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The Forbidden

The Forbidden (Hardback)

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Benito Perez Galdos, considered Spain's most important novelist after Cervantes, wrote 77 novels, several works of theater and a number of other tomes during his lifetime (1843-1920). His works have been translated into all major languages of the world, and many of his most highly regarded novels, those of the contemporary period, have been translated into English two, three and even four times over. Of the few "contemporary novels" of Galdos that until now have not come to light in English, The Forbidden is certainly among the most noteworthy. The story line concerns a wealthy philanderer, Jose Maria Bueno de Guzman, who attempts to buy the favors of his three beautiful married cousins. He is successful with the first, Eloisa, a grasping materialist who falls deeply in love with him. Then he rejects her in order to attempt to seduce the youngest, Camila. Meanwhile, the third, the pseudo-intellectual Maria Juana, jealous, seduces Jose Maria. But it is Camila, healthy, impetuous and wild, who resists his temptations and holds our attention.

The novelist and critic Leopoldo Alas, Galdos's contemporary, calls her "the most feminine, graceful, lively female character that any modern novelist has painted." As a naturalistic study, in the manner of Balzac in particular, principal characters of Galdos's other novels (El doctor Centeno, La de Bringas, La familia de Leon Roch) become fleetingly visible in The Forbidden. In addition, the entire Bueno de Guzman family gives evidence of the naturalistic emphasis on heredity: they all display certain physical or mental disorders. Eloisa has a morbid fear of feathers, Maria Juana often feels that she has a tiny piece of cloth caught in her teeth, Jose Maria suffers bouts of depression, an uncle is a kleptomaniac, one of the relatives writes letters to himself, etc. At the same time, this novel shows the foibles of Spanish society where status is determined by one's associates, by the wearing of finery, and by living on borrowed money. In their history of Spanish literature, Chandler and Schwartz call Galdos "the greatest novelist of the nineteenth century and the only one who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with great novelists like Balzac, Dickens and Dostoievsky."

The Forbidden, written at the height of the author's creative powers, is a major work and its publication for an English-speaking audience is long overdue.

Robert S. Rudder received his PhD in Spanish from the University of Minnesota and is the author of The Literature of Spain in English Translation. He has also published a number of literary translations from Spanish into English, including Lazarillo of Tormes. Gloria Arjona received her PhD from the University of Southern California, and has previously translated four books with Rudder: Nazarin, City of Kings, Medicine Man and Solitaire of Love. They have both taught Spanish language and literature at several universities in the United States.

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