Study Guide

Vicente Aleixandre

Vicente Aleixandre Biography

Biography (Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Vicente Aleixandre Merlo was born on April 26, 1898, in Seville, Spain, the son of Cirilo Aleixandre Ballester, a railway engineer, and Elvira Merlo García de Pruneda, daughter of an upper-middle-class Andalusian family. Married in Madrid, Aleixandre’s parents moved to Seville, the base for his father’s travels with the Andalusian railway network. Four years after Aleixandre’s birth, the family moved to Málaga, remaining there for seven years, spending their summers in a cottage on the beach at Pedregalejo a few miles from the city.

Aleixandre seems to have been very happy as a boy in Málaga, where he attended school, frequented the movie theater across the street from his house (he particularly liked the films of Max Linder), and read the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. Happy memories of Málaga and the nearby sea appear frequently in Aleixandre’s poetry: He calls them “ciudad del paraíso” (city of paradise) and “mar del paraíso” (sea of paradise), respectively.

In 1911, the family moved to Madrid, where Aleixandre continued his studies at Teresiano School, but he found the strict requirements for the bachelor’s degree tedious and preferred reading the books in his grandfather’s library: classical and Romantic works and detective novels, especially those by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Aleixandre frequently visited the National Library, where he read novels and drama from Spain’s Golden Age to the generación del 98. During the summer of 1917, his friend Dámaso Alonso lent him a volume by Rubén Darío, a book which, Aleixandre said, revealed to him the passion of...

(The entire section is 667 words.)

Vicente Aleixandre Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Vicente Aleixandre (ahl-ehk-SAHN-dreh) was a prominent member of that avant-garde generation of Spanish poets that also includes Federico García Lorca, Jorge Guillén, Pedro Salinas, Luis Cernuda, Rafael Alberti, and Dámaso Alonso, among others. Aleixandre was born in Seville but spent his childhood in the Mediterranean city Málaga, which later, in Sombra del paraíso, he recalled as the “City of Paradise.” He studied law in Málaga and in Madrid, but delicate health, which was to afflict him for all his adult life, soon interrupted his legal career and encouraged him to devote himself fully to poetry.

His first poems appeared in Revista de Occidente, the prestigious journal edited by José Ortega y Gasset. Like others of the Generation of ’27—a reference to the year when his generation rallied around the tercentenary of death of their idol, Luis de Góngora—Aleixandre began writing poetry that embraces the post-Symbolist line of “pure poetry.” This movement in Spain took as its points of departure the baroque Góngora and the postmodernist Juan Ramón Jiménez. Ámbito was created out of this juncture, but soon after Aleixandre broke radically with that style, which some had begun to consider intellectually exquisite but too cerebral and dry “pure poetry.” Instead his work begins to show some of the “looser” influences of surrealism. In Spain Aleixandre’s hermetic, dreamlike poems in prose, Pasión de la tierra, written “with a minimum of elaboration,” came closest to the surrealist automatic texts. Later the poet came to recognize this as his most difficult work. He saw the evolution of his poetry, starting with the raw materials of his early work, as “a longing for the light.” It was a long process, in part because his aesthetics were complicated by the climate of Spain’s social unrest, which culminated in the civil war and its long aftermath. The next two volumes, Espadas como labios and La destrucción o el...

(The entire section is 823 words.)