José María Gironella
José María Gironella Pous (31 December 1917 in Darnius – 3 January 2003 in Arenys de Mar) was a Spanish author best known for his fictional work The Cypresses Believe in God (Los cipreses creen en Dios), which was published in Spain in 1953 and translated into English in 1955 by Harriet de Onís (1899-1969), a translator who usually specialized in Latin-American fiction.
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The Cypresses Believe in God
The book is a novel in two parts, and is the first novel of four, written from a Roman Catholic viewpoint, by its Catholic author, who had been educated in a seminary — but who attempted to approach the many nuances and subtleties among all the factions on the eve of war in a fair, even-handed manner. The story is set in Girona, a city in eastern Catalonia, and follows the life of a family, from 1931 until the Spanish Civil War breaks out in 1936. The protagonist is the son of an atheist from Madrid, who is married to a devout Basque woman, and has a younger brother and sister also caught up in the conflict. In a sequel to Cypresses, One Million Dead (Un millón de muertos), translated by Joan MacLean, Gironella follows the Alvear family through the war. The next novel is Peace after War, published in English in 1969, and was also translated by MacLean. The fourth novel, Los hombres lloran solos (Men cry alone), has not been translated into English.
While Gironella hated the polarization that led to Civil War, he supported the Spanish Nationalists who rallied around Franco and himself joined the Carlist unit, Requetés (short for "Tercio de Requetés de la Madre de Dios de Montserrat"). In The New York Times Book Review, Gerald Brenan, an expert on Spanish literature, called the work absorbing and remarkably objective; yet many modern scholars have strongly objected to the errors, omissions and unforgivable modifications made by Gironella regarding the speech by the University of Salamanca's dean, philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, against the military rebels. In its pages, he said, "The sane and the moderate, caught helplessly in a dilemma they did not ask for, must throw in their lot with one violent party or another till mercifully the passions of the war submerge them and confirm their decision. It is this tragic unfolding of events which concerns this novel."
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