José Mármol (1817-1871) was one of the celebrated Argentine exiled writers and intellectuals. He gained his greatest recognition as the author of "Amalia," a long, melodramatic novel of intrigue about the secret resistance against the dictator Rosas.
José Mármol was born on Dec. 2, 1817, in Buenos Aires. He was an erratic student but eventually determined to be a lawyer and enrolled in the faculty of law of the University of Buenos Aires in 1836. He was destined not to finish his studies, however, for this was a period of great agitation in the country, and the university was one of the hotbeds of conspiracy against the dictatorship of Juan Manuel de Rosas.
On April 1, 1839, Mármol was briefly jailed for having in his possession newspapers published in Montevideo, Uruguay, by the principal Argentine intellectuals in exile, the proscriptos. Mármol claimed to have written his first poem (against Rosas) on the wall of his cell. In 1840 he joined his friends in Montevideo and began a long and active association with the liberal press, devoting his energies to an unswerving attack on the Argentine dictator. A year later, his first romantic poems were attracting the attention of his fellow writers in exile.
In 1842 two undistinguished plays by Mármol, The Poet and The Crusader, were presented in Montevideo. However, on the occasion of the 1843 anniversary of the Argentine independence day, Mármol composed his celebrated poem "To Rosas," which converted him into the lyrical spokesman of the social romanticism of his time. Shortly thereafter, with Montevideo under siege by Rosas' forces, the poet left for Rio de Janeiro and the company of other exiles, among them Juan Bautista Alberdi, who had just written a long poem about the high seas after the fashion of Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
In early 1844 Mármol embarked from Rio with several other Argentines for Valparaiso, Chile. The 3-month journey was tempestuous, hazardous, and, in the end, unsuccessful, for stormy seas at Cape Horn eventually forced the ship back to Brazil. But Mármol, inspired by the fearful spectacle of raging nature, by his isolation, and by his own romantic inclination (as well as Alberdi's example, no doubt), composed a long poem sequence entitled Songs of the Pilgrim, which stands as his most celebrated poetic work.
Mármol was back in Montevideo in 1846, continuing his attack on Rosas in the press, and in 1851 he published in installments his long novel, Amalia, a thoroughly romantic and colorful narrative that related the adventures of two young lovers involved in the antiRosas movement in Buenos Aires. In 1852 Rosas was overthrown, and Mármol returned to his homeland, his literary career now ended, as if the removal of the object of his hatred had suddenly deprived him of his source of creative energy. The final 2 decades of his life were given to various political and diplomatic posts, and from 1858 until his death he was the director of the Public Library (today the National Library) of Buenos Aires. Mármol died in Buenos Aires on Aug. 9, 1871.
A detailed study in English of Mármol's writings is Stuart Cuthbertson, The Poetry of José Mármol (1935). He is also discussed in Myron Lichtblau, The Argentine Novel of the Nineteenth Century (1959). □