Rafael Alberti Biography

(Spanish Writer Who Was Regarded as One of the Major Spanish Poets of the 20th Century)

Birthday: December 16, 1902 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Municipality of El Puerto de Santa María, Spain

For someone who wants to study the evolution of contemporary Spanish poetry, a reading of Rafael Alberti’s works would be simply enough. He is known to be one of the greatest poets of his generation who revitalized Spanish poetry completely and gave it the status that it enjoys today. A prolific and diverse poet, Alberti showed signs of being a creative genius from a young age. He started off as a painter but soon he found his real calling in poetry. His prodigious talent first came to limelight with his maiden work, ‘Marinero en tierra’ which not only gained him national reputation but also helped him become a part of the prestigious group of writers and poets popularly known as ‘Generation of 1927’. His avant-garde work was published in various magazines. What gave him the edge over other poets of his generation was the ease with which he seamlessly crossed his comfort zone to come up with an absolutely contrasting style of work that was as exceptional as his own style. Over the period of his entire career, Alberti did not limit himself to poetry and penned works of prose, play, autobiography and memoirs. For his contribution to Spanish literature, he was bestowed with numerous prestigious awards including Spanish literary world’s highest honor, Premio Cervantes. He also actively contributed in Spanish politics, by becoming a Marxist and joining the Communist Party of Spain
Quick Facts

Spanish Celebrities Born In December

Also Known As: Rafael Alberti Merello

Died At Age: 96


Spouse/Ex-: María Teresa León

children: Aitana Alberti León

Poets Playwrights

Died on: October 28, 1999

place of death: Municipality of El Puerto de Santa María, Spain

Ancestry: Irish Spanish

Cause of Death: Lung Problems

More Facts

awards: Miguel de Cervantes Prize

Childhood & Early Life
Rafael Alberti was born on December 16, 1902 in El Purerto de Santa Maria, Spain.
He attained his preliminary education from the Jesuit Cologio San Luis Gonzaga as a day scholar. The preferential treatment meted out to boarders caused him to become a rebel which eventually led to his expulsion in 1917. Same year, his family moved to Madrid.
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It was at Madrid that Alberti first developed a fondness for painting. His interest grew so much so that he gave up on his formal education and instead visited Casón del Buen Retiro and the Prado, where he copied sculptures and paintings.
Year 1920 was a difficult year in the life of Alberti. Firstly, his painting exhibition met with wrath and mockery from the spectators. Later on, his father passed away. To add to his woes, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1921.
While recuperating from tuberculosis, he developed an interest in poetry. He avidly read the works of reputed writers and poets. It was Damaso Alonso, a Spanish poet and critic, who introduced Alberti to the works of Gil Vicente and other Golden Age writers.
Inspired by the works of famous poets, he started penning his own verses which were published in various avant-garde magazines.
In 1924 he came up with his first poetry book, ‘Marinero en tierra’ which became a major hit. Not only did it escalate his reputation to national fame, but also won him National Prize for Literature.
Post the tremendous success of ‘Marinero en tierra’, he soon got absorbed in the elite circle of Spanish poets, which was popularly known by the name, ‘Generation of 1927’. The group included prominent poets and writers such as ,Vicente Aleixandre, Luis Cernuda, Frederico García Lorca, Jorge Guillén, and Pedro Salina.
Immediately after, he came up with two more works, ‘La Amante’ and ‘El alba del alheli’ both of which were on the same lines as ‘Marinero en tierra’. These works were also well accepted by the public.
Year 1927 witnessed his writing skill upsurge to greater heights. While celebrating the 300th death anniversary of the great Spanish poet Gongora, he came up with his work, ‘Cal y Canto’, which amazed readers completely. Not only Alberti beautifully adopted Gongora’s traditional style of formal writing, but also displayed his exquisite skill of being satirical and dramatic in his verses.
His magnum opus came in 1929 with his work ‘Sobres los angeles’. The book marked a complete changeover in the direction of poetry of Alberti and the group as they gave up on the traditional themes of love and commemoration for more deep bounded subjects that focussed on nation’s future.
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Following this, he came up with two more poetry collections, ‘Sermones y moradas’ and ‘Yo era un tonto y lo que he visto me ha hecho dos tontos’ and a play ‘El hombre deshabitado’. Both his poetic works lacked lyrical zest which formed the basis of his earlier poetry and contrastingly showed signs of psychological breakdown.
In 1931, with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic, Alberti joined politics. He converted to Marxism and became a member of the Communist party of Spain.
His political involvement did not last long. When Gil Robles came to power in 1933, Alberti was pushed for a period of exile, following the attacks that he made on Gil Robles in his revolutionary magazine, ‘Octubre’.
In the 1936 Spanish Civil War, Alberti served as the poetic voice of extreme left. However, with the fall of Madrid, he fled to Paris, where he took up the profile of a translator for a French radio and announcer for Paris-Mondial in Latin American.
Post German occupation of France, he moved to Argentina where he stayed until 1963. During this time, he renewed his interest in painting and tried ways to amalgamate the two different genres of creativity (poetry and painting) into one with his works.
It was while in Argentina that he gained international reputation, as his work began to be recognized amongst the English-speaking society. Furthermore, he was included in Eleanor Turnbull’s anthology. He had in total written nine volumes of poetry at this time.
In 1977, after forty years of exile, he returned to Spain, where he was appointed for Cadiz in the constituent Congress of the Spanish parliament on the Communist Party ticket.
All through his career, other than his poetic works, Alberti also contributed in theatre writing. He came up with several plays, a ballad, couple of adaptations and short pieces and several volumes of memoirs.
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Major Works
His very first collection of poetry, ‘Marinero en tierra’ was an exemplary work of art as it established his reputation as a noteworthy poet. For the same, he also received the prestigious National Prize for Literature and was inducted in the group, ‘Generation of 1927’ amongst other prolific poets and writers.
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His masterpiece came with his work, ‘Sobre los ángeles’ which marked the beginning of a radical transformation for Alberti, both in terms of his work and life. The spiritual crisis that he faced was notable in his verses which drifted from the lyrical zest that formed the base of his earlier works.
Awards & Achievements
In 1924, he was awarded with the Premio Nacional de Literatura (National Prize for Literature) for his maiden work, ‘Marinero en tierra’.
In 1964, he received the coveted Lenin Peace Prize, Soviet Union’s Nobel Peace Prize equivalent, for his poetic works.
He was bestowed with the Laureate Of The International Botev Prize in 1981.
In 1983, the Ministry of Culture of Spain awarded him with the prestigious Premio Cervantes for his outstanding contribution as a poet. The award is Spanish literary world's highest honour. Same year, he was bestowed with the honorific title Hijo Predilecto de Andalucía.
In 1985, the Universidad de Cádiz conferred him with the Doctor Honoris Causa, thus recognizing his exceptional talent as poet.
In 1998, he received the significant America Award for his lifetime contribution to international writing.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1929, he married Maria Teresa Leon, a novelist and political activist. Leon supported him all through, even in the period of exile and afterwards. She breathed her last on December 13, 1988 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
He passed away on October 28, 1999 from lung ailment. He was 96 years at the time of his death. His ashes were scattered over the Bay of Cádiz.

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