Book Review: The Hive by Camilo Jose Cela

Camilo Jose Cela once said, “I’m translated – what can I do about it- in every language, and I have never received an award.” Of course, he was being his usual self, witty and a bit arrogant, because he did receive awards. Virtually every single award he was entitled to: The Nobel Prize, Cervantes, Premio de Principe Asturias, and many more.

A controversial figure, especially during his later years, Cela has never been afraid to experiment with his stories. The Hive, arguably his masterpiece, introduces the reader to Spain during Franco’s regime, to a world rendered with uncanny precision. There are no heroes, no villains, nothing extraordinary happening. It’s just life, and the realism, the mundane is shockingly powerful in this novel.

There are 296 imaginary characters and 50 real characters in this novel, their stories interlocked through a series of vignettes. You read that right. Over 300 characters. The power of his novel is offered by the inexorable truth of life just happening; people try to live their lives, to obtain what they desire most, and somewhere below this surface is the poignant message that Cela truly wished to deliver; life under a dictatorship tends to reach a certain quixotic nature.

The Hive is funny, sad, tragic, romantic, and violent. It tells the story of an entire array of unique characters, all of them struggling to find their meaning in a world filled with other people doing the same.

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