Eire, Carlos M(ario) N(ieto) 1950-
EIRE, Carlos M(ario) N(ieto) 1950-
PERSONAL: Born November 23, 1950, in Havana, Cuba; immigrated to the United States, 1962; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1972; son of Antonio J. Nieto-Cortadellas (an attorney and judge) and Maria Azucena Eire; married Jane Vanderlyn Ulrich, January 6, 1984; children: John Carlo, Grace, Bruno. Education: Loyola University of Chicago, B.A., 1973; Yale University, M.A., 1974, M.Phil., 1976, Ph.D., 1979. Religion: Roman Catholic.
CAREER: St. John's University, Collegeville, MN, bibliographer and assistant professor of religious studies, 1979-81; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, associate professor of religious studies, 1981-96; Yale University, New Haven, CT, professor of history and religious studies, 1996—, Department of Religious Studies chair, 1999-2002, named T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies, 2000. School of Historical Studies at Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, member, 1986-87, visitor, 1992-93; Center for Advanced Studies, University of Virginia, member, 1993-93; Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, member, 2002—. Speaker at international conferences; member of academic conference panels; reader of manuscripts for academic publishers. Series consultant for Public Broadcasting System's Death: The Trip of a Lifetime, KCTS-TV (Seattle, WA), 1993; commentator for The Renaissance (video), "Just the Facts" learning series, 2001.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, American Catholic Historical Association (John Tracy Ellis Prize committee, 1998-2000), American Society of Church History, American Society for Reformation Research (nominating committee, 1992-94), Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference (council member, 1984-87; nominating committee, 1988-90; Carl Meyer Prize committee, 1986, 1994), Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies.
AWARDS, HONORS: Carl Meyer Prize, Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference, 1980, for "Iconoclasm As a Revolutionary Tactic: The Case of Switzerland, 1524-1536"; fellow at Newberry Library (Chicago, IL), 1980, 1982; Fulbright fellow in Spain, 1984; Sesquicentennial Associates fellowship, University of Virginia, 1986-87; Board of Trustees Teaching Award, University of Virginia Alumni, 1990; Henry St. George Tucker Faculty Award, University of Virginia, 1992; Distinguished Faculty Award, University of Virginia, 1996; National Book Award for nonfiction, National Book Foundation, 2003, for Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy.
(With John Corrigan, Frederick M. Denny, and others) Jews, Christians, Muslims: A Comparative Introduction to Monotheistic Religions, Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1997.
Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy, Free Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Reviewer and editor, Archiv fü Reformationsgeschichte Literaturbericht, 1990-98. Contributor of articles and reviews to history and religion journals and encyclopedias.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Writing a survey history of the Reformation and researching attitudes toward miracles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
SIDELIGHTS: Carlos M. N. Eire was awarded the 2003 National Book Award for his critically acclaimed memoir, Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy. The Yale University T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies left Cuba when he was only eleven—without his parents. Eire and his older brother were among 14,000 children airlifted out of their homeland during the Cuban revolution. Eire's mother joined the boys three years later when she was finally granted a visa, but Eire never saw his father again.
Prior to immigrating to the United States, Eire enjoyed what he considers a somewhat-privileged, middle-class childhood. While his family was not as rich as some—Eire knew a boy who had his own miniature racecar and another with a zoo in his backyard complete with a tiger—Eire's home was filled with artwork and antiques, collections of his father, a municipal judge. Eire's eccentric family makes for interesting prose; his father was convinced that he was Louis XVI in a former life and his brother electrocuted lizards for entertainment. Eire stresses the importance of religion in his childhood. In his house were many portraits of Jesus that young Eire believed spoke to him in his dreams.
In January, 1959, Fidel Castro took the place of President Batista, and Eire's world was shattered. Christmas was canceled. Religion was outlawed. Eire's classmates began to mysteriously disappear as they were shuttled away to freedom in the United States. While many children escaped, their parents were forced to remain in Cuba. Some, like Eire's father, were never granted visas.
Eire explained to Yale Alumni Magazine contributor Cathy Shufro that in 2002, three events inspired him to revisit his memories of a Cuban childhood. First, his oldest son celebrated his eleventh birthday, the same one Eire was on as he was shipped to America. The debate over whether or not to return child refugee Elián González to Cuba and his only surviving parent was a second. Also in the year 2002, Eire turned fifty years old, "a prospect," claimed Shufro, "that occasioned introspection."
Critics praised both Eire's story and style. "As imaginatively wrought as the finest piece of fiction, the book abounds with magical interpretations of ordinary boyhood events," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor, who went on to conclude, "Eire looks beyond the literal to see the mythological themes inherent in the epic struggle for identity that each of our lives represents." A Kirkus Reviews contributor reflected, "Between mercurial and leisurely, lush and thorny, jumbled and crystalline, Yale historian Eire's recollection of his Cuban boyhood is to be savored."
In addition to penning Waiting for Snow in Cuba, Eire has published several scholarly works, including From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain, the first full-length study of Spanish attitudes toward death in the sixteenth century. As Eire explains, death was of monumental importance to the people of this time, since they believed they would not go to heaven without a "good death." Eire divides the volume into three books: the first focuses on ordinary deaths, based on a selection of testaments from Madrid's notarial archives, the second discusses the death of Philip II, and the third centers on the death of Teresa de Avila in 1582. Eire notes that while the Spaniards were fearful of death, they were much more afraid of being sent to purgatory and hell.
Writing in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Richard L. Kagan was troubled with the sources on which Eire based in his conclusions in book one and book three. "Upon close inspection, the sample upon which Eire bases these conclusions is not much of a sample at all, or at least not one that anyone with a background in social statistics could recognize as viable," he observed. Kagan was much more impressed with book two: "Here the study takes an imaginative leap, as Eire transforms the Escorial into an enormous 'palace of death,' a giant 'liturgical machine' whose vast collection of relics was purposely formed to help launch the souls of both Philip and his family into heaven." Overall, Kagan remarked, "From Madrid to Purgatory is an important, provocative, readable, and thoroughly enjoyable book." Remarked William J. Callahan in a review of From Madrid to Purgatory for the Canadian Journal of History, "Although at times discursive, this is a perceptive and evocative study of death as an immediate and pressing concern of Spaniards who saw it as that terrible yet hopeful moment of transition from earthly to heavenly life." Journal of Religion's Carole Slade dubbed it a "very fine book" and concluded that "Eire makes clear that in sixteenth-century Spain, death was no laughing matter; in fact, laughter about it was considered a sign of prospective damnation."
Eire once told CA why he chose Spain as the subject for From Madrid to Purgatory: "Since Christianity teaches that the moment of death is that during which an individual crosses over from the material world into the spiritual realm, the phenomenon of death offers a rare opportunity to peer into the metaphysical assumptions of any given society. Since Spain was the staunchest defender of Catholic Christianity in the sixteenth century, it has much to offer to anyone who wishes to study the ethos of the Catholic Reformation.
"On one level, the objective of this book is to analyze the way in which belief shapes society and culture, and how, in turn, society and culture define and express belief. More specifically, by studying Spanish attitudes toward death and the afterlife in the sixteenth century I hope to arrive at a clearer understanding of the way in which the Catholic Reformation worked at various social levels—how Catholic belief was affirmed in specific ways through the projection of a spiritual, unseen world into the material sphere. On another level, the objective is to study the phenomenon of death itself in a particular setting that has heretofore been neglected."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Eire, Carlos M. N., From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
American Historical Review, February, 1997, Jodi Bilinkoff, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 132.
Booklist, February 15, 2003, Kristine Huntley, review of Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy, p. 1034.
Canadian Journal of History, August, 1996, William J. Callahan, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, pp. 294-296.
Catholic Historical Review, July, 1996, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 563.
Church History, June, 1997, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 355.
English Historical Review, July, 1989, review of War against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin, p. 731; November, 1997, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, pp. 1267-1269.
Hispanic American Historical Review, May, 1997, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 299.
Historical Journal, March, 1991, Thomas A. Brady, review of War against the Idols, pp. 181-183.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, April, 1997, John Edwards, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, pp. 372-374.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, winter, 1997, Richard L. Kagan, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 526.
Journal of the History of Ideas, October, 1995, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 687.
Journal of Religion, July, 1997, Carole Slade, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 466.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Waiting for Snow in Havana, p. 1586.
Publishers Weekly, November 13, 2000, John F. Baker, "A Cuban Exile at Yale," p. 16; December 23, 2002, review of Waiting for Snow in Havana, p. 54.
Religious Studies Review, July, 1997, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 309.
Sixteenth Century Journal, spring, 1996, J. B. Owens, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 187.
Spectator, November 23, 1996, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 43.
Times Literary Supplement, June 28, 1996, review of From Madrid to Purgatory, p. 29.
Yale Alumni Magazine, January-February, 2004, Cathy Shufro, "Cuban Dreams: For National Book Award Winner Carlos Eire, the Road from Sixteenth Century to Personal Memoir Began in Clouds."
Online-NewsHour Web site,http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ (November 25, 2003), interview with Carlos Eire.
Yale University Web site,http://www.yale.edu/ (April 12, 2004), "Carlos M. N. Eire."*