Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Money, Culture, and Enterprise in Jose Enrique Rodo

Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Money, Culture, and Enterprise in Jose Enrique Rodo

Article excerpt

During 1999 the government of Uruguay set out to encourage a number of academic events, both at home and abroad, to commemorate the centenary of the publication of Rodo's Ariel (1900), probably the country's most internationally influential literary work. One of these events was a round-table discussion at the Sorbonne in November of that year. I was there, together with other Uruguayan academics working in Europe, and in the audience there were representatives from the Uruguayan Embassy and from the Uruguayan community living in Paris. The round table coincided with a visit to Paris of some Uruguayan officials, including the Governor of the Central Bank, an eminent economist. He was not at the Sorbonne meeting that evening, but during breakfast the next morning we exchanged views on the author and he said that Rodo's idealistic philosophy had left the negative legacy of a certain disdain for economic progress in the country. In his view, Rodo had been bad for Uruguayan business. The present article was written in part as a response to this economist, as well as a complement to the established view of Rodo as a man detached from worldly affairs, in terms of both politics and money. (1)

The material comes from the Rodo Archive housed at the Biblioteca Nacional in Montevideo, and consists mostly of correspondence. The Archive is large, only partly catalogued, and there is no local expertise on it, so it cannot be stated with certainty that other relevant items do not exist; nevertheless, sufficient data were found to justify the present report. I shall deal with the following potential enterprises, rather summarily with the first and the last and in more detail with the middle ones: (1) 'Amambay' (1897); (2) 'El Uruguay en su centenario' (1910); (3) 'La campana del Uruguay' (1911); (4) The English translation of Motivos de Proteo (1915-16). (5) 'Rapid-Fortune' (no date). All of these projects were unsuccessful, but two other related ones, concerning encyclopedias, where Rodo acted as academic editor rather than as business manager, did achieve fruition. There is no room here for a proper treatment of the latter, but they will again be mentioned briefly.

There is at least one other piece of very early involvement in entrepreneurship by Rodo, according to a letter sent to him on 19 April 1885, when he was thirteen years old. It comes from his friend Baldomero J. Correa, and concerns a project to create a newspaper. Rodo had already been writing his own home-made newspapers for some time; the first one, entitled 'El Plata', begins on 2 February 1881, when he was only nine years old (having been born on 15 July 1871). Later he was involved in editing some of his school's newspapers, including Los Primeros Albores, a short-lived printed affair which could pass for a professional organ of the time. In the letter from Correa there is an explicit reference to making money, albeit stated in jest. Correa refers to some cuttings from another paper which he had left for Rodo the night before, as Rodo was indisposed in bed: 'un pedazo de diario, donde to daba a conocer la manera como debiamos de hacer nuestro periodico'. Correa thinks they should use a press, and 'alguna litografia y tipografia'. He says he has 'material para mas de 6 meses', and proposes they should have a person to deliver the papers: 'es necesario uno que reparta los periodicos en las casas de familia y especialmente donde halla [sic] muchachas y nifias'. At the end of the letter he touches on the financial side, jokingly, but showing that the possibility is not far from his mind and, we can assume, also Rodo's: 'iQue de plata vamos a ganar! [...] las ganas.'

This, like Rodo's other newspapers, is clearly a project based on the spread of culture, and one of his biographers has already pointed out how in this early journalistic work there are seeds of some of the writer's better-known ideas about the improvement of the youth of Latin America. …

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