José Asunción Silva
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|José Asunción Silva|
27 November 1865|
|Died||23 May 1896
|Occupation||Poet, author, political figure|
Born to a wealthy and educated Bogotá family, Asunción Silva led a comfortable life. When he was just ten years old, he wrote his first poems. In 1882 he traveled through England, Switzerland and France, and in Paris met with other romantic writers, including Stéphane Mallarmé and Gustave Moreau. His trip to Europe would influence his style, as he incorporated many French themes. However, with the death of father and the mounting financial difficulties of his family, Asunción Silva found himself obligated to return to Colombia. Incapable of paying his family's enormous debts, Silva accepted a diplomatic post in Caracas. Once there, he was encouraged by his fellow writers to dedicate himself to his poetry. In 1892, his beloved sister Elvira died. In 1895, Silva's principal work of prose was lost in a shipwreck. He was, nevertheless, persuaded to recreate the novel from memory, but the losses of his sister and the novel took their toll. It is said that Silva committed suicide after a dinner on the evening of 23 May 1896.
On the morning of 24 May 1896, a housemaid found Asunción Silva dead in his bed; he had shot himself in the heart the night before. There are many reasons for his suicide, including the death of his sister Elvira, the loss of almost all his work when his ship sank near a quay in the Caribbean sea, and his debts. Prior to his death, he asked his confidential doctor to mark the exact location of his heart.
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The poem "Nocturno" (Nocturnal) was his most famous work, published posthumously in 1908. Written in free verse, the poem broke with the more classical mode of Spanish versification and showed many signs of Modernism. The poem itself is written in a response to the death of Asunción Silva's sister, Elivra. The imagery, especially the symbolism of the shadow, evokes a sense of melancholy and sadness. Asunción Silva's face appears on the 5000 Colombian peso bill, and the entire "Nocturno" poem appears on microtext font on the bill.
- El libro de versos (published posthumously in 1923)
- De sobremesa (published in 1925; trans. In After-Dinner Conversation)