23 de abril de 2003

Sports in the life of four Nobel Prizes in Literature

Por Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

Sports in the life of four Nobel Prizes in Literature

Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

Through history, several Spanish writers have been awarded the Literature Nobel Prize on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. José Echegaray, Jacinto Benavente, Gabriela Mistral, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Pablo Neruda, Camilo José Cela, Octavio Paz and Gabriel García Márquez.

Some of these writers have actively participated in sports by practicing intensively during their childhood and youth, and later on through a profound observation that lead to the literary and artistic recreation of those activities. This is the case of Camilo José Cela, already discussed at La Página del Idioma Español

Coincidentally, the Nobel vision of sports encompasses other interesting trivia, specially in the writings of Jacinto Benavente, Vicente Aleixandre, Pablo Neruda and Gabriel García Márquez.

Towards a social scene

Jacinto Benavente, the famous Spanish play writer, rang up the curtain on the theme of sports in the theater stage by incarnating some of the social snobbish characteristics of sportsmen during the first decades of the 20th Century in his screenplays titled Más fuerte que el amor and Literatura. Sports was not the main theme, but represented a superb element to define characters and surroundings.

An elegant «eight»

In spite of being a frequent theme of inspiration for the Poetry Generation of 1927, literature as a manifestation of modern sports was not used extensively by one of its main representatives, Vicente Aleixandre. He published a poem dedicated to skating in the literary magazine «Litoral», mainly to express his admiration at the elegance of the skaters, the way they glided those beautiful «eights» with a smile in their faces, their graceful turns, their quiet chats at the edge of the rink, the way they seemed to unspin life with each new daring pirouette and to transmit the joy of their movements to the audience, thus connecting life to the arena.

The keys to tragedy

The poet from El Parral did not focus on practicing or recreating sports through literature. However, he maintained a close relationship with sports due to his childhood friendship with Iglesias, the tennis champion, and also to his fondness for freestyle wrestling, which he frequently enjoyed at the Price Circus, in Madrid.

This is the place where, on that fatidic 19th of July, 1936, the tragic fate of history prevented the meeting between Bobby Deglané (the Chilean journalist and entrepreneur), Pablo Neruda (the Chilean writer) and Federico García Lorca (the Spanish writer and poet). This trio was supposed to enjoy a freestyle wrestling match between El Troglodita Enmascarado, El Estrangulador Abisino and El Orangután Siniestro. That is, the Masked Troglodyte, the Abyssinian Strangler and the Sinister Orangutan.

The goal keeper of culture

The relationship between the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez and the world of sports is much more profound.

It started when García Márquez was a young soccer player in the streets and vacant lands of Cataca and its surroundings, where he attempted to grab this reality of life under the training of Luis Carmelo Correa. García Márquez was a good goalie who could easily catch a homemade ball, but still remembers painfully the first time an official ball hit his stomach.

Later on, he remained a passionate and knowledgeable baseball fan; let´s never forget that this is one of the most popular sports in the coast of the Caribbean.

And finally, he became an editorialist in Crónica, the weekly cultural magazine from Barranquilla, where he liked to echo the screaming of the fans over the goals missed by the Deportivo Junior. His greatest contribution to sports was his determination to pair up soccer and literature by dedicating the main stories section to interviews with the principal sports players, just to honor their careers. This task started on April 29, 1950, with the introduction of Heleno de Freitas, the Brazilian forward of Deportivo Junior. This was one of the main social and cultural news right before a hot rivalry game with the Sporting, the other city team. Once he moved to Bogotá, his focus on sports grew together with his school friendship with Humberto Jaimes, who later became the head of the Sports section of the newspaper El Tiempo. Additionally, in 1994 he became a social commentator of soccer, when he wrote the chronicle about the tragic death of Andrés Escobar, the defender of the Colombian National Team.


Baseball, soccer, freestyle wrestling, skating and tennis have been all part of the personal and creative vision of these four Nobel Prizes of the 20th Century. They all grasped the emotions and motions of these beautiful artistic forms prior to the actual movement, to wrap them later with words and make them play in the magical court of journalism and creative literature.


ALEIXANDRE, Vicente: Retrato, published by Ámbito. Málaga: 1928, pages 36-37.
BENAVENTE, Jacinto: Más fuerte que el amor. Madrid: 1906.
BENAVENTE, Jacinto: Literatura. Madrid: 1931.
CASTAÑÓN RODRÍGUEZ, Jesús: Creación literaria y fútbol. Valladolid, 1991.
CASTAÑÓN RODRÍGUEZ, Jesús-RODRÍGUEZ ARANGO, María Ángeles: Creación literaria española sobre deporte moderno. Valladolid, 1997.
GALLEGO MORELL, Antonio: Literatura de tema deportivo. Madrid: Prensa Española, 1969.
GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, Gabriel: Vivir para contarla. Barcelona: Mondadori, 2002.NERUDA, Pablo: Confieso que he vivido. Barcelona, Seix Barral, 2002.