Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín

Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín

Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín (1938) is a leading figure in contemporary Galician literature. He was born in the city of Ourense.

Méndez Ferrín studied for a time in Madrid where he belonged, with other writers and sculptors, to Brais Pinto, a movement dedicated to Galician artistic revival. In 1964, together with other members of the group, he co-founded Unión do Pobo Galego, a nationalist and radical left-wing party.

Méndez Ferrín is a key figure among a generation of Galician writers who, despite emerging on the literary scene during one of the bleakest periods of recent Galician history, were able to consolidate the cultural and political past of their nation, adopting a radical stance and refusing to use any language other than Galician.

When, in 1972, Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín was imprisoned under Franco's regime for his political beliefs and activities, he began to write under the pen-name Heriberto Bens from his prison cell. 1980 saw the publication of Poesia enteira de Heriberto Bens, with a foreword by Ferrín himself - a fictional account of the literary adventures of Bens. The central theme of these books is the vindication of Galician rights. In them the poet explores a language and a style which were radical and innovative within the Galician context of the time.

In 1976 Méndez Ferrín published Con pólvora e magnolias (With Gunpowder and Magnolias). The book amounted to a renewal of Galician poetry, grounded in social realism. It is a collection of free verse, which abounds in cultural resonances - the classical world, Celtic legend, and medieval poetry.

Méndez Ferrín's first work of fiction was Percival e outras historias, a collection of fourteen stories in which the author turns to Brittany, since medieval times a source of inspiration for Galician artists. In this book fantasy and reality mix, and an atmosphere of mystery often leads to tragedy. Méndez Ferrín develops his style in O crepúsculo e as formigas (Twilight and the Ants) (1961). His first novel, Arrabaldo do norte (Northern Quarter), appeared in 1964 These three works are central to the movement known as Nova Narrativa Galega which, in the 1960s, sought to rescue Galician prose fiction from its obsession with the rural and the picaresque.

Retorno a Tagen-Ata (1971) is an allegory of the oppressed nation which describes the birth of a new, radical nationalism which broke with the moderate Galicianism which had opted, in the face of Francoism, for cultural resistance. The book can be read as a universal statement, or in Galician terms. This kind of allegory reappears in some of the stories in Elipsis e outras sombras (Ellipsis and Other Shadows) (1974).

Crónica de nós (1980) and Amor de Artur (1982) are two collections of short stories in which Ferrín confirms his mastery of the genre, combining as they do his narrative power with his ability to create beautiful fiction from his ideology. Amor de Artur presents a very personal vision of the Arthurian world, together with motifs drawn from Ferrín's personal mythology. In 1991 Arraianos (Borderers) appeared, a further collection of short stories.

For many years Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín edited the cultural magazine A Trabe de Ouro.

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