Multicultural Writers from Antiquity to 1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Alba Amoia; Bettina L.Knapp | Go to book overview

MARÍA LUISA BOMBAL

(1910-1980)

Martha L Rubí


BIOGRAPHY

Born on June 8, 1910, in Viña del Mar, Chile, María Luisa Bombal bears the French existential and Surrealist trademark of the twentieth-century writer. Her parents, Martín Bombal Videla and Blanca d'Anthes Precht, both of French ancestry—he from Limoges and she a direct descendant of French Huguenots—along with other rebellious European kindred, settled in Chile in the nineteenth century. They wielded enormous influence on her dramatic writing style and sentimental perception of reality, her ancestors sometimes appearing in her fiction as a reminder of her roots. In the novel La amortajada (1938) the male character, Antonio, is named after her grandfather Antonio Bombal Videla, whose father, Francisco Videla Gómez, hunted by the Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas, crossed the Andes and settled in Chile in the nineteenth century. Memories of her grandmother, María Luisa Videla, and her father, Martín, linger in images that nostalgically evoke the scent of her father's cologne and her grandmother's perfume—images forever lodged in the pages of La amortajada. Legends and stories of escape and exile filled the young mind of Maria Luisa. It is not surprising that her first language was French; that through French ancestry, culture, and, later, residence in Paris, she would be shaped and defined; and that her ambiguous symbolism and tragic vision of the world would become the essence of her nightmarish novel La última niebla (1935).

The birth in 1911 of her twin sisters Loreto and Blanca impacted on Maria Luisa. She looked frail and out of place next to her robust sisters. As her father's favorite child, the nine-year-old María Luisa was devastated at the news of his death in 1919 at the age of forty-one. This event brought the existence of death into her innocent concept of life, a theme always present in her stories. Her mother and the three daughters settled in Paris in 1923, where María Luisa attended the Ecole Notre Dame de l'Assomption. She was immediately drawn

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