Asturias, Miguel Ángel (19 October 1899 - 9 June 1974)
Miguel Ángel Asturias (19 October 1899 - 9 June 1974)
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
This entry was expanded by Preble-Niemi from her Asturias entry in DLB 290: Modern Spanish American Poets, Second Series. See also the Asturias entry in DLB 113: Modern Latin-Amerkan Fiction Writers, First Series.
BOOKS: Sociología guatemalteca: El probkma social del indio (Guatemala City: Sánchez y de Guise, 1923); translated by Maureen Ahern as Guatemalan Sociology: The Social Problem of the Indian (Tempe: Arizona State University Center for Latin American Studies, 1977);
Rayito de estrella (Paris: Imprimerie Française de l’Edition, 1925);
La arquitectura de la vida nueva (Guatemala City: Goubaud, 1928);
La barbaprovisoria (Havana, 1929);
Leyendas de Guatemala (Madrid: Oriente, 1930);
Émulo Lipo´lidon, fantomima (Guatemala City: Américana, 1935);
Sonetos (Guatemala City: Américana, 1936);
Alclasán, fantomima (Guatemala City: Américana, 1940);
Con el rehén en los dientes: Canto a Francia (Guatemala City: Zadik, 1942);
Anoche, 10 de mono de 1543 (Guatemala City: Ediciones del Aire, 1943);
El Señeor Presidente (Mexico City: Costa-Amic, 1946; Buenos Aires: Losada, 1948); translated by Frances Partridge as The President (London: Gollancz, 1963); translation republished as El Señeor Presidente (New York: Atheneum, 1963);
Poesía: Sien de alondra (Buenos Aires: Argos, 1949);
Hombres de maíz (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1949); translated by Gerald Martin as Men of Maize (New York: Delacorte/Seymour Lawrence, 1975);
Viento fuerte (Buenos Aires: Ministerio de Educación Pública, 1950); translated by Darwin Flakoll and Claribel Alegría as Cyclone (London: Owen, 1967); translated by Gregory Rabassa as Strong Wind (New York: Delacorte, 1968);
Ejercicios poéticos en forma de soneto sobre temas de Horacio (Buenos Aires: Botella al Mar, 1951);
Alto es el Sur: Canto a la Argentina (La Plata, Argentina: Talleres gráficos Moreno, 1952);
Carta aérea a mis amigos de América (Buenos Aires, 1952);
El papa verde (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1954); translated by Rabassa as The Green Pope (New York: Delacorte, 1971);
Bolívar: Canto al Libertador (San Salvador: Ministerio de Cultura, 1955);
Soluna: Comedia prodigiosa en dosjornadasy unfinal (Buenos Aires: Losange, 1955);
Week-end en Guatemala (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1956);
La audiencia de los confines (Buenos Aires: Ariadna, 1957);
Messages Indiens (Paris: Seghers, 1958);
Los ojos de los enterrados (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1960); translated by Rabassa as The Eyes of the Interred (New York: Delacorte, 1973; London: Cape, 1974);
Las estrellas, las rosas, y la lámpara, prosas escritas entre 1927y 193 0: Unas palabras de Miguel Ángel Asturias, edited by Enrique Muñoz Meany (Guatemala City: Ediciones Revista de Guatemala, 1960);
El alhajadito (Buenos Aires: Goyanarte, 1961); translated by Martin Shuttleworth as The Bejeweled Boy (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971);
Mulata de tal (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1963); translated by Rabassa as The Mulatta and Mr. Ely (London: Owen, 1963); translation republished as Mulata (New York: Delacorte, 1967);
Rumania, su nueva imagen (Xalapa, Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana, 1964);
Teatro: Chantaje, Dique seco, Soluna, La audienda de los confines (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1964);
Sonetos de Italia (Milan: Instituto Editoriale Cisalpino, 1965);
Clarivigilia primaveral (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1965);
El espejo de Lida Sal (Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno, 1967); translated by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert as The Mirror of Lida Sal: Tales Based on Mayan Myths and Guatemalan Legends (Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review, 1997);
Torotumbo; La audienda de los confines; Mensajes indios (Barcelona: Plaza y Janés, 1967);
Latinoamérica y otros ensayos (Madrid: Guadiana, 1968);
Obras completas, 3 volumes (Madrid: Aguilar, 1968);
Comiendo en Hungría, by Asturias and Pablo Neruda (Barcelona: Lumen, 1969); translated by Barna Balogh as Sentimental Journey around the Hungarian Cuisine (Budapest: Corvina, 1969);
Maladrón (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1969);
Trois des quatre soleils, translated by Claude Couffon (Geneva: Skira, 1971); original Spanish version published as Tres de cuatro soles (edición crítica), edited by Dorita Nouhaud (Paris: Klincksieck / Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1977);
The Talking Machine, translated by Beverly Koch (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1971);
El problema social del indio y otros textos, edited by Couffon (Paris: Centre de Recherches de l’Institut d’Etudes Hispaniques, 1971);
Novelas y cuentos de juventud, edited by Couffon (Paris: Centre de Recherches de l’Institut d’Etudes Hispaniques, 1971);
América, fábula de fábulas y otros ensayos, edited by Richard J. Callan (Caracas: Monte Ávila, 1972);
Viernes de dolores (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1972);
Juárez (Mexico City: Comisión Nacional para la Conmemoratión del Centenario del Fallecimiento de don Benito Juárez, 1972);
Sinceridades, edited by Epaminondas Quintana (Guatemala City: Académica Centroamericana, 1980);
El hombre que lo tenía todo, todo, todo; La leyenda del Sombrerón; La leyenda del tesoro del Lugar Elorido (Barcelona: Bruguera, 1981);
El árbol de la cruz, edited by Aline Jacquart and Amos Segala (Nanterre: ALLCA XX/Université Paris X, Centre de Recherches Latino-Américaines, 1993);
Miguel Ángel Asturias, raíz y destino: Poesía inédita (1917-1924), edited by Marco Vinicio Mejía (Guatemala City: Artemis Edinter, 1999).
Editions and Collections: Obras escogidas, 3 volumes (Madrid: Aguilar, 1955-1966);
Mi mejor obra: Autoantología (Mexico City: Organizatión Editorial Novaro, 1973);
El Señor Presidente: Edición crítica, edited by Ricardo Navas Ruiz and Jean-Marie Saint-Lu (Paris: Klincksieck, 1978);
Viernes de dolores: Edición crítica, edited by Iber H. Ver-dugo (Paris: Klincksieck / Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1978);
Hombres de maíz: Edición critica, edited by Gerald Martin (Paris: Klincksieck / Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Econáomica, 1981);
Viajes, ensayos y fantasías, edited by Richard J. Callan (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1981);
París 1924-1933: Periodismo y creación literaria, edited by Amos Segala (Nanterre: ALLCA XX/Universite Paris X, Centre de Recherches Latino-Américaines, 1988);
Con la magia de los tiempos (Guatemala City: Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes/Herederos de Miguel Ángel Asturias, 1999);
El hombre que lo tenía todo, todo, todo (Guatemala City: Editorial Piedra Santa Arandi, 2000);
Cuentos y leyendas, edited by Mario Roberto Morales (Madrid: ALLCA XX, 2000).
OTHER: “Maximón, divinidad de agua dulce,” in Terres Latines, Année 2 (N.p., 1946), pp. 25-36;
Poesia precolombina, edited by Asturias (Buenos Aires: Compañíia General Fabril, 1960);
“La novela latinoamericana es testimonio de nuestro tiempo,” in Inostrannaia literatura, 9 (Moscow, 1966), pp. 25-36.
TRANSLATIONS: Los dioses, los héroes y los hombres de Guatemala Antigua; o El libro del Consejo, Popol Vuh de los indios quichés, translated by Asturias and J. M. González de Mendoza from the French translation by Georges Raynaud (Paris: París-Americana, 1927); republished as El libro del consejo (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma, 1939); Anales de los Xahil de los indios cakchiqueles, translated by Asturias and González de Mendoza from the French translation by Raynaud (Paris, 1928; revised edition, Guatemala City: Tipografia Nacional, 1937).
Guatemalan author Miguel Ángel Asturias was recognized with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1967 for his prolific and innovative literary production in multiple genres. His worldwide fame came primarily because of his narratives in both the novel and short-story genres. In the preface to his 1970 study of Asturias, Richard J. Callan identifies Asturias’s considerable contributions to the world of letters: “there are some who see in his works on political and social dictatorship the finest novels of protest we have. For others, his fanciful tales of Indian and Spanish folklore, told in the rich and ambiguous language of dreamwork, have the inexhaustible value of poetry.” In subsequent decades many critical essays and books have been written about Asturias’s narrative, focusing on some aspect of that nutshell statement. In fact, few of his works are exempt from the qualities to which Callan refers. Even his narratives of harshest reality include passages of lyric language and move in a magical atmosphere.
The reason for Asturias’s inclusion of these qualities in so much of his writing may be found in his essay “Heine o la poesía comprometida” (Heine or Committed Poetry, included in América, fábula de fábulas y otros ensayos [America, Fable of Fables and Other Essays], 1972) about the works of fellow poet Heinrich Heine. In it he posits that protest literature “usa de sus espejos mágicos para limpiar el mundo, para dar otra extensión a la existencia del hombre” (uses its magic mirrors to clean the world, to give another dimension to man’s existence).
Almost all critics of his literature note Asturias’s masterful use of language. Interviewers Luis Harss and Barbara Dohmann state that for Asturias, “language lives a borrowed life. Words are echoes or shadows of living beings. The faith in the power of words … is reminiscent of an ancient belief that words are doubles of objects in the external world and are therefore an animated part of it. The rhythms of speech are instinctual and subliminal. And the subliminal is close to the mythical.” They further assert that in his texts “metaphor is magic, it conjures up the unconscious.” Asturias’s novels are narrated in a language that many believe to be the result of the influence of Surrealism, to which he was exposed during his early years in Europe. Asturias, however, denied this connection and asserted that his style was influenced instead by the indigenous Latin American way of thinking; as he told scholar Marta Pilón de Pacheco, “el surrealismo de mis libros corresponde un poco a la mentalidad indígena, mágica y primitiva, a la mentalidad de está gente que está siem-pre entre lo real y lo soñado, entre lo real y lo imagi-nado, entre lo real y lo que se inventa. Y creo que es esto lo que forma el eje principal de mi pretendido surrealismo” (the surrealism of my books corresponds somewhat to a magical and primitive indigenous mentality, to the mentality of these people who are always between the real and the dreamed, between the real and the imagined, between the real and the invented. And I believe that it is this that forms the main axis of my so-called surrealism). He elaborated further about the link critics like to forge between that “indigenous mentality” and magical realism in an interview with Gunther W. Lorenz: “Las alucinaciones, las impresiones que el hombre obtiene de su medio tienden a transformarse en realidades. … No se trata de una realidad palpable, pero sí de una realidad que surge de una determinada imaginación mágica” (The hallucinations, the impressions that man gets from his environment tend to transform themselves into realities. … It is not a question of a palpable reality, but it is one of a reality that emerges from a specific magical imagination).
Asturias was born on 19 October 1899 in the Parroquia Vieja (Old Parish) neighborhood of Guatemala City. His father was Ernesto Asturias, a lawyer; his mother was María Rosales de Asturias, a teacher. His younger brother, Marco Antonio, was born in 1901. Because of problems with the despotic president Manuel Estrada Cabrera, in 1904 his father moved the family to Salamá, a commercial center in the province of Baja Verapaz near the farm of his maternal grandparents, where they visited frequently. Asturias began school there in 1906 and completed the first three grades before the family returned in 1908 to Guatemala City, where he finished his elementary schooling at Father Pedro Jacinto Palacios’s school and the Domingo Savio school. He began his secondary education in 1912 at the Central National Institute for Boys and finished with a secondary-school diploma in 1916. At the Institute he met the great Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, who was just nine months from his death. Prior to this encounter, Asturias’s hobby had been painting; but subsequently he turned to literature.
Poetry is the genre in which Asturias first began writing. His earliest poems date from 1917, but they remained unpublished until 1999, when Marco Vinicio Mejía published them in Miguel Ángel Asturias, raíz destino: Poesía inédita (1917-1924) (Miguel Ángel Asturias, Reason and Destiny: Unpublished Poems [1917-1924]). In many of these poems the quality of modern ist musicality is unquestionable. Asturias himself collected the poetry he wrote between 1918 and 1948 and published it under the title of Poesía: Sien de alondra (1949, Poetry: The Lark’s Temple). The poems of the earlier years are intimate in content, expressing the poet’s deepest feelings about his family, and have traditional Hispanic meter and rhyme forms. To a limited degree the astonishing imagery associated with Surrealism is already present in the earlier poems, as is evident in “Ronda de andares” (Round of Wanderings, published in the 1918-1928 section of Poesía: Sien de alondra): “Haré la cabecita de mi hijo/con un nido de pajaros” (I will make my son’s little head / with a birds’ nest). Some of the later poetry gathered in Poesia: Sien de alondra is avant-garde, with imagery, rhythms, and parallel constructions that betray the influence of ancient indigenous writings. Asturias admitted this influence in “The Latin American Novel: Testimony of an Epoch,” his Nobel lecture: “the parallelism in the indigenous texts allows an exercise of nuances that we find hard to appreciate but which undoubtedly permitted a poetic gradation destined to induce certain states of consciousness which were taken to be magic.” An evolution from traditional forms to avant-garde, Surrealist forms can be traced through the dated parts of Poesía: Sien de alondra.
Asturias’s poetry reflects the cultural duality that surrounded him in his formative years. There are poems, such as his sonnets, that only someone who was immersed in European culture could have written. There are also poems—such as “Tecún Umán,” “Señor del agua” (Man of Water), “Marimba tocada por indios” (Marimba Played by Indians), “Habla el gran lengua” (The Great Interpreter Speaks), and “Cerbatanero” (Blowgunner), from Poesía: Sien de alondra, and the book-length poem Clarivigilia Primaveral (1965; Springtime Clear Vigil; clarivigilia is a neologism, made up of claro, clear or bright, and vigilia, vigil)—that only someone acquainted with Mayan culture could write. Asturias gained a firsthand acquaintance with that culture in early childhood as he listened to Lola Reyes, a Mayan servant in his home, tell traditional indigenous and mestizo tales; later, he read the ancient Maya-Quiché texts in the French translations made of them by Professor Georges Raynaud. Giuseppe Bellini identifies in Asturias’s poetic works “los módulos y los ritmos propios de la antigua poesoía maya, especialmente en la reiteracón, la metáfora, la imagen simbólica, el paralelismo, creando una atmáosfera de sugestiva efica-cia, evocadora de mundos remotos, proyectados en el tiempo presente” (the modules and the rhythms peculiar to ancient Mayan poetry, especially in the reiteration, metaphor, symbolic image, and parallelism that create an atmosphere of suggestive efficacy, evocative of remote worlds projected onto present time).
In Asturias’s plays the influence of the literary movements of the times is especially discernible. Asturias’s earliest play, written when he was seventeen, is still in typescript form, annotated in the margins in his own hand. According to María del Carmen Meléndez de Alonzo, this play, “El loco de la aurora” (The Madman of the Dawn), betrays the influence of the Modernista movement. Elements of the Surrealist movement as well as Modernismo can also be found in Rayito de estrella (1925, Little Star Ray), his first “fantomima” (a neologism composed of fantasía, fantasy, and mima, mime). The term Asturias used to name this “new genre” is an early example of his penchant for wordplay and the creation of neologisms to achieve new meanings. Surrealism and the use of neologisms are also integral parts of his other “fantomimas,” Émulo Lipolidón (1935), Alclasán (1940), and Soluna: Comedia prodigiosa en dos jornadas y un final (1955, Soluna: Prodigious Play in Two Days and an Ending; soluna is a neologism made up of sol, sun, and luna, moon). In all of them there is a Surrealistic, dream-like quality that prevents reality from completely descending on the action. Although the “fantomimas” are dialogue-based works, at times it is difficult in some of them to determine who is speaking. The experimentation he had started with Rayito de estrella evolved significantly; it became apparent that his “fantomimas” were “laboratory pieces,” works in which Asturias tried out the avant-garde linguistic strategies that eventually enriched his more extensive works.
Asturias graduated from the Central National Institute for Boys in 1917 and entered the School of Medicine of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City, but in 1918 he transferred to the School of Juridical and Social Sciences there. In 1920 José Candida Piñol y Batres, the bishop of Granada, Nicaragua, delivered a series of lectures denouncing dictatorship, basing himself on Christian doctrine. Piñol y Batres’s words resonated with many citizens of Guatemala, which had been ruled by the dictator Estrada Cabrera since 1898, and the lectures led to the formation of the Unionist Party. A general attitude of belligerence ensued; anti-government manifestos were issued, and on 11 March 1920 there was a massive demonstration against Estrada Cabrera, in which the Associatión of Unionist Students, a group originally formed by Asturias, David Vela, and other classmates as the Asociación de Estu-diantes Universitarios (Association of University students) participated. This outpouring was bloodily repressed. The ensuing armed struggle between supporters and opponents of the dictator came to be known as the “Semana Trágica” (Tragic Week), and the fighting came to an end with the overthrow of Estrada Cabrera on 14 April 1920. During the ensuing short-lived rule of Carlos Herrera y Luna, Asturias was active in civic and political matters.
Asturias’s first paying job consisted of writing for several magazines, including Studium, which he founded with Vela and which continued in publication until it was suspended when the university was closed by the government of General José María Orellana in April 1924. He also wrote for El Estudiante (The Student) and La Cultura (Culture). As a fourth-year law student Asturias represented the Asociación de Estudiantes Universitarios at the commemoration of Mexican independence. In Mexico he met the Spanish man of letters Ramón del Valle Inclán, who exerted great influence on him. He also was exposed to the populist ideas of José Vasconcelos, at that time Mexico’s minister of education.
When the Colombian poet Porfirio Barba Jacob, who lived in Guatemala and Mexico for many years, proposed the creation of the Popular University, Vasconcelo’s populist ideas resonated in the proposal and attracted Asturias’s attention. In 1922 Asturias was among the founders of the Popular University of Guatemala; in addition to teaching workers to read, he taught grammar and gave weekly lectures there. This university expanded and eventually had branches in several provinces; it operated until the dictator Jorge Ubico closed it in 1932. In 1922 Asturias and some of his university friends wrote the lyrics of “La chalana” (The Shrewd Woman), a battle song that became popular among Guatemalan university students.
According to most of his biographers, Asturias received his law degree at the University of San Carlos in 1923. However, in his notes for Miguel Ángel Asturias, raíz destino, Mejía asserts that Asturias in fact attended the Estrada Cabrera National University, since the University of San Carlos “practicamente no existió con ese nombre en los períodos comprendidos de 1831 a 1855 y de 1875 a 1945” (in practical terms, did not exist under that name during the periods included from 1831 to 1855 and from 1875 to 1945). Asturias’s first work in the essay genre is the thesis he presented for graduation, Sociología guatemalteca: El problema social del indio (1923; translated as Guatemalan Sociology: The Social Problem, of the Indian, 1977). It was awarded the Premio Gálvez (Gálvez Prize) given by the university for the best thesis of the year and was immediately published. Its sociological focus on the disadvantaged indigenous people of his country is repeated in many of his later essays. The work is flawed, however, by the essentially racist attitude toward the Indians that his Ladino (term used in Guatemala to designate those who do not consider themselves Mayas) upbringing ingrained in his consciousness.
Asturias briefly wrote for the newspaper Tiempos Nuevos (New Times) before being imprisoned for a few days by the dictator Orellana because of the subversive tone of many of his columns. On his release in 1924 he left Guatemala for his political safety. In September he traveled to London, accompanied by a family friend, former Peruvian senator José Antonio Encina, and financed by his father, whose intention was that Asturias would study economics there. Instead, Asturias soon left for Paris, where in 1925 he began studying Mayan religions at the Sorbonne with Raynaud, the director of studies on religions of Pre-Columbian America at the School of Higher Learning. In Paris he became a correspondent for El Imparcial (The Impartial) in Guatemala and for several newspapers in Mexico; during the ten years he spent in Paris, he sent more than four hundred articles to El Imparcial. A collection of these essays, Paris 1924-1933: Periodismoy creación literaria (Paris 1924-1933: Journalism and Literary Creation), was published in 1988. These works manifest the evolution of Asturias’s thought and the ideological and cultural components evident in his later narrative texts.
In addition to journalistic articles and essays, he also contributed interviews with some of Spain’s greatest contemporary authors. In 1925 he traveled to Italy to represent Prensa Latina (Latin Press) at a conference there. Asturias established friendships with some of the most influential writers of the time, including Miguel de Unamuno, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, James Joyce, André Breton, and Tristan Tzara. In 1927 Asturias and J. M. González de Mendoza published their Spanish translation of Raynaud’s French version of the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quiché Indians, under the title Los dioses, los heroáes y los hombres de Guatemala Antigua; o El libro del Consejo, Popol Vuh de los indios quichés (Gods, Heroes, and Men of Ancient Guatemala; or, The Book of the Council, Popol Vuh of the Quicháe Indians).
He returned to Guatemala for a visit in 1928, stopping in Cuba on the way to attend a conference for journalists. During that visit he published La arquitectura de la vida nueva (1928, Architecture of the New Life), a book based on four lectures he had delivered at the Popular University, the National School for Boys, the Society of Mutual Human Assistance, and the Union of Commercial Employees. When he returned to Paris, he and González de Mendoza translated and published Raynaud’s French version of Anales de los Xahil de los indios cakchiqueles (1928, The Annals of the Xahils of the Cakchiquel Indians).
In 1929 Asturias ended his studies in Paris, and in his position as a correspondent to several Latin American newspapers he traveled all over Western Europe as well as to the Middle East, spending significant periods of time in both Italy and Greece. In Spain he made the acquaintance of the poets of the avant-garde “Generation of 1927,” which included Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, Dámaso Alonso, Luis Cernuda, Rosa Chacel, Gerardo Diego, Federico García Lorca, Jorge Guillén, Pedro Salinas, and María Zambrano.
Callan’s claim about Asturias’s “rich and ambiguous language of dreamwork” is substantiated by some of the tales in Leyendas de Guatemala (Legends of Guatemala), a 1930 collection of short stories based on Guatemalan folklore. This book establishes the hybridization of Guatemala’s folk culture (both Indian and Spanish) and the transculturation of the belief systems of the indigenous population and the Spaniards who conquered them. A 1932 French version by Franis de Miomandre (pseudonym of François Durand), with a letter by the French poet Paul Valéry as preface, was awarded the Sylla Monsegur Prize for the best translation from Spanish to French for that year.
In 1932 Asturias traveled to Egypt and Palestine. During these travels he wrote poetry and worked on a short story with the title “Los mendigos políticos” (The Political Beggars), which eventually became the novel El Señor Presidente (1946; translated as The President, 1963, and as El Señor Presidente, 1963). Although his family’s economic situation gave him the means to live in France without deprivation until 1933, the worldwide economic crisis of those years prevented his father’s continued financial support of him in Paris, and Asturias returned to Guatemala. At that time the dictator Ubico headed the government, and aware of the potential implications of the content of El Señor Presidente, Asturias opted not to take the manuscript with him when he returned to Guatemala. This decision delayed publication of the novel for thirteen years.
On his return to Guatemala in 1933 he became a professor of literature in the School of Juridical Sciences of Guatemala at the University of San Carlos. On 1 May 1934 he founded the newspaper Éxito (Success), which was published for only one year. When Éxito ceased publication he began working for the government newspaper El Liberal Progresista (The Progressive Liberal). When he published his second “fantomima,” Émulo Lipolidón, he dedicated it to some of the friends he had left in Europe—Alberti, Miomandre, Alfonso Reyes, Mariano Brull, Eugéne Jolas, Georges Pillement, Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Alejo Carpentier, and Arturo Uslar Pietri. In this Surrealist play Asturias continued to play with language, using neologisms, sound repetitions, and onomatopoeia. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War began, and Asturias declared his support for the Republican cause. He also published poems that he had written in the preceding years as Sonetos (1936, Sonnets).
Asturias was fired from El Liberal Progresista in 1937, again for the subversive tone of his writings, but in June 1938 he and his friend Francisco Soler y Pérez founded a radio news program, “Diario del Aire” (Newspaper of the Air). In 1939 he married Clemencia Amado; his father died; and his first child, Rodrigo, was born. Asturias’s second son, Miguel Ángel, was born in 1941, and the following year Asturias was elected to the Guatemalan legislature. That same year he published Con el rehén en los dientes: Canto a Francia (1942, With the Hostage in His Teeth: Song to France), a book-length poem about the German occupation of France. Also in 1942 he took part in the Congreso Mariano Nacional (National Marian Conference) with the poem “Con el rehén en los dientes,” which received an award offered by the conference. His lifelong friendship with Chilean poet Pablo Neruda began that year when Neruda spent a few days in Asturias’s home. In 1943 Asturias published Anoche, 10 de marzo de 1543 (Last Night, 10 March 1543), a poem commemorating the fourth centenary of the founding of Guatemala.
Ubico resigned in 1944, and Asturias found himself isolated and ostracized by those who considered him a collaborator with the deposed regime because he had been appointed by Ubico and had served as a deputy in the National Assembly. He ceased broadcasting the “Diario del Aire.” In 1945 a democratic government was established in Guatemala under the presidency of Juan José Arévalo. Asturias returned home from Mexico (where he had resided since Ubico’s resignation) for a few months, and while he was there Arévalo named him cultural attaché to the Guatemalan Embassy in Mexico. After moving to that country, Asturias continued working on El Señor Presidente, the novel begun in 1922. With the increased freedom in Guatemala, Asturias felt secure enough in 1946 to publish privately, with the financial assistance of his mother and a cousin, the novel held so long in abeyance; it was eventually published commercially by Losada in 1948.
El Señor Presidente protests against dictatorship. Its setting is not specific but could reflect many Latin American countries of the middle of the twentieth century. This novel portrays a prototypical military dictator and the repression, humiliation, unjust imprisonment, degradation, and even the murders of his opponents or of those who momentarily displease him. A nightmarish horror permeates this novel both in the scenes it depicts and in the actions it relates. Although many critics regard this novel as a representation of a generic Latin American dictatorship, it is also widely accepted that it is based on the dictatorship of Estrada Cabrera, who controlled Guatemala for twenty years. Its theme of tyrannical dictatorship has engrossed the reading public in Guatemala and abroad, precisely because it is a theme that has resonated in the reality of Guatemala and other Latin American countries for many decades. El Señor Presidente may be responsible for Asturias’s great fame throughout the Americas and eventually the world, because it is much more than just a novel of political criticism. There are passages of poetic language, and in América, fábula de fábulas y otros ensayos Asturias acknowledged his use of legends from Mayan culture to create myth in the novel. In fact, Callan finds in it a series of archetypes deeply rooted in universal mythologies.
In 1947, Asturias returned from Mexico for a few months in Guatemala, and Arévalo named him cultural attaché to the Guatemalan Embassy in Argentina. Two years later he became minister adviser, a post he held until 1952. Prior to taking up his new position in Argentina, Asturias divorced his wife; he retained custody of his sons. Asturias’s mother died in 1948, moving him to write the poem “Madre, tü me inventaste” (Mother, You Invented Me): “antes tü y yo / y después, tü y yo solos... / Hizo frío. / La sombra de tü pelo le quedó a la noche” (before you and I / and afterward, you and I alone... / It was cold. / The shadow of your hair suited the night). The poem was included in Poesía: Sien de alondra, which he published with a prologue by the Mexican poet and scholar Alfonso Reyes after visiting Neruda in Chile. He regretted the exclusion of some of his poems in the selection made by his friends Alberti and Antonio Salazar, saying, “los quiero como se quiere a los malos hijos” (I love them as one loves one’s bad children).
In November 1949 Asturias published the novel Hombres de maíz (1949; translated as Men of Maize, 1975), which according to Jorge Campos was the author’s own favorite. In Hombres de maíz, Asturias protests the unscrupulous despoiling of Guatemala by those who exploit it for mercenary reasons. The novel delves into the religious respect of the indigenous people for the land and the elements of their rituals still surviving in contemporary Guatemalan society, illustrating the conflict between the unchanged ritual observances of these people and the materialism of the modern world. Some critics perceive a lack of unity among the six parts of the novel, but Rene Prieto argues that the “unifying principle is thematic and not dependent on character or chronological development but, rather, on three pivotal elements—fire, water, and corn—which harness the six tales together.” The general consensus is that Hombres de maíz is a novel of remythification in which the “men of maize” return to their mythic origin in order to be worthy of returning to the land.
Asturias next spent four months in Guatemala doing research for the novels of his “banana trilogy”: Viento fuerte (1950; translated as Cyclone, 1967, and as Strong Wind, 1968), El papa verde (1954; translated as The Green Pope, 1971), and Los ojos de los enterrados (1960; translated as The Eyes of the Interred, 1973). Asturias in fact planned a tetralogy; the fourth novel, tentatively titled “Bastardo” (Bastard) and later “Dos veces bastardo” (Two Times a Bastard), was never finished, although his son Miguel Ángel declared after Asturias’s death that in his last days, his father had been working on it. As a unit, these novels constitute a sharp criticism of the agricultural exploitation of Guatemala—and, by extension, of all of Central and South America’s resources—by the United States and other foreign powers. The trilogy presents the problems inherent in the exploitation of Guatemala’s banana industry, represented in the novels by the Tropical Banana Company and by wealthy American plantation owners, wealthier absent stockholders, or even a president who colludes with the exploiters to Guatemala’s detriment. Asturias was alluding to the United Fruit Company, which exploited that country’s rich agricultural resources from 1906 until 1954, when the Guatemalan government expropriated the plantations.
In these novels he offers various solutions to the problems posed. On the one hand, he proposes reality-based solutions, such as establishing a banana-producing cooperative in which the locals unite under the guidance of altruistic American plantation owners, organizing worker unions that retaliate for the atrocities of the plantation owners by going on strike, or killing locals who betray their cause. On the other hand, he offers solutions more in keeping with the magical realism that is so often attributed to his narrative, such as the destruction of the banana plantations by a hurricane conjured by a shaman who invokes the powers of Huracán and Cabracán—respectively, the Giant of the Winds and the Giant of the Earth in Quiché mythology. In the final analysis, Asturias believed that solutions to his country’s problems could not be formulated by outsiders but would have to be undertaken by Guatemalans themselves.
When he finished the research for the “banana trilogy,” he returned to Buenos Aires, and in 1950 he traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay, to marry Blanca Mora y Araujo, an Argentine whom he had met in Buenos Aires when she was writing a thesis on his literary works. Viento Fuerte, the first novel of the trilogy, was published that same year.
In 1951 Asturias published a collection of seventeen rather traditional sonnets, Ejercicios poéticos en forma de sonetos sobre temas de Horacio (Poetic Exercises in the Form of Sonnets on Themes by Horace), dedicating it to his wife. The following year he traveled to Bolivia at the invitation of its president, Paz Estenssoro, who had just led a victorious revolution there. Also in 1952 the
new president of Guatemála, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, named Asturias minister adviser in Paris. The French translation of El Señor Presidents was published there and received the International Prize of the French Book Club. In 1953 Arbenz recalled Asturias to Guatemala and named him ambassador to El Salvador. Early in 1954 Asturias traveled to Caracas as a delegate to the tenth Conferencia Interamericana (Inter-American Conference). He was visiting in Guatemala in June of that year when Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas led a revolution against the Arbenz government, which was accused by American fruit interests of communist influences; Castillo Armas became the country’s next president. Asturias returned to San Salvador and renounced his diplomatic position, as is customary in diplomatic circles, whereupon Castillo Armas stripped him of his citizenship. Asturias traveled to Panama, visited Neruda in Chile, and settled in Buenos Aires, where he remained in exile until 1962. Also in 1954 he published the second novel of the “banana trilogy,” El papa verde, in Buenos Aires. In 1955 he published Soluna, a Surrealist play with its stylistic roots in the “fantomima,” and the poem Bolivar: Canto al Libertador (Bolivar: Song to the Liberator). He also did occasional translations for the Losada publishing company during this year. In 1956 he began publishing a regular column, “Buenos Aires de día y de noche” (Buenos Aires by Day and by Night), in the Caracas newspaper El Nadonal.
Callan’s claim about the political and social content of Asturias’s novels is equally valid with respect to Asturias’s short fiction. This claim is especially true of the short stories in Week-end en Guatemala (1956, Weekend in Guatemala), a collection that is an indictment of the political and economic machinations of the United States that led to Castillo Armas’s overthrow of Arbenz. Asturias dedicated this volume to his wife.
In 1957 he published the play La audiencia de los confines (1957, The Royal Tribunal of the Borderlands), which is characterized by realism and a tone of protest. It presents the sixteenth-century priest Bartolomé de las Casas, who advocated better treatment of the Indians in the Spanish colonies. The play highlights the duality of cultures and sets forth the struggle between them that is the heritage of Guatemala and all of Latin America. The stage directions indicate Asturias’s desire to emphasize this duality and to indicate which side he favored; the directions call for a stage set divided into two areas, one a dark room in a Spanish-built castle in the New World, the other an Indian temple in the middle of a bright, sunny jungle.
This text is the only one of his works that Asturias ever reworked after it had been published. According to Meléndez de Alonso, in 1971, after La audiencia de los confines had been not only published but also staged, Asturias modified it significantly. She contends that in effect Asturias prepared the manuscript of a new play titled “Las Casas: El Obispo de Dios” (Las Casas: God’s Bishop), based on the prototext of La audiencia de los confines. The changes he made are significant and include increasing the number of battles, explaining the origin and function of the maiden’s stone (used to summon sacrificial virgins to the altar), describing the function of Musén-Ca (guardian of the virgins selected to be sacrificed to the God of Corn), blaming the Spaniards as instigators and manipulators of the Indians’ uprising, emphasizing the Spaniards’ lust for riches, inserting several poetic passages, abbreviating the stage directions, inserting a scene with characters not listed in the dramatis personae, and replacing a female character with a male one. The latter change was most probably prompted by Asturias’s desire to avoid the cultural anachronism she represented in the social circumstances depicted in the play. The new play remains in manuscript form.
Also in 1957 Asturias took a long trip to India, where he attended a writers conference. He then visited China and Russia, where he took part in a comparative literature seminar in Moscow. Toward the end of the year he traveled through France, Spain, and finally to Brazil. In 1959 President Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes restored Asturias’s Guatemalan citizenship and passport. He then traveled to Buenos Aires, where he met Fidel Castro, and in September he traveled to Cuba at Castro’s invitation to attend festivities commemorating the first anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. He then continued to Guatemala to celebrate his sixtieth birthday in the city of his birth. While there he lectured on the Latin American novel.
Returning to Buenos Aires, in 1960 Asturias published Los ojos de los enterrados, the final novel in the “banana trilogy.” The title of this book refers to an indigenous belief that the dead keep their eyes open in their graves until justice is done on Earth; in the novel, justice will be done when the fruit company is destroyed and the dictator finally falls. Also in 1960 Asturias compiled and published the anthology Poesía precolombina (Pre-Columbian Poetry). The following year he published the novel El alhajadito (1961; translated as “The Bejeweled Boy, 1971), based on a legend from the colonial period. In 1962 the Argentine president Arturo Frondizi was overthrown, and Asturias was briefly detained in error by Frondizi’s successor, José María Guido. On his release Asturias left Argentina for Europe. He traveled in France and Italy and received medical treatment in Romania for poor health that had been aggravated by his imprisonment in Argentina. In 1962 the English translation of El Señor Presidentereceived the William Faulkner Foundation Prize for the best Latin American novel.
Asturias returned to Buenos Aires in 1963 and published Mulata de tal (1963; translated as The Mulatto, and Mr. Fly, 1963, and as Mulata, 1967), an important novel that is not a work of protest but that conforms with the”ambiguous language of dreamwork“proposed by Callan. It is a novel of communitarian values, unorthodox eroticism, and mythic resonance. In it priests fight against devils, and Catholic rituals confront the rituals of Mayan mythology. The reality of the nov-elistic world is in constant flux as nature changes in the convulsions of an earthquake and the characters undergo impossible physical changes or incarnate serially as different characters.
In 1964 he published Rumania, su nueva imagen (Romania, Its New Image) about his travels in that country, and Teatro (Theater), a collection of four plays, two of which had been published previously. He also lectured in several Italian cities and traveled in Scandinavia, where he lectured at several universities. He then attended an international writers’ colloquium in Berlin.
In 1965 he published Clarivigilia primaveral, his book-length poem dealing with Mayan myths of origin and the traditional Indian artisans and their art forms. The inspiration for this work may be found in Asturias’s essay”De sueño y barro: Arte de los mayas de Guatemala“(Of Dream and Clay: The Art of the Maya of Guatemala), included in América, fábula de fábu-lasy otros ensayos. In it Asturias explains:
En todas las mitologías, los dioses se preocupan por crear guerreros, sacerdotes, caudillos, hombres emi-nentes. No así en las creencias y mitos de aquellos que poblaron de obras de arte las ciudades de la América Media. Para éstos, artistas por los cuatro costados del ciclo, las divinidades del alba, las abuelas del día, se deleitan en la creación de pintores, poetas, escultores, músicos, danzarines, orfebres, acróbatas, plumistas, a quienes se llamaba magos o pequeños brujos, únicos que podían repetir el milagro de crear cosas de sueño.
(In all mythologies, the gods took care to create warriors, priests, chiefs, eminent men. Not so in the beliefs and myths of those who populated the cities of Middle America with works of art. For them, artists on all four sides of the cycle, the divinities of dawn, the grandmothers of the day, are delighted in the creation of painters, poets, sculptors, musicians, dancers, goldsmiths, acrobats, feather smiths, who were called magi or little sorcerers, the only ones who could repeat the miracle of creating things from dream.)
The intertextuality of Clarivigilia primaveral goes beyond content and may be found in the form as well. Perhaps the earliest critic to point out this relationship was Bellini, who scarcely two years after its publication noted that Asturias’s poem recalls the rhythms of ancient Mayan poetry, its reiterations, metaphors, symbolic images, and parallelism.
In 1965 Asturias traveled in Hungary with Neruda. He also traveled to Italy, where he directed the Columbianum, a conference on Christopher Columbus studies, in Genoa and organized another conference on Third World writers. That same year he represented the French PEN Club in Yugoslavia; he was a candidate for the presidency of that organization but lost. The second half of the decade of the 1960s was full of moments of recognition and honors bestowed on him by entities around the world. In 1966 he became president of the French PEN Club in Paris. He spent that summer in Romania, and in August he received the first of his world-level honors, the Lenin Peace Prize in Moscow. In April 1967 Asturias traveled to Guatemala to attend the second Congreso de la Comunidad de Escri-tores Latinoamericanos (Conference of the Community of Latin American Writers). During that visit the newly elected president Julio César Méndez Montenegro named him ambassador to France. That year he inaugurated an exhibit of Mayan art in several French cities. He also published a book that included two plays, loro-tumbo and La audiencia de los confines, and the poems of Mensajes indios (Indian Messages).
On 19 October 1967 he was named winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His literary work attracted the attention of the critics at that time and probably prompted his nomination for the award, because of the way in which he combined in his novels and legends the Mayan heritage of his native Guatemala with the quality that has been called magical realism or Surrealism. At the same time, the courage implicit in his overt representation of the real-life horror of political life in the Guatemala of that time and his protest against external exploitation of that country’s natural resources also drew the notice of readers. His innovative narrative techniques, which later were taken up by members of the Latin American Boom writers, also undoubtedly contributed to his recognition.
In speeches he delivered during various occasions linked to the Nobel Prize that year, Asturias acknowledged all of these qualities in his work, stating that, as did many Latin American writers of the time, he viewed his novels as instruments of political protest. The most noteworthy quality of his writing, as he suggested, is its capacity for revealing the true nature of the Guatemalan people, especially the indigenous folk. Speaking of his poetry, he acknowledged the deep influence of the lyric style of the ancient Mayan texts.
An unintended result of his recognition by the Nobel Prize has been, in the years since then, an overt effort to repeal the mythic status that Asturias achieved as a result of the intense focus on him and his work during the decade following the awarding of the prize. Later critics have taken issue with aspects of his life and works, ranging from the revelation that he had no Mayan blood, to claims that he had had little hand in the translation of the Popol-Vuh into Spanish. Some critics have disparaged the authenticity of his reformist attitude, while others reject the intensity of his love for everything indigenous in his later life and writings. Citing the racist aspects of Asturias’s thesis, one particular Mayan poet from Guatemala refused to accept a national literary prize because the writer’s name figured as part of the award title.
In November 1967 Asturias visited Italy and Germany to present the translations of his books. In December he departed for Sweden, where he received the Nobel Prize from King Gustaf Adolphus VI. That same year he published (first in France and then in Mexico) El espejo de Lida Sal (translated as The Mirror of Lida Sal, 1997), a collection of short stories that are realistic in setting and action and of legends written in the Surrealist or magical realist style.
In 1968 Asturias presided over the San Sebastián Film Festival in Spain. That same year, the Association of Guatemalan Journalists awarded him its Quetzal de Jade (Jade Quetzal), and the indigenous communities of Guatemala named him “only-begotten son of Tecün Umán” (referring to the Quiché prince who was killed in battle by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524) because of his recognition of the indigenous roots of that country’s culture. He then traveled to Colombia, where he received the Gran Cruz de San Carlos (Great Cross of Saint Charles) and presided over the Festival of Latin American University Theater in Manizales. Invited by Senegal’s president, Asturias visited that country in 1969, stopping in Madrid en route. He spent some time at the home of his doctor in Palma, Majorca, then underwent an undisclosed surgery in Paris. That same year he and Neruda published Comiendo en Hungria (1969; translated as Sentimental Journey around the Hungarian Cuisine, 1969), based on their travel in that country in 1965. Also in 1969 Asturias published the novel Maladrón (1969, Bad Thief), about a fictional religion whose followers worship Gestas, the unrepentant mal ladrón (bad thief) crucified with Christ. As a representative of the French PEN Club, he interviewed the astronauts of the Apollo 11 crew.
Several of Asturias’s mature essays appear in Latinoaméricay otros ensayos (1968, Latin America and Other Essays) and América, fábula defábulas y otros ensayos. The content of many of them is political; he speaks out about the repressive governments of Guatemala and about actions of the United States that he considered imperialistic. Other essays are philosophical, sociological, or anthropological in nature, while the bulk of them have a cultural focus. He favors literary topics, and his varied themes include the communications media, his theoretical musings about various literary genres, literary criticism of his own works and those of others, and religious beliefs, particularly that of the Quiché Indians.
When Méndez Montenegro died in office in 1970, Asturias renounced his position as ambassador to France, as is customary in the diplomatic establishment. Before leaving the country, he presided over the jury at the Cannes Film Festival; it was the first time that a Latin American author was named to this position. A few days later he served on the jury of the International Book Fair in Nice. Also in 1970 he attended the screening in Venice of a movie based on El Señor Presidente, directed by the Argentine screenwriter and director Marcos Madanes; Asturias was not satisfied with the movie, and it was never released commercially. Asturias then returned to Majorca, where he visited his good friend Camilo José Cela, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1989. In Majorca he composed Tres de cuatro soles (1971, Three of Four Suns), a book about his system for literary creation that was published first in its French translation in Geneva (Trois des quatre soleils); the original Spanish version was published in 1977. In May 1972 he traveled to Israel, and in June of that year his semi-autobiographical novel Viernes de dolores (Holy Friday) was published in Argentina. The protest message in Viernes de dolores lies in its narration of the demonstrations and other antigovernment activities of a group of university students in Guatemala in the early 1920s. Asturias’s alter ego in the novel is the student “Chirimoya” (Sweetsop), or “Moya” for short, nicknames by which Asturias’s university friends addressed him.
Viernes de dolores was the last of his novels published during his life. In November of the same year he visited Mexico, where he was honored repeatedly. Thus ended the most prolific part of Asturias’s career, and the period of his decline began.
Asturias met with the former Argentine president Juan Peron in Paris in 1973. His commitments related to being a Nobel laureate multiplied, and in April 1974 he traveled to Dakar for a conference; from there he went to Tenerife, then to Palma, Majorca, Seville, and finally Madrid. He prepared to travel to Argentina and to Chile, where Neruda had called him because he felt close to death; this trip never took place, however, because Asturias fell seriously ill. On 16 May 1974 he was admitted to the Clínica de la Concepción (Clinic of the Conception) in Madrid because of pulmonary insufficiency and intestinal blockage. When the government of Mexico learned of the critical state of Asturias’s health, it sent a commission to Spain to invite him to travel to Mexico for his recovery; his condition was too critical for him to be moved, however. He attained some relief from the immediate symptoms, but on 9 June 1974 Asturias died from cancer, an adenocarcinoma of the intestine. His wife and son Miguel Ángel were at his bedside. In accordance with his will, the family had his remains taken for interment in the Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where they were transported onboard Mexico’s official airplane. He is still buried there, although many Guatemalans would like to repatriate the remains of the most illustrious of their compatriots.
The Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala (Association of Guatemalan Journalists) was the first to react to the death of their longtime colleague and declared three days of mourning. The University of San Carlos also called for three days of mourning, as did El Impartial, the newspaper in which Asturias had published his journalistic essays for fifty-three years. The newspaper also offered the means for the repatriation of Asturias’s remains, a vain gesture, since Asturias had been an active opponent of General Carlos Arana Oso-rio, then the president. The Congress of Guatemala also decreed a three-day period of mourning for Guatemala’s most acclaimed son. Groups and institutions with which Asturias had at some time in his life been linked gathered to render tribute to him; among them were the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, the municipal government of the City of Guatemala, the Academia Guatemalteca de la Lengua (Guatemalan Academy of the Language), the Asociación de Estu-diantes Universitarios, and UNESCO. While his body lay in state, his coffin was draped with the white and azure Guatemalan flag; and, according to his expressed wishes, the staff that the indigenous communities of Guatemala had bestowed on him as “only-begotten son of Tecün Umán” accompanied him in his coffin.
Asturias left an almost finished novel that was published posthumously, El árbol de la cruz (1993, The Trunk of the Cross). According to Alain Sicard (in an essay included in a 1993 facsimile edition of the book), it is a novel about “un dictador, pero de un dictador cuya dictadura es menos polática que metafísica, ya que su obsesión no es otra que la de abolir todo lo que, de cerca o de lejos, recuerda a Cristo: es decir, la Cruz, y en general y, segün nuestra opinión, más significativa: la Muerte” (a dictator, but about a dictator whose dictatorship is less political than metaphysical, since his obsession is none other than that of abolishing everything that, from near or far, reminds one of Christ: that is to say, the Cross, and in general and, in our opinion, more significant: Death). Asturias’s manuscript trails off in mid sentence and ends in a comma: “Se echó los almohadones encima,” (He pulled the large pillows over himself,), thus ending on a note of poignancy the literary production of one of Latin America’s most distinctive writers.
The deep admiration and respect that Guatemalans have for Asturias is best summed up in the title of the eulogy published by the writer Robert Paz y Paz in La Nación (10 June 1974): “No ha muerto, ha naddo a la inmortalidad” (He Has Not Died, He Has Been Born to Immortality). In his obituaries and other published eulogies, Asturias was repeatedly referred to as the “Gran Lengua” (Great Interpreter). Some critics take issue with the use of this term in connection with Asturias, arguing that he was ill-prepared to be such an interpreter, since he was not a Maya or even a mestizo, and minimizing his close relationships with the indigenous population of Guatemala. Asturias did use the term to refer to himself, however, knowing the significance it has within Mayan culture, as can be gleaned from his poem “Habla el gran lengua,” in which the figure of the “Gran Lengua” resembles that of the chilanes in Mayan society, “prophets” who predicted the future and interpreted the will of the gods for the people. Other critics support the identification of Asturias as the “Gran Lengua.” In the 1981 critical edition of Hombres de maíz, Gerald Martin describes Asturias as the “guardián de los misterios e intérprete del mundo de la magia y sus depósitos, las sagradas escrituras, los libros pintados y los bajorelieves simbólicos” (guardian of the mysteries and interpreter of the world of magic and its deposits, the sacred writings, the painted books and the symbolic bas-reliefs) of the Maya of Guatemala. Asturias’s claim to the title of “Gran Lengua” lies not only in his sensitive presentation of a culture that was steeped in mystery for the rest of the world until he wrote about it, but also in his masterful and almost magical use of language. His awareness is clear in his answer to Pilón de Pacheco’s question about whether he believed, as he often had his characters state, that words were foundational or magic: “Sí, y esto es absolutamente de carácter sagrado, indoígena. La palabra para los indígenas fue y es lo más importante” (Yes, and that is absolutely of a sacred, Indian character. Words for the Indians were and are the most important thing).
Cartas de amor entre M. Á. Asturias y Blanca Mora y Araujo (1948-1954), edited by Felipe Mellizo (Madrid: Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, Instituto de Cooperatión Iberoamericana, 1989).
Luis Harss and Barbara Dohmann, “Miguel Ángel Asturias, or the Land Where the Rowers Bloom,” in their Into the Mainstream: Conversations withLatin-American Writers (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), pp. 6-101;
Luis López Álvarez, Conversaciones con Miguel Ángel Asturias (Madrid: EMESA, 1974).
Pedro F. de Andrea, “Miguel Ángel Asturias: Anticipo bibliográfico,” Revista Iberoamericana, 35, no. 67 (1969): 133-270;
Richard Moore, “Miguel Ángel Asturias: A Bio-Bibliography,” Bulletin of Bibliography, 27, no. 4 (1970): 85-90, 107-111.
Atilio Jorge Castelpoggi, Miguel Ángel Asturias (Buenos Aires: La Mandrágora, 1961);
Claude Couffon, Miguel Ángel Asturias (Paris: Seghers, 1970);
Carlos Meneses, Miguel Ángel Asturias (Madrid: Júcar, 1975).
Actas del Coloquio International: Miguel Ángel Asturias, 104 años después, 2-4 de julio 2003, Universidad Rafael Landívar (Guatemala City: Abrapalabra, 2003);
Francisco Albizúrez Palma, La novela de Asturias (Guatemala City: Editorial Universitaria, 1975);
Ruth Alvarez de Scheel, Análisis y estudio de algunos rasgos car-acterizadores de “El Señor Presidents” (Guatemala City:Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, 1999);
Isabel Arredondo, De brujos y naguales: La Guatemala imaginaria de Miguel Ángel Asturias (Lewiston, N.Y.: EdwinMellen Press, 1997);
Giuseppe Bellini, “La poesía de Miguel Ángel Asturias,” Revista Nacianal de Cultura (Caracas), 180 (April-June1967): 125-127;
Richard J. Callan, Miguel Ángel Asturias (New York:Twayne, 1970);
Jorge Campos, “Miguel Ángel Asturias,” Ínsula, 12, no.133 (1957): 4;
Atilio Jorge Castelpoggi, El poeta narrador: Miguel Ángel Asturias (Buenos Aires: Prueba de Galera Ediciones, 1998);
Otto Raül González, Miguel Ángel Asturias, el gran lengua: Lavoz más clara de Guatemala (Guatemala City: Editorial Cultura, 1999);
Stephen Henighan, Assuming the Light: The Parisian Literary Apprenticeship of Miguel Ángel Asturias (Oxford: Legenda, 1999);
Saúl Hurtado Heras, Por las tierras de Ilóm: El realismo mágicoen “Hombres de maíz” (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Mexico, 1997);
Eladia León Hill, Miguel Ángel Asturias: Lo ancestral en su obra literaria (Eastchester, N.Y.: E. Torres, 1972);
Gunther W. Lorenz, Diálogo con Latinoamérica: Panorama de una literatura del futuro, translated by Dora Weidl Haas-De la Vega (Santiago de Chile: Pomaire, 1972);
María del Carmen Meléndez de Alonzo, “El reencuentro de Asturias con el padre Las Casas,” Letras de Guatemala: Revista Semestral (Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala), 20-21 (2000);
Marta Pilón de Pacheco, Miguel Ángel Asturias: Semblanza para el estudio de su vida y obra, con una selección de poemas y prosas (Guatemala City: Cultural Centroamericana, 1968);
Rafael Pineda Reyes, Los misterios de Los hombres de maíz (Guatemala City: Cultura, 1998);
René Prieto, Miguel Ángel Asturias’s Archaeology of Return (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993);
Teresita Rodríguez, La problemática de la identidad en El Señor Presidente de Miguel Ángel Asturias (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi, 1989);
Jimena Saenz, Genio y figura de Miguel Ángel Asturias (Buenos Aires: Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1974).
Miguel Ángel Asturias’s personal papers and manuscripts are held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France). Collected newspaper articles published in El Imparcial (The Impartial) that were either written by Asturias or written about his literary works are held in the Archivo Histórico de Guatemala (Historical Archive of Guatemala) at the Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (Center for Regional Research of Mesoamerica).