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Miguel Ángel Asturias

(1899—1974)


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(1899–1974)

Guatemalan writer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1967.

After graduating in law in 1923, Asturias studied economics in London and anthropology in Paris. Ironically it was in the capital of France that he first encountered translations of ancient Mayan writings, and in 1925 he embarked on a retranslation of the sacred text Popel Vuh into Spanish. Asturias laid the foundations of his literary reputation by chronicling the oral traditions of his native land in Legends of Guatemala (1930). In his novel El Señore Presidente (1946), based on the regime of Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898–1920) and subsequently translated into sixteen languages, he struck a more universal note by attacking dictatorial rule and the oppression of the poor. Asturias's trilogy comprising Cyclone (1950), The Green Pope (1954), and The Eyes of the Interred (1973) broadened his horizons. In these books he attacks US imperialism and intervention in Latin American affairs generally, and the exploitation of Guatemala's banana growers by the United Fruit Company in particular.

Week-End in Guatemala (1956) is a collection of short stories about the role of the US Central Intelligence Agency in overthrowing the government of Jacobo Arbenz, which Asturias had supported. The demise of the Arbenz government forced Asturias into exile for a decade. In 1966 he was awarded the Soviet Union's Lenin Peace Prize. In 1967 Asturias, having previously served as ambassador to El Salvador, was appointed Guatemalan ambassador to France. In the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the citation praising his ‘highly coloured writings rooted in a national individuality and Indian traditions’.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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