Quiroga, Horacio (Sylvestre)

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QUIROGA, Horacio (Sylvestre)

Nationality: Uruguayan. Born: Salto, 31 December 1878. Education: University of Montevideo. Family: Married 1) Ana María Cires in 1909 (died 1915), one daughter, one son; 2) María Elena Bravo in 1927 (separated 1936), one daughter. Career: Founding editor, Revista del Salto, 1899; teacher of Spanish, Colegio Nacional, Buenos Aires, 1903; government worker, Misiones, Argentine, 1903; cotton farmer, Chaco, Argentina; professor of Spanish language and literature, Escuela Normal, Buenos Aires, 1906-11; farmer, civil servant, and justice of the peace, San Ignacio, Misiones province; worked at Uruguayan consulates, Argentina, from 1917. Died: 19 February 1937 (suicide).



Selección de cuentos, edited by Emir Rodriguez Monegal. 2 vols., 1966.

Obras inéditas y desconocidas, edited by Angel Rama. 3 vols., 1967.

Novelas completas. 1979.

Cuentos completas. 1979.

Short Stories

Los arrecifes de coral (includes verse). 1901.

El crimen del otro. 1904.

Los perseguidos. 1905.

Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte. 1917; edited by Peter R. Beardsell, 1988.

Cuentos de la selva (para niños). 1918; as South American Jungle Tales, 1922.

El savaje y otros cuentos. 1920; as El savaje y otros historias, 1937.

Anaconda. 1921; as Anaconda y otros cuentos, 1953.

El desierto. 1924.

La gallina degollada y otros cuentos. 1925; as The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories, illustrated by Ed Lindlof, 1976.

Los desterrados, cuentos. 1926; as Los desterrados: Tipos de ambiente, 1927; as The Exiles and Other Stories, edited by J. David Danielson and Elsa K. Gambarini, 1987; as Los desterrados y otros textos, edited by Jorge Lafforgue, 1990.

Más allá, cuentos. 1935; as El más allá, 1952.

Cuentos, edited by C. García. 13 vols., 1937-45.

Quiroga: Sus mejores cuentos, edited by John A. Crow. 1943.

Cuentos escogidos, edited by Guillermo de Torre. 1950; edited by Jean Franco, 1968.

El regreso de Anaconda y otros cuentos. 1960.

Anaconda, El salvaje, Pasado amor. 1960.

La patria y otros cuentos. 1961.

Cuentos de horror. 1968.

A la deriva, y otros cuentos. 1968; edited by Olga Zamboni, 1989.

Cuentos 1905-1910 [and] 1910-35, edited by Jorge Ruffinelli. 2 vols., 1968.

Los cuentos de mis hijos. 1970.

El desafio de las Misiones. 1970.

Quiroga (stories), edited by Maria E. Rodes de Clerico and RamonBordoli Dolci. 1977.

Más cuentos, edited by Arturo Souto Alabarce, 1980.

El síncope blanco y otros cuentos. 1987.

Cuentos, edited by Leonor Fleming. 1991.


Historia de un amor turbio. 1908.

Pasado amor. 1929.


Los sacrifadas, cuentos escénico en cuatro actos. 1920.


Suelo natal (essays). 1931.

Diario de viaje a París de Quiroga, edited by Emir RodríguezMonegal. 1949.

Cartas inéditas de Quiroga, edited by Arturo Sergio Visca and Roberto Ibáñez. 2 vol., 1959.

La vida en Misiones, prologue by Jorge Ruffinelli. 1969.

Sobre literatura. 1970.

Cartas inéditas y evocación de Quiroga, edited by Arturo SergioVisca. 1970.

El mundo ideal de Quiroga y cartas inéditas de Quiroga a Isidoro Escalera, edited by Antonio Hernán Rodríguez. 1971.

Cartas desde la selva. 1971.

Epoca modernista, edited by Jorge Ruffinelli. 1973.

Our First Smoke. 1972.

La abeja haragana (for children), illustrated by Rogelio Naranjo. 1985.

Cartas de un cazador. 1986.


Critical Studies:

"Amor turbio, Paranoia and the Vicissitudes of Manliness in Horacio Quiroga" by Gustavo San Roman, in The Modern Language Review, October 1995, pp. 919-34.

* * *

After a disappointing visit in 1900 to Paris and publishing in 1901 the decadent collection Los arrecifes de coral (Coral Reefs), Horacio Quiroga turned his back on literary fashions to write a body of gripping short stories (some 200 in all) that recreated his two passions: pioneer life and fantastic literature. In 1927 he published a "Decalogue of the perfect short story writer," based on Edgar Allan Poe's self-conscious manipulation of the reader's responses. Quiroga sought a literature of experience, where a short story was written in "blood," without false padding. He wanted to shock the reader from armchair torpor and catch "real life."

Quiroga's trip as photographer with the poet Lugones to the abandoned Jesuit missions in the Argentine province of Misiones in 1903 revealed how little known the hinterland of Argentina was. Most of his fellow writers preferred to travel to Europe than know their own continent. In 1906 Quiroga settled on 185 hectares of land near San Ignacio and began placing many stories in this pioneer area.

In 1917 he published Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte (Stories of Love, Madness, and Death), stories written mainly in Misiones between 1906 and 1914 that deal with sudden moments of danger, even death, that test his characters, often tragically. An early ironic story can be read as a parable of what happens when a city person tries to adventure into the wilds. In "Wild Honey" (written in 1911 but not translated) an accountant, who loves tea and cakes, visits a godfather in Misiones hoping to test himself. In preparation for the jungle he arrives with smart boots and a Winchester rifle to hunt wild animals, but he soon discovers that the jungle is impenetrable without a machete. He discovers and gorges on wild honey guarded by stingless bees. His greed is vividly evoked until he discovers that the honey is narcotic, just when carnivorous ants arrive and clean him to the bone. As an amateur field naturalist Quiroga had also written an article on these army ants. In this story these ants are known as "la corrección," and they relentlessly "correct" the accountant Benincasa's view of nature, and life. His name in Spanish means "Bien en casa" ("at ease at home"). He epitomizes the middle-class urban values and people living in far-off Buenos Aires that Quiroga wanted to punish.

In 1912 he wrote his laconic "Drifting," which narrates how a squatter in Misiones on the banks of the river Paraná is bitten by a snake. Quiroga vividly describes the effect of the poison on the man—his swelling leg like "blood pudding," his incredible thirst where he mistakes brandy for water—until he paddles down stream to get help and, in the middle of an utterly banal thought, dies. The story suggests humans' inability to adapt to the extremes of nature and is an elegy to the indifferent magnificence of Misiones. One small mistake—not noticing a deadly snake—can lead to death. Quiroga had also written a newspaper article listing the local poisonous snakes.

Following Kipling, Quiroga evoked his view of life by making animals talk. In "Sunstroke" (written in 1908), set in the blistering heat of the Chaco, terrier dogs survive better than their master, who is killed by sunstroke. A collection named after the giant snake of the region, Anaconda, came out in 1921. Following Kipling's Just So Stories, Quiroga wrote Cuentos de la selva (South American Jungle Tales), where animals show how perfectly adapted they are to their environment. This despised animal side to humans fascinated Quiroga. In "The Contract Labourers" we follow two Guarani-speaking Indians, Cayetano and Podeley, working at a logging camp; they spend their wages in an orgy in Posadas, get into debt, and work their debt off in the jungle. Quiroga not only denounces the fate of these Indians in a vicious system of debt repayment, but also explores their absurd courage in escaping through the flooded jungle to get caught up again in the same system. The story shows how close to animals they are and thus paradoxically makes them admirable. In Los desterrados (The Exiles and Other Stories), about local characters around Misiones, the story "The Incense Tree Roof" deals with a leaking roof—and heroically trying to bring the birth and death records up to date for a government inspection—in such a hostile, tropical environment.

Violence haunted Quiroga's actual life: in 1879 his father was accidentally shot dead; in 1896 his step-father committed suicide; in 1902 Quiroga shot dead a friend by mistake; in 1915 his first wife committed suicide. The violence implicit in these dates frames many stories that, like his masters Poe and Maupassant, are not realistically situated in pioneer lands. Quiroga was fascinated by horror, from his Poesque El crimen del otro (The Other's Crime) in 1904 to his last collection, Más allá (Beyond), in 1935. Typical is "The Large Feather Pillow" (written in 1907 and published in Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte), where, after getting married, a couple lives in a large, silent house. The wife, Alicia, catches some strange illness that her husband, Jordan, cannot cure. She gets thinner and thinner, hallucinates about apes jumping on her, and dies. Only when the maid remakes the bed do we discover that her feather pillow weighed a ton, inside it a huge parasite bloated with her blood. Quiroga ends the story addressing the readers, hinting that they too could find such a parasite in their pillows.

Quiroga's art of storytelling sought to shock his readers out of comfortable values; the short story's economy could produce the required shock, and all Quiroga's skills were subservient to making his readers believe in what they read, down to his use of Spanish that refused to be "polished" and literary, reproducing local speech packed with specific plant and animal names in an attempt to capture what Quiroga called "real life."

—Jason Wilson

See the essays on "The Dead Man" and "The Decapitated Chicken."