Uruguay Literature Part I

By | December 20, 2021

In the years in which Europe was overwhelmed by the political crisis that led to the Second World War, the United States, like neighboring Argentina, not only enjoyed considerable economic prosperity, which lasted until the mid-1950s, but also of a revival in all fields of cultural and artistic life. Thus, the dates of 1939 and 1945, which mark the beginning and the end of the international conflict, are in quite another way significant for Uruguayan intellectual activity. In fact, starting from 1939, some Spanish writers in exile (JR Jiménez, L. Felipe, R. Alberti, etc.) arrived in the Uruguay several years teaching at the University of Montevideo, positively influencing the work of some groups and literary periodicals. In particular, 1939 marks the appearance of the magazine Marcha, one of the most authoritative publications in Latin America, the point of convergence of a vast and profound critical elaboration, and that of a book, El pozo, the first work of one of the best exponents of contemporary Hispanic American fiction, JC Onetti (born in 1909). As for the second date, 1945, it should be noted that it will give its name to a fierce group of writers, precisely “the generation of ’45”, which will have the merit and the almost historical task of expressing and represent, in the 1960s, the problems and critical concerns matured in the previous period. For Uruguay 2013, please check physicscat.com.

The most conspicuous renewal occurs in the field of fiction. In the 1940s and 1950s some realist writers, such as E. Amorim (1900-1960), of whom in Italy he is The novel La carreta was translated with the title Il carrettone (Milan 1945), which published in 1958 what some consider his best work, La desembocadura, the story of a family crisis that goes hand in hand with the economic crisis of a small city, and which only partially reflects the peasant environment of many of his previous books; or as A. Gravina (b. in 1913), author of some novels, including Fronteras al viento (1951), and various collections of short stories, the most recent of which is entitled Despegues (1974). But even more successful, from a literary point of view, and even more important, are the fantastic narratives of F. Hernández (1902-1967), who just in that period of time published his most fascinating book, Nadie encenderá las lámparas: with the same title, in the Italian version, Nobody will turn on the lamps, with a preface by I. Calvino, a careful selection of his hallucinated and mysterious stories has been published (1974), which in part derive from the Poe-like imagination of the aforementioned Quiroga. JC Onetti’s work is in a certain sense a bridge between the old and the new generation. A writer with a whimsical and meticulous dictation, sometimes almost harsh and excavated, with strong Kafkaesque influences, Onetti has given life to a series of stories located in the imaginary city of Santa María, theater of the lost illusions of a provincial petty bourgeoisie as frustrated as stubbornly dreaming, source of sordid and bitter negative heroes, as can be seen from the various novels that have also been translated into Italy: from Para esta noche, 1943 (For this night, Milan 1974) to La vida breve, 1950 (The short life, Milan 1970) and Los adioses, 1954 (Gli addii, Rome 1979), from El astillero, 1961 (The yard, Milan 1972) to Juntacadàveres, 1964 (Raccattacadaveri, Milan 1969), to Dejemos hablar al viento, 1979. His continuators are, in many ways, the narrators of the “generation of ’45”, who made their debut in the 1950s, and took advantage of that happy moment of intense publishing and artistic activity that goes from 1965 to 1973, the year of ” military coup “, which suppressed, with democratic freedoms, almost all traces of actual cultural life in the country. Among these narrators we remember above all M. Benedetti (born in 1920), also a very gifted poet and essayist, author of the stories of Montevideanos (1959) and of La muerte y otras sorpresas (1968), of the novel Gracias por el fuego (1965), successful experiment in critical realism, and in the drama Pedro y el capitán (1979); C. Martínez Moreno (born 1917), author of El paredón (1963), which takes place partly in Montevideo and partly in Havana in full revolution, and de La otra mitad (1966) and various other works; M. Arregui (born in 1917), with Hombres y caballos (1960), narrated with rapid and almost journalistic simplicity; JP Díaz (born in 1921), with the novels Los juegos de San Telmo (1964), which takes place in Italy, near Palinuro, and Partes de naufragios (1969), which narrates the “shipwrecks” of a family and of a company, happy before; and A. Sommers (born 1918), who wrote baffling and cruel short stories, such as those in De miedo en miedo (1965).

Less conspicuous, even if more varied and popular, the panorama of poetry of the same years. After the symbolist, vaguely pre-surrealist outcomes of J. Herrera y Reissig at the beginning of the twentieth century and those, already of the twenties and thirties, of D. Agustini, C. Sabat Ercasty and J. de Ibarbourou, somehow involved in avant-garde poetics, poetry takes on pensive and desperate tones with S. de Ibáñez (1910-1971), author of Canto (1940), or modest and intense aspects with L. Falco (1906-1955), author of Tiempo y time (1956), or essential and sometimes tinged forms of “popularism” with J. Cunha (born in 1910). The “generation of ’45” adds to these accents a more rigorous critical conscience, a clearer cut of moral proposals, sometimes referring to the tragic vein of C. Vallejo, sometimes to the combative vein of P. Neruda, as can be seen in I. Vilariño (born in 1920), author of Nocturnos (1955), with A. Berenguer (born in 1923), of Materia prima (1967), or with M. Schinca (born in 1926), author of Esta hora urgente (1963)). But we have only mentioned the most relevant names.

The short and dense season of expansion and flowering of the “Alfa” and “Arca” publishing houses and of magazines such as Asir, Nexo, Desliade or Praxis – and we are referring to the years between 1955 and about 1970 – also sees the abundant and luxuriant appearance of several “independent theaters”, small and very active show halls, with a highly innovative character, such as “El Galpón” (which today operates in exile, in Mexico and Venezuela), the “Club de Teatro” and the “Teatro Universitario”. Already in the past the theater had had an intelligent development in the Uruguay with the actress and director M. Xirgu (one of García Lorca’s favorite actresses) and with directors such as A. Discépolo and A. del Cioppo, who is still in business. But in those years experimentation breaks out, according to European modules (from Beckett to Brecht) and also under the influence of Argentine theater. Thus good dramatic writers arise, including A. Larreta (born in 1922),, where the theme of a group of people besieged by the plague is addressed, a famous metaphor for other anguish; o C. Maggi (born in 1922), with El patio de la torcaza (1967), and various other neo-expressionist works; o J. Langster (born in 1927), author of comedies of harsh costume satire, such as Los elegidos ; or, finally, M. Rosencof (born in 1935), author of Los caballos (1967).

Uruguay Literature Part I