Novo, Salvador (1904–1974)

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Novo, Salvador (1904–1974)

Salvador Novo (b. 30 July 1904; d. 13 January 1974), Mexican writer. Born in México City, Salvador Novo was one of the first Mexican authors to demonstrate that a Mexican writer could earn a living by the pen. Novo entered the world of letters as a poet at a time when artists supported themselves by means of government appointments as teachers or bureaucrats. He led the way in breaking this dependence on the government when he became a professional essayist and editoral writer, as well as a playwright/director. Throughout most of his writing career his journalistic fee was "cinco centavos la palabra." He estimated that by the time he was fifty he had earned 425,250 pesos at this rate. He is known today primarily for his theater direction and for the incisive wit of his several plays, as well as for his autobiographical travel books and his essays.

With characteristic self-mockery, Novo described his youthful artistic posture as that of "an old, world-weary author whose writings deliberately betrayed the youth of the penman." He contrasted this with the creative stance he assumed during his middle years which he described as "a youthfulness only half-trying to disguise the venerable mind of the penman."

Along with Xavier Villaurrutía and Rodolfo Usigli, Salvador Novo is one of the pillars of contemporary Mexican theater. His first work for the stage was El Tercer Fausto (1934, French; 1956, Spanish), and his best-known plays include La culta dama (1951), Yocasta, o casi (1961), and La guerra de las gordas (1963). He also wrote a collection of dialogues and short plays. Novo directed well over fifty stage productions and even wrote a text on acting, Diez lecciones de técnica de actuación (1951). Novo's best-known works of poetry are XX poemas (1925) and Nuevo amor (1933); his travel book is Return Ticket (1928). His critical writings have been collected in several anthologies.

See alsoJournalism; Journalism in Mexico; Theater.


See Salvador Novo, Nuevo amor, translated into English by Edna Worthley Underwood (1935). For a thorough bibliography see the appendix of Novo's Yocasta, o casi (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Acero, Rosa María. Novo ante Novo: Un novísimo personaje homosexual. Madrid: Editorial Pliegos, 2003.

Monsiváis, Carlos. Salvador Novo: Lo marginal en el centro. México, D.F.: Ediciones Era, 2004.

                                       William I. Oliver