After graduating from law school in Caracas, Venezuela, where he was born in 1884, Rómulo Gallegos (gahl-YAY-gohs) became a teacher in 1912. He founded a magazine and wrote unsuccessful dramas and short stories until dictator Juan Gómez suspended the magazine. His first novel, Reinaldo Solar, attacked crooked politics. Not until the publication in Spain of Doña Bárbara in 1929 did Gallegos achieve an international reputation. Doña Bárbara is one of the masterpieces of what has been called the “novel of the land.” Mystique of the land, naturalistic confrontation of man and nature, melodramatic story line, more or less careful literary elaboration, social critique, and strong didactic purpose characterize this genre. Set against the vast Venezuelan plains, the story presents an allegorical conflict between civilization and barbarism. Progress and modernization are represented by the enlightened Santos Luzardo (he has “sainthood” and “light” in his name), who returns to his lands and has to overcome wilderness, backwardness, and violence, represented by Doña Bárbara. The conflict is solved through a family romance: Luzardo marries Doña Bárbara’s daughter Marisol. The novel has gone through many editions and has been made into a film.
While in voluntary political exile in Spain, Gallegos wrote Cantaclaro, the story of a wandering minstrel. Some critics consider it his greatest novel; others call it...
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