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Delibes, the hunter

Get to know Delibes

Fundación Miguel Delibes / Delibes, the hunter

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foto-delibes-cazador

Hunting is above all a dynamic entertainment sport. Hunting is based on harsh early wake ups, rough walks, cold meals in an inhospitable nature, rain and cruel frosting… But there is something that compensated that hunter in all those adverse conditions. […] A possible catch is enough to diminish all the dirturbing annoyances and to give the hunter a deep mental reward. […] Hunting is more than an entertainment, it is a passion. […]

Hunting is a returning pleasure. During six days a week men get enough reasons to get rid for a few hours of the social conventionalisms, of the daily routineand the predictable. On the seventh day, he gets full of oxygen and freedom, faces the unexpected, experiments with the illusion of creating his own fate…but at the same time he gets tired, is thirsty and hungry and he gets cold… In other words, he finds enough reasons to abandone his primitive experience and go back to his urban, domestic and comfortable lefe. This method is as good as any other to bear life, or maybe even better than any other method.

Miguel Delibes: Prólogo a El libro de la caza menor. Barcelona, Destino, 1964, pp. 10-11 y 17.


Delibes who is a highly methodical man, had the sense of humor during half a century to note down in several samll note books, with lovely hand writing all the details about his hunting excursions, in those note books there no date before  1949, quite surely because his excursions were few. Also is quite likely that the intensive preparation for the public examinations for the post of professor of business law, had something to do with the absence of notes about his very few hunting excursions as well as his incipient relationship with Ángeles, his wedding and the birth of his first few children.

Once again the unpublished notes of his note books, and also indirectly, the testimony of Lorenzo, the main character in Diario de un cazador (sometimes it was said that Lorenzo is an alter ego of Delibes), reveal that his fondness to hunting had come back during the following decade. Since then his writing about fishing and hunting kept on naturally flowing from his feather pen to conform these important collection of pages […] that collects eight booksand two minor written works that appear between 1963 and 1996. […] These works analyse the hunting world from different perspectives from the motivation of the hunting act to the regulations that control its practice and the analysis of its different modalities to the daily experiences of the author- and that when it comes to its creation, as Delibes himself has admted, mean for its  spontaneity, a liberation of the rest of conditions that rule the rest of his literary production, for this reason the author preferred to calle himself “ a hunter that writes” more than a writer that hunts.

Germán Delibes de Castro: “Cuatro décadas de caza con mi padre”, Prólogo a Miguel Delibes: Obras Completas, V. El cazador. Barcelona, Destino-Círculo de Lectores, 2009, pp. X-XI


Miguel says that he loves minor hunting. Big animals, with their almost intelligent look in the eye, have never been and objective for him. I belive that, in reality, hunting is another aspect of his implication in the rural life that we cannot underestimate. He is in some way a countryside walker, a long distance thinker that uses his shotgun as an excuse to walk and wander around, and think in his own things. “I cant think if I´m not walking” he states, making of this affirmation a moto of some words in Las confesiones de J.J. Rousseau-; “If I stop walking I don´t think anymore, my head walks to the pase of my feet”. The novelist is a vagabond that with his shothand in his hands, walks along the fields thinking. Hunting- regulated by a code that is equally aesthetic and ethical- is a reward in his search for nature: “I had never been in the meanders of Villavieja,-he says in a revealing way-, but it really is a spectacle. The river gets wider there and the water flows so peacefully that it seems lake. On the shore some elm trees grow and huge alder trees and the tamarind trees are so thik that the light barely passes through. Doves fly down to drink at the little sand islands that grow in the middle of the river…a fisher bird passes by like a lightening, I shot it twice but I wasn´t even close to touch it. The damn bird had a little bird in its beak, then I felt the wingbeat of a wood pidgeon and the bird just land at the tip of an alder tree that was just opposite my hunting post. I patiently waited and when the wood pidgeon decided to come down to drink at the little island I shot it down, it didn´t even emited a sound”. Here is how a hunter sees nature as a spectacle, feels the landscape with sensibility and remembers Virgil or Garcilaso or Fray Luis de León, and how a hunter does not suffer when he misses a shot and comes back with no kill. More than a conventional hunter he seems a priest of a novel that offices in the temple of nature.

Cristóbal Cuevas: “Discurso inaugural”, en Miguel Delibes. El escritor, la obra y el lector. Barcelona, Anthropos, 1992, p. 9.


It is no secret that the type of hunting that Delibes loves the most is the red partridge hunting, the real “queen” catch and number one objective of our Sunday excursions. […] The rest of catches that we have a look at the fields are mere complements. […] The same accidental motivation (as rabbits and hares) have in our catches a noble piece such as chocha […]

Delibes-caza-codornices

To this and the quails in summer id¡s what Delibes limits his hunting practice whose hunting preferences […] coincide with those of the modest hunters of Catilla. Once or twice I heard to some members of the hunting club Alcyón, to which Miguel Delibes was part since 1965, “¡How great are his tales about hunting but such a few ways of hunting he knows about!”. The truth is that indeed he knew about more hunting modalitites, but he only felt really captivated by the primitive forms of hunting, in which the hunter mst do everything, search the catch, wake it up, shoot it and retrieve it. A type of hunting in which shooting the shotgun and retrieving some bird requires to get exhausted and be precise with an stratergie in which a whole group takes part. A type of hunting, on the other hand, that does not end with the shot since retrieving the kill, examining it and hang it on your hanger was part of the hunter´s pleasures to which he will not give up or leave to the hands of an assistant. And a type of hunting that considers the final but no leat important part the victory of seeing the kill transformed into delicious culinary dish.

Germán Delibes de Castro: “Cuatro décadas de caza con mi padre”, Prólogo a Miguel Delibes: Obras Completas, V. El cazador. Barcelona, Destino-Círculo de Lectores, 2009, pp. XIII-XV.


Miguel Delibes y su hijo Germán con su perro Grin. Quintanilla de Abajo (Valladolid), 1979.

Miguel Delibes y su hijo Germán con su perro Grin. Quintanilla de Abajo (Valladolid), 1979.

I love nature because I am a hunter. I am a hunter because I love nature. It is both things. Moreover, I am not only a hunter, I am a protectionist; I am always in favor of proctecting all the species. People say that is a contradiction, but I say if I protect the species, I will have partridges to hunt in Fall. If I don´t protect them they will be gone, and that is exactly what is happening now. In that sense ther is no contradiction at all. On the other hand I am not a blind hunter only paying attention to the kill or the locations of the catch, I like enjoying the fields, watch the sunrise and the sunset, observe the scarlet colors on the bushes… If I also catch a couple of partridges and I eat the the following Tuesday, even merrier. But I never measure the fun by the number of kills.

Miguel Delibes: fragmentos de entrevistas, en República de las Letras, núm. 117, junio 2010, p.10.


At the age of seventy two and with half a hundred catches on the fields, the writer starts looking back. He is aware of this Lot´s complex and the consequences that it means and that he wants to deal with a sense of humor in El ultimo coto. “The episode of the story about lot makes sense for me if I think about the similarities with lumbago. I also became a salt statue last Thursday when I finished having a bath and I tried to rescue a sock that was lying on the floor”.

This tendency to melancholic revision of events could be dramatic for his depressive and pessimist ways if it wasn´t compensated by his long urban walks and, for him exhausting, hunting seasons. Even if some years ago his legs became alittle more of a “middle class” kind of legs, he continued chasing red partridges along the fields of Castilla. The title of his most recent book-El ultimo coto– makes inevitable reffernece to a farewell. I t won´t be me who really belives that. I think the Hunter will dies with his boots on. In fact, between the date of the Foreword- in which he announces his hunting retirement- and the date of his latest short story with the totle “La despedida” something like five years have gone by: from 1986 to 1991. And he keeps on going out on the search of whatever he finds, wood pidgeons or fine meat quails…For Delibes his physical decline coincides with the extinction of the wild partridge, a sign of worse and more severe declines.

The fact is that if Delibes decided to end seventy years of hunting adventures it wouls also mean the end of that series of precise writing, beautiful, and classical books which lastest title is El ultimo coto, a highlight piece of work that started in the form of a novel with Diario de un cazador and in for of a chronicle with La caza de la perdiz roja. (About a thousand pages which would be enough to conside Delibes an exceptional writer.)

Winter text in which are decribed sleepy landscapes and wet foggy early hours, text with happy feelings so breve as the rays of sun light that find their way throughout the castillian wastelands or the happiness of a good catch. “I caught for the comunity satchel five red partridges, one hare and a rabbit… Moral of the story: I still can catch them. Which doesn´t mean that I kill all the partridges I shoot. Yesterday I spooked the ones that came on my way, only that, and those which flew like lightening passing me by I couldn´t even smell them. Becoming old has its prove in those kind of things”.

César Alonso de los Ríos: Introducción a Conversaciones con Miguel Delibes. Barcelona, Destino, 1993, pp. 11-13.


Delibes was a hunter […] but he was a selective hunter, very attentive to the preservation of the species- animals and plants-; preocuppied by the tranformations of the agriculture and its consequnces on Nature; intolerant with the industrialization of hunting; opposed to the illegal hunting and all the excess in hunting, in all these aspects a tireless professor for the rest of Spanish hunters. His lessons are evident in books such as La caza de la perdiz roja, El ultimo coto, Con la escopeta al hombre, Mi vida al ire libre, La caza en España and many others.

Probably nobody made a greater effort to reach closer such opposite worlds: hunting and Nature preservation, just because of this effort he is worth of our respect and aknoledgement.

Miguel-Delibes-mascaza-los-60

Eduardo de Juana: “El credo de Miguel Delibes”, en Aves y naturaleza. Revista de la Sociedad Española de Ornitología, núm. 3, Verano 2010, p. 32.


For me the acceptance of the hunting titles of Delibes has always caught my attention.[…] In my case[…] hunting is an activity that is not appealing at all, I could even dare to say that the only feeling that I have towards a “so called” sport is rejection. Nevertheless I have read all those works form Delibes with attention and fondness. I was never completely convinced by the preservation concepts that Delibes claimed in favor of hunting, but in his books where he chases red partridges, rabbits and hares are in the group of book that I sometimes re-read. Leaving aside the hunting topic there must be thus other aspects that make these books attractive.

In the first palce I think, we fell attracted to the sincere and self confessional tone of a man that has lived in an alert way the unexpected events of our time. He offers cold, aseptic and hyperbolic stories […] of the hunting practice and are often interwoven with the self experiences, emotions and fellings of the narrator provoked by the landscape or an anecdote. Without any tenderness the human being that the hunter hides can be seen in these stories. That is why he was ver y rght when he defined himself as a hunter that writes. It seems that he is not creating literature, but literature is there in all his stories with his simple way of saying things […]

The reason why these stories catch us, independently of the topics, comes from the fact that this man from Valladolid offers a clean, clear, rich, expressive and simple language with which he says many things […], a common language […] that the writer rescues […] because he is keen on the precise and exact language and giving things their correspondant name.

[…] That affection and simplicity so typical of Delibes, a pure and alive language that he uses to construct pilots of his books and testimonial chronicles. All those aspects only serve to a precise conception of Literature as a form of communication and a way of directly transmiting a personal experience. And there, I think, it is the success of his lietarture, saying things in a close and loving way that readers accept as an authentic way of expressing real life experiences.

Santos Sanz Villanueva: “Un decir próximo y entrañable”, en Las constantes de Delibes. Premio Cervantes 1993. Diputación de Valladolid-Fundación Municipal de Cultura, 1995, pp. 42-43.

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