Ángel González
(Spain, 1925–2008)   
Ángel González

Ángel González was born in the city of Oviedo. In 1944 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanatorium in the mountainous region of León. In the three years he spent there he began reading and studying poetry.

After a law study at the university of Oviedo he went to work for the Ministry of Public Works in Madrid, where he published his first poetry. In 1970 he made his first trip to Mexico and the United States, for a series of lectures and poetry recitals. In 1972 he received an invitation from the University of New Mexico to teach Spanish literature. He is now retired, and divides his year between Spain and the United States.

González’s first collection of poems, Áspero mundo (Raw World) appeared in 1955. His second volume, Sin esperanza (Without Hope) established his reputation as one of the leading poets of what became known as the Generation of the 1950s. Poems from his collection Palabra sobre palabra (Word Upon Word) found their way into countless anthologies in many languages. In 1961 the publishing house of Ruedo Iberico in France awarded him the Antonio Machado Prize. In 1985 he received the Príncipe de Asturias Prize for Literature, and in 1991 Italy honored him with the International Salerno Prize for Poetry. In 1996 González was elected a member of the Royal Academy for the Spanish Language, and in the same year was awarded the Reina Sofía Prize for Ibero-American Poetry.

González’s main themes are history, humour, irony, love (always detached), music, and parody. His poetic observations, at times pessimistic, never lack an ironic undertone. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which began when González was eleven, left traces in his work. Like many poets who grew up under the Franco dictatorship, González shows a strong political and historical commitment. The question whether poets should write or be silent in times of political repression, he answered by writing so-called anti-poetry, acting out his aversion from what he called ‘useless words’. This is not a poet engaged in a heroic struggle with language, but one employing a rather pedestrian, uncontrived vocabulary. Despite this simplicity of form, some critics find his poetry less than easily accessible, even likening it to ‘quicksand’.

© Mariolein Sabarte Belacortu (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Ángel González took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 1999. This text was written on that occasion.]

Publications (selection)
Aspero mundo (1956)
Sin esperanza, con convencimiento (1961)
Grado elemental (1962)
Palabre sobre palabre (1965)
Tradado de urbanismo (1967)
Breves acotaciones para una biografia (1971)
Procedimientos narrativos (1972)
Prosemas o menos (1984)
Deixis en fantasma (1992)
Poemas (1993)


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