César Abraham Vallejo


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Peruvian poet. Although his distinctive and original writing was shamefully ignored in his lifetime, it has since had a considerable influence on Latin American poets.

Born in Santiago de Chuco into a large mestizo family (he claimed that his parents were both illegitimate children of a priest and an Indian woman), Vallejo studied literature at the university of Trujillo (1913–15) and later law (1915–17). Published in Lima, his first book of poems, Los heraldos negros (1918; translated as The Black Heralds, 1963), was Christian in tone and influenced by the antinaturalistic symbolist-inspired modernismo associated with Rubén Darío (1867–1916); it was largely unnoticed. After returning home in 1920, Vallejo was apparently unjustly accused of involvement in a political disturbance and imprisoned for two and a half months. Much of his important second book of verse, Trilce (1922; translated as Ten Versions from Trilce, 1970), was composed in prison. It was a highly experimental work, with innovative typography and coinages (the title, for example, coalesces triste, sad, and dulce, tender).

After publishing an unremarkable novella (Fabula salvaje, 1923), Vallejo moved to Paris in 1923. Apart from two trips to Russia (1928, 1929) and visits to Spain, he lived there in poverty with his wife Georgette until his death. He joined the Communist Party in 1931. His novel, El Tungsteno (1931), published in Madrid, has the defects of a socialist-realist work in which characters are not fully realized. His final poetic works, however, contain some of the best things he wrote. Both España, aparta de mí este cáliz (1938), a poem on the Spanish civil war, and the collection Poemas humanos (1932; translated as Human Poems, 1968) were published posthumously.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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