culture at Dona Rosa's cafe. Chapter one contains pen picture of some of the characters who will appear and reappear in the book and from the very start a picture of selfishness and greed emerges. Dona Rosa is the first to be described:

Dona Rosa comes and goes between the cafe tables, bumping into customers with her enormous backside. Dona Rosa often says "damn it to hell" and "what a pain"..... for Dona Rosa her cafe is the world and everything revolves around the cafe.......
Dona Rosa's face is covered with blotches, it always looks as if she were changing her skin like a lizard. When she is deep in thought, she forgets herself and picks strips off her face, sometimes as lons as paper streamers. Then she snaps out of it, begins to walk up and down again, and smiles at the customers, whom at heart she loaths, showing her blackened little teeth encased in filth.


It is a large cafe with a team of waiters, a manager, a shoeshine boy and a cigarette boy, but many of the customers are poor and spend their days in the cafe counting their pesetas. It is estimated that 10% of the customers are suffering from tuberculosis.

The impressionistic writing in chapter one continues through the book although some of the stories around the characters develop further. The girls and women struggle in a world dominated by men, and by the time the book is into its stride much of the content is stories of girls forced into one kind of prostitution or another. There are instances of kindness and even love in evidence, but when life for many of the people is a struggle to get enough food to eat then the streets of Madrid in winter can be cold and lonely.

The novel was published in Spain in 1951 and translated into English in 1953 and has been celebrated for its stylistic innovations and its sometimes candid description of life in a catholic country (although religion does not play a major part in the majority of the stories). The short interludes gives the book it's unquestionable dynamism and the impression of a city teeming with life with the reader peeping into just a small fraction of what is going on. However it is that 'what is going on' that serves to provide an almost historical document of life at that moment in time in Madrid.

With so many characters having their brief moment of fame as it were by appearing in the vignettes it is difficult to keep track of them all, but as we are not getting the full story in many instances this does not seem to matter. It is the overall impression that left it's mark on me.

Much of the book consists of dialogue and so the reader also has to become familiar with the patterns of speech and the cultural background of the characters. I read a translation by J M Cohen (in consultation with Arturo Barea) and so I might have missed something of those patterns of speech.
However I understood enough to know that I had read a very fine experimental novel whose stye leaves a lasting impression. 4 stars. ( )
2 vote baswood | Feb 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Camilo José Celaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barea, ArturoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, J. M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ponzanelli, SergioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rijkmans, J.G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Patience laughs in the beginning and cries at the end.
-Ramon Llull
Dedication
To my brother Juan Carlos,
cadet in the Spanish Navy
First words
This book's first youth was noticeably stormy. (A Partial History of Certain Disordered Pages)
My novel The Hive, the first novel in my projected series called Unknown Paths, is nothing more than a pale reflection, a humble shadow of bitter, intimate, and painful daily reality. (Prefatory Note to the First Edition)
I still think the same as I did four years ago. (Prefatory Note to the Second Edition)
I would like to put forward the idea that the truly healthy man has no ideas of his own. (Prefatory Note to the Third Edition)
We carry on, resigned to the same useless things: the same sweet landscapes that are as equal a background for an active destruction as for a passive decay. (Prefatory Note to the Fourth Edition)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

"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 flat-out dazzling as writers, whose sentences, as rigorous as 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 and 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 1950 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"--

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Madrid tijdens de winter van 1942. De kleine burgerij vegeteert in koffiehuizen en bordelen; het leven sleept zich voort in de monotonie van onbeduidende conflicten en schaarse momenten van geluk. Een bonte stoet van Madrilenen trekt voorbij - biddend, ruziënd, roddelend, de liefde bedrijvend.
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