Alonso, Dámaso 1898–
Alonso is considered a pioneer of twentieth-century Spanish poetry and criticism. His early poetry is cool and austere in manner and style, while his later poetry, marked by the terror and tragedy of the Spanish civil war, focuses on more humanistic concerns and is written in free verse. Alonso explores the duality of human nature in his poetry, portraying man's strivings and limitations in a world of ambivalent natural forces. He is acknowledged as Spain's foremost literary critic.
Andrew P. Debicki
Dámaso Alonso is generally recognized as a major literary critic of contemporary Spain, and as the founder of a whole school of stylistic analysis. At the same time he is considered an important poet who, having started his career by writing "pure" and somewhat abstract verse, changes his style after the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 and takes the lead in a movement toward a direct and anguished "human" poetry.
This characterization of Alonso as a poet of two styles, though in many respects correct, does not take into account the fundamental cohesiveness of his literary production. If we examine all of his verse, for example, we can see that in spite of certain external differences between his early and his late books of poetry, all of them deal with the same general themes and make use of similar devices. All of them, for example, offer a dual perspective on reality, artistically embodied in certain techniques of imagery and point of view. Likewise, if we study Alonso's criticism, we find certain ideas which pervade and link his stylistic analyses and his more general essays, his earlier works and his later ones. Alonso's views, for example, on the relationship between analysis and intuition, on the ways in which a poem infuses new values into traditional themes and techniques, and on the connections between form and meaning, exemplify such constant points in his criticism. In addition, if we consider Alonso's verse and his...
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[What] best defines Alonso the critic is precisely his art of definition, his extraordinary ability to see and express the essential features of a literary object….
The principal mission, although not the only one, which he set for himself and which has guided his steps and enabled him to reach goals which no one before had achieved, was, from the historical point of view, a new understanding and evaluation of Spanish lyric poetry of the Golden Age in its embodiment of universal qualities; and from the critical point of view, the study of the literary work as a work of art in language. (p. 255)
[In] no other contemporary Spanish critic … have I ever found, to such a high degree and with such revealing fidelity, the desire and gift to define briefly and distinctly, in the way a definition should be made, the nature and essential traits of one literature, period style, literary movement, generation, genre—especially of one writer, one work, and one or another technique of expression. This is what best sets Alonso apart from the critics of his time and country and what best distinguishes him personally, because this exercise of defining is in him principle, constant dedication and major goal. Singularly and repeatedly. And because the arena in which he works unceasingly is language….
Dámaso Alonso's art of definition is not aprioristic, deductive or generalistic, but intuitive, inductive and,...
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Too much has been made, I think, of the revolutionary quality of Hijos de la ira…. Instead of an act of revolt it is rather a book that protects itself too well. Like that other milestone of post-Civil War literature, La familia de Pascual Duarte, it demands that we accept it on its own terms or not at all. Both the Death of God theology of the one and the criminal insanity of the other provide a literary redoubt with which the authors insulate themselves from the historical moment. In addition, Alonso's poetry, like most modernist Spanish literature is not self-generating but builds on, lives off, previous Spanish literature. It is a high example of the art of literary pastiche, and consciously so. And this too protects it from attack, makes it strangely hermetic and aloof. Also, there is a miscellaneous quality about the way it is arranged, the books are anthologistic, discontinuous and so demand a special kind of indulgence. And finally, the speaker of the poems, that curious and terrifying younger brother of the child-speaker of César Vallejo's poems, is so abject in his self-denigration that we can only wish him better days.
At first glance, Hijos de la ira may seem an act of contestation, but when we take a second look from the perspective of thirty years, it seems almost willfully self-indulgent. If this sounds an outrageous, even an irreverent thing to say, recall for a moment the historical reality of...
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Gustavo PéRez Firmat
GUSTAVO PÉREZ FIRMAT
The Cosmos coheres all right
Even if my notes do not cohere.
The epigraph that introduces this paper singles out two terms and establishes their relationship. The terms: cosmos and notes; the relationship: dissimilarity. Pound's notes, unlike the cosmos, do not cohere. I would like to borrow this formula and apply it to the study of the poetry of Dámaso Alonso, but with the following twist: the relationship will remain intact, but the terms will exchange attributes. In Alonso's view of things, it is the cosmos that suffers from incoherence; the cosmological model he adopts is the "exploding universe" of Georges Lemaître, perpetually expanding, perpetually falling apart. His poems, on the other hand, make perfectly coherent use of this hypothesis, incorporating it as one more element in a unified poetic whole. In particular, the two-part poem "Sueño de las dos ciervas" offers a striking illustration of the poetic uses of modern cosmology. (p. 147)
In the poetry of Alonso the motif of the exploding universe achieves its most interesting incarnations when it is used figuratively. By virtue of the kind of universe they depict, relativistic models conform well to the world-view espoused in collections like Hijos de la...
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