Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Felipe Alfau (1902 - 1999), was a Spanish American novelist and poet. Like his contemporaries Luigi Pirandello and Flann O'Brien, Alfau is considered a forerunner of later postmodern writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, and Gilbert Sorrentino.
Born in Barcelona, Alfau emigrated with his family at the age of fourteen to the United States, where he lived the remainder of his life. Alfau earned a living as a translator; his sparse fictional and poetic output remained obscure throughout most of his life.
Alfau wrote two novels in English: Locos: A Comedy of Gestures and Chromos. Locos — a metafictive collection of related short stories set in Toledo and Madrid, involving several characters that defy the wishes of the author, write their own stories, and even assume each others' roles — was published by Farrar and Rinehart in 1936. The novel, for which Alfau was paid $250, received some critical acclaim, but little popular attention. The novel was republished in 1987 after an editor for the small publisher Dalkey Archive Press found the book at a barn sale in Massachusetts, read it, and contacted Alfau after finding his telephone number in the Manhattan phone book. The novel's second incarnation was modestly successful, but Alfau refused payment, instructing the publisher to use the earnings from Locos to fund some other unpublished work. When asked if he had written any other books, Alfau provided the manuscript for Chronos, which had been resting in a drawer since 1948. Chromos, a comic story of Spanish immmigrants to the United States contending with their two cultures, went on to be nominated for the National Book Award in 1990.
Alfau also wrote a book of poetry in Spanish, Sentimental Songs (La poesia cursi), written between 1923 and 1987 and published in 1992, and a book of children's stories, Old Tales from Spain, written in 1929.
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