Other literary forms
The fame of Rubén Darío (dah-REE-oh) rests primarily on his poetry, but he wrote serious prose as well. Azul (azure), his first major publication, contained poems and short stories alike. Both the poetry and the prose portions were widely acclaimed, but Darío’s mature work includes almost no fiction. He published several volumes of essays based on his experience as a foreign correspondent, a traveler, and a diplomat, and two such collections have gained international attention: La caravana pasa (1903; the caravan passes) was among the earliest chronicles of the experience of American artists in Paris, while Tierras solares (1904; the sunny lands) is a collection of affectionate and melancholy essays celebrating the countryside of southern Spain, which Darío considered the common ground of Spanish and Latin American history. Darío also published literary criticism, political commentary, an autobiography, and exegeses of his own works.
The most famous of Darío’s critical works is Historias de mis libros (1914; stories of my books), a compilation of three explanatory pieces he wrote about his greatest works of poetry, Azul, Prosas Profanas, and Other Poems, and Cantos de vida y esperanza, los cisnes, y otros poemas. In Historias de mis libros, he responded to the most frequent criticism of his work, that he had abandoned the traditional themes of Latin America in pursuit of a European art. He branded the criticism “myopic” and answered that the literature of the New World needed no more stylized odes to nature or patriotic battle hymns.
Rubén Darío was a giant of Spanish-language literature and a pioneer of the literature of the American continents. One of the founders of the indigenous Latin American literary movement known as Modernismo, Darío introduced European influences—particularly from France—to the poetry of Latin America, but perhaps more important, he introduced the Modernismo of Latin America to Europe. His dramatic innovations in theme, language, meter, and rhyme influenced the poetry of both the New World and the Old.
The publication of Azul in 1888 was acclaimed by European as well as South American critics, and the book’s title was adopted by the Azure Review, a Mexican journal that became a principal forum for South America’s experimental Modernista poetry. When Darío was only twenty-one years old, the influential Madrid critic Juan Valera praised the Nicaraguan’s “singular artistic and poetic talent” and the “pure Spanish form” of his writing. With the publication of later works, Darío’s renown grew, and he was widely acknowledged as a spokesperson for Latin American culture.
Darío was a colorful public figure, equally at home in Paris, Madrid, and Latin America. He traveled constantly and was acquainted with literary figures throughout Europe and Latin America. He exerted a profound cultural influence through his poetry, his literary criticism, and his journalism. At the height of his fame, he was Nicaragua’s minister to Spain; an internationally celebrated lecturer, poet, and journalist; and an éminence grise among artists of Europe and the Americas. In a 1934 tribute, Chile’s Pablo Neruda and Spain’s Federico García Lorca pronounced Darío “the poet of America and Spain.”
Discuss circumstances or personal traits in Rubén Darío’s life that shaped his work.
Describe artistic elements in Darío’s work that reflect Modernismo.
Identify some themes that recur in Darío’s work.
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