Centre for the Study of Hispanic Exile

José Antonio Rial [1911–2009]

Date of Birth: 21 Apr 1911 Cadiz
Died: 18 Nov 2009 Caracas (age 98)

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Dramatist, novelist and journalist exiled in Venezuela after several years of imprisonment during and after the civil war.

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1911 Born in Cadiz, 21st April.
1913–1928 Family moves to Gran Canaria, where he spends his childhood and adolescence. Studies Business and starts to write for the local paper, La Provincia.
1929 Goes to Madrid, where he continues both his studies and his collaboration with La Provincia.
1930–1932 Family moves to San Cruz de Tenerife. Rial returns to the Canary Islands and works for the La Hora newspaper. Enrols in the naval academy. Begins military service.
1933–1935 Elected director of the Ateneo in Santa Cruz, which publishes the surrealist Gaceta del Arte. Joins the Juventudes de Izquierda Republicana and writes for the weekly Izquierdas.
1936 In July, Rial takes part in the resistance to the fascist coup. His house is raided on a number of occasions, his work confiscated. Detained with other members of his family in September and put on trial. Incarcerated in Fyffes prison.
1936–1943 His early works are lost due to police raids on his house by fascist militia. During his seven years in prison, Rial writes a number of theatrical works, including Angel. He works with other prisoners on the presentation of scenes from El Quijote to be performed at the Fyffes prison, but the performance is not allowed to go ahead. The author destroys his own work for fear it will be confiscated and cause him difficulties with the authorities.
1937 Condemned to 16 years in prison for 'auxilio a la rebelión'.
1939 Moved to the Penitenciaría de El Gando.
1940 Moved to a concentration camp.
1941 Moved to the Prisión Provincial de Las Palmas. Tried once again on a number of charges, for which the death penalty is requested. There is insufficient evidence against him and he is released from prison.
1943 Lives in 'libertad vigilada'. Works with the Unidad Nacional in Santa Cruz de Tenerife until the clandestine organisation is disbanded.
1947 His novel Gente de mar, published under a pseudonym, receives the Premio de la Asociación de la Prensa.
1950 Arrives in Venezuela on the 1st of September, where he remains until his death in 2009. As Rial says in an interview, 'Tuve la convicción de que el fascismo se había instalado en España por mucho tiempo; que los aliados triunfantes no iban a ayudar a liberarse al único país de Europa que había sabido replicarles a tiempo a los fascistas y a los nazis y pensé en América. Mi padre estaba exiliado en México. Obtuve visa para Venezuela y llegué a Caracas con unas cuartillas escritas y la comedia que había editado, por todo equipaje' (Pipirijaina 1978, p. 7).
1951 His wife and two children arrive in Caracas. Works as editor for El Universal. Directs the programme Teatro Breve for Televisión de Caracas, canal 7, in the 1950s.
1954 Publishes Venezuela Imán, a novel about political emigration from Europe to Venezuela which is banned in Spain. Adopts Venezuelan citizenship, travels to Spain and other countries in Europe. Writes reports and interviews for El Universal. Writes Viaje for España en 1955. Writes scripts for television on Venezuelan historical themes. Awarded the Radio Caracas TV prize for his novel Reverón y el gauguin venezolano.
1959 Enrols as a student at the Escuela de Periodismo of the Universidad Central. Becomes head of News at El Universal.
1963 Obtains a degree in Journalism.
1965 Becomes editor-in-chief at El Universal. Writes almost daily on cultural, social and political themes. The cultural supplements of El Universal and Ultimas noticias print his otherwise unpublished stories.
1969 Publishes La Prisión de Fyffes, a novel about his years in prison after the civil war. Also publishes his play, La muerte de García Lorca.
1970 Retires from his position as editor-in-chief at El Universal for health reasons. Continues to write and edit pieces on the oil industry.
1971 Travels to Europe and is detained in Madrid, held at a police station for a day without charge. Travels to various countries in America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
1976 Publishes La destrucción de Hispanoamérica, essays on the impact of imperialism on Latin America. La muerte de García Lorca is shown on Venezuelan television, directed by José Jordá. It is re-broadcast two weeks later by popular demand.
1977 Completes Segundo naufragio, a novel about Spain between 1943 and 1945. Writes the play El padre' ("humor negro en medio acto").
2007 Awarded the Medalla de Oro de Canarias. The senator for Tenerife, José Vicente González Bethencourt, acknowledged that "esta medalla le llega a José Antonio Rial a sus 96 años; es historia viva y para los canarios es una fortuna poder contar aún con su lúcida memoria y con el relato triste y auténtico de su cautiverio en la prisión de Fyffes" ('El Día de Canarias', 17 May 2007).
18 Nov 2009 Caracas
Dies at the age of 98.
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