Eduardo Mallea Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A descendant of the diplomat, author, and educator Sarmiento, Eduardo Mallea (mah-YAH-ah) was born on August 14, 1903, in desolate, wind-swept Bahía Blanca, Argentina, the setting for much of his writing. After his primary instruction by an Australian woman, his physician father took him to Buenos Aires, where he studied law until the sale of some children’s stories turned him to literature as a career. Some of his short stories were published in journals in the 1920’s. In 1926 his first collection of stories, the fantastic and frantic Cuentos para una inglesa desesperada (stories for a desperate Englishwoman), opened the way for a voyage to Europe and brought him in 1931 the literary editorship of La nación, Argentina’s most influential newspaper, in Buenos Aires. A lecture trip to Italy later resulted in Nocturno europeo, an example of his technique of using a slim fictional plot to tie together his ideas. It won for him the first of many literary prizes, which included the Primer Premio Nacional de Letras in 1945, the Forti Glori Prize in 1968, and the Gran Premio Nacional de las Artes in 1970. Mallea married Helena Muñóz Larreta in 1944.

His Historia de una pasión argentina (history of an Argentine passion), probably his most important essay, is the cornerstone of his credo. It includes many autobiographical elements, and its hero Adrian seeks relief for his tormented soul in the Confessions of...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Eduardo Mallea was the second of three sons of Narciso S. Mallea, a physician, who endowed the boy with a sense of honesty, generosity, and compassion for the poor and who exercised a strong influence upon the future writer. In an autobiographical chapter of History of an Argentine Passion, Mallea expresses his admiration for his father and underscores his indebtedness to him for such important attributes as mental vigor, standing by his convictions, respect for education, and generosity; indeed, he indicates that family life centered on the father. When Eduardo was four, the family traveled to Europe, foreshadowing the many trips he would take as an adult and laying the foundation for his cosmopolitan perspective. Attending grammar school in Bahía Blanca, he was exposed to Anglo-Saxon discipline and the English language, which would be significant in his subsequent literary development.

Mallea abandoned law studies at the University of Buenos Aires after three years in favor of a literary career, perhaps as the result of his association with a group of young writers around 1922 who were planning to launch a magazine. This periodical, Revista de América, provided some of his apprenticeship editorial and writing experience and, although his contributions were limited, offered a forum for an exchange of literary views. Several short stories appeared in prestigious journals during the 1920’s, and about 1927, Mallea commenced his association with the daily La nación, which would last until the mid-1950’s and bring him considerable power among literary groups.

Mallea’s first assignment for La nación was to cover the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928, the same year he began to collaborate with Jorge Luis Borges in translating works of James Joyce. His rise to editorship of the literary supplement of La nación came in 1931. In 1944, he married Helena Muñóz Larreta, and in 1955 he resigned his editorial position to represent Argentina before UNESCO in Paris and in India the following year. His trip to India undoubtedly played a role in the inspiration of his novel Triste piel del universo (sad skin of the universe). Mallea died in Buenos Aires in 1982.