Ciro Alegría Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his works of long fiction, Ciro Alegría (ahl-ay-GREE-ah) wrote short stories that have been published in several collections, including Duelo de caballeros (1963) and Siete cuentos quirománticos (1978). His nonfictional works include La revolución cubana: Un testimonio personal (1973) and Mucha suerte con harto palo: Memorias (1976), and early in his career he published the poetry volume Cantos de la revolución (1934).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Imprisoned in his native Peru for his liberal, antidictatorial convictions and political activism, then exiled to neighboring Chile, Ciro Alegría wrote the three prizewinning novels that echoed around the world as a powerful voice for the rights of the oppressed and exploited Indians of his native country. These novelas indigenistas (indigenist novels, so called because they deal with the problems of the indigenous peoples of Latin America) are lyric, direct, and honest, portraying the hard lives of the Indians and cholos (those of mixed Indian and white blood) of the Andes with deep sympathy and condemning the actions of their persecutors. His third novel, Broad and Alien Is the World, was awarded the Latin American Novel Prize in 1941. Despite this tremendous beginning, however, Alegría did not continue to write novels, and, apart from his posthumously published works—including Lázaro, which he wrote in Cuba in 1953 and never quite finished—these three first novels remain his entire opus in the genre.

Though written with freshness and vigor, Alegría’s novels were in a style reminiscent of the best nineteenth century fiction, and so to a later, post-World War II generation, which witnessed the rise of a new, technically more sophisticated school of Latin American fiction, Alegría’s indigenist realism seemed too one-dimensional and too undisciplined structurally. Unfortunately, this postwar reappraisal kept the author from writing any further novels, and so from 1941 until 1963, Alegría went into a period of total literary silence. Indeed, his novels do have a loose, rather jumbled structure, yet they also have great emotional and aesthetic impact because they portray a sector of human life with great credibility and humanitarianism and because they are vibrant with the author’s commitment to human rights.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Early, Eileen. Joy in Exile: Ciro Alegría’s Narrative Art. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980. Presents an excellent overview and study of Alegría’s major books. Particularly useful for English-speaking readers, as Early explains Alegría’s background and references clearly.

Foster, David William. Peruvian Literature: A Bibliography of Secondary Sources. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981. Compilation of critical works includes a chapter on Alegría that offers an extensive bibliography.

Higgins, James. A History of Peruvian Literature. Wolfeboro, N.H.: F. Cairns, 1987. Historical overview provides a lucid summary of Alegría’s novels. Higgins, a professor of Latin American literature, has written numerous books and articles about the literature of Peru. Includes indexes and bibliography.

Higgins, James. The Literary Representation of Peru. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002. Comprehensive work examines more than four hundred years of writings by Peruvian authors to analyze the how these works reflect Peruvian society’s response to modernity.

Kokotovic, Misha. The Colonial Divide in Peruvian Narrative: Conflict and Transformation. Eastbourne, East Sussex, England.: Sussex Academic Press, 2005. Describes how the colonial divide between Peru’s indigenous people and the descendants of Spanish conquerors is expressed in Peruvian literature. Includes an analysis of the narrative form used by Alegría in Broad and Alien Is the World.

Onis, Harriet de. Afterword to The Golden Serpent, by Ciro Alegría. New York: American Library, 1963. The translator of this edition provides informative commentary on the novel and on its author.

Vázquez Amaral, José. The Contemporary Latin American Narrative. New York: Las Americas, 1970. Alegría is one of the novelists whose works are discussed in this overview of Latin American fiction. Includes bibliographical references and index.