Barcelona-based Jaime Gil de Biedma (1929–1990) was one of the most enigmatic and least understood figures of late twentieth-century Spanish literature. His life and work involved extensive travel to and immersion in the Philippines, a country which formed him as the United States did the other great Spanish poet of the twentieth century, Federico García Lorca.
Gathered for the first time in one bilingual volume, the relatively slim yet complete poetic anthology, The Persons of the Verb (Las personas del verbo), and his posthumously published diary, Portrait of the Artist in 1956 (Retrato del artista en 1956), can be read as double autobiographies where the poetic verses are influenced by his ruminations in prose.
The complete poetry is accompanied by extensive notes taken from Miguel Dalmau’s monumental biography as well as an international roster of literary scholars including David Villaseca, Robert Richmond Ellis, James Nolan, Joana Sabadell Nieto, and Pere Rovira. Gil de Biedma’s diary has been enriched for the first time by Filipino scholar Wystan de la Peña with over 500 literary and biographical notes, affording a deeper understanding of the art and times of the Spanish writer.
The introductory essay provides a concise overview of the man of many personas: by daytime an upper crust gentleman, a dutiful son, and a high executive of the first multinational Catalan company; by night a brooding poet, a voracious reader, a nocturnal adventurer, a vivacious drinking party host, and a rabid pursuer of pleasure. Deep in the bowels of Manila and Barcelona the poet sought liberation through transgression. Jaime Gil de Biedma lived true to the promise that he first posited in his poetry: that the greatest art he would create would be his very own life.