Alfonso Reyes Analysis

Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Alfonso Reyes (RAY-yays) was an essayist, short-story writer, and critic as well as a poet. Indeed, the bulk of the more than twenty volumes of his Obras completas (1955-1967; complete works)—an ongoing project undertaken by the Mexican Fondo de Cultura Económica to make accessible the seemingly inexhaustible archive of manuscripts and papers that he left behind—is criticism rather than poetry. Spanning cultures and disciplines, the breadth of his knowledge was truly astounding. His Grata compañía (1948; pleasing company), for example, includes essays on Robert Louis Stevenson, G. K. Chesterton, Marcel Proust, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, René Descartes, Jakob Burckhardt, José Maria de Eça de Queiróz, Hermann Alexander Keyserling, Graça Aranha, Leopoldo Lugones, Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, Antonio Caso, and Pedro Henríquez Ureña. In the fourteen issues of his personal newsletter, Monterrey, sent from Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, he particularly liked to focus on the relationship of great European intellectual figures to the American experience: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the United States, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Cuba, Ramón María del Valle-Inclán and Mexico, Luis de Góngora y Argote and New Spain, Paul Morand and Brazil, and so on.

Reyes’s masterpiece, Visión de Anáhuac (1917; Vision of Anáhuac, 1950)—its title referring to the Aztec name for the Valley of Mexico, the site of the...

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(World Poets and Poetry)

Alfonso Reyes strove indefatigably to draw the literature and culture of Latin America into the Latin cultural sphere of Spain, France, and Italy, and to effect a reconciliation between Spain and its former colonies. Indeed, his cosmopolitan spirit did much to internationalize a hitherto parochial Latin American literature. In his own country, he cast the light of Vergil and Goethe upon the Mexican landscape. Reyes assimilated a great deal from contemporary French writers such as André Gide, Paul Valéry, and Valery Larbaud, and he maintained lifelong friendships and correspondences with the most influential Spanish intellectuals of his time—Unamuno, Valle-Inclán, José Ortega y Gasset, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and Ramón Gómez de la Serna. Reyes, by his own example, was able to disprove to the Spaniards the widely held opinion that Spanish American writers were capable of nothing more inspired than exaggerated stylistic flourishes. As Mexican ambassador to Brazil, he worked to improve cultural relations between the Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil. He opened so many channels of communication with the outside world that Octavio Paz (quoting a phrase used in another context by Reyes himself) called him “the horseman of the air,” and Xavier Villaurrutía dubbed him “the man of the roads.”

Considering the unique nature of Reyes’s literary contributions, he has neither direct antecedents nor direct successors in the Hispanic tradition, yet...

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(World Poets and Poetry)

Aponte, Barbara Bockus. Alfonso Reyes and Spain: His Dialogue with Unamuno, Valle-Inclán, Ortega y Gasset, Jiménez, and Gómez de la Serna. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972. The author explores the dialogues that Reyes maintained with Spanish literary contemporaries. Their correspondence sheds light upon the lives and works of all these writers. Reyes relied upon this form of communication to maintain friendships and share ideas. As a member of the Mexican intellectual elite, Reyes recognized that his Spanish contacts were vital to his literary development.

Carter, Sheila. The Literary Experience. Mona, Jamaica: Savacou, 1985. A critical analysis of El deslinde, with bibliographic references.

Conn, Robert T. The Politics of Philology: Alfonso Reyes and the Invention of the Latin American Literary Tradition. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2002. Conn examines Reyes and his legacy in the context of Latin American and Spanish intellectual life.

Robb, James W. “Alfonso Reyes.” In Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé. Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989. A thorough article from the Scribner writers series.

_______. Patterns of Image and Structure. New York: AMS Press, 1969. Critical analysis of the essays of Reyes.