The novel is set in Madrid in 1942, after the end of the Spanish Civil War, and deals with the poverty and general unhappiness found in Spain by examining a multitude of fictional characters in varying levels of detail. It is notable in that it contains over 300 characters and is considered to be the most important novel written in post civil war Spain. Because of rigorous censorship Cela was unable to get La colmena published in his native Spain, and was instead forced to publish it in Buenos Aires.

The book consists of six chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter contains a number of short passages describing short episodes and focusing on a particular character. In this way a series of insignificant events and characters work together to form an important conclusion, much in the same way that a hive of bees works together to achieve something much more than they could achieve individually.

The novel makes allusions to sex and homosexuality in the prisons of the time. Therefore the censorship by the power of Franco did not allow that the novel was published in the country, and Cela was look for other horizons so that the book saw the light. However, already published, Manuel Fraga, Franco interior Minister authorized the book was released in Spain.

The book is basically a mix of cross-lives told in small streams that make the argument to break in a multitude of anecdotes. In short, that is to say, together, the short stories are a wonderful book. History is located in Spain in post-war, more precisely in Madrid in 1942, and reflects truthfully reality that lived society for those years.

The novel has a lot of characters, almost 300 to be precise, the vast majority belonging to the lower middle class, which represents the petite bourgeoisie becomed in lower class as a result of the war. Almost no traffic on the upper class, nor the dispossessed or working class. However, the message is the uncertain future that they provided to everyone equally. Uncertain path leads to the author to consider this book as the first part of a series which hereinafter will be called: uncertain paths.

This work reflects with extreme accuracy reality, and the author is objective when narrating limited to display the raw way facts without making judgements. However, there are passages where irony in the comments on the attitudes of the characters grow narrative tone and make a loaded critical cast. 

The events of La Colmena occur in three days in December 1943, a date deduced from a news story which Rómulo the bookseller reads in a newspaper, where Martín Marco’s proclamation also appears. The newspaper also informs us of the Yalta conference between the world leaders. However, because there are no more facts, the time of the story is offered to the reader in a vague manner: it is set in the first years of post war Spain, and in fact it could have been set anywhere between 1941 and 1945.

The duration of the story is brief as everything happens over the course of three days. The first six chapters happen in two days and the last occurs three or four days later. But the most significant thing is the chronological disorder, as facts are not told in the manner which they happen.

The name of a character is its first attribute. It designates sex (man/woman) and can suggest social position.

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