The period in which Latin-American writers became internationally celebrated is known as the ‘boom’. Writers like Neruda, Marquez, Paz and Vargas Llosa reached their commercial and international peak. After the Cuban Revolution, Latin-America’s writers and intellectuals had a new-found optimism for their region. This led to great experimentation in their literary work. In the subsequent years, the realization that Cuba was not to become a beacon of freedom but rather a bastion of political and creative repression led writers to create in a way that was not at all pessimistic; the surreal, fantastic and existential (the ability to carve out one’s own way from life’s circumstances) became the essential elements to one of the most celebrated literary movements of the past century.
Often overshadowed by the boom are the Latin-American writers who preceded them. This was partly by design: the writers of the boom considered themselves to be an ‘orphan’ movement. In reality, they owed some reference to the Nicaraguan / Central American ‘Vanguardia’ movement which itself was a reflection of surrealism. There is a great variety in Latin-American literature. In a sense, we are consistently rediscovering our Hispanic literary heritage.
In total, the Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to six writers. Get to know all six of the Latin American Writers who have won the prestigious literary prize this week. Our first profile is on Gabriela Mistral:
Gabriela Mistral, Chile (1945)
“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’ his name is today.”
-Su Nombre es Hoy (Their name is Today)
Mistral may be one of the most famous autodidacts in history, with a passion for learning pushing her beyond the formal education which ended when she turned 12. From Chile, she became a prestigious educator while also gaining international prominence as a poet. Political conflicts led her to accept an invitation by Jose Vasconcelos to reform Mexico’s schools and libraries. After touring the Americas and Europe, she became a member of the League of Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations and continued advocated for the education of Children. She was one of the first writers to recognize the talents of her former student: the writer Pablo Neruda.
Her poetry dealt with themes of passion, desolation and deep emotion which are a contrast to the modernist writers that proceeded her. Her poetry could be found on the website of the Poetry Foundation in English and Spanish.
Of which Interesting Fact: Mistral lived in Roslyn, NY and died in 1957 in Hempstead. A very interesting article about Mistral is on the Bryant Library Website. Books with the poetry of Mistral and about Mistral are listed below: