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Why Leopoldo Alas was called ‘Clarín’?

The great Spanish realist writer, author of 'La Regenta', thus signed his articles. But how did the pseudonym come about?

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Leopoldo Alas
Why was Leopoldo Alas called ‘Clarín’?

Leopoldo García-Alas (Zamora, April 25, 1852-Oviedo, June 13, 1901) is considered the great writer of nineteenth-century Spanish realism along with Benito Pérez Galdós. In contrast to the prolific author of the National Episodes, the narrative work of Alas is rather short: several collections of short stories, four short novels and three major novels. These are Cuesta abajo, His only son and, above all, La Regenta, his masterpiece and summit of nineteenth-century literature, which has been compared to Madame Bovary or Ana Karenina for its sharp portrait of the feminine psychology, of the social and religious restrictions of the time and of the city in which it passes: Vetusta, fictitious reflection of the Asturian capital, Oviedo.

Oviedo was his family – Leopoldo was born in Zamora because his father had been appointed governor of that city, but in 1859 they returned to Asturias – and in Oviedo the writer lived from 1883 until his death. However, his pseudonym, ‘Clarín’, was born in his Madrid stage. Alas moved to the capital to doctorate in law and there attended the proclamation and fall of the First Republic and the monarchical restoration in the figure of Alfonso XII; and there he also became friends with the Krausist and liberal intellectuals around whom the Free Institution of Teaching would emerge. Likewise, it was in Madrid where he started as a journalist and literary critic, activity that gave rise to the famous ‘Clarín’.

In July of 1875, Alas became part of the writing of a new newspaper called El Solfeo. The headmaster asked his young collaborators that each one choose the name of a musical instrument as a signature. Thus, Leopoldo chose the bugle and on October 2 of that year he published his first article with that alias, in a column titled Azotacalles de Madrid , and he would always sign in that way. In this way, he entered the literary life of the time and from his column was dedicated to launching harsh and ironic criticism against the political class of the Restoration that made him gain a lot of popularity and not a few enemies and ‘Clarín’ was eternally associated with the first name of the great writer from Oviedo.

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