El Modernismo

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El Modernismo

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Muokkaaja: toukokuu 25, 2007, 8:46 am

I am interested in learning more about the effects, and persons involved in producing them, of the Decadence on Latin American literature. I am vaguely aware of the Modernismo movement - a sort of South American expression of the European decadent/symbolist movement. Included among its talents were Clemente Palma (flamboyant son of the famous Ricardo Palma), Leopoldo Lugones, Horacio Quiroga, Jose Asuncion Silva and Ruben Dario. Their works could be colorful, violent, grotesque - incorporating local conditions with with European themes (as in Quiroga, who saw in the natural world - and in its fleshly coefficient, the same abyss of inhuman horror as Huysmans did), or rarified and cosmopolitan (Palma and Lugones).

Isidore Ducasse, otherwise Lautreamont, was also from South America, born in Montevideo. I am uncertain as to whether or not he was involved with the group or even if he knew any of the modernistas, as he was absorbed (literally) by Paris long before the 90s. If anyone has any information on any of this, please do post. There seems to be a fair amount of text in Spanish, a language I cannot read very well, on the web. I invite anyone who knows Spanish and has the time/interest to transcribe....

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 25, 2007, 9:58 am

There appears to be a semi-English language resource... the cost inspires nasal hemorrhages:

From Romanticism to Modernismo in Latin America - David Foster, ed.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 25, 2007, 9:58 am

Several of the local libraries I use regularly have The Dissonant Legacy of Modernismo, which purports to go beyond just Ruben Dario and French aestheticism. So maybe one near you has it? I'll also try to remember to look it over when I get a chance. It was recently translated into Spanish, which further suggests that it has something to offer.

Update: Oh, you can read it online.

toukokuu 25, 2007, 9:56 am

Thank you! I will look into it. I do have a skimpy literary biography of Clemente Palma. which addresses the literary climate a bit - but it is by no means exhaustive (or easy to come by).

Muokkaaja: elokuu 26, 2008, 9:56 am

Along with the Peruvian Clemente Palma, there are a great many other Latin american authors, of Spanish and Portugese culture, who are criminally neglected (I doubt I speak for many Peruvians when it comes to Palma... not even one hundred years of solitude seem to have eroded the effects of his personality upon their cultural memory). Briefly:

Mexican poet maudit, Bernardo Couto Castillo, who apparently died at the poetic age of 20, ravaged by drink, drugs and a career of general dissipation.

Honduran writer and diplomat, Froylan Turcios, whose novel, "El Vampiro", draws on Mayan themes and calls up echoes of Lewis's The Monk - featuring a pedophiliac vampire-priest who kills his idol's father and then assaults his young victim in the confessional. He also wrote, I believe, several collections of cruel tales.

elokuu 24, 2008, 4:21 pm

This is uncharted territory to me. I have been searching around for information as I await collections by Dario and Lugones to get started. I found an this interesting piece on El Modernismo. It discusses Lautreamonts influence on Dario.


Muokkaaja: elokuu 26, 2008, 9:58 am

It would be nice if some enterprising (or bored, etc.) translator would make these writers available in English. It is a continuing shame that writers such as Couto Castillo and Amado Nervo are unknown to American readers (I would have thought the University of Texas might have something). Perhaps this country will officially name Spanish as a second national language before American publishing house pick up on people not named Ian or Dan.

To be fair, it seems the works of Bernardo Couto Castillo are scarce enough in Spanish language editions (to judge by internet-based booksellers' stocks). Cora Cardona of Teatro Dallas has recently published a play based upon his life and his fiction: "Black Butterfly in Chloroform".

Muokkaaja: elokuu 26, 2008, 10:37 am

Here is a short story by Froylan Turcios, courtesy of translator/critic, Gilbert Alter-Gilbert:

Exotic Couple

One buttery September afternoon, on the island of Madeira, in the gracious lobby of a hotel, a striking couple could be seen, leisurely savoring a carafe of finely-aged, ruby-red wine.

They were the picture of elegance. She radiated a beauty hallucinatory, morbid, and imperious. He had the insolent and extravagant bearing of a jumped-up flunky, or a prince without portfolio.

They conversed in a rasping and guttural undertone, and their phrases sounded like snakes hissing in the weeds. Their eyes shot rays of hatred and, with each passing minute, their features grew more cadaverous.

Suddenly, with a languid but deliberate motion, he touched the smoldering red tip of his lit cigar to the back of the woman's right hand, which rested near the edge of the marble tabletop. She didn't move her hand and she didn't utter a cry. The glowing cigar-end burned through the thin, soft leather of her glove and then the satin-like whiteness of her flesh. But she remained impassive. Only her metallic, leopard-like eyes riveted upon the cruel eyes of the man, and flared like two fiery flowers.

She lifted to her lips with her left hand, the delicate crystal goblet of Chianti, and bit into the glass. Then there blossomed at the corners of her luridly vermilioned mouth a mockingly ironic smile. The cigar had extinguished itself against the motionless flesh.

The woman, with a feline gesture, plucked from her hat a large gold pin and, with her injured hand, began to stab the man's legs with it ferociously. She looked at him for a second then, with incredible rapidity, jabbed the pin in his cheek, then jabbed him again and again, in the forehead, in the chin, in the mouth, in the nose, tracing a line straight for his eyes. Minute purple globules seemed to bead from every pore in his face. And he, without budging, without the slightest flinch, stared at her in silence, icily.

She pressed a handkerchief to her face. He did the same. His was covered with mopped-up blood. Hers was soaked with tears. And, confronted by the man's tragic mask, the woman shivered with mortal feverishness, and then broke into a raucous laugh which fitfully shook her diamond choker and the bluebirds festooning her hat.

elokuu 26, 2008, 3:24 pm

Two Journals of Mexican Decadence:

La Revista Moderna: 1898 - 1911. Founded by Amado Nervo, Jesus E. Valenzuala and Jose Juan Tablada. Bernardo Castillo Couto, Ruben Dario and Leopoldo Lugones were among the contributors.

La Revista Azul: 1894 - 1896. Founded by Manuel Gutierrez Najara, Ruben Dario and Carlos Diaz Dufoo.

elokuu 26, 2008, 3:43 pm

Julio Ruelas, Mexican decadent artist and illustrator, contributor to La Revista Moderna:


syyskuu 28, 2008, 1:58 pm

tammikuu 2, 2009, 1:10 pm

Feliz Navidad (better late, etc.).

I don't know if this is for real, given the inflated prices I have seen elsewhere - but, Clemente Palma:


Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2009, 2:49 pm

I hope that is still available next week! If it isn't, I hope one of you got it. $34 for 98 pages of malignance.

tammikuu 2, 2009, 3:04 pm

The Julio Ruelas looks interesting. I've probably mentioned him before, but Franz Kupka,
Czech, did similar work around the early 20th cent. Later became one of the first abstract painters. His early black and white illustrations are all-time favorites.

tammikuu 8, 2009, 11:47 am

"The Black Idol" is an old favorite. I like his abstract stuff, but I wish he'd done more "symbolist", fantastic work. He would have been another Felicien Rops. Even though he was the first abstract painter, he's little known. Just
another example of the best sinking into obscurity
and the garbage rising to the top!

tammikuu 19, 2009, 2:18 am

I just finished Santiago Dabove's La muerte y su traje, a collection of stories which show a pretty strong Poe and Maupassant influence. (He also namedrops Rodenbach's Bruges-La-Morte.) The stories are somewhat similar to those of Lugones, often incorporating science fiction elements. There's not a lot of information about him in English, but here's an interesting Spanish-language essay:


tammikuu 21, 2009, 9:29 am

Very interesting mention, Carlos, thank you. I hope there is someone working on translations somewhere for lazy quasi-monoglots like myself! I have found a collection of stories which includes one or two by Dabove.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 16, 2009, 2:34 am

You might be interested in my own personal website where I have collected fiction and non-fiction works created by the Latin American authors who belonged to the Modernismo literary trend. I have been working on making this website the last 6 years, and I have been able to rescue hundreds of electronic texts from PDF and other formats making them available to be read online. Many of the authors you have in your list, you can find them in this website.

The website address is:

I like your list of decadents writers. By the way, I just found in PDF the complete short stories and novellas of Catulle Mendes. I have almost a extensive collection of Decadent writers as well.

I hope we will be able to share more through this forum.

heinäkuu 16, 2009, 2:37 am

Biblioteca de la Prosa Modernista

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 16, 2009, 8:37 am

Wonderful! This a rich repository and I thank you (It looks like you have the same distressed photograph of C. Palma that La Biblioteca Nacional of Peru sent me. Amazing - the man lived well into the 20th century and there does not seem to be a well-preserved non-apocryphal image of him).

I confess what is getting to be a major character flaw: I cannot read, with any degree of skill, in Spanish (anyone here who would care to translate? :). If I had it to do over again (academic life - and mine was, some might say, of unnatural longevity) I would have doubled in French and Spanish and focused in graduate school on this period, which, to my thought - and despite the often encountered heaps of lilies, rosaries and absinthe bumpers - a sort of renaissance (the "Renaissance", according to Ruskin and Hugo, was a period of decadence).

Also, if you are looking for decadent stories, you can do no better than visit Joe Bandel's Hanns Heinz Ewers site:


heinäkuu 16, 2009, 1:08 pm

For sure I know that you can find many of the major Modernistas in English. For instance, three of the Cuban writers, José Martí, Juliían del Casal, and Juana Borrero, are available in English. They were considered pioneers in the introduction of new French literary trends in the late 19th Century Latin American literature, and therefore responsible in the formation of the Modernismo.

Julián del Casal is very important. He has many short-stories written according to the Decadence aesthetics. He was a typical character affected by the spleen and the mal de siecle. I really recommend you to find and read his short-stories. Maybe I can open a topic about him around here.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 18, 2009, 9:56 am

Thank you for the great leads.... And please do tell us more about Casal (etc.) - I look forward to it!

Muokkaaja: elokuu 3, 2009, 12:57 am

I found this information about one of the forebearees of the Modernismo, Julian del Casal.

José Julián Herculano del Casal y de la Lastra (November 7, 1863-October 21, 1893) was a Cuban poet.

He took up many of the French poetic styles of the day, and later influenced Rubén Darío and Modernismo. Like Manuel González Prada and José Martí, Casal was an important forebearer of modernistic expression throughout Latin America. Casal seemed almost obsessed when comparing natural vs "made by man" perspectives.

Casal published only two poetry collections during his lifetime, "Hojas al viento" and "Nieve". His last collection, "Bustos y rimas", appeared in 1893, shortly after his death, and was completed with the help of Casal's friend Hernández Miyares. It differs from his earlier works because it contains both prose and poetry. Hojas includes forty-nine poems and is considered an example of Casal's early writing style. The poems in this collection are topical in nature and often refer to contemporary events. A few of them were even characterized as “imitations” and show the influence of other writers. The work was well received by his contemporaries as an early offering by a poet with much promise. Casal continued to publish poems in various Cuban periodicals, and in 1892 he collected many of these pieces in his second collection, Nieve. Divided into five sections, the poems in this collection are categorized according to theme. The first section, “Bocetos antiguos” includes poems inspired by pagan and Judeo-Christian thought; the second section, “Mi museo ideal,” is famous because the poems contained in it were inspired by the art of Gustave Moreau, with whom Casal had an ongoing correspondence. The third section, “Cromos españoles,” is a collection of well-known Spanish word pictures; the fourth, “Marfiles viejos,” contains sixteen sonnets, all reflecting his fears and concerns about life in general. The fifth section, titled “La gruta del ensueño,” completes the collection with seventeen miscellaneous poems. Nieve met with some critical success, although most contemporaries in Cuba felt that Casal's themes were too dark and pessimistic.

elokuu 3, 2009, 1:05 am

Here is some information about other of the important Cuban writers who developed and anticipated the Modernismo before Ruben Dario.

Juana Borrero: an exceptional girl
Greity Gonzalez Rivera

In their daily work, many artists discover they have the ability of making incursions into different genres. But, what’s really hard is to find someone with the capacity of being good at all artistic expressions. For instance, we all know Salvador Dalí as the great genius of the surrealistic painting. However, he was an excelent photographer, sculptor, designer, etc. Nevertheless, nobody would think of him as a genius in all these because all his creative strength was used in painting and painting is what distinguishes him.

But, in the history of the Cuban art there’s an artist that, during her short life, was as good at painting as good at writing poetry.

Juana Borrero was born on May 17, 1877, in Santo Suárez neigborhood in the capital of the Island. She died on March 9, 1896 in Key West, United States of America. The daughter of the writer, pedagogue and great Cuban patriot Esteban Borrero Echevarría and of Consuelo Pierra, she grew up in a cultivated environment where gatherings in which important political and cultural personalities of the time participated were usually.

With only five years old she showed her ability to paint; at seven she wrote her first poem; and at ten she already knew English, French and Italian.

In 1887, she matriculated in San Alejandro Arts Academy, then located in Dragones Street, Number 308, whose director was Miguel Melero. She was a friend of the most important personalities of the Cuban culture and arts such as José Martí, Armando Menocal and her teacher Julián del Casal, with whom she had a passionate friendship. The poet devoted pages to praise her verses and paintings: “By means of her poems, we will know the pearl of her dreams; sometimes pale, sometimes stunning, but always invaluable. Thus, the childhood days of this extraodinary girl go by and we see how her pictorial and poetic genius promises to make her homeland well known”.

Her poems began to be known in 1891 in the best literary magazines: “La Habana Elegante”, “El Fígaro”, “La Habana Literaria”, etc. In 1893, at sixteen, her work was included in the compilation made by Manuela Herrera de Herrera “Escritoras Cubanas. Composiciones Escogidas de las más notables autoras de la Isla de Cuba”. We can say the influence of modernism is evident in her poems. Modernism was a tendency in poetry followed in all over Latin America and begun by Nicaraguan Rubén Darío. José Martí and Julián del Casal were key figures of the modernist literature in Cuba. This tendency was characterized by the use of euphuism and exotism. Who does not know the beautiful poem written by Darío about the sad princess?

Juana’s poems such as “Apolo”, “Crepuscular”, “Las Hijas de Ran”, “Vespertino”, tell as about this modernist tendency of the Cuban poetry of which she was an extraordinary exponent. In these poems, we see that swans and nymphs are present and these are indispensable figures in any poem pretending to be truly modernist.

In the National Museum of Fine Arts we can see two of Juana’s pictorial works. One of them, “Pilluelos”, is considered to be by the critics one of the best works of the Cuban painting of the XIX century. It’s wonderful to see how, by means of a very classical pyramidal composition, the artist was able to reflect, as in a photograph, the ingenious look of these black boys that showed more life and energy than any other personality of the high society which, by the way, were usually pictured in the XIX century.

Only a few of her plastic works have been kept. It’s believed that many paintings are in New York where she went to with her father in 1892, or in the houses of different friends.

In 1895, she met Carlos Pío Uhrbach, a poet from Matanzas, Cuba, with whom she established a relation that brought about one of the most beautiful epistolary works of the Cuban literature. Her romance with this rebel was problematic because her father opposed their relationship inexplicably.

In all those passionate letters, where Juana signed with different names such as Carlota, Desdémona, Ivone, the pure love of these young kids was evident.

(...) you and I are exceptional beings…We have gone beyond the link between the body and the soul, we have broken the exhausting and degrading yoke of the corporal desires…We can be so proud of being pure…of being of a different nature! This is the true greatness. And I believe you are great enough to give what I’ve never dared to expect from any other man…Because of your greatness, you are the only man I see as my hero…is it not true, my love? Therefore, I go to you and I beg you to keep my extremely sensitive, chaste, and delicate soul…Think and reflect! I beg you again to be honest…Don’t promise what you won’t be able to do…I’ll live based on the hope your letter today has given me (…)

As the very same Rubén Darío said when he knew about her death: “I can imagine the pain of this in-loved artist that did not have the triumph of the possession and who won’t find his Leonora again in this world!”

In 1896, two months before turning nineteen years old, this extraordinary girl died of tuberculosis. Carlos Pío died a year later, fighting for the independence of Cuba.

130 after her birth, it’s important that the current and coming generations know about Juana Borrero’s work because her life was an authentic example of how talent, along with constant work and self-sacrifice, have a role to play in the collective memory of a nation.


elokuu 4, 2009, 9:29 am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

elokuu 4, 2009, 9:29 am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

elokuu 4, 2009, 9:32 am

Thank you for this detailed information, it has been intersting reading. I know next to nothing of pre-20th century Cuban literature. I hope you will continue to post on topics of Modernismo (etc.) as time allows.

elokuu 17, 2009, 1:55 pm

I have a very interesting Spanish decadent author Antonio de Hoyos y Vinent.

Check this link;

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 2009, 11:11 am

Poems, translated into English, by Mexican decadent, Efrén Rebolledo (Gracias, Luis!):


The site provides a bit of biographical information as well.

maaliskuu 4, 2011, 10:04 am

I've really enjoyed reading this thread and the other posts in this group because they put a lot of the authors I've enjoyed and thought about in a regional (Latin American) context into a more global perspective. Here are my thoughts on some of the aforementioned authors:

Rubén Darío: In theory I like him a lot, and I find that when I put some time into reading his poetry (and his short stories), I often think they're wonderful. I just found a cool hardcover edition of his Poesías completas on the internet for seven bucks or so and bought it, so I'm hoping to take a more serious and focused look at him in the future. He seems like an admirable fellow, and I've always thought that García Márquez might have modeled the Florentino Ariza character in Love in the time of Cholera on Darío and some of his illustrious contemporaries. He was without a doubt very important in the development of a sense of Latin American literary independence. As I understand, he also spawned some really, really bad imitators of his lofty, ornate style. I also seem to remember that Jorge Luis Borges did not much care for his poetry.

Horacio Quiroga: I am a big fan. I was lucky enough to spend some time in Argentina, and made some trips to the northeastern part of the country where he "roughed" it. One time I was on an overnight bus to Posadas and when I woke up in the morning, I saw a sign marking the turnoff for his home, which I guess is preserved as a museum or historic site. He did a great job of bringing the area alive in his stories, and even if you want to think of him as nothing more than an "Argentine Poe," he's at least a very, very good Argentine Poe. Here's a link to one of his more famous stories: The Decapitated Chicken. I feel like he's one of those authors I studied in college Latin American literature survey classes, and never really appreciated until I came back and re-read his stories on my own terms. He led a very dark life. It would appear that he was an insufferable husband. Some of my favorite stories are Los mensú and Los destiladores de naranja.

Leopoldo Lugones: Last year I read a short literary biography written by Borges about Leopoldo Lugones. In it Borges puts his influence into perspective and provides some justification for considering him to be, more or less, the father of Argentine literature. It doesn't appear that he was a particularly likeable person, and I feel that his influence in Argentina may be a bit comparable to Victor Hugo's influence in France (The greatest Argentine poet is, alas, Leopoldo Lugones, or something like that). He also wrote fantastic short stories, and I've been meaning to read his book Las fuerzas extrañas. Like Quiroga, he commited suicide. His son brought innovative techniques in military torture to Argentina, and his granddaughter was later tortured and killed by the dictatorship in the 70s.

I´m not familiar with Clemente Palma, but yesterday I found a Spanish language copy of his novel XYZ for about five bucks and bought it. I'm looking forward to receiving it!

I'll try to think of some other authors you all might enjoy and who fit into the interests of this group...and I'll thoroughly enjoy reading some of your other topics. I'm confident that my list of books to check out from the library will grow much longer today.

maaliskuu 4, 2011, 10:23 am

Felisberto Hernández

There is an English language anthology of his short stories entitled Lands of Memory. I've been really into him for a while. I especially like his story Por los tiempos de Clemente Colling, about his childhood piano teacher. I know that famous writers like Italo Calvino and Gabriel García Márquez have recognized his importance in their own works, and I think he should be better known. In the stories of La casa inundada, objects come alive, pianists wander around the Río de la Plata region selling socks or performing concerts in dusty cities, and a woman has a strange relationship with water in her inundated mansion in the title story.

maaliskuu 4, 2011, 10:53 am

Silvina Ocampo

Not really sure how she fits in with the interests of this group, but I read Viaje olvidado last month and thought it was a really neat book. Like Felisberto, she looks back on old memories and childhoods past. The book I read was composed of about twenty short (3-5 page) stories, most of them investigating a single not-altoghether-explicable event. Her language is very poetic. I think at least a couple of her books have been translated into English. I was happy to "meet" a new voice in the canon of Argentine short stories, someone whose perspective complements that of other, more reknowned authors like her husband, Adolfo Bioy Cásares, and Borges.

maaliskuu 4, 2011, 4:53 pm

Pablo Palacio

I think y'all would definitely like Palacio, an Ecuadorean writer whose works are pretty odd. I learned of him through an article in the Argentine newpaper Clarín, which called him one of the "great rarities" of literature. You can find the article here. Here's an exerpt:

A reader of Lautréamont and as such fond of a certain level of morbosity in his creations, Palacio evidences an intention to destabilize those classifications by which the hygienist medical movement of the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th categorized "abnormality," "immorality," and "infirmity." And it is from that point of view that critics read his work for more than thirty years, keeping in mind that the writer died in a mental hospital, after an internment of seven years and as a result of the siphyllis that he contracted through his stable relationship with a prostitute. Another strange case of life copying art, for that very progression had been outlined by Palacio in his story "Luz lateral." In it, the narrator/protagonist decitdes to abandon his wife due to the disagreeable custom she has of pronouncing the expression "claro!" (of course!) every time she speaks. Exactly as would occur to the author himself in real life, the protagonist meets a prostitute after leaving his wife and contracts syphillis from her; the disease ends up submerging him into a state of demencia.

Nonetheless, apart from the extreme biographism through which the works of Palacio were read for many years, critics long ago discovered that he was one of the most exquisit creators within the series of vanguardist prose, the category in which, without a doubt, Vicente Huidobro shines and our own Macedonio Fernández is a visionary....

I enjoyed both his short story collection Un hombre muerto a puntapiés (A man kicked to death) and his short novel Vida del ahorcado (Life of the Hanged Man). I seem to recall that Un hombre muerto a puntapiés was available in e-book form. Sadly, I don't believe his work exists in English translation.

maaliskuu 14, 2011, 2:28 pm

I read an interesting article last week about Latin America's influence on peninsular Spanish literature. In short, the literary establishment in Spain had trouble getting used to the fact that Latin American writers were doing new things and setting trends; the relationship between empire and colony was being inverted and new Latin American artists were obtaining a level of prestige that eclipsed their Spanish contemporaries. The article focused in part on the reception of Rubén Darío's Azul. Darío had sent a copy to the prominent Spanish author and critic Juan Valera. Valera responded (somewhat) enthusiastically in the form of two letters, which were published in a Spanish newspaper. I thought the letters were fascinating in their representation of a moment in the early years of what I think of as modern literature. Valera's words seem to contain a mixture of condescension and fear of the unknown; he recognizes that Darío is talented but he appears uncomfortable with what he has read. Reading them helps me better understand just how important Darío was, and I think I may pull that volume of his complete poetry off my bookshelf this week and read some of his poems, trying to imagine how the distinguished Señor Valera must have felt as he read Azul for the first time. (I'm also temped to read Valera's most famous book, Pepita Jiménez, so that I can have a better idea of why a short book of poetry by a young Nicaraguan was so revolutionary).

I'll add the first part of his first letter in the next post...

maaliskuu 14, 2011, 2:29 pm

Letter from Juan Valera to Rubén Darío

Every book from America that reaches my hands excites my interest and awakens my curiosity; but until today none has awakened it as fully as your book, from the very moment I began reading it.

I confess that at first, despite the amiable dedicatory which you included in the copy you sent me, I looked at the book with indifference...almost with aversion. It was the fault of...the title, Azul.

Victor Hugo states: L'art c'est l'azur; but I do not agree with, nor resign myself to the idea that such a statement may be deeply profound and beautiful. To me it's just as well to say that art is blue as it is to say that it's green, yellow or red. Why, in this case, does blue (although in French it is not blue, rather azure, which is more poetic) have to be the code, symbol and superior predicament that encompasses the ideal, the ethereal, the infinite, the serenity of the cloudless sky, the diffuse light, the vague and limitless horizons in which stars are born, exist, shine and traverse the night sky? And, although all this and more may rise up from the bottom of our being and appear in the eyes of our spirit evoked by the word blue, is there any novelty in saying that art is all of this? It is no different to say that art is the imitation of Nature, as defined by Aristoteles; the perception of all that exists and all that is possible and its reappearance or representation by man through signs, letters, sounds, colors or lines. In sum: the more I think about it, I don't see in the idea of art being blue anything more than an emphatic and empty phrase.

May art be blue, or whatever color it wishes. Providing that it's good, color is of the least importance. What bothered me was that the phrase was Victor Hugo's, along with the fact that you had chosen the fundamental word in that phrase as the title of your book. "Will this poet," I asked myself, "be one of so, so many others, from all the world over, and above all from Portugal and Spanish America, who have been influenced by Victor Hugo?" The manic desire to imitate him has truly ravaged the poetic world, because the daring youth exaggerate his defects, and because that thing known as genius, which causes one to pardon defects and even applaud them, cannot be imitated when one does not possess it. In conclusion: I suspected that you were just another offspring of Victor Hugo, and more than a week passed before I started reading your book.

No sooner had I finished it than I formed a very different conception. You are you; with great depth of originality, and of a very unique originality at that. If your book, printed in Valparíso in this year of 1888, weren't in excellent Castillan, it could just the same be by a French author, an Italian, a Turk or a Greek. The book is impregnated with cosmopolitan spirit. Down to the first and last name of its author, whether true or feigned and incongruent, which make the cosmopolitanism stand out even more. Rubén is Jewish, and Darío Persian; such that, by your name it seems as though you want to be or are from every country, caste and tribe.

Azul, the book...is not, in reality, a book: it's a pamphlet of one hundred and thirty two pages; but so full of material and written in so concise a style, that it gives quite a lot to think about and plenty to read. Of course, it's clear that its author is very young, that he cannot be more than twenty five years old; but he has used those years marvellously. He has learned very, very many things, and in everything he knows and expresses he shows a singular artistic or poetic talent.

He is lovingly familiar with the Greek literature of antiquity; he knows modern Europe inside and out. One notices, although he doesn't bring attention to it, that he possesses a complete conception of the visible world and the human spirit, such as this conception has come to be formed by the body of recent observations, experiences, hypotheses and theories. And one also notices that all of this has penetrated the author's mind, I won't say exclusively, but principally through French books. Moreover: in the profiles, in the refinements, in the exquisities of the thought and feeling of the author there is a great deal of French, such that I formulated a story that served to explain this to my liking. I supposed that the author, born in Nicaragua, had traveled to Paris to study to be a doctor, or to be an engineer, or to be something else; that he had lived for six or seven years in Paris with artists, erudites, men of letters and joyous women from around the way, and that much of what he knows he learned out loud and empirically through meeting and rubbing elbows with such people. It seemed impossible that the author could have been so entirely permeated with the most contemporary Parisian spirit without having lived in Paris for a number of years.

I was extraordinarily surprised when I learned that you, as well-informed acquaintences have assured me, have never left Nicaragua except to go to Chile, where you have lived for the past two years at most.

How, without direct environmental influence, have you been able to assimilate all of the elements of the French spirit, although still conserving the Spanish form which unifies and organizes these elements, converting them into your personal substance?

I don't believe that there has ever been a peninsular Spaniard comparable to you. We all have a core of Spanishness that nobody can take from us, no matter how hard he tries. You can still see the Spaniard in the famous Abbot Marchena, even though he has lived in France for so long; The sticky-sweet sentimentalism, a lo Rousseau, of Cienfuegos is prosthetic; the Spaniard lies below. Burgos and Reinos are Gallicized, not French. The French culture, for better and for worse, never goes below the surface. It's nothing more than a transparent varnish, below which one finds the Spanish condition.

I conclude, then, that there isn't an author writing in Spanish more French than you. And I say this to affirm a fact, without praise nor censure. In any case, I say it mostly in praise. I don't want authors to lack national character; but I can't demand of you that you be Nicaraguan, because there isn't nor can there yet be literary history, schools and traditions in Nicaragua. Nor can I demand that you be literarily Spanish, given that you are not politically Spanish, and furthermore, you are separated from the mother country by the Atlantic, and even farther, in the republic where you were born, from the Spanish influence than in other Hispanoamerican republics. Thus excused the Galicism of your mind, it is necessary to commend you wholeheartedly for the perfection and profundity of this Galicism; because the language remains Spanish, legitimate and correct, and because if you do not have a national character, you do posses an individual character.

Having read the hundred and thirty two pages of Azul..., the first thing one notices is that you are saturated with all of the most extravagant French literature. Hugo, Lamartine, Musset, Baudelaire, Leconte de Lisle, Gautier, Bourget, Sully Poudhomme, Daudet, Zola, Barbery d'Aurevilly, Catulo Mendès, Rollinat, Goncourt, Flaubert and all the remaining poets and novelists, have been well-studied and better-understood by you. And you don't imitate anyone: you aren't romantic, nor naturalist, symbolist, decadent, nor Parnassian. You have scrambled it all, set it to boil in the still that is your brain, and you've taken from it all a unique quintessence.

maaliskuu 14, 2011, 2:41 pm

Also, I just got the copy of Clemente Palma's XYZ in the mail. It's a recent reprint of the book by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Peru. A very strange edition at that...I'll try and read it soon.

maaliskuu 14, 2011, 4:09 pm

Thank you - this is great.

Btw, the 2 volume Narrativa Completa (which includes the novel XYZ) should still be in print, through the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Peru.

maaliskuu 14, 2011, 4:20 pm

This link was posted earlier, but I will put it up again for those who read Spanish:


maaliskuu 14, 2011, 4:44 pm

Yeah, that is quite the database! I think I lucked out with XYZ; I'm not seeing any more works by him that fit my rather strict budget. I do, however, have a really nice library up the street from where I work, and if I like XYZ I will certainly pay a visit to the Peru section to check out some more of his books...

maaliskuu 14, 2011, 4:55 pm

And Ben, thanks for the positive comments! I'll keep on posting stuff often as long as work is slow and I've got time to mess around on the computer. Thanks for creating/maintaining this group; I've enjoyed reading your many contributions as well.

maaliskuu 25, 2011, 2:39 pm

The University of Texas Press has some interesting books in translation. You can find their entire selection of Latin American texts here: http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/subjects/latinam-lit.html. Here are a couple that stood out to me:

After-Dinner Conversation (Diary of a Decadent)--José Asunción Silva

I vaguely remember reading some of Asunción Silva's poetry in a college literature survey class, and I'd like to reacquaint myself with his work through this novel. It seems like a real nice fit for this group: "Perhaps the single best work for understanding turn-of-the-twentieth-century writing in South America, After-Dinner Conversation is also cited as the continent's first psychological novel and an outstanding example of modernista fiction and the Decadent sensibility."

Ariel--José Enrique Rodó

An extended essay about North and South American that tends to arouse strong feelings. I read this a few years ago and its tone reminded me a bit of Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America. He uses characters from The Tempest to present the North-South America relationship allegorically. I think it's a good companion to Martí's political writings. I was reading a biographical essay of Macedonio Fernández a while ago, and there was an anecdote where Horacio Quiroga said he was impressed by Fernández's intelligence and sensibility when Fernández told him that "all of Rodó is nothing more than a single page of Emerson," or something like that. Still, I think this book is worth checking out, to better understand the cultural and literary relationship between the USA and Latin America.

Selected Poems of Rubén Darío

This looks like a really excellent collection of Darío's poetry in translation. Here's what they say about it:

Toward the close of the last century, the poetry of the Spanish-speaking world was pallid, feeble, almost a corpse. It needed new life and a new direction. The exotic, erratic, revolutionary poet who changed the course of Spanish poetry and brought it into the mainstream of twentieth-century Modernism was Félix Rubén García Sarmiento (1867-1916) of Nicaragua, who called himself Rubén Darío.

Since its original publication in 1965, this edition of Darío's poetry has made English-speaking readers better acquainted with the poet who, as Enrique Anderson Imbert said, "divides literary history into 'before' and 'after.'" The selection of poems is intended to represent the whole range of Darío's verse, from the stinging little poems of Thistles to the dark, brooding lines of Songs of the Argentine and Other Poems. Also included, in the Epilogue, is a transcript of a radio dialogue between two other major poets, Federico García Lorca of Spain and Pablo Neruda of Chile, who celebrate the rich legacy of Rubén Darío.

maaliskuu 25, 2011, 5:45 pm

The Juan Rulfo's are excellent; The Burning Plain and Other Stories
and Pedro Paramo.

maaliskuu 26, 2011, 9:36 am

Oh, no doubt. Those books are the best.

maaliskuu 30, 2011, 9:46 am

A book called De la elegancia mientras se duerme, written in 1925 by an Argentine self-proclaimed Viscount, Emilio Lascano Tegui, was translated to English recently as On Elegance while Sleeping. I was very pleased with this book. It is, in short, the diary of a madman living on the banks of the Seine in the town of Bougival.

maaliskuu 30, 2011, 5:21 pm

Thanks for this recommendation. I do not think that I have this author included in my list online of Prosa Modernista. I will look for the book as well.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2011, 5:32 pm

I just read a little bit about this book in Wikipeadia, and it reminds me some way the topic (obsessions and assassination) developed by the Portuguese writer Maria de Sa Carneiro in his novel "La confesión de Lucio".

huhtikuu 5, 2011, 9:25 pm

Has anyone information on Argentinian Francisco A. Sicardi? Ruben Dario praises him highly. It's depressing that Dario has only an anthology or two translated into English (to say nearly nothing of the incredible bulk of untranslated Hispanic literature) and everything Garcia Marquez jots down on a cocktail napkin runs on into multiple editions.

toukokuu 29, 2012, 4:39 pm

Is the penguin Ruben Dario book the one to get, or the Dover dual language one? The penguin has a pretty negative review on the amazon page. Apparently the complainer didn't enjoy the translation.

toukokuu 29, 2012, 5:19 pm

I have the Penguin edition. I don't know Spanish, but it worked for me.

toukokuu 29, 2012, 6:26 pm

Alright then I'll get that one, it looks like it has more stories.

On a sidenote I noticed the relatosmodernistas.com
site is down. It's a good thing I noted down some of the recommendations from it when I had the chance.

toukokuu 29, 2012, 7:59 pm

Castel15's site is a gold mine of information. It's in spanish though. I read spanish slowly. For longer articles I use the google translate thingy to speed things up.


The dual language dover one is a slim volume. The Penguin one has more and different material. I picked up both. There is another collection published by University of Texas in 1965 called Selected Poems of Ruben Dario. I haven't picked up that one yet.

toukokuu 30, 2012, 7:49 am

The Penguin edition also includes short fiction, essays and (I believe) correspondence. It's worth having around.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 12, 2012, 1:36 pm

Julian del Casal's poetry is available in Poetry of Julian del Casal: A Critical Edition published by Univ. of Florida. It looks like a pretty heafty volume. Perhaps they are another good target for some harrasing emails/letters.

heinäkuu 12, 2012, 1:57 pm

I think that the text is in Spanish, and is not a bilingual edition. I'll have to check.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 12, 2012, 3:35 pm

I know the Prose of Julian Del Casal is in Spanish, but every edition of the Poetry book I've seen a description of says English. Conspiracy?

heinäkuu 12, 2012, 4:18 pm

It may be... I had the opposite experience. All the hits I saw, if they said anything, said "Spanish language". To add to this confusion, my own entry lists it as English - but that was likely an automatic entry I didn't correct. My library is basically sacked - heaps in various residences. If I can muster up the sangfroid (and if the locks ain't changed) I will have a look.

heinäkuu 26, 2012, 10:40 am

From what I see now that I have the 2nd volume of the book is that it's almost entirely English, but no translation of the poetry (which baffles me). Very in depth and interesting though.

toukokuu 22, 2013, 10:40 pm

More on the portuguese writer Visconde de Vila Moura: http://www.oocities.org/hugo_xavier/vila-moura.html
Website in portuguese but I'm sure google translate can help.

huhtikuu 24, 2014, 12:38 pm

I have badgered more than one group over this, but this time at least a positive response:

Thank you for writing!
I'm forwarding this directly to our Penguin Classic editors, and including in my conference report in case editors from additional Penguin imprints are interested in pursuing.

All the best,

Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

-----Original Message-----
Subject: Re NEMLA Conference

huhtikuu 24, 2014, 12:40 pm

I should add that I was plugging the case for English language translation of modernista authors from across Latin America, and Mexico in particular.

huhtikuu 25, 2014, 2:12 pm

While not Decadent per se, Tyrant Banderas by Ramon del Valle-Inclan is a hallucinatory satire of a depraved South American dictatorship.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 13, 2015, 11:50 am

This anthology provides an small sampling of modernista texts in English translation (and the Spanish original)- but is essential for its inclusion of the Amado Nervo story, "The Diamond of Uneasiness":


syyskuu 15, 2015, 10:31 am

marraskuu 9, 2015, 2:19 pm

Three stories in English translation (courtesy of Michael Cisco) from the collection Cuentos nerviosos, of Mexican author Carlos Díaz Dufoo:


Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 13, 2017, 1:17 pm

At some point hopefully in the near future, look for a collection of Horacio Quiroga's tales, spanning his life's work (from 1899 to 1934), 57 selected tales, from Kelly Washbourne, translator of The After-Dinner Conversation, etc. Remaining fingers are crossed for Couto Castillo, Julian del Casal, etc., in English.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 22, 2020, 1:24 pm

Snuggly Books has published two wonderful and smoothly translated books of modernista stories: In the Stillness of Marble, by Teresa Wilms Montt (Chile) and Sentimental Stories, by Enrique Gomez Castillo (Guatemala; EGC provides the preface to the Wilms Montt collection).

In the Stillness of Marble is a series of elegant and mournful meditations on a lover lost to suicide. The cultured and beautiful María Teresa de las Mercedes Wilms Montt killed herself at the age of 28.

The inclusions in Sentimental Stories can be described as blackly humorous decadent cruel tales (I wish I had the book on hand to lift a couple of quotes), describing pathetic creatures immersed in artifice and enslaved by small obsessions (former lovers, perceived infidelities, idees fixes, fetish objects, etc).

Jessica Sequeira is the translator. I hope she continues in this vein. Her poetry can be found here:


(Update: Bernardo Couto Castillo's collection of stories, Asphodels, should be available later in 2020.)

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 4, 2019, 6:51 pm

A little further north in this topic, I had posted a link to some translated textos nerviosos. Is anyone familiar with the Spanish original? In "The Death of the 'Master' " (El Muerte del Maestro), Diaz Dufoo weaves his text around the painting of that same name by Spanish symbolist, José Villegas Cordero. Unless there is another version of this painting, it appears that either the translation is a bit choppy or the author took a few poetic liberties (CDD has a woman in the painting, the priest at the foot, rather than the head of the death bed, etc.). It would be nice to see a translation of this collection of stories.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 14, 2020, 5:38 pm

Good news for all interested in this literature, from Jessica Sequeira, the translator of In the Stillness of Marble (and all the other gems of modernista/Latin American prose available from Snuggly Books):

You will be pleased to know that I sent off my edited manuscript of Asphodels today! It is in the editor's hands now.

Just so you know, my version of Amado Nervo's Mysterious Stories should also be out by the end of this year, along with another Wilms Montt. And there are several others in the dock. Exciting times for this sort of literature.

maaliskuu 18, 2020, 9:16 am

Snuggly Books has several modernista translations planned in addition to Couto Castillo, including Amado Nervo and another title by Teresa Wilms Montt.

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