José María Arguedas
José María Arguedas Altamirano (18 January 1911 – 2 December 1969) was a Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist. Arguedas was a mestizo of Spanish and Quechua descent who wrote novels, short stories, and poems in both Spanish and Quechua.
Generally remembered as one of the most notable figures of 20th-century Peruvian literature, Arguedas is especially recognized for his intimate portrayals of indigenous Andean culture. Key in his desire to depict indigenous expression and perspective more authentically was his creation of a new language that blended Spanish and Quechua and premiered in his debut novel Yawar Fiesta.
Despite a dearth of translations into English, the critic Martin Seymour-Smith has dubbed Arguedas "the greatest novelist of our time," who wrote "some of the most powerful prose that the world has known."
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Jose Maria Arguedas was born in Andahuaylas, a province in the southern Peruvian Andes. He was born into a well-off mestizo family, but his mother died when he was two years old. Because of the absence of his father, a lawyer who travelled frequently, and his bad relationship with his step-mother and step-brother, he comforted himself in the care of the family's indigenous servants, allowing him to immerse himself in the language and customs of the Andes, which came to form an important part of his personality. He went to primary school in San Juan de Lucana, Puquio, and Abancay, and completed his secondary studies in Ica, Huancayo, and Lima.
He began studying at National University of San Marcos (Lima) in 1931; there he graduated with a degree in Literature. He later took up studies in Ethnology, receiving his degree in 1957 and his doctorate in 1963. Between 1937 and 1938 he was sent to prison for protesting an envoy sent to Peru by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Arguedas also worked for the Ministry of Education, where he put into practice his interests in preserving and promoting Peruvian culture, in particular traditional Andean music and dance. He was the director of the Casa de la Cultura (1963) and of the National Museum of History (1964–1966).
Arguedas shot himself on November 29, 1969 in his office at the Agrarian University in La Molina, leaving behind very specific instructions for his funeral, a diary depicting his depression, and a final unfinished manuscript, The Fox From Up Above and the Fox From Down Below.
This work includes portions of Arguedas’s diary, memories of his distressing childhood, thoughts on Peruvian culture, and his reasons for suicide. He depicts his struggle between his desire to authentically illuminate the life of the Andean Indians and his personal anguish trapping him in depression:
- "But since I have not been able to write on the topics chosen and elaborated, whether small or ambitious, I am going to write on the only one that attracts me--this one of how I did not succeed in killing myself and how I am now wracking my brains looking for a way to liquidate myself decently..."
The title of the book originates in a Quechua myth that Arguedas translated into Spanish earlier in his life. “El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo” refers to the Quechua symbols for life and death, and modernity and tradition.
Arguedas began his literary career by writing short stories about the indigenous environment familiar to him from his childhood. He wrote in a Spanish highly influenced by Quechua syntax and vocabulary.
By the time he published his first novel in 1941, Yawar Fiesta ("Blood Festival"), he had begun to explore the theme that would interest him for the rest of his career: the clash between Western "civilization" and the indigenous, "traditional" way of life. He was thus considered part of the indigenista movement in South American literature, and continued to explore this theme in his next two books Los ríos profundos ("Deep Rivers," 1958) and Todas las Sangres ("All the Bloods," 1964). Yet he also was conscious of the simplistic portrayal of the indigenous peoples in other indigenista literature and worked hard to give the Andean Indians a true voice in his works. This effort was not always successful as some critics contend that Arguedas portrayed Indian characters as too gentle and childlike. Another theme in Arguedas' writing is the struggle of mestizos of Indian-Spanish descent and their navigation between the two seemingly separate parts of their identity. Many of his works also depicted the violence and exploitation of race relations in Peru's small rural towns and haciendas.
Arguedas was moderately optimistic about the possibility of a rapprochement between the forces of "tradition" and the forces of "modernity" until the 1960s, when he became more pessimistic. In his last (unfinished) work, El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo ("The Fox From Up Above and the Fox From Down Below," 1969), he abandoned the realism of his earlier works for a more postmodern approach. This novel expressed his despair, caused by his fear that the "primitive" ways of the Indians could not survive the onslaught of modern technology and capitalism. At the same time that Arguedas was becoming more pessimistic about race relations in his country, younger Peruvian intellectuals became increasingly militant, often criticizing his work in harsh terms for his poetic, romanticized treatment of indigenous and rural life. An instance of the debate that ensued can be seen in the famous Mesa redonda sobre Todas las Sangres (Roundtable on All the Bloods) of 1965, in which Arguedas's penultimate novel was the object of blunt criticism from several social scientists at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos.
List of works
- 1935 - Agua. Los escoleros. Warma kuyay. Collection of short stories.
- 1941 - Yawar Fiesta ("Blood Festival"). Novel. Revised in 1958. English translation: Yawar Fiesta, translated by Frances Horning Barraclough (University of Texas Press, 1985).
- 1954 - Diamantes y pedernales. Novel.
- 1958 - Los ríos profundos. Novel. English translation: Deep Rivers, translated by Frances Horning Barraclough (University of Texas Press, 1978).
- 1961 - El Sexto. Novel, based on Arguedas's experiences in the federal prison El Sexto in 1938.
- 1964 - Todas las Sangres. Novel.
- 1965 - El sueño del pongo: Cuento quechua. Pongoq mosqoynin; qatqa runapa willakusqan. Bilingual (Quechua/Spanish) story, published as a pamphlet.
- 1967 - Amor mundo y todos los cuentos. Collection of short stories.
- 1971 - El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo. Unfinished novel, published posthumously. Describes the crises that would lead to his suicide. English translation: The Fox From Up Above and the Fox From Down Below, translated by Frances Horning Barraclough (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000).
- 1973 - Cuentos olvidados. Posthumous collection of short stories.
Arguedas wrote his poems in Quechua and later translated them into Spanish.
- 1962 - Túpac Amaru Kamaq taytanchisman. Haylli-taki. A nuestro padre creador Túpac Amaru.
- 1966 - Oda al jet.
- 1969 - Qollana Vietnam Llaqtaman / Al pueblo excelso de Vietnam.
- 1972 - Katatay y otros poemas. Huc jayllikunapas. Published posthumously in a bilingual edition (Quechua and Spanish) by Sybila Arredondo de Arguedas.
- 1974 - Pepa y la pepa filosofal.
Anthropology and Folkloric Studies
- 1938 - Canto kechwa. Includes an essay on the artistic and creative abilities of Indians and mestizos. Bilingual edition (Quechua and Spanish), compiled while Arguedas was imprisoned for participating in a student protest.
- 1947 - Mitos, leyendas y cuentos peruanos. Quechua myths, legends, and tales, collected by school teachers in the Andes, edited and translated into Spanish by Arguedas and Francisco Izquierdo Ríos.
- 1949 - Canciones y cuentos del pueblo quechua. Published in English translation as The Singing Mountaineers: Songs and Tales of the Quechua People, edited by Ruth Stephan (University of Texas Press, 1957).
- 1953 - Cuentos mágico-realistas y canciones de fiestas tradicionales - Folclor del valle del Mantaro.
- 1956 - Puquio, una cultura en proceso de cambio.
- 1957 - Estudio etnográfico de la feria de Huancayo.
- 1956 - Junior y sus dos serranos.
- 1957 - Evolución de las comunidades indígenas.
- 1958 - El arte popular religioso y la cultura mestiza.
- 1961 - Cuentos mágico-religiosos quechuas de Lucanamarca.
- 1966 - Poesía quechua.
- 1968 - Las comunidades de España y del Perú.
- 1975 - Señores e indios: Acerca de la cultura quechua. Posthumous collection, edited by Ángel Rama.
- 1976 - Formación de una cultura nacional indoamericana. Posthumous collection, edited by Ángel Rama.
- José Alberto Portugal, Las novelas de José María Arguedas: Una incursión en lo inarticulado. (2007) Editorial Fondo PUCP. ISBN 978-9972-42-801-2
- Elena Aibar Ray, Identidad y resistencia cultural en las obras de José María Arguedas. (1992) Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
- Antonio Cornejo Polar, Los universos narrativos de José María Arguedas. (1997) Editorial Horizonte.
- Ciro A. Sandoval and Sandra M. Boschetto-Sandoval (eds), Jose Maria Arguedas. (1998) Ohio University Press. ISBN 0-89680-200-0
- Sergio R. Franco, editor, José María Arguedas: hacia una poética migrante. (2006) Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana. ISBN 1-930744-22-6
- Wilfredo Kapsoli (compliador), Zorros al fin del milenio: actas y ensayos del seminario sobre la última novela de José María Arguedas. (2004) Universidad Ricardo Palma/Centro de Investigación. ISBN 9972-885-75-5
- Aymará de Llano, Pasión y agonía: la escritura de José María de Arguedas. (2004) Centro de Estudios Literarios 'Antonio Cornejo Polar'/Editorial Martin. ISBN 0-9747750-1-0
- Melisa Moore, En las encruciadas: Las ciencias sociales y la novela en el Perú. (2003) Fondo Editorial Universiad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. ISBN 9972-46-211-0
- Silverio Muñoz, José María Arguedas y el mito de la salvación por la cultura. (1987) Editorial Horizonte.
- Mario Vargas Llosa, La Utopia Arcaica: Jose Maria Arguedas y Las Ficciones del Indigenismo. (1997) Fonode Cultura Económica.
- Sales, Dora (ed.) (2009) José María Arguedas. Qepa wiñaq... Siempre. Literatura y antropología. Prólogo de Sybila de Arguedas. Edición crítica de Dora Sales. Madrid/Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuert. Colección “El Fuego Nuevo. Textos Recobrados”. ISBN 978-84-8489-433-9 (Iberoamericana); 978-3-86527-490-8 (Vervuert)
- Martin Seymour-Smith, The New Guide to Modern World Literature (New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1985), pp. 949-950.
- The Fox from Up Above and the Fox from Down Below, p. 10
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to José María Arguedas.|
- Web site of Arguedas
- Ciberayllu, a Spanish-language webzine, has a section called Arguediana, dedicated exclusively to José María Arguedas. Includes critical essays, biographic data, and some audio excerpts with the writer's voice.
- The Pongo's Dream: a short story by Arguedas available online
- Arguedas, from Posthegemony
- gonzaloportocarrero.blogsome.com/2006/06/01/todas-las-sangres/, by Gonzalo Portocarrero
- Video of life and work