Mallea, Eduardo (1903–1982)

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Mallea, Eduardo (1903–1982)

As a storyteller, essayist, and cultural critic, Argentine writer Eduardo Mallea (August 14, 1903–November 12, 1982) found in literature a space in which he could reflect on the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s. As a consequence, he became one of the nation's most popular intellectuals to the mid-twentieth century.

After participating briefly in the vanguard movements of the 1920s, Mallea published his first book of short stories, Cuentos para una inglesa desesperada (1926; Stories for an English desperate). After that, his story and essay writing focused on examining Argentina's great national problems through the psychological and existential construction of subjectivities in crisis.

In the 1930s, faced with the great political, social, and cultural dilemmas resulting from the coup d'état of September 1930, Mallea wrote Conocimiento y expresión de la Argentina (1935: Knowledge and Expression of Argentina) and his best essay, Historia de una pasión argentina (1937: History of an Argentine Passion). In them he dealt with the questions concerning the destiny of a country that had lost its way. Far from expressing the pessimism that marked his contemporaries, however, Mallea believed that the values thought to be lost were only submerged in what he called "the invisible Argentina" (which he contrasted to the purity of the visible Argentina), formed by false, "adventitious men" who had not responded to the truth of the national identity and to the authentic nature of the Argentines.

The break between a visible and an invisible Argentina, the proposal of existential solutions to the spiritual crisis of modernity, the search for an order that would reestablish the lost networks of solidarity are the underpinning themes of Mallea's thought and are developed in his later essays and novels: La bahía del silencio (1940; The Bay of Silence), Todo verdor perecerá (1941; All Verdor Will Perish), El sayal y la púrpura (1941; The Sayal and the Purple), Las Águilas (1943; The Eagles), Rodeada está de sueño (1944; Surrounded by a Dream), El Retorno (1946; The Return), Los enemigos del alma (1950; The Enemies of the Soul), La torre (1950; The Tower), Chaves (1953), and La sala de espera (1953; The Waiting Room), among others. Similar subjects, figures, and motifs reappear in these writings and underline the role of an intellectual committed to an ethical program. In Mallea's work, reflection on the national entity of Argentina is paramount, and so is the construction of the writer's image as a figure who legitimizes reflection on nationalist ideology. This, then, guarantees the production of intellectual work.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Canal Feijoó, Bernardo. "Historia de una pasión argentina." Sur, no. 38 (November 1937): 74-82.

Dabini, Atilio. "Intelectualismo y existencialismo: Mallea." In Historia de la literatura argentina, vol. 4, ed Susana Zanetti. Vol. 4. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de Améica Latina, 1982.

Gramuglio, María Teresa. "Posiciones, transformaciones y debates en la literatura." In Crisis económica, avance del estado e incertidumbre política (1930–1943), Vol. 7: Nueva Historia Argentina, ed. Alejandro Cattaruzza. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2001.

Mónaco, Ricardo. "La ficción como una pasión ensayística: Eduardo Mallea." In El oficio se afirma, Vol. 9: Historia crítica de la literatura argentina, ed. Sylvia Saítta. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2004.

Rest, Jaime. El cuarto en el recoveco. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1982.

Rodríguez Monegal, Emir. "Eduardo Mallea visible e invisible." In Narradores de esta América. Buenos Aires: Alfa Argentina, 1977.

Rozitchner, León. "Comunicación y servidumbre: Mallea." Contorno, nos. 5-6 (September 1955): 27-35.

Sarlo, Beatriz. "La imaginación histórica." Una modernidad periférica: Buenos Aires, 1920 y 1930. Buenos AIres: Nueva Visión, 1988.

                                    Sylvia SaÍtta

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