Friday, January 13, 2012

Weird Tales from Spain

Pedro Antonio de Alarcón
Né Pedro Antonio de Alarcón y Ariza
Poet, Author, Journalist, Political Figure
Born March 10, 1833, Guadix, Grananda, Spain
Died July 19, 1891, Valdemoro, near Madrid, Spain

For Weird Tales
"The Tall Woman" (Feb. 1929)

Pedro Antonio de Alarcón y Ariza was born in Guadix, an ancient city known for its warren of caves. Every lover of Spanish music is indebted to Alarcón for his authorship of the novellette El Sombrero de Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat, 1874), upon which Manuel de Falla based his ballet of 1919. A native of Andalusia, Alarcón wrote novels, short stories, essays, poems, travel articles, and a single play. Although he began his career as a radical journalist in Madrid, Alarcón underwent a conversion and eventually accepted posts in his country's government.

Alarcón's first real recognition as a writer came with his account of a campaign in Morocco, Diario de un testigo de la Guerra de África (A Witness' Diary of the African War [1859]). One of his works has an intriguing title for fans of weird fiction: El amigo de la muerte: cuento fantástico, published in 1852. (I translate that as The Friend of Death: [A] Fantasy Story.) His fantasy novel El niño de la Bola (The Child of the Ball) was published in Madrid in 1880 and translated into English in 1892, while his short story, "The Tall Woman," appeared in Modern Ghosts in 1890, less than a year before Alarcón died. Weird Tales reprinted the story in its February 1929 issue. Other pulp titles to reprint his work included Short Stories, Famous Stories, The Golden Book Magazine, Argosy, and The Black Cat. Several of Alarcón's stories have also been adapted to film.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
Né Gustavo Adolfo Domínguez Bastida
Poet, Author, Playwright, Journalist, Artist
Born February 17, 1836, Seville, Spain
Died December 22, 1870, Madrid, Spain

For Weird Tales
"Maese Pérez, the Organist" (June 1934)

Gustavo Adolfo Domínguez Bastida was born the son of a Spanish painter of Flemish descent, José Domínguez Bécquer (1810-1841). Gustavo adopted the surname Bécquer as his brother, Valeriano Dominguez Bécquer (1833-1870), had before him. Both brothers were artists and Romantics. Orphaned at a young age, they were brought up by their father's cousin, another painter, the more well known Joaquín Domínguez Bécquer (1819-1879). The brothers formed a close relationship, died in poverty within three months of each other, and were buried together.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer is an important figure in Spanish literature; his reputation rests upon his collected Rimas y leyendas (Rhymes and Legends). He has been compared to Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and the German fantasist E.T.A. Hoffman (1776-1822) for his interest in the fantastic and the supernatural. Bécquer did not live long enough to see his story "Maese Pérez, the Organist" translated and printed in the English-language book Modern Ghosts (1890). Nearly a century after his birth, Weird Tales reprinted the story, in June 1934.

The Golden Book (June 1906) with Pedro Antonio de Alarcón's byline on the cover even fifteen years after his death.
A popular version of El niño de la Bola by Alarcón, printed in Argentina in the 1940s.  It looks like a comic book, but it may simply be a book for children.
Pedro Antonio de Alarcón was the author of just one story printed in Weird Tales. It appeared in this issue, February 1929. The cover story is "The Star-Stealers" by Edmond Hamilton. The cover art is by Hugh Rankin.

That's one of the better monsters you'll see on the cover of Weird Tales. It isn't quite triangular. It isn't exactly perched on top of the man's head. And 
Alarcón's tale appearing within the magazine wasn't "The Three-Cornered Hat," but . . . .
Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer may have been the only contributor to Weird Tales to have his image printed on a banknote.  This note for 100 pesetas was issued by Spain in 1965. The image is taken from a portrait painted by the poet's brother, Valeriano Dominguez Bécquer.
Now a gallery of art created by the Bécquer family. First, two cigar labels with lithographs taken from sketches by José Domínguez Bécquer (1810-1841), father of Gustavo and Valeriano.
Escena andaluza (1849) by Joaquin Dominguez Bécquer (1819-1879), cousin of José and the man who raised José's children.
Escena de una calle con árabes y camellos by Joaquin Dominguez Bécquer. A beautifully done painting.
La feria de Santiponce (1855) by Joaquin Dominguez Bécquer.
El Baile (La carreta) (1865) by Valeriano Dominguez Bécquer (1833-1870), son of José Dominguez Bécquer and brother of the poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.
La fuente de la ermita de Sonsoles by Valeriano Dominguez Bécquer.
El leñador (The Woodcutter) (1866) by Valeriano Dominguez Bécquer.
Retrato de niña (1859) by Valeriano Dominguez Bécquer, showing the unavoidable influence of Velasquez.

Note: I have translated the title of only one painting here. My Spanish isn't good enough for anything more. I hope that if I have made any errors in spelling, punctuation, or capitalization, a good proofreader will let me know.

Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Hi Terence,

    Thank you so much for this article.

    Becquer is of special interest to me as he is the protagonist of my most recent novel.

    I found the paintings by his uncle and brother most interesting.

    As I am from Spain, I have translated the titles for you.

    Andalousian Scene
    Street Scene with Arabs and Camels
    Santinponce Faire
    The Dance (The Wagon)
    The Fountain at the Sonsoles Shrine
    Portrait of a Girl



  2. Carmen,

    Thank you for your translations. I hope my biography of the Becquer family is accurate.

    Your project sounds very interesting. Has your novel been published or is it in the works? Either way, best of luck to you.

    Terence Hanley