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Alfonso Reyes

Alfonso Reyes Ochoa (17 May 1889 in Monterrey, Nuevo León – 27 December 1959 in Mexico City) was a Mexican writer, philosopher and diplomat. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature five times.

Biography

He was the ninth of the twelve children of Bernardo Reyes Ogazón, a general and politician killed in the assault on the National Palace during the Decena Trágica, and Aurelia de Ochoa-Garibay y Sapién. His father held important political posts under the administrations of Porfirio Díaz, including the governorship of Nuevo León and the Secretary of War and Navy. Reyes was educated at various colleges in Monterrey, El Liceo Francés de México, El Colegio Civil de Monterrey, and later at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria and graduated from the La Escuela Nacional de Jurisprudencia, which later became the law school at UNAM in 1913.

In 1909, he helped to found the Ateneo de la Juventud, along with other young intellectuals including Martín Luis Guzmán, José Vasconcelos, Julio Torri, and Pedro Enríquez Ureña, to promote new cultural and aesthetic ideals and educational reform in Mexico. In 1911, Reyes published his first book, Cuestiones estéticas. The following year, he wrote the short story La Cena ("The Supper"), which is considered a forerunner of surrealism and Latin American magical realism. In that year he was also named Secretary of the Escuela Nacional de Altos Estudios at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Reyes obtained his law degree in 1913, the same year that his father died while he was participating in an attempted coup d'état against the then president Francisco Madero.

Alfonso Reyes was posted to Mexico's diplomatic service in France in 1913. After Germany invaded France in 1914, he moved to Madrid, Spain, and pursued a literary career as journalist, investigator, translator, critic, and writer. In 1915, he wrote what is probably his best-known essay, "Visión de Anáhuac (1915)," with its famous epigraph, "Viajero: has llegado a la región más transparente del aire", the source of the title of Carlos Fuentes's novel La región más transparente.

Reyes was reinstated in the diplomatic service in 1920. He was the second secretary in Spain in 1920, was in Paris from 1924 to 1927 and then served as the ambassador to Argentina (1927–1930 and 1936–1937). He was the Mexican ambassador to Brazil from 1930 to 1935 and again in 1938. In 1939, he retired from the diplomatic corps and returned to Mexico, where he organized what is today El Colegio de México and dedicated himself to writing and teaching.

Stay in Spain



His time in Spain, where he resided from 1914 to 1924, was considered his best creative period and when he became a great writer and master of literature.

In Spain, where he experienced financial difficulties, he dedicated himself to literature and combined it with journalism. He worked in the Centro de Estudios Históricos (Historical Study Center) of Madrid under the direction of Ramón Menéndez Pidal. In 1919, he was named the Mexican commission secretary "Francisco del Paso y Troncoso", the same year that Cantar de mio Cid was put into prose.

Many of his friends insisted that he was a natural in Spanish and should pursue a career in politics, but he declined to do so. One time he was presented with an offer to teach, but he rejected it. He was more interested in the aesthetics of Benedetto Croce. He published numerous essays about poetry of the Spanish Golden Age, such as Baroque y Góngora; on top of that he was one of the first writers to study poetry of Juana Inés de la Cruz. From 1917 he produced Cartones de Madrid, his small masterpiece, Visión de Anáhuac, El suicida, and in 1921, El cazador. He was a collaborator of the magazines of "Revista de Filología Española", Revista de Occidente and "Revue Hisanique". His works about Spanish literature, older classical literature and aesthetics are notable, and among the more notable of that time, "Cuestiones estéticas" (1911). In Spain he organized a ceremony on 11 September 1923 in the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (Real Botanical Garden of Madrid) to honor the memory of the symbolic poet Stéphane Mallarmé.

After 1924 he developed a diplomatic and social life in Paris, Buenos Aires and Río de Janeiro. He translated a Mallarmé and edited his own literary mail, "Monterrey," publishing it in 1930. He wrote to friends abroad in every part of the world and gave talks, spoke at conferences and contributed to homages and cultural events.

He published among others, "Cuestiones gongorinas" (1927), "Capítulos de literatura española" (1939–195), "Discurso por Virgilio" (1931). His poetic works reveal a profound knowledge of the formal means, notably "Ifigenia cruel" (1924), "Pausa" (1926), "5 casi sonetos" (1931), "Otra voz" (1936) and "Cantata en la tumba de Federico García Lorca" (1937).

Reyes left a left a legacy of work as a translator (Laurence Sterne, G.K. Chesterton, Anton Chekhov) and as an editor (Ruiz de Alarcón, Cantar del mio Cid, Lope de Vega, Baltasar Gracián, Juan Ruiz, Francisco de Quevedo).

Legacy

The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges referred to Reyes as "the greatest prose writer in the Spanish language of any age". At least five avenues in Monterrey's metropolitan area, three in the municipality and one in Mexico City are named after Reyes.

On 17 May 2018, Google Doodle commemorated Alfonso Reyes' 129th birthday.

Works

Nonfiction

  • Cuestiones estéticas
  • El suicida
  • Visión de Anáhuac
  • Vísperas de España
  • Cartones de Madrid
  • Simpatías y diferencias
  • Calendario
  • Homília por la cultura
  • Capítulos de literatura española
  • Pasado inmediato
  • Estudios helénicos
  • La filosofía helenística
  • La X en la frente
  • Memorias de cocina y bodega
  • Las burlas veras

    Fiction

  • Los tres tesoros
  • El plano oblicuo
  • Árbol de pólvora
  • Quince presencias

    Poetry

  • Huellas
  • Ifigenia cruel
  • Yerbas del tarahumara
  • ''Minuta
  • Homero en Cuernavaca

    The Fondo de Cultura Económica published his complete works in 26 volumes, titled Obras Completas de Alfonso Reyes.