The Family of Pascual Duarte (Spanish: La Familia de Pascual Duarte) is a 1942 novel written by Spanish Nobel laureate Camilo José Cela. The first two editions created an uproar and in less than a year it was banned. A new Spanish edition was allowed in 1946.
This novel is fundamental to the generation of “tremendismo“, which focuses on the treatment of its characters and is marked by extended and frequent violent scenes. In fact, “La Familia de Pascual Duarte” is the first novel of the “tremendismo” style of writing. This novel also contains themes of extreme realism and existentialism. The characters live in the margins of society and their lives are submersed in anguish and pain. The archetype of this theme is found in the protagonist of the novel, Pascual Duarte. He has learned that violence is the only way to solve his problems. The novel has various narrators, the main being Pascual Duarte, who recounts his history in a rural dialect.
Our protagonist is from Extremadura and his life unfolds throughout the years of 1882 and 1937, years in which the social and political structures of Spain were marked by extreme instability. This time is one of the most agitated periods of time under the historic Constitution.
The novel has a clear religious theme, partly from the author himself, who was very devoted. The references to God throughout the novel are numerous.
Pascual Duarte: narrator-protagonist. His life is full of pain and bad luck. A man of impulse and no conscience. This leads him to murder without scruples and as a consequence to spend his life in jail.
Rosario: Sister of Pascual. She has total control over their father. She left their house and probably began to work as a prostitute.
Esteban Duarte: Father of Pascual. He died from a rabid dog bite.
Lola: Pascual’s first wife. She lost two sons, one from a falling off of a burro, and then another Pascualito who died after 11 months.
Mario: Pascual’s brother from their mother, but son of Rafael. Died at a young age.
Rafael: Lover of Pascual’s mother. He was cruel, especially to his son Mario.
Pascual’s mother: perverse, cruel and an alcoholic. She hit her children and was unfaithful to her husband, Esteban. Finally, Pascual killed her for all that had happened.
Engracia: witch of the town. She visited Pascual’s house often and was present for many of the sicknesses that Pascual’s family endured.
El Estirao: a pimp who lived off of his prostitutes. Pascual resented him profoundly. He dishonored Pascual’s sister and mother. Pascual ultimately killed him.
Don Manuel: priest of the town. Pascual went to see him when he was about to marry.
Lurena: doctor of the prison. Had a good relationship with Pascual and was with him in the moments before his death.
Esperanza: Pascual’s second wife and niece of Engracia. She was in love with Pascual even before he married Lola. The two married after he got out of prison.
Don Corrado: director of the prison. A good man who helped Pascual to leave prison for the first time.
The first-person narrator-protagonist Pascual Duarte, while awaiting execution in the condemned cell, tells the story of his family life and his homicidal past, culminating in matricide. He claims, amongst other things, that Fate is controlling his life and whatever he does it will never change. The book could be said to explore a Spanish version of Existentialism (known as tremendismo). Like Albert Camus’ L’étranger Pascual is seen by society as an outsider, unable or unwilling to follow its norms. His autobiographical tale shows some of the tremendously harsh peasant reality of rural Spain up to the beginning of the Franco regime.