Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
César Abraham Vallejo was born in Santiago de Chuco, a primitive “city” of some fourteen thousand inhabitants in Peru’s northern mountains that could only be reached by a rail trip and then several days ride on mule or horseback. Both of his grandfathers had been Spanish priests and both of his grandmothers native Peruvians of Chimu Indian stock. His parents were literate and of modest means; his father was a notary who became a subprefect in the district. Francisco de Paula Vallejo and María de los Santos Mendoza were an upright and religious pair whose marriage produced twelve offspring and who were already middle-aged when their youngest child, César, was born. In his writings, Vallejo was often to remember the security and warmth of his childhood home—games with three of his older siblings, and particularly with his mother, who might have been especially indulgent with her sensitive youngest child.
At age thirteen, Vallejo left Santiago de Chuco to attend high school in Huamachuco, another mountain village, where he received an introduction to literature and began scribbling verses. Economic difficulties prevented him from continuing the university studies that he had begun in the larger coastal cities of Trujillo and Lima in 1911. The young man first went to work in a nearby tungsten mine—an experience that he would later draw upon for his Socialist Realist novel Tungsten—and then on a coastal sugar plantation. While there, he...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The youngest of eleven children, César Abraham Vallejo (vuh-LAY-oh) was born on March 16, 1892, in Santiago de Chuco, a provincial town located high in the northern Andean Sierra of Peru. From that relatively isolated starting point, he grew into one of the most influential and revered poets in the Spanish-speaking world. Moreover, through the diligent work of translators, Vallejo’s influence now reaches poets, critics, and readers working in English, Italian, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Quechua, and many other languages.
To contextualize Vallejo’s poetry, one might look to the pattern of suffering that emerges from his biography. More specifically, that suffering ranged from the personal to the political, and it extended seemingly from his first breath to his last. In fact, his birth itself embodies the matrix of cultural, religious, political, and psychosocial tensions that would fuel his agonized writing and life, as he was born the grandson of two indigenous Chimu grandmothers and two Spanish grandfathers, both of whom were Catholic priests. At the other end of his life, on his deathbed, he was said to have lamented the failing Republican war effort in Spain.
Early in life, Vallejo also suffered a steady stream of failed love affairs, with one such failure even driving him to attempt suicide. Fortunately his amorous turbulence subsided in January, 1929, with his commitment to live with his future wife, Georgette Phillipart,...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Throughout his life, César Vallejo sought redemption from human suffering. However, he never found it. Instead he expressed his tribulations with uncertainty, caution, force, and ingenuity, thereby creating poetry capable of encouraging humankind to more clearly focus its attention to suffering in order to reduce its exacerbation. For his verbal, formal, and ontological iconoclasm, his efforts earned him a reputation as one of the finest poets of the twentieth century, though that legacy by no means redeems his life and oeuvre of continuous suffering.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
César Vallejo (vah-YAY-hoh) vies with the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda for recognition as the best Spanish American poet of the twentieth century, yet the semantic difficulty of his poetry has often meant that he is not as well known outside the Spanish-speaking world as he deserves to be. Author of a novel, a novella, four dramas, a collection of short stories, a collection of essays on Marxism and literary theory, two books on Soviet Russia, and more than two hundred newspaper articles, Vallejo is mainly remembered for his poetry.
Born the eleventh child to a family of mixed Spanish and Indian origins, Vallejo as a child witnessed at first hand hunger, poverty, and the injustices done to Indians. His first book of poems, The Black Heralds, showed him still to be under the influence of modernismo—which favored allusions to Greco-Roman mythology—but also hinted at the emergence of a radically new personal poetic voice. The major theme of this collection was anguish at the injustice and futility of life, a feeling that was deepened by the death of his older brother, Miguel. Some poems in The Black Heralds openly question God’s role in the universe, some demonstrate the stirrings of an Amerindian consciousness, and others hint at the growth of social concern for the plight of the Indians.
In 1920, Vallejo’s...
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Biography (Poetry for Students)
César Abraham Vallejo was born on March 16, 1892, in Santiago de Chuco, Peru, the youngest of eleven children in a family of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage. After graduating from high school in 1908, Vallejo attempted to attend college but had to withdraw because of a lack of funds. So he went to work as a clerk in his father’s notary public office, then in the office of a mining company. He worked as a tutor to the children of a wealthy mine owner and as a cashier in the accounting office of a sugar plantation. Added to his rural upbringing, these experiences furthered his concern about the social injustices in Peru. In 1913, he formally enrolled at the University of Trujillo, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1915 and later earned both a master’s degree in Spanish literature and a law degree.
During his college years, Vallejo joined a progressive circle of writers and intellectuals. Within this group, he discovered Latin American modernism and French symbolism, as well as political radicalism. After a few tumultuous romantic involvements, Vallejo moved to Lima in 1917. He took a job as a teacher and later principal of a prestigious private school but was fired after he refused to marry the woman with whom he was having an affair. This event, coupled with the death of his mother, prompted him to visit his home. Once there, Vallejo found himself unintentionally involved in a violent uprising. Although innocent, Vallejo was...
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