Augusto Roa Bastos Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Augusto Antonio Roa Bastos (ROH-ah BAHS-tohs) is undoubtedly the most prominent figure in modern Paraguayan literature and one of the leading novelists of Latin America. He spent his childhood in Iturbe, a small village in the Guaitá region, where he learned both Spanish and Guaraní, which is the dominant language of the country. Thus, he was exposed to a particular form of rural bilingualism as a child, which provided one of his most distinguishing traits as a writer.{$S[A]Bastos, Augusto Roa;Roa Bastos, Augusto}

During his formative years Roa Bastos was sent to the capital city of Asunción to receive formal education at the Colegio de los Padres de San José. While living there and under the tutelage of his maternal uncle Hermenegildo Roa, who later became bishop of Asunción, Roa Bastos read the universal classics—Homer, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes—and the principal French thinkers of the Enlightenment—Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseu, and Voltaire.

When he was fifteen years old, he joined the national army and participated in the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia (1932-1935), a conflict which became a major subject of his novel Son of Man. When the war was finally won by Paraguay, Roa Bastos returned to civilian life to work as a bank employee. He began his literary career with a never published novel, Fulgencio Miranda, which received the Ateneo Paraguayo Prize in 1937. In the next decade he wrote El niño del rocío and Mientras llega el día, two unpublished plays that were presented by the Elenco del Ateneo Paraguayo in Asunción.

For years he was a contributor and a staff member of the Paraguayan newspaper El País. Thanks to a British Council Fellowship, Roa Bastos spent time in England studying journalism. This trip gave him the...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Balderston, Daniel. “The Making of a Precursor: Carlyle in Yo el Supremo.” Symposium 44 (Fall, 1990): 155-164. Discusses the influence of Thomas Carlyle’s 1843 essay on Doctor Francia on Roa Bastos’s novel.

Cuadernos hispanoamericanos 493/494 (July/August, 1991). Special issue devoted to Roa Bastos’s work. Contains a very detailed biobibliography by José L. Roca Martinez and Virgilia Gil Amante.

Escritura 15, no. 30 (1990). Special issue devoted to Roa Bastos’s work.

Foster, David William. Augusto Roa Bastos. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Offers a structuralist overview of Roa’s literary production, interpretive readings of his major writings, and a useful chronology.

Foster, David William. The Myth of Paraguay in the Fiction of Augusto Roa Bastos. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969. Considers El trueno entre las hojas as a tentative program of artistic experimentation, in the way the author sought to create a prophetic vision of humankind which becomes the basis of his Son of Man.

Weldt-Basson, Helene Carol. Augusto Roa Bastos’s “I the Supreme”: A Dialogic Perspective. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993. Studies the use of narrative voice, symbolism, history, and intertextuality in the novel and makes a strong case for considering this a key text in Latin American postmodern writing.