15 de octubre de 2003

Miguel Delibes: the sporting activity of a sedentary man

Por Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

Miguel Delibes: the sporting activity of a sedentary man

Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

This author, outstanding figure of Latin American and contemporary literature, was born in Valladolid in 1920, he has been professor of Commercial law and editor of the newspaper named «El Norte de Castilla» and he has also carried out a wide and award -winning literary development, among others, by means of the prizes Nadal, National Prize of Literature, Frastebrath, Prince of Asturias of Arts, Prize of Arts of New Castile and National Prize of Arts.

Life, literature and sport

His fondness for sport goes back to his childhood and he received it from his father, representative of car companies like Ford and General Motors in Valladolid, open-air life lover and he has also practised hunting, swimming and cycling in Salamanca and Valladolid accompanied by Julio Alonso, Narciso Alonso Cortés and the Sigler brothers. From them he will learn to dive, to swim in a freestyle, to float and to capture his first partridges, quails and lapwings with a 12 millimetres of calibre shotgun. And bit by bit, he will transform this open-air life into journalistic article, short stories, children’s books, travel books and novel which contain three categories of traditional sport and seven disciplines based on modern sport.

Traditional sport

In the first one, he develops literary displays for hunting, fishing and hiking.


The first one will be one of his main passions. He starts out in this sport in 1930, hunting swallows by means of stones and swifts by means of a catapult, to be able to use the air shotgun, which was given to him as a present in the Epiphany.

Lapwings, thrushes and quails will be the new pieces, which were got by means of 12 and 16 millimetres of calibre shotgun in the places of Valladolid named Boecillo and Quintanilla de Abajo. And the success and failure in his day of hunting will influence his mood, with the practise of the small game, specially the one of the red partridge, in places such as: Belver de los Montes, La Santa Espina, Puente Duero, Quintanilla de Abajo, Renedo de Esgueva, Riego del Camino, Sardón, Tordesillas, Villa Esther, Villafuerte de Esgueva and Villanueva de Duero. And also, of the big game in wild boar beatings in a town of Burgos named Sedano.

This world of experiences and memories is spread to the pages of numerous books: La caza de la perdiz roja, El libro de la caza menor, Con la escopeta al hombro, La caza en España, Aventuras, venturas y desventuras de un cazador a rabo, Las perdices del domingo and El último coto, as well as the anthologies and compilations named Dos días de caza, La caza de la perdiz roja en España, Alegría de la caza y Un cazador que escribe. And he also finds his literary reflect in the novel: Diario de un cazador.


The author practises these two categories: the fluvial and the marine ones. He fishes by means of two techniques: «cucharilla» (one which consists on a device to fish with fishing rod which has got several fish hooks and a metallic piece to attract fishes) and «buldó» (a ball made of plastic which is filled with water and floats at the end of the fishing line made of nylon which contains the fishing reel). He uses these two techniques in the breakwater and in the estuary of Suances (Cantabria) to capture sea bass, since 1953. But his main activity is focused on white-leg crayfish fishing in the Esgueva river in the places of Valladolid named Renedo and Esguevillas and in the rivers of Burgos: Moradillo and Rudrón, as well as on the trout catch with a special kind of fishing rod, «cucharilla» and fly in the rivers named Porma, Esla, Pisuerga, Tera, Najerilla, Luna and Rudrón in New Castile. All his experience which is included in the book Mis amigas las truchas in a literary way.


Hiking or trekking has been another sports activity; to hike for an hour and a half every day. Firstly, as a technique to revise lists of topics while he was studying and, later, as an exercise after suffering a threat of cardiovascular accident. During the time he lived in the city (at intervals), he usually goes for a walk in the morning and wanders the streets in the afternoon and all this is transformed into hiking, during summer holiday, to walk round the different mountains, forests…in the valley of Iguña.

Modern sport

His interest in modern sport gives more variety, therefore we can mention here seven different disciplines: motor racing, cycling, football, motorcycling, swimming, table tennis and tennis.

Between engines and wheels

Delibes evokes how his father forced him to go around the familiar house by bike to teach him to ride alone when he was seven. With time, this was an element which became an emotive competition to avoid the local policemen who had to charge the registration number rate, and since he was eighteen, it became also a way to have a good time, work and travel to pay Ángeles a visit, who was in love with him, going to provinces like Valladolid, Palencia, Burgos and Cantabria.

This practice of cycling is complemented by an idea referred to the road as effort, and by great, deep admiration for the «Tour the France» and together with Fausto Coppi figure, he will comment in his journalistic articles, papers. In «Mi querida bicicleta» and in «Sobre los divos» he sets out his theory based on the fact that climbers only exist in countries where there isn’t a good standard of living and considers the great, outstanding figures of sport destroy the capacity of surprise, impetus and improvisation.

Later, he writes up his change of the bicycle for the motorbike with a great admiration for the «Montesa» one (specialized motorbike for mountain) with 125 cubic centimetres and the curiosity of the pedestrian when they see how a motorbike is assembled or taken to pieces because it doesn’t start. And motor racing will be literary material for travel books, like the volume Dos viajes en automóvil: Suecia y los Países Bajos (1982).

Shooting with the racket

Sports played with rackets make space to include table tennis and tennis as well. He evokes his passion for the first one, he calls it «tenisín», and joins his memory to the holidays in Sedano and to the runner-up position he got in a tournament in the Constitution transatlantic, when he was on his way to New York in 1964.

However, he enhances tennis, activity he practices since he was 13 years old. Its particular way of scoring attracts his attention, when it should be «1,2,3 and game», as well as its jargon with aristocratic «varnish», with terminology which seemed «to get dressed up» and with anglicism which are pronounced with nasal cosmopolitan accent. If we talk about comfort, he likes to play doubles matches and considers that it loses its nature of sign of social distinction when in the decade of eighties the masses diversify their sports activities towards athletics, basketball, handball, hockey, swimming, rugby and tennis.

He is in his element (water)

Swimming becomes a way to cool off and a source of pleasure. He practises it in Boecillo, Quintanilla de Abajo, Viana de Cega and Valladolid and his approach to it takes place due to the reading of the graphic weekly magazines in the thirties called As and Campeón with photographs of competitions of diving board jump which attract everybody’s attention. His personal style is based on transforming water into something natural without the necessity of making a big effort.

On the other side of the touchline

Undoubtedly, football is the star sport this author’s literary output, a passion he finds captivating since he was eight, later it approaches him to the stadiums to install fences for the crowd in 1978 and he becomes a regular spectator of televised football.

In «Una larga carrera futbolística» he evokes the school times when he recreated football with buttons to play by stealth in the desk of his classroom, with marbles for the playground and with balls made of clothes or made of paper for the gallery of the familiar house and with a ball made of rubber in the platforms of the park of Valladolid called «Campo Grande».

He remembers how he recited line-ups, memorized results and players, went to the stadiums to follow the Real Valladolid team or how he formulated the «Ley Delibes» («Delibes Law») in 1932: «el equipo que después de perder en casa visita a otro que viene de ganar fuera, si no se alza con el triunfo sumará al menos uno de los puntos en litigio», that is «the team which after having lost «at home» visits another team which comes from having won abroad, if it doesn’t win , it will add at least one of the points in dispute». This saying of his football story is closed by an explanation of his distancing from the stadiums.

In Vivir al día appears his vision of professional football of the decades of the fifties or sixties. He praises football players who practise football with honour and self-respect in «Divos y destajistas» because he considers enthusiasm, self-respect and tenacity have more ability to make people feel excited than rhythm, eurhythmy, harmony and proportion. He says in «Campeón de taquillas» His satisfaction of the third Cup of Europe of the Real Madrid team even though he criticizes the excess foreign players in the line-ups, which full of kas, double us and other clear and pure consonants like the «s», show that the win is more the result of the financial strength than the sports authority and power. He explains the fall of spectators who go to the football fields in «La Liga agoniza» and blames boundless professionalism and people’s eagerness for watching their team, only if it can win.

Moreover, he emphasizes the role of the technical directors in «La mission del entrenador» after some statements made by Alfredo di Stéfano where he stated that coach is responsible for a 10% of the wins and a 40% of the defeats. For Delibes, the soul of a team is the soul of a coach, principle he exemplifies with the magic touch and the scientific air of the play thinking developed by Helenio Herrera.

In El otro fútbol , he presents a new current view based on international championships. He analyses the Eurocup (European Cup) in 1980, in comparison with the World Cup in 1978, as an advance in the defensive play, the development of tacticians to play without ball and the criticism of the action of the Spanish Selection (team) in «El otro fútbol». In «El tema del fútbol» he evokes the style of his child and youthful time to emphasize the aesthetics of the play in the space and the win due to speed and strength in the modern football.

And in «Sobre el Mundial», he writes up the low-quality matches, the excellent play of Brazil, the excessive defensive moves and a strong criticism to the Spanish Selection (team) for its bad results.

The stage which coincides with his distancing from the stadiums to get closer televised football is documented in the volume Pegar la hebra. In «El fútbol en baja» coincides with the Spanish writer Juan García Hortelano where the reason of the defection of spectators from football lies in players’ violence, their excessive slights, snubs and the disillusionment of the people because of the destruction of the good play; situation he tries to solve by means of the creation of personal fouls and the exclusion with the fifth foul, like in basketball. In «El fútbol en pantalla», he develops an issue or matter that was already mentioned in an article published in the newspaper ABC called «Fútbol y television»: he criticizes the linguistic accompaniment of the televised images of the matches because of its excess of redundancy, superfluous and free rhetoric and closed commentary by omniscient commentator in the summaries of the matches everyday.

Curiously, the Delibes’s football fans and criterion to predict the score of a match between Atlético of Madrid and Real Valladolid, appear in the story «El saque de Cela», by Francisco Umbral.


Miguel Delibes’s originality lies in the fact of being one out of the few authors who combines life, sport and literature to such an extent that he embodies the experiences and sensations of his practice in paper, combines the physical and intellectual fields with worries about language and draws up personal theories based on observation for cycling and football. He transforms the fine arts into a movement of ten sporting disciplines as a way to generate art.

Bibliographical references

ALONSO DE LOS RÍOS, César: Conversaciones con Miguel Delibes. Barcelona: Destino, 1993.
ALVAR, Manuel: El mundo novelesco de Miguel Delibes. Madrid: Gredos, 1987.
DELIBES, Miguel: (1954) La partida. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1996.
– Diario de un cazador. Barcelona: Destino, 1955.
– (1963) La caza de la perdiz roja. Barcelona: Lumen, 1975.
– El libro de la caza menor. Barcelona: Destino, 1964.
– «Sobre los divos», en Vivir al día. Barcelona: Destino, 1968, págs. 42-44.
– «Divos y destajistas», en Vivir al día. Barcelona: Destino, 1968, págs. 45-47.
– «Campeón de taquillas», en Vivir al día. Barcelona: Destino, 1968, págs. 85-87
– «La Liga agoniza», en Vivir al día. Barcelona: Destino, 1968, págs.129-131.
– «La misión del entrenador», en Vivir al día. Barcelona: Destino, 1968, págs. 184-186.
– Con la escopeta al hombro. Barcelona: Destino, 1970
– (1972) La caza en España. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1993.
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– Dos días de caza. Barcelona: Destino, 1980.
– Las perdices del domingo. Barcelona: Destino, 1981.
– «El otro fútbol», en El otro fútbol. Barcelona: Destino, 1982, págs. 7-13.
– «El tema del fútbol», en El otro fútbol. Barcelona: Destino, 1982, págs. 15-22.
– «Sobre el Mundial», en El otro fútbol. Barcelona: Destino, 1982, págs. 23-32.
– Dos viajes en automóvil: Suecia y los Países Bajos. Barcelona: Plaza Janés, 1982.
– «La herencia», en Mi vida al aire libre. Barcelona: Destino, 1989, págs. 9-36.
– «Una larga carrera de futbolista», en Mi vida al aire libre. Barcelona: Destino, 1989, págs. 37-56.
– «Mi querida bicicleta», en Mi vida al aire libre. Barcelona: Destino, 1989, págs. 57-88.
– «Una bici que rodara siempre cuesta abajo», en Mi vida al aire libre. Barcelona: Destino, 1989, págs. 89-108.
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– «Fútbol y televisión», ABC, Madrid, 18 de junio de 1989.
– «El fútbol en pantalla», en Pegar la hebra. Barcelona: Destino, 1990, págs. 27-32.
– «El fútbol en baja», en Pegar la hebra. Barcelona: Destino, 1990, págs. 155-160.
– El último coto. Barcelona: Destino, 1992
– La vida sobre ruedas. Barcelona: Destino, 1992
– Un deporte de caballeros. Barcelona: Destino, 1993.
– Un cazador que escribe. Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1994.
GARCÍA DOMÍNGUEZ, Ramón: «Miguel Delibes, viajero», en Europa: parada y fonda. Barcelona: Plaza-Janés, 1981.
– «Miguel Delibes», Nortecastilla.es. Valladolid, 2002.
JIMÉNEZ LOZANO, José-GARCÍA DOMÍNGUEZ, Ramón (Eds.): El autor y su obra: Miguel Delibes. Madrid: Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1993.
SÁNCHEZ, José Francisco: Miguel Delibes, periodista. Barcelona: Destino, 1989.
UMBRAL, Francisco: Miguel Delibes. Madrid: Epesa, 1970.
– «El saque de Cela», en Cuentos de fútbol, 2. Madrid: Alfaguara, 1998, págs. 309-318.
VARIOS AUTORES: Estudios sobre Miguel Delibes. Madrid: Editorial de la Universidad Complutense, 1983.