Miguel Delibes: Los Santos Inocentes
A disturbing picture of the early years of the Franco regime in Spain, and the brutal relationship between the ruling classes and the peasants who serve their needs.
Delibes wrote this book in the early 1980s, the final episode of his rural trilogy, but his style has changed. His handling of character, the description of the landscapes, his use of language and dialogue have moved on from his earlier novels. With the democratising of Spain and the new-found freedoms of expression, Delibes has been able to expand his vision and dig deeper into the grittiness of life in the 1940s.
Los Santos Inocentes is the story of the relationship between an impoverished family that serves the needs of the local wealthy landowner, and el Señorito Iván himself. It is an abusive relationship. He exploits them to serve his own needs, neglecting the health and welfare of people who have desperate needs of their own.
The story is never going to have a happy ending, but do we feel a certain catharsis at the retributive ending? If you don’t read Spanish, seek out an English translation (The Holy Innocents), or find a sub-titled copy of the award-winning film made in 1984.