Who was Arturo Uslar Pietri, and what did he contribute to Latin American literature?

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Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Arturo Uslar Pietri (1906-2001), a prominent and influential Venezuelan writer, was the descendent of German, on his father's side, and French Corsican, on his mother's side, immigrants to Venezuela. Following a long tradition of military and political service, Pietri held many political positions including that of civil attache at the Venezuelan Embassy in Paris, France. Above all Pietri was an influential writer who introduced to Venezuela the developing genre of cultural and historical fiction, which was also being experimented with and developed in the 1920s and 30s by Pietri's friends and literary associates in Paris, Miguel Angel Asturias, a Guatemalan author, and Alejo Carpentier, a Cuban author. 

Pietri is credited with introducing the Venezuelan cultural-historical novel to the world, as Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa (1936- ) pointed out in a literary review of Pietri's work. There is a point of contention regarding Pietris' contribution to magical realism. Pietri takes credit for having invented magical realism since his first book incorporating the technique was published earlier than his literary associates in Paris, Asturias and Carpentier, published their works. Other critics, however, attribute the origin of literary magical realism to the publication and translation of author Franz Roh's work in 1927; this is said to have inspired the fusion of Magic Realism in painting with literature to create literary magical realism. Pietri's proponents point out that, whichever origin is adopted in the history of the genre, Pietri did introduce with The Red Lance the first historical novel that employed an "imaginative address" and eschewed propaganda and posturing that usually accompanied historical discussion. Magical realism is the introduction in a literary work of supernatural elements into an otherwise realistic narrative thus creating a conflict between two perspectives: the real world and the seemingly irrational supernatural world that coexists with the real. 

Source: Gabriel García Márquez. "Pietri Arturo Uslar." Biografias y Vidas.

Magical Realism: Allen B. Ruch and Tamara Kaye Sellman. "Magical Realism: The way my grandmother used to tell stories." The Modern Word.