8 June 1873, Azorín, the radical critic who shifted right, is born in Alicante

Spanish writer José Martínez Ruiz, also known as Azorín.
Spanish writer José Martínez Ruiz, also known as Azorín. / SUR
  • José Martínez Ruiz was the founding member of the Generation of '98 and a prominent Spanish man of letters

José Augusto Trinidad Martínez Ruiz, better known by his pseudonym Azorín, was a prominent Spanish writer in the 19th and 20th centuries. He was born in Monòver in the province of Alicante on 8 June 1873. There is a museum dedicated to him and his writings in the town to this day.

Martínez Ruiz was part of the Generation of '98, a group of authors and philosophers who were writing at the time of the Spanish-American War of the same year. The United States' victory in the war led to a moral, political and social crisis in Spain due to the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam, its last remaining colonies.

Azorín was an important figure in Spanish history because his literary criticism helped to create a new passion for Spanish classical literature at a time when most texts were virtually unavailable to the public. His movement, the Generation of '98, was focused on rescuing Spain from its marked decline through a method other than political means.

Azorín studied law at the University of Valencia but did not complete his education, instead moving to Madrid to become a journalist. However, he soon found that his open criticism of the Spanish literary and educational establishments closed many doors to him.

During this period he was something of an anarchist, attacking what he saw as a preoccupation with aesthetics and faith in contemporary society. He was particularly inspired by the ideas of Karl Christian Friedrich Krause, who proposed sweeping reforms in religion and the power of the state, as well as a new openness towards other European cultures.

Martínez Ruiz fled Spain in 1936 following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. When he returned to Spain on 23 August 1939, he found himself in &ldquoinner exile&rdquo along with other intellectuals who had not supported the Franco regime during the conflict. He was at first denied a press identification card, but was supported by Ramón Serrano Suñer, at that time Franco's Interior Minister. Accepting Franco's regime was the price he had to pay in order to be admitted back, he published an article in the right-wing journal Vértice in which he clearly supported the regime.

The changes in personal political outlook that transformed Martínez Ruiz, a revolutionary anarchist, into Azorín, a conservative writer working under Franco's regime, is key to understanding why he attracted criticism from across the political spectrum.

His legacy is particularly important because he covered 70 years of political evolution in Spain, from post-imperial democracy to dictatorship.

Azarín died in Madrid on March 2, 1967, at the age of 93.