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 below. The third Latin American Nobel Prize Winner for Literature is Pablo Neruda:
Pablo Neruda, Chile (1971)
A poet for six decades, Neruda is considered one of the greatest poets in all of literature. He lived close to his entire life in the public eye. As an artist, his work was a reflection of the major shifts in thinking and artistry brought about by his own work and belief in progress. Encouraged by the teacher of the all-girls school in his town (Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral), Neruda would begin a career that could only be appropriately titled by his memoirs, “I confess I have lived.”
Beginning his career with the explicitly erotic poetry (written as a teenager, published at 20) Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, his book was the first to be widely praised. Celebrated yet financially unstable, he leaves to Burma to become a Chilean Consul of the Foreign Service. It’s at this time where his work begins to receive recognition with the poetry books Residencia en la Tierra. By the time his second book is published, he is celebrated in Spain, meeting with famous artists like Miguel Hernandez, Gabriela Mistral (who has now the ex-consul to Spain) and Garcia Lorca. In fact, it’s the assassination of his good friend Garcia Lorca by the hands of the rightist paramilitaries which throws Neruda deep into politics. An unabashed (although in his memoirs, he does lament his support of Stalin’s cult of personality) Communist, Neruda entwines his poetry with themes of attaining a place in history for ‘invisible peoples’. His Canto General, while ideological, can be seen as creating a mythology for Latin America the way that Whitman’s Leaves of Grass does for the United States.
While ending his deeply ideological political poetry, he begins to write rhythmically complex poetry that are studies of the everyday: his work transitions towards a celebration of life and beauty.
“there arises an insight which the poet must learn through other people. There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are.”