The Hive was the second great success in the career of one of the most influential Spanish writers of the 20th century, Camilo José Cela.
The novel, set in Madrid in 1943 after the Spanish Civil War, explores the poverty and dissatisfaction in Spain through the eyes of various fictional characters. It is notable for its large number of characters, over 300, and is considered a significant work written in post-war Spain. Due to strict censorship, Cela was unable to publish the book in Spain and instead had to release it in Buenos Aires. The novel was eventually got released in Spain in 1966.
Conceived as the first part of a trilogy that would never be completed, in The Hive, Cela experimented with a radically new approach to novelistic structure. The book is structured into six chapters and an epilogue, with each chapter featuring a set of brief passages that focus on specific characters. Set over the course of a few days in the Madrid of 1943, not long after the end of the Spanish Civil War, when the regime of General Francisco Franco was at its most oppressive, the book includes more than three hundred characters whose comings and goings it tracks to hypnotic effect. Through the small stories of their lives, the novel ultimately conveys a greater message, similar to how a hive of bees collectively work toward a common goal.
Scabrous, scandalous, and profane, The Hive is a virtuosic group portrait of a wounded and sick society.