José Asunción Silva Criticism - Essay

G. Dundas Craig (essay date 1934)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Craig, G. Dundas. “José Asunción Silva.” In The Modernist Trend in Spanish-American Poetry, pp. 251-54. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1934.

[In the following essay, Craig discusses Silva as a member of the group of Spanish-American writers associated with the early Modernist movement.]

José Asunción Silva was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1865, and died there in 1896. He is properly regarded as one of the precursors of the Modernist movement, and is so grouped along with Julián del Casal, Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, and José Martí by Arturo Torres-Ríoseco in his volume, Precursores del modernismo (Madrid, 1925). Blanco Fombona has...

(The entire section is 1633 words.)

Donald McGrady (essay date 1966)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

McGrady, Donald. “Two Unknown Poems by José Asunción Silva.” MLN 81, no. 2 (March 1966): 233-37.

[In the following essay, McGrady reviews two previously undiscovered poems by Silva, first printed in the Bogotá newspaper Gil Blas upon the sixteenth anniversary of Silva's death.]

The works of José Asunción Silva are only partially and imperfectly known. Silva published a small portion of his total production during his lifetime, and most of his extant poems were published posthumously by friends or descendants. These friends and relatives did not always respect the poet's work, but frequently retouched those passages that they considered unsuitable....

(The entire section is 1883 words.)

Jack Roberts (essay date 1972)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Roberts, Jack. “Life and Death in the Poetry of José Asunción Silva.” The Southern Quarterly 10, no. 2 (January 1972): 137-65.

[In the following essay, Roberts examines the pessimism and sense of futility that characterized Silva's life and work, pointing to the influence of Comte and Schopenhauer on his poetry.]

When any man takes his life, it is a tragic event, but if that man happens to be a promising literary figure, the public seems particularly shocked, and, doubtless, many wonder what could have compelled him to such a choice. José Asunción Silva is usually considered the most pessimistic of the modernists. There is within his work a deep...

(The entire section is 9806 words.)

Betty Tyree Osiek (essay date 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Osiek, Betty Tyree. “De Sobremesa: Silva's Modernist Novel.” In José Asunción Silva, pp. 94-139. Boston: Twayne, 1978.

[In the following essay, Osiek provides a complete plot summary and textual history of Silva's only novel and discusses its autobiographical elements and prominent themes.]


The single novel written by José Asunción Silva … was lost in the sinking of the ship L'Amerique, on his return from Caracas. But when his friend Hernando Villa, who feared Silva was going to commit suicide, asked him to rewrite one of the lost manuscripts, Silva allowed his friend to choose the one he...

(The entire section is 18457 words.)

Mark I. Smith (essay date 1982)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Smith, Mark I. “José Asunción Silva: The Literary Landscape.” Romance Quarterly 29, no. 3 (1982): 283-92.

[In the following essay, Smith examines the influence of Victor Hugo and other contemporary French and American writers on Silva's poetry.]

The work of José Asunción Silva represents such a fine synthesis of the influences he suffered and his own original perception that there are no seams discernible. As Bernardo Gicovate has observed, “La asimilación de ideas y procedimientos heterogéneos y la absorción completa de sus lecturas en una obra variada a pesar de su exigüedad, no permite fácilmente el encuentro de reminiscencias que guíen en el...

(The entire section is 3991 words.)

Lily Litvak (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Litvak, Lily. “José Asunción Silva (1865-1896).” In Latin American Writers, Vol. 1, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu, pp. 377-85. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989.

[In the following essay, Litvak praises Silva's accomplishments as a Modernist poet, claiming that his skill in evoking the subtleties of the Spanish language was superb.]

The author Miguel de Unamuno, in his prologue to the 1908 edition of Poesías by José Asunción Silva, commented,

How is it possible to reduce to ideas a pure poetry, one in which the words taper, thin, and fade to the point of becoming cloudlike, whirled...

(The entire section is 5752 words.)

Julia Palmer (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Palmer, Julia. “Some Aspects of Narrative Structure in José Asunción Silva's De Sobremesa.Revista Interamericana de Bibliografia 41, no. 3 (1991): 470-77.

[In the following essay, Palmer identifies and describes the organizing patterns of Silva's novel.]

It has only been within the last few years that critics have begun to re-examine the previously somewhat maligned modernista novel De sobremesa. Initially, José Asunción Silva's story of a young poet and his anguished search for something to bring meaning to his life was not particularly well received. A close friend of Silva, Baldomiro Sanín Cano, stated, “es inferior a su...

(The entire section is 3915 words.)

Aileen Dever (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dever, Aileen. “The Experience of Radical Insufficiency.” In The Radical Insufficiency of Human Life: The Poetry of R. de Castro and J. A. Silva, pp. 7-38. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2000.

[In the following essay, Dever compares the work of two nineteenth-century Spanish American poets, noting that the work of both was characterized by disillusionment and an awareness of human limitations.]

Rosalía de Castro and José Asunción Silva express eternal concerns about the meaning of life and death, anticipating many themes of the existentialists. Both are writers in transition who lived in a century characterized by political chaos and ideological strife. In...

(The entire section is 15140 words.)