Critical Evaluation

Eduardo Mallea is considered one of the promoters of vanguardism in Latin American literature. Extremely well read, he produced works that reflect multiple influences from European writers and intellectuals, especially from existentialist thinkers. In his own country, he was respected for his many articles as an editor of the literary section of La Nación, Argentina’s major newspaper. It is said that his positive recommendation of a young writer resulted in that individual’s immediate success.

Mallea’s literary production reflects his strong inclination to the contemplative essay, in which he often explores two favorite themes: the purpose of human existence and Argentina’s role in the twentieth century. Early in his career, with the publication in 1937 of Historia de una pasión argentina(History of an Argentine Passion, 1983) Mallea demonstrates interest in the existential quest in a systematic analysis of the history of Argentina in a worldwide context. In this autobiographical essay, Mallea brings forward issues relevant to pre-World War II society, such as social alienation and its related existential angst.

Unlike other existentialists, however, Mallea displays hope for the resolution of his characters’ anguish. Following in the footsteps of the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864-1936), Mallea offers in his philosophical analysis a new historical perspective by bringing a new point of view to the national history experienced by the common citizen. Mallea evaluates Argentine history by means of characters who, affected by everyday occurrences, take a closer look into those events that appear harmless but directly affect their existence. That untold history—what Mallea refers to as “the invisible Argentina”—is the core of Mallea’s sociopolitical existentialism. His characters, true existential protagonists,...

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