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Torcuato Luca de Tena: A Renowned Spanish Writer and Journalist

Torcuato Luca de Tena was one of the most prominent figures of the social and intellectual elite of the 20th century in Spain. He was a journalist, a writer, a director of the newspaper ABC, an academic of the Royal Spanish Academy, and a politician. He wrote several novels, plays, and poems, but his most special work was Los renglones torcidos de Dios (The Twisted Lines of God), a book that delves into the dark and human aspects of mental illnesses.

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Who was Torcuato Luca de Tena?

His family background and early life

Torcuato Luca de Tena was born on June 9, 1923 in Madrid. He belonged to a well-known family of monarchist journalists. His grandfather, Torcuato Luca de Tena y Álvarez Ossorio, founded the magazine Blanco y Negro (Black and White) in 1891 and the newspaper ABC in 1903. His father, Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena, directed ABC between 1929 and 1936. He also had a brother, Guillermo Luca de Tena, who was also a journalist.

Due to his father's work as a diplomat, he spent some years of his youth in Chile, where he studied three years of law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. He published his first book of poems when he was only 18 years old, Albor (Dawn). He graduated in Madrid and started his career in journalism.

His career as a journalist and director of ABC

He founded the air edition of ABC. During the Second World War, he worked as a correspondent for ABC in London. In 1952, he became the director of the newspaper, but he was dismissed in 1953 because of his clashes with the Falangist Minister of Information Gabriel Arias-Salgado. He had to endure several sanctions and censorship for using terms like "Head of State" instead of "Leader", or for implying monarchist ideas.

He also worked as a correspondent in Washington, Middle East, and Mexico. He returned to Spain and took over the direction of ABC again between 1962 and 1975. During those years, he maintained close relationships with technocratic politicians such as Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora or Laureano López Rodó, who advocated for the application of the Law of Succession and the designation of Juan Carlos I as King.

His political involvement and exile to Mexico

In 1954, he ran for the elections to councilor in Madrid along with Joaquín Calvo Sotelo, Joaquín Satrústegui, and Juan Manuel Fanjul as an alternative to the Francoist Movement. However, they failed because they did not have the approval of Franco at that time.

He was also appointed as Procurator in Cortes (a representative body under Franco's regime) three times between 1964 and 1977. He supported the transition to democracy after Franco's death.

In 1973, after being ousted from his newspaper by the shareholders, he decided to leave everything and move to Mexico. He abandoned his country and all his social and political ties and chose to focus only on literature.

What are his most famous works?

His novels and their themes

He wrote ten novels between 1973 and 1999. Some of them are:

  • Los hijos de la lluvia (The Children of the Rain, 1967), which won the Ateneo de Sevilla Prize. It is a historical novel set in the 16th century that narrates the adventures of a Spanish soldier in the Philippines.

  • La brújula loca (The Crazy Compass, 1970), which won the Fastenrath Prize. It is a thriller that explores the world of espionage and international intrigue.

  • Los renglones torcidos de Dios (The Twisted Lines of God, 1979), which won the Planeta Prize. It is his masterpiece and one of the best-selling books in Spanish. It is a psychological novel that depicts the life of a woman who is admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

  • Edad prohibida (Forbidden Age, 1980), which was adapted into a film. It is a romantic novel that tells the story of a young man who falls in love with an older woman.

  • El expediente Canaima (The Canaima File, 1991), which was also adapted into a film. It is a mystery novel that follows the investigation of a journalist who discovers a conspiracy involving a multinational corporation.

His plays and their success

He wrote three plays that were well received by the public and the critics. They are:

  • La mujer de otro (Another Man's Wife, 1952), which was also adapted into a film. It is a comedy that deals with marital infidelity and social hypocrisy.

  • La otra orilla (The Other Shore, 1955), which was awarded the Lope de Vega Prize. It is a drama that reflects on the meaning of life and death through the dialogue between two men who are about to be executed.

  • El caso de la mujer asesinadita (The Case of the Little Murdered Woman, 1958), which was also adapted into a film. It is a parody of the detective genre that mocks the clichés and conventions of the crime stories.

His poetry and its style

He published only one book of poems, Albor (Dawn, 1941), when he was 18 years old. He also wrote some poems for his novels and plays. His poetry is characterized by its lyrical tone, its musicality, its romanticism, and its use of metaphors and symbols.

Why is Los renglones torcidos de Dios his masterpiece?

The plot and the main characters

The novel tells the story of Alice Gould, a woman who is admitted to a psychiatric hospital under the false diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. She claims to be a detective who is investigating a murder case inside the hospital. She meets several patients who suffer from different mental disorders and who become her friends or enemies. She also faces the hostility of some doctors and nurses who try to stop her from finding out the truth.

The main characters are:

  • Alice Gould: The protagonist and narrator of the novel. She is intelligent, brave, witty, and compassionate. She has a strong sense of justice and loyalty. She suffers from delusions of grandeur and persecution.

  • Claudio: Alice's husband and accomplice. He is an engineer who works for an oil company. He loves Alice deeply and supports her in her mission.

  • Laura: Alice's best friend in the hospital. She is a young woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. She is cheerful, friendly, generous, and optimistic.

  • Marta: Alice's worst enemy in the hospital. She is an old woman who suffers from dementia. She is cruel, manipulative, violent, and jealous.

  • Dr. Ballesteros: The director of the hospital and Alice's psychiatrist. He is an arrogant, authoritarian, and ambitious man who wants to prove his theories about schizophrenia.

The research and the experience behind the book

The impact and the legacy of the book

The book was a huge success both in Spain and abroad. It sold more than three million copies and was translated into 25 languages. It was also adapted into a film in 1987, directed by Tulio Demicheli and starring Ana Belén as Alice.

The book is considered a masterpiece of psychological literature and a classic of Spanish literature. It is praised for its realistic and human portrayal of mental illnesses, its suspenseful and intriguing plot, its rich and complex characters, and its literary style.

The book also raised awareness and criticism about the conditions and treatments of psychiatric patients in Spain during the Francoist regime. It denounced the abuse, neglect, and stigma that they suffered. It also questioned the validity and reliability of psychiatric diagnoses and classifications.


Torcuato Luca de Tena was a remarkable Spanish writer and journalist who left a lasting mark on the literary and cultural scene of his country. He wrote several novels, plays, and poems that explored different genres and themes. However, his most outstanding work was Los renglones torcidos de Dios, a novel that he wrote after spending ten days as a patient in a psychiatric hospital. The novel is a fascinating and moving story that delves into the world of mental illnesses and challenges the reader to question their own sanity.


  • What is the meaning of the title Los renglones torcidos de Dios?

The title comes from a Spanish proverb that says "God writes straight with crooked lines". It means that God has a plan for everything, even if it seems chaotic or unfair to us.

  • What is the main message of the book?

The main message of the book is that mental illnesses are not a sign of inferiority or madness, but a different way of perceiving reality. The book also shows that there is a thin line between sanity and insanity, and that anyone can cross it under certain circumstances.

  • Who is the killer of Damián García del Olmo?

The killer of Damián García del Olmo is revealed to be Marta, the old woman who suffers from dementia. She killed him because he was her son's lover and she was jealous of him.

  • Is Alice Gould really a detective or a schizophrenic?

The book does not give a definitive answer to this question. It leaves it open to the interpretation of the reader. There are clues and arguments that support both possibilities.

  • What is the significance of Alice's name?

Alice's name is a reference to Alice in Wonderland, the famous novel by Lewis Carroll. It suggests that Alice is entering a world of fantasy and madness, where nothing is what it seems.



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