Spanish-American Literature in Translation

Spanish-American Literature in Translation

Spanish-American Literature in Translation

Spanish-American Literature in Translation

Excerpt

By 1880 Romanticism, which had reached Spanish America earlier than the 1833 date of its beginnings in Spain, had lost its drive. The masterpieces of the Romantic novels--Marmol Amalia (1855), Blest Gana Martín Rivas (1865), Isaac María (1867), Mera Cumandá (1876), and Silvestre Tránsito (1886)--had palled, and writers were looking for something new.

At this moment, too, the theater of romantic and mysterious heroes struggling amid violent surroundings, was being challenged by a realistic play, full of local color and problems, about a mistreated cowboy, which was being performed in a traveling circus in Argentina. In addition, a postal employe in Valparaiso, Chile, a Nicaraguan with the pen name of "Rubén Darío," was completing an important book of prose and poetry, Azul ("Blue"). If anything can mark the beginning of Modernism, it is this volume of 1888. Among its antecedents was an anthology, Le Parnasse-contemporain (1866), named by the French poets after the Greek home of the Muses. Poets were in revolt against the subjectivity of the Romanticists and their slipshod writing. They sought to express the feel of things, external and exotic beauty, but with an impersonal attitude and sculpturesque perfection.

Other poets of France, in revolt, were employing such freedom in choice of material that their abnormal, neurotic, morbid products won for the writers the name of Decadents. The return swing of the pendulum touched the color-conscious Symbolists, who objected to the realism of the Decadents.

Darío, working at the Managua Library in his native Nicaragua, and later reading French literature in the library of his Chilean friend Pedro Balmaceda, had concluded that many French "innovations" had really appeared centuries earlier, in Spain, but he did find something new, in literature, in the revolt against the worship of material success. In this lay one of the seeds of Modernism.

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