The 1912 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Gerhart Hauptmann. In that year two new names were added to the list of great non-winners of this prize, a list headed by Henrik Ibsen (d.1906) and Leo Tolstoy (d. 1910). August Strindberg died on 14 May; he at least had had the consolation of a 'People's Nobel Prize', awarded at the climax of a public parade through the streets of Stockholm a couple of years earlier. The fate of Benito Perez Galdos was more poignant. Though nominated in 1912 as Spain's official candidate, he was defeated thanks to a campaign got up by his Spanish political enemies. Galdos died in 1920, at the age of 77, with his dream of reaching a foreign readership largely unrealised. To be read in another language was, for Spain's greatest novelist since Cervantes, the equivalent of Stendhal's determination to be read by the 'Happy Few' who would discover him posthumously. It is only now, more than a hundred years after he began work on the Novelas Espaņolas Contemporaneas, that Galdos seems to be finding the 'impartial', non-Spanish-speaking audience of which he dreamed. Agnes Moncy Gullon's lively translation of Fortunata y Jacinta (1887) is the second recent English version of a novel which is as representative of the mid-19th-century European imagination as are Middlemarch, L'Education Sentimentale, and War and Peace.
LRB 1 October 1987 | PDF Download