Horacio Quiroga

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Though famous to readers of Spanish American literature exclusively for his short fiction, Horacio Quiroga wrote, to a limited degree and with equally limited success, in other forms as well. He published two novels, Historia de un amor turbio (1908; story of a turbulent love) and Pasado amor (1929; past love), as well as one theatrical work. He also included poems in his first book, Los arrecifes de coral (coral reefs), a work written in the fin de siècle tradition of Spanish American modernism and completely anti-Quiroga in both style and content. He also wrote literary criticism and theory. His most famous (at least among experts in Spanish American fiction) foray into this particular area was a handful of articles that he wrote for the magazine El Hogar (the hearth), in which he discussed the theory and practice of writing short stories.


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Horacio Quiroga holds much the same position in Spanish American literature as does Edgar Allan Poe in North American letters. Like Poe, whom Quiroga admired and who influenced the Uruguayan writer’s work significantly, Quiroga dedicated his literary efforts almost entirely to the short-story genre, and in the process he not only penned some of the most famous and most anthologized stories to be found in Spanish American literature but also wrote about the genre, even offering a decalogue of suggestions to other writers on how they should approach writing the short story. These suggestions appeared in his essay “Manual del perfecto cuentista” (manual for the perfect short-story writer), published in El Hogar on April 10, 1925.

Quiroga is without a doubt one of the most highly regarded and most widely read short-story writers in the history of Spanish American literature and is considered by most to be the foremost Spanish American short-story writer prior to the arrival of Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and other writers of the so-called new narrative on the Spanish American literary scene. While critical interest in Quiroga diminished during the Borges and post-Borges eras, the Uruguayan writer’s popularity among readers did not—all of which, perhaps, is just as well, for Quiroga’s stories, with rare exception the highly polished gems of a consummate short-story writer, lend themselves far more to reader enjoyment than to literary criticism.


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Brushwood, John S. “The Spanish American Short Story from Quiroga to Borges.” The Latin American Short Story: A Critical History, edited by Margaret Sayers Peden. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Brushwood dedicates most of the first four pages of this twenty-six-page chapter to Quiroga. The critic comments on Quiroga’s place in the Spanish American short story, discusses the Uruguayan writer’s decalogue for the perfect short-story writer, and considers various aspects of the stories “The Decapitated Chicken,” “Juan Darién,” and “The Dead Man.” Contains interesting although brief commentary.

Englekirk, John. “Horacio Quiroga.” In Edgar Allan Poe in Hispanic Literature. New York: Instituto de las Españas, 1934. In a lengthy study of Edgar Allan Poe’s influence on numerous Spanish and Spanish American writers, Englekirk dedicates his longest chapter (twenty-nine pages) to Poe’s influence on Quiroga. The critic discusses Poe’s influence in some of the most obviously Poesque stories in Quiroga’s repertoire but finds Poe’s influence in many other stories as well, stories not usually thought of as influenced by Poe. An interesting read.

Peden, William. “Some Notes on Quiroga’s Stories.” Review 19 (Winter, 1976): 41-43. Peden reviews the chief characteristics of Quiroga’s stories and briefly refers to a number of stories that contain these characteristics. Succinct and on target, though perhaps equally if not more useful for its presentation in English translation of Quiroga’s decalogue of the “Perfect...

(This entire section contains 562 words.)

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Short Story Writer.” Published as part of a twenty-page “Focus” section on Quiroga.

Pupo-Walker, Enrique. “The Brief Narrative in Spanish America: 1835-1915.” In The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature. Vol. 1, edited by Robert González Echevarria and Enrique Pupo-Walker. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Provides a valuable historical and cultural context for Quiroga by charting the development of short narrative in Spanish America in the nineteenth century, from the early sketches of customs and manners and the influence of Edgar Allan Poe through the early part of the twentieth century.

San Roman, Gustavo. “Amor Turbio, Paranoia, and the Vicissitudes of Manliness in Horacio Quiroga.” The Modern Language Review 90 (October, 1995): 919-934. Discusses the theme of love in Quiroga’s fiction, focusing on the novella Historia de un amor turbio; comments on the links between the story and paranoia; argues that Quiroga’s texts are more of a victim than of a self-controlled author.

Schade, George D. “Horacio Quiroga.” In Latin American Literature in the Twentieth Century: A Guide, edited by Leonard S. Klein. New York: Ungar, 1986. Largely a three-page version of Schade’s introduction to Margaret Sayers Peden’s The Decapitated Chicken, and Other Stories, listed below. Provides concise discussion of the writer’s life, career, and chief characteristics and limited consideration of specific stories. Includes a list of “Further Works” (most in Spanish) by Quiroga and a brief bibliography (most in Spanish).

Schade, George D. Introduction to The Decapitated Chicken, and Other Stories. Edited and translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1976. In this ten-page introduction to Peden’s English-language collection of twelve of Quiroga’s most famous stories, Schade provides an introduction to Quiroga for the uninitiated reader, discussing the writer’s life and career as well as the chief characteristics of his works. In the process, he comments briefly on the stories included in the collection, among them “The Feather Pillow,” “The Decapitated Chicken,” “Drifting,” “Juan Darién,” “The Dead Man,” “Anaconda,” and “The Son.”


Critical Essays