The Life & Works of Fernando Arraba

Fernando Arrabal is much more than a contemporary Spanish playwright, he is a distinguished writer in all genres, having produced 13 novels, 8 large poetry collections, various essays, as well as directing several movies too. Fernando Arrabal has been writing since he was a boy, winning prizes for his works since he was 10, and continues to produce cutting edge work today.

Fernando Arrabal - Life

Fernando Arrabal was born in Melilla in 1932 to a painter, Fernando Arrabal Ruiz, and his wife, Carmen Terán González. When Fernando Arrabal was just 4 years old, the Spanish Civil War broke out, and his father maintained his faith in the Republic. This lead to his father being captured and sentenced to death by the rebels; later the sentence was reduced to 30 years imprisonment. His father was transferred to and from different jails across the country until 1941, when he was transferred to a hospital for fear that he had developed a mental illness. This hospital was significantly less well guarded, allowing Arrabal's father to escape. From then, no more news was ever heard of him.

Following this, Arrabal's mother moved to Ciudad Rodrigo in 1936, where she left the young Fernando in order to go and work in Burgos. In 1937, Fernando began studying at the Teresianas' school until 1940, the end of the Spanish Civil War, when his mother finally moved them to Madrid.

In 1941, Fernando Arrabal won a contest for gifted children at the age of 10. He then studied in the Piarist School of San Antón and then a similar school in Getafe. It was during this time that Arrabal would begin to read extensively, something that would be useful later in life. In 1947, his mother made him take up a preparation course in order to enroll in the Academia General Militar, but Fernando refused to go to classes, and so in 1949, he was sent to Tolosa to study Theory and Practical Industry and Paper Commerce. During 1950, Fernando Arrabal began his career in theatre, writing a series of theatrical works.

In 1951, he began working in the paper industry, before moving to Valencia where he finished his qualifications, and then he moved again to study in Madrid where he began reading Law. Here he began writing in the world of poetry, spending a lot of time with poets at the Ateneo de Madrid.

In 1954, he hitch-hiked to Paris to see a performance of the work Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children) by Brecht, acted out by the Berliner Ensemble in the Sarah Bernhardy theatre. Later, Fernando Arrabal met his wife in Madrid, Luce Moreau, who was a French translator. The following year, Arrabal received a placement to go and study in Paris for 3 months, however while here he fell gravely ill with tuberculosis. To this day, Arrabal considers this illness to be a misfortunate piece of luck, as it meant that he had to extend his stay in France, a country which he considers to be much more like his true homeland; the land of so many artists and writers before him.

In 1967, he was tried under the Franco regime and sent to prison. The death of Franco permitted Fernando Arrabal to undergo a true rediscovery of his native country. During the years after Franco, Arrabal won acclaim for many of his works, Carta de amor which was performed at the National Theatre.

Since this time, Fernando Arrabal has continued to write plays, novels and poems, but has also adapted to the times and written many film scripts too. So far he has directed 7 feature length films, and in 2010 he starred in a Post-Panic film - the first of its kind.

Fernando Arrabal - Works

The list of works by Fernando Arrabal is endless and features works in every genre, from theatre to film, poetry to novels, as well as many essays, including some about one of his favorite subjects: chess. In terms of his contribution to contemporary Spanish theatre he has written a number of plays over his lifetime, including works such as Pic nic, La Bicicleta del condenado, Carta de amor, and La noche también es un sol. In 1997, a collection of his theatrical works was published; spanning two volumes of over 2000 pages each.

Fernando Arrabal is also one of the most distinguished playwrights from Spain today, having received two national prizes for his theatrical work, including the Grand Prize for Theatre from the Academia Francesa in 1993. He was also selected as a finalist for the Nobel Prize in 2005, and in the same year, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

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