Ramon Maria del Valle-Inclan (Vilanova de Arousa, Galicia, Spain, 28 October 1866 – Santiago de Compostela, 5 January 1936), Spanish dramatist, novelist and member of the Spanish Generation of 98, is considered perhaps the most noteworthy and certainly the most radical dramatist working to subvert the traditionalism of the Spanish theatrical establishment in the early part of the 20th century. His drama is made all the more important by its influence on later generations of Spanish dramatists.
Valle-Inclan’s work (for example, Divine Words and Bohemian Lights) attacks what he saw as the hypocrisy, moralising and sentimentality of the bourgeois playwrights, satirises the views of the ruling classes and targets in particular concepts such as masculine honour, militarism, patriotism and attitudes to the Crown and the Roman Catholic Church. His drama also featured irreverent portrayal of figures from Spain’s political past and deployed crude, obscene language and vulgar imagery in a mocking attack on theatrical blandness.
In addition to being politically subversive, though, Valle-Inclan’s plays often required staging and direction that went far beyond the abilities of many companies working in the commercial theatre, often featuring complex supernatural special effects and rapid, drastic changes of scene. For this reason, some of his works are regarded as closet dramas.
Valle-Inclan also wrote major novels including the Tyrant Banderas (Tirano Banderas), which was influential on the Latin American ‘dictator’ novel (for example, I, the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos), although it was received with disdain by many Spanish American authors, Rufino Blanco Fombona for example, pokes fun of “the America of tambourine” (“la Amarica de pandereta”) of that novel where you could be in the jungle one day and the Andes the next! Some critics view him as being the Spanish equivalent to James Joyce; however, due to a lack of translations his work is still largely unknown in the English speaking world, although his reputation is slowly growing as translations are produced. Many have found links in both – Galician Valle-Inclan and Irishman Joyce – authors common Celtic heritage.