, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 85–96 | Cite as

A Blinding Brilliance: Pío Baroja’s Story of the Eye

  • David F. RichterEmail author


This article examines motifs of blindness and corporeal decomposition in Pío Baroja’s best-known novel, Camino de perfección. Through grotesque images of decay and an aggressive sun which blinds, Baroja’s text undermines ocularcentric values and challenges notions of propriety in artistic expression. In essence, the constant recurrence to blindness and the violent nature of the sun contest privileged hierarchies concerning the primacy of vision and subjectivity in literature and art. Considering the persistent fluctuation of narratological voices and viewpoints in Baroja’s 1902 text, both form and content engage in a treatise on multi-perspectivism and difference. Through its unique ethics and aesthetics, Camino de perfección anticipates the transgressive considerations of vision discussed by later European thinkers of the avant-garde, including the French intellectual Georges Bataille. The present study investigates the importance of blindness in Baroja’s volume and demonstrates that through the annihilation of vision, along with the interrogation of the novelistic genre, Baroja’s story of the eye is ahead of its times, surrealist and postmodern avant la lettre.


Pío Baroja Camino de perfección Georges Bataille Vision The sun 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



I express sincere thanks to Andrés Zamora for offering helpful commentary on early versions of this essay. I am also grateful for the insightful suggestions from the anonymous reviewers of Neophilologus.


  1. Ades, D. (1995). Internationalism and eclecticism: Surrealism and the avant-garde in painting and film 1920–1930. In H. Graham & J. Labanyi (Eds.), Spanish cultural studies: An introduction (pp. 71–79). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bal, M. (1985). Narratology: Introduction to the theory of narrative (C. van Boheemen, Trans.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baroja, P. (1946–1951). Obras completas (8 Vols.). Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva.Google Scholar
  4. Baroja, P. (n.d.). Camino de perfección. New York: Las Americas.Google Scholar
  5. Bataille, G. (1985). Visions of excess: Selected writings, 19271939 (A. Stoekl, Ed.) (A. Stoekl et al., Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bataille, G. (1987). Story of the eye (J. Neugroschel, Trans.). San Francisco: City Lights.Google Scholar
  7. Calles, J. M. (2002). Un siglo de Camino de perfección. Espéculo: Revista de estudios literarios, 7(22), n. pag. Accessed 1 October 2011.
  8. Ciplijauskaité, B. (1972). Baroja, un estilo. Madrid: Ínsula.Google Scholar
  9. Collins, M. S. (2000). Reinventing reality: The generation of ‘98s reconfiguration of time and space. In J. Torrecilla (Ed.), La generación del 98 frente al nuevo fin de siglo (pp. 36–55). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  10. Deaver, W. O., Jr. (1994). A deconstruction of patriarchal law in Camino de perfección. Romance Languages Annual, 6, 439–443.Google Scholar
  11. Flint, W. (1980). Mística barojiana en Camino de perfección. In E. Rugg & A. M.␣Gordon (Eds.), Centro Virtual Cervantes, Actas del VI Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas (pp. 252–254). Toronto: University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  12. Flint, W., & Flint, N. (1983). Camino de perfección (Pasíon mística). London: Grant & Cutler.Google Scholar
  13. Fuertes, V. (1973). El impresionismo en Camino de perfección. Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, 7, 383–397.Google Scholar
  14. Gullón, G. (2003). El jardín interior de la burguesía: La novela moderna en España (1885–1902). Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva.Google Scholar
  15. Jay, M. (1994). Downcast eyes: The denigration of vision in twentieth-century French thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  16. LaRubia-Prado, F. (1993). Camino de perfección: Pío Baroja’s re-vision of the bildungsgeschichte. Siglo XX/20th Century, 11(1–2), 49–70.Google Scholar
  17. Longhurst, C. A. (1992). Camino de perfección and the modernist aesthetic. In A. L.␣Mackenzie & D.␣S.␣Severin (Eds.), Hispanic studies in honour of Geoffrey Ribbans (pp. 191–203). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Macklin, J. J. (1983). The modernist mind: Identity and integration in Pío Baroja’s Camino de perfección. Neophilologus, 67, 540–555.Google Scholar
  19. Mainer, J. C. (1999). La edad de plata (1902–1939): Ensayo de interpretación de un proceso cultural. Madrid: Cátedra.Google Scholar
  20. Morris, C. B. (1972). Surrealism and Spain (1920–1936). London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Patt, B. P. (1971). Pío Baroja. New York: Twayne.Google Scholar
  22. Quiñonero, J. P. (1974). Baroja: surrealismo, terror y transgresión. Madrid: Taller de Ediciones.Google Scholar
  23. Rivkin, L. (1985). Pain and physiological form in Baroja’s Camino de perfección. Symposium, 39(3), 207–216.Google Scholar
  24. Shaw, D. L. (1963). Two novels of Baroja: An illustration of his technique. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 40, 151–159.Google Scholar
  25. Shaw, D. L. (1989). Classifying Camino de perfección. Romance Quarterly, 36(3), 353–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sobejano, G. (2004). Nietzsche en España (1890–1970). Madrid: Gredos.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Languages Philosophy and Communication StudiesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

Personalised recommendations