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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution

Notes and discussion: Miguel Angel Asturias on literature,   pp. 352-355 PDF (2.6 MB)

Page 353

in his hexameters on the ways of the
Indian as artisan, farmer, fisherman
and artist. Then there is a second
period which stretches from 1810 to
1860. At this time the writers and
poets appear who will be in at the
foundation of our nationality. Here we
have a poet like Olmedo, who chants
the Bolivarian epic, and the
Argentianian, Echevarria, who, apart
from giving us a poem of social
insight, La Cautiva, leaves behind a
number of social reforms. The
Argentinian legislature was to be
inspired by his preoccupations. In
this period too, the Venezuelan,
Andres Bello, who in his famous
Silva directs his muse to the richness
of the tropics. With Bello one is always
offered the contrast between the
validity of American being or its
potential, and the misery of its
inhabitants. During the Romantic
epoch, Jose Marmol, the Argentinian
poet and author of the famous novel
Amalia reaches a certain peak in
our literature. One could mention as
well the work of Rojas in Argentina,
and above all the work of Sarmiento,
whose novel Facundo is fundamental
to an understanding of Latin
America. Sarmiento offers the
contrast between Barbarism and
Civilization, and perhaps reflects on
many of our problems as they are
And so we come to the figure
of Jose Marti in the final years of
the nineteenth century and who
is projected into the twentieth
century through his vision and
sacrifice. Then comes Modernism,
which is another of the golden
moments in our literature, with Ruben
Dario at its fountainhead; the
centenary of his birth was celebrated
in January 1967. Ruben Dario
transforms the poetry of the Spanish
language, revolutionises it, makes
it live anew. Accepted Spanish poetry
in Spain and America was a litany
of rhetoric, disconcerting and
overwhelming. Dario shakes up the
language, imparts a new freshness to
its poetics and method, and, apart
from this, launches the Modernist
movement which we place between
1880 and 1920. All over America
the poets make brilliant headway;
Lugones in Argentina, Silva in
Columbia; and in this period one
has to think of Jose Enrique Rodo
as a sort of guide, Americanist,
almost Greek in his thinking, and
of great human authenticity. Then
we come to 1920, the end of the First
World War and it is here that we
ought to place the end of the
nineteenth century in our literature.
The twentieth century begins in
1920 when the writers abandon the
traditional poetic forms and begin
to express themselves in prose,
and there apears what we call the
Contemporary Latin American Novel.
Is Latin American literature passing
through an exceptional period or
is it just a period of extraordinary
achievement in the work of two
or three writers.
It is not a question of an exceptional
moment, it is rather the result of
a whole poetic and literary movement.
It began by imitating, as usual, the
masters of European literature and
only since 1920 has it been seeking to
discover its own means of expression
in the novel and in the short story.
Latin American literature is
characterised by the landscape, by
the idiom, by the situation. The
character is different in the European
novel because our novel is more

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