Journalist, writer, director of the newspaper ABC, academic of the RAE… Torcuato Luca de Tena was one of the most outstanding figures of the social and intellectual elite of the 20th century in Spain. His consecration in literature came in the 60s with the Planeta Award, but his most special work would come a few years later: The twisted lines of God, a book almost obligatory for every psychologist.
Some people say that to speak of the Marquis Luca de Tena is to refer to a very specific epoch of Spanish history. As a war correspondent, heir to a magazine and a newspaper, it was the reflection of a complex period full of changes. Now, beyond the political, its relations or conservative ideas, draws attention to a very specific moment of his life.
It was in 1973, when after being evicted from his newspaper by the shareholders, he decided to leave everything and go to Mexico. He leaves his country and all those social and political ties that took him to Spain and chooses to give shape to a desire, to a very clear goal: turn only in literature.
Thus, between 1973 and 1999, Torcuato Luca de Tena wrote ten novels, three comedies and a book of poems. However, one of their most special projects would be to know in their own skin what those worlds were like, which, at that time, were contained within psychiatric hospitals.
After this experience and what he learned, he would write one of the most unique books for the world of psychology: The twisted lines of God.
“Especially exquisite personalities are more vulnerable than the most crass; in the same way that a cup is more fragile when the porcelain is of a higher quality”.
-The twisted lines of God-
Torcuato Luca de Tena: businessman, politician, journalist and writer
Son of a family with a long journalistic tradition, Torcuato Luca de Tena and Brunet was born on June 9, 1923 in Madrid. His grandfather, Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena had founded the famous magazine Blanco y Negro, in 1891, and later he would do the same with the newspaper ABC (1903) and the company Prensa Española (1909).
Due to the work of his father, a diplomat by profession, the family spent several years residing in Chile. It was here that the young Luca de Tena studied law, although he never got to practice this profession. At the age of fourteen he had already founded his own school newspaper and at 18 he had his first book of poems published. His passion was the letters, not the laws, that’s why when he returned to Spain he started the journalism career.
With the arrival of the Second World War he served as a press correspondent in London, later, after the war ended, he would cover different events in Washington, the Middle East and Mexico. Then, and as expected of him, he started directing the ABC newspaper while making his first forays into politics.
From 1973, Torcuato Luca de Tena served as a member of the Royal Spanish Academy. His literary successes began to weave a history as a renowned man of letters, where he also made brilliant forays into the children’s and youth genre with La compaguia loca, Pepa Niebla or The maker of dreams.
He won the Planeta prize in 1961 for La mujer del otro, as well as other recognitions such as the Fastenrath Prize of the Royal Spanish Academy in 196 or the Prize of the Cervantina de Novela Society. Torcuato Luca de Tena died in Madrid on June 1, 1999. He was 75 years old.
The twisted lines of God (1979) a novel about antipsychiatry
Torcuato Luca de Tena gave the field of psychology an almost essential novel. It should be noted that yes, it is not an easy work to read. However, the literary quality added to the faithful portrait that describes that subworld contained in the psychiatric of the time, make this work an absolute reference for all curious, for every lover of this genre.
Also, it should be noted that it is prefaced by the famous psychiatrist Juan Antonio Vallejo-Nágera. In addition, the book is dedicated to doctors, nurses, caretakers, caregivers and other professionals who care for the mentally ill in these centers.
“This palace was reserved for the highest aristocracy of madness, the blue blood of the disturbed, the linajudos of dementia.”
-The twisted lines of God-
The twisted lines of God count
the story of a woman, Alice Gould. She is a young woman who claims to be a detective and, far from suffering from any psychological disorder, her confinement in the psychiatric hospital is voluntary. Its purpose is to investigate a murder, a crime whose author is among the residents of the hospital.
Little by little, the protagonist is establishing a relationship with all that complex human “fauna” that lives in the center, deepening in her medical conditions, in her disorders, in that complex and obscure anatomy that is often contained in said institutions. The plot, as we see, drags us towards that enigma where we try to discover if Alice is telling the truth or if she herself is another resident of the psychiatric hospital.
The twisted lines of human nature
Torcuato Luca de Tena lived for 18 days in a psychiatric hospital in Mexico in order to be documented for his story. It was the Nuestra Señora de la Fuentecilla Hospital, where there were about 800 residents. On the other hand, he wanted to use the metaphor of crooked lines or “spelling mistakes” to refer to the mentally ill, to that person who, by his condition, seems at first sight an “error” committed by God himself at the moment of creation .
We say “it seems”, because Luca de Tena wrote this book for a very specific purpose: to dignify the collective. Make the world see that mental illness is not a spelling mistake, it is a complex piece of our society that deserves more attention, better treatments, respect and above all, be seen from a fairer perspective.
The twisted lines of God is a book that follows the approach of antipsychiatry. Thanks to the look of Alice Gould we can experience a greater closeness to those people to whom the institution itself takes its sense of humanity to transform them into beings locked in cages and hypermedicates.
An exquisite x-ray of mental illness
Torcuato Luca de Tena makes use of a very polished language in which moments are not lacking for humor. This allows him to profile each character perfectly, there where to oscillate between madness and lucidity, between fragility and greatness, between the human and the tragic.
In the book we meet such sublime characters as “La mujer cíclope”, the twins “Rómulo y Remo”, “Charito” López or Ignacio Urquieta … All of them present us with a psychological profile, a mental illness. However, it should be noted that it is the portrait of an era, that contained at the end of the 80s where we could still find obsolete (and pejorative) terms such as oligophrenia.
It does not matter that almost forty years have passed since Luca de Tena offered us this intense and original book where we can cross that line between our society and that threshold where the universe of psychological disorders opens up. It is always a good time to return to good books, especially those that leave us with a message in which to reflect.