Eduardo Mallea Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his novels, Eduardo Mallea (mah-YAY-ah) published a number of short stories and novellas, as well as several volumes of essays and travel books. Critics have observed that the novellas and stories can be considered brief renditions of existentialist struggles, featuring solitary characters whose lives are aimless movements in anguish and alienation. Mallea’s best-known collection of essays is Conocimiento y expresión de la Argentina (1935; knowledge and expression of Argentina), a slender volume whose point of departure is a series of lectures delivered in Italy. Essentially, it is an attempt to analyze and describe homo americanus. The writer’s first literary effort, the collection of shortnarratives Cuentos para una inglesa desesperada (1926; stories for a desperate Englishwoman), gave early evidence of his aesthetic sensitivity and refinement.

In addition to short fiction and the essays on history, philosophy, and travel (some of which found their way into his long fiction), Mallea published literary criticism. Historia de una pasión argentina (1937; History of an Argentine Passion, 1983), his most important essay, stands as the cornerstone of his philosophical and literary credo. In this somewhat autobiographical volume, a troubled young Mallea investigates the authentic, invisible Argentina, submerged under its many ills, and attempts to expose them to find the spirit of the nation. The method is self-examination; the symptoms of the national illness include confusion of values, with ends more important than means; cultural snobbishness; feelings of inferiority; lack of authenticity, forcing people to don a mask to meet others; and an assault on the Spanish language, which Mallea perceived as continuously violated. La vida blanca (1960; the sterile life) reiterates the motif of a need for a national culture incorporating the spiritual foundations and traditional values already noticed in History of an Argentine Passion. La guerra interior (1963; the inner war) and Poderío de la novela (1965; the power of the novel) are critical essays in which Mallea treats his own works as well as those of American and European writers, particularly those of the beginning of the twentieth century.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Eduardo Mallea was among Latin America’s most prolific writers, with his novels and essays amounting to a total of more than thirty volumes, to which should be added his brief fiction. Both as an essayist and as a cultivator of fiction, he was prominent in Argentina during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Mallea’s significant literary activities also included editing the literary supplement of La nación, Argentina’s most important and influential newspaper, by which he exercised considerable influence upon the country’s literary scene up to 1955, when he accepted a position in Paris with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

From the 1940’s onward, Mallea received many prestigious literary prizes, including the Primer Premio Nacional de Letras (1945) and the Gran Premio de Honor de la Sociedad Argentina de Escritores (1946). He also won the Forti Glori Prize (1968) and the Gran Premio Nacional de las Artes (1970).


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Chapman, Arnold. “Terms of Spiritual Isolation in Eduardo Mallea.” Modern Language Forum 37 (1952): 21-27. An insightful study of Mallea’s use of metaphor.

Dudgeon, Patrick. Eduardo Mallea: A Personal Study of His Work. Buenos Aires: Agonia, 1949. Brief but useful for its discussions of Fiesta in November and The Bay of Silence.

Lewald, H. Ernest. Eduardo Mallea. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A sound introduction covering Mallea’s formative period, his handling of passion, his cosmopolitan spirit, his national cycle, and his last fictional works. Includes chronology, notes, and annotated bibliography.

Lichtblau, Myron I. Introduction to History of an Argentine Passion, by Eduardo Mallea. Translated by Lichtblau. Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1983. This introduction to the first English translation of a Mallea essay provides an excellent overview of his place in Spanish American fiction. Lichtblau includes an excellent bibliography.

Polt, John H. The Writings of Eduardo Mallea. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959. Polt discusses Mallea’s essays and fiction through the mid-1950’s. A thorough study.

Shaw, Donald L. Introduction to Todo verdor perecerá, by Eduardo Mallea. Edited by Shaw. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press, 1968. Cited as an outstanding interpretation.

Shaw, Donald L. “Narrative Technique in Mallea’s La bahía de silencio.” Symposium 20 (1966): 50-55. One of the few studies of this kind in English.

Stabb, Martin S. In Quest of Identity: Patterns in the Spanish American Essay of Ideas, 1890-1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967. Although Stabb devotes a section mainly to Mallea’s essays, his comments provide helpful background for the fiction as well.