|Birth Day:||December 16, 1902|
|Death Date:||Oct 28, 1999 (age 96)|
As per our current Database, Rafael Alberti died on Oct 28, 1999 (age 96).
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He studied visual art and was invited to display his work at the Autumn Salon in 1920.
The Puerto de Santa María at the mouth of the Guadalete River on the Bay of Cádiz was, as now, one of the major distribution outlets for the sherry trade from Jerez de la Frontera. Alberti was born there in 1902, to a family of vintners who had once been the most powerful in town, suppliers of sherry to the crowned heads of Europe. Both of his grandfathers were Italian; one of his grandmothers was from Huelva, the other from Ireland. However, at some point, while they were handing down the business to the next generation, bad management resulted in the bodegas being sold to the Osbornes. As a result, Alberti's father was no more than a commercial traveller for the company, always away on business, as the general agent for Spain for brands of sherry and brandy that had, before, only been exported to the UK. This sense of belonging to a “bourgeois family now in decline” was to become an enduring theme in his mature poetry. At the age of 10, he entered the Jesuit Colegio San Luis Gonzaga as a charity day-boy. During his first year, Alberti was a model student but his growing awareness of how differently the boarders were treated from the day-boys, together with the other ranking systems operated by the Jesuits, inspired in him a desire to rebel. In his memoirs, he attributes it to growing class conflict. He began to play truant and defy the school authorities until he was finally expelled in 1917. However, his family was then at the point of moving to Madrid which meant that the disgrace did not register on Alberti or his family as strongly as it might have done.
The family moved to Calle de Atocha in Madrid in May 1917. By the time of the move, Alberti had already shown a precocious interest in painting. In Madrid, he again neglected his formal studies, preferring to go to the Casón del Buen Retiro and the Prado, where he spent many hours copying paintings and sculptures. It was as a painter that he made his first entries into the artistic world of the capital. For example, in October 1920, he was invited to exhibit in the Autumn Salon in Madrid. However, according to his memoirs, the deaths in 1920 in quick succession of his father, the matador Joselito, and Benito Pérez Galdós inspired him to write poetry.
In 1921, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he spent many months recuperating in a sanatorium in the Sierra de Guadarrama where he read avidly among the works of Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez, as well as various Ultraist and Vanguardista writers. At this time, he also met Dámaso Alonso, at that time a poet rather than the formidable critic he would become, and it was he who introduced Alberti to the works of Gil Vicente and other Golden Age writers. He began to write poetry in earnest and submitted a few, successfully, to various avant-garde magazines. The book that resulted from this activity, Marinero en tierra (‘Sailor on Dry Land’), submitted at the last minute, won the Premio Nacional de Literatura for poetry in 1924.
He enjoyed great success over the next few years in the sense of artistic prestige: he was still financially dependent on his family. The new literary magazines were eager to publish his works. He was also starting to make friends with the people who would eventually get grouped together as the Generation of '27. He already knew Dámaso Alonso and, on one of his returns to Madrid, he met Vicente Aleixandre, a resident of the Salamanca district. It was probably in October 1924 – Alberti's memoirs are vague on this and many other details – that he met Federico García Lorca in the Residencia de Estudiantes. During further visits to the Residencia - it seems that he never actually became a member himself - he met Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillén, and Gerardo Diego along with many other cultural icons such as Luis Buñuel, and Salvador Dalí.
The kind of folkloric/cancionero poetry he had used in Marinero was also employed in two further collections – La amante (‘The Mistress’) and El alba del alhelí (‘Dawn of the Wallflower’) – but with the approach of the Góngora Tercentenary he began to write in a style that was not only more formally demanding but which also enabled him to be more satirical and dramatic. The result was Cal y canto (‘Quicklime and Plainsong’). Alberti himself was present at the meeting at a Madrid cafe in April 1926, when the plans for the tercentenary were first sketched out - along with Pedro Salinas, Melchor Fernández Almagro and Gerardo Diego.
There is a sense in this collection that Alberti is writing in this collection as himself, not as the sailor, the troubadour or the tourist of his earlier books. He even wrote a poem about a heroic performance by the goalkeeper of FC Barcelona - "Oda a Platko" - in a match against Real Sociedad in May 1928. The violence displayed by the Basques was unbelievable, he wrote in his memoirs. At one desperate moment Platko was attacked so furiously by the players of the Real that he was covered with blood and lost consciousness a few feet from his position, but with his arms still wrapped around the ball.
Before the Tercentennial celebrations were over, Alberti was starting to write the first poems of Sobre los ángeles (‘Concerning the Angels’), a book that showed a complete change of direction in the poetry of not only Alberti, but also the whole Group, and is generally considered his masterpiece. His next collections, Sermones y moradas (‘Sermons and mansions‘) and Yo era un tonto y lo que he visto me ha hecho dos tontos (‘ I was a fool and what I have seen has made me two fools’), together with a play El hombre deshabitado (‘The Empty Man’), all showed signs of a psychological breakdown which, to the surprise of everyone who knew him, had overwhelmed Alberti and from which he was only saved by his elopement with the writer and political activist María Teresa León in either 1929 or 1930 – again his memoirs are not clear on the date.
Shortly afterwards, he began to write a ballad on the life of Fermín Galán, an army captain who had tried to launch a coup to establish a Spanish Republic in December 1930 and who was executed by firing-squad. Alberti converted the ballad into a play which was performed during June 1931, again to sharply mixed reactions.
The inference from his memoirs is that she played a key role, along with his continuing bitter memories of the Colegio, in the process that converted the easy-going, carousing bohemian of the early books into the committed Communist of the 1930s. The establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931 was another factor that pushed Alberti towards Marxism and he joined the Communist Party of Spain. For Alberti, it became a religion in all but name and there is evidence that suggests that some of his friends tired of his unceasing attempts to "convert" them. As a Party emissary, he was finally freed from financial dependence on his family and he made several trips to northern Europe. But when Gil Robles came to power in 1933, the violent attacks that Alberti launched against him in the magazine Octubre (‘October’), which he had founded with María Teresa, led to a period of exile.
In July 1936, there was a gathering to hear García Lorca read La casa de Bernarda Alba. Subsequently, Dámaso Alonso recalled that there was a lively discussion about a certain writer - probably Rafael Alberti - who had become deeply involved in politics. "He'll never write anything worthwhile now," was Lorca's comment. This is probably an unduly sweeping comment to make. Alberti's political commitment manifested itself in two distinct ways: an unoriginal party-line verse whose only saving grace is the technical skill and fluency that he could bring to bear even on such routine exercises, and a far more personal poetry in which he draws from his memories and experience to attack the forces of reaction in a more direct, less opaque way than in his earlier collections.
They lived in Argentina until 1963. Amongst other activities – he worked for the Losada publishing house and continued writing and painting - Alberti worked in the Argentinian film industry, notably as the adaptor of a play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, La dama duende (‘The Ghost Lady’) in 1945. They then moved to Rome. On 27 April 1977 they returned to Spain. Shortly after his return Alberti was elected deputy for Cadiz in the constituent Congress of the Spanish parliament on the Communist Party Ticket. His wife died on 13 December 1988 from Alzheimer's disease.
He was also awarded Lenin Peace Prize for the year 1964 - after lobbying from Pablo Neruda - and Laureate Of The International Botev Prize in 1981. In 1983, he was awarded the Premio Cervantes, the Spanish literary world's highest honour. In 1998, he received the America Award for his lifetime contribution to international writing.
Currently, Rafael Alberti is 119 years, 9 months and 12 days old. Rafael Alberti will celebrate 120th birthday on a Friday 16th of December 2022.
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