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Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958)


Spanish poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956. Jiménez made his birthplace, Moguer in Southern Spain, famous by his series of prose poems of a young writer and his donkey, Platero y yo (1914, Platero and I: an Andalusian Elegy), one of the classics of modern Spanish literature. Juan Ramón Jiménez's early works were often filled with dreams of love. During his second period, from 1917, he wrote "naked" poetry, in which the images were reduced to their essence. A central theme was the oneness and beauty of the world. Although in his time Jiménez exerted a wide influence on Spanish poets,  his literary status has not endured to the same degree as that of  Federico García Lorca.

If you would come, Platero, with the other children to the kindergarten you would learn the A, B, C, and you might even learn to write your name. You would learn as much as the donkey of the wax figurines—the friend of the little mermaid of the sea, who always appears crowned with cloth flowers, through the mirror that shows her, all pink, flesh and gold, in her green element—more even than the doctor and priest of Palos, Patero. (Platero and I: an Andalusian Elegy, 1907-1916, annotated edition, translation, notes and afterthoughts by Antonio T. de Nicolás, Shambhala Publications, 1978, p. 8)

Juan Ramón Jiménez was born in Moguer, the son of Victor Jiménez y Jiménez, a prosperous wine dealer, and Purificación Mantecón y Lopez Parejo. His first poems Jiménez produced at the age of seven. He attended a Jesuit Academy in Cádiz (1891-96), and then studied law at the University of Seville, showing there an interest in painting. However, Jiménez soon abandoned his studies, and also stopped painting, to devote himself entirely to literature.

Jiménez's first two books drew from the fin de siècle decadence. In 1900 he was invited to Madrid by the poets Francisco Villaespesa (1877-1935) and Rubén Darío (1867-1916), who had seen his verses in Vida nueva, a Madrid review. Darío, a Nicaraguan who lived long period of his life in Spain, had a deep influence on Jiménez's style, but his greatest allegiance was to Paul Verlaine. In the poem XLI of Palambras románticas (1906-12) he wrote: "¡Oh Beethoven!, ¡oh Verlaine!, ¡oh Schubert!" Jiménez became a member of the modernist literary circles and founded two literary reviews, Helios (1902) and Renacimiento (1906). Helios appeared for only one year, but it has much cultural-historical importance due to Jiménez's work.

When Jiménez's father died in 1900, he fell into a depression and returned to Moguer. By 1914, the family had lost most of their property. Jiménez's preoccupation with death lasted the rest of his life. Poetry was for him a means of struggling against nothingness. To recover from his first bout of mental illness, Jiménez was sent to a sanatorium in France. For a period he lived in the Madrid home of his principal doctor. Between the ages 24 and 31 he published nine volumes of poetry. Later he also revised early verses, trying to find perfection of expression, but knowing he would never reach it. Among the these collections were Almas de violeta (Violet Souls),  Ninfeas (Water Lilies), both from 1900, Rimas (1902), Arias tristes (1903, Sad Airs), Jardines lejanos (1904, Distant Gardens), and Pastorales (1905). They works reveal the poet's mastery of metaphor and skill in capturing impressionistic images of nature. Impressionism also fascinated him in painting and he often listened Beethoven's VIth symphony and piano sonatas.

From 1905 to 1911 Jiménez lived in Moguer and wrote several collections of poetry. In Elejías puras (1908) and Baladas de primavera (1910) Jiménez continued to experiment with different meters. He moved to Madrid in 1912, translated with Zenobia Camprubí Aymar the work of the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. Zenobia and Jiménez also admired greatly Robert Frost's verse. Zenobia was bilingual. Her favorite poets were Shakespeare, Lope de Vega and Calderon. She did not like Jimenéz's erotic poems. "Zenobia Camprubi was not a passionate woman." ('Juan Ramón Jiménez: Of Naked Poetry and The Master Poet (1916-1936)' by Graciela Palau de Nemes, Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature, Vol. 7, Iss. 2, 1983, p. 131)

The 1917 edition of the Platero and I, a pastoral prose poem, bore the subtitle "Elegía andaluza" (Andalusia Elegy). Platero follows the narrator on his trips to town and to countryside, its silent company is a contrast to his impessionistic thoughts. Its name ("silvery") refers to its color. The donkey is "small, fluffy, soft; so soft on the outside that one would say he is all cotton, that he carriers no bones. Only the jet-dark mirrors of his eyes are hard as two beetles of black chrystal." (Ibid., p. 3) At the end, after Platero's death he visits the donkey's grave, and asks: Platero, do you still remember me? "And as if answering my question, a light white butterfly I had not seen before, was insistently flying, like a soul, from lily to lily. . . ." (Ibid., p. 152) Full of hidden meanings and symbolism, the censors of the Franco regiment decided to play it safe and cancelled a film version of the book in the mid-1950s. Jean Giono's script based on the story from 1959 was never produced, but in the 1960s the Spanish director Alfredo Castellón finally managed to adapt the book into a movie.

In 1916, Jiménez sailed in pursuit of Zanobia Camprubi to New York, and married her. On the honeymoon Zenobia read her husband translations of American poets. This was the first crucial sea voyage in his life – the second happened in 1948. The sea, which led his thoughts to nothingness, inspired  Diario de un poeta recién casado (1917), which the author himself considered his finest work. With Zanobia, he lived in Madrid until 1936. 

Many of Jiménez verses from this period sound almost like prose. Eternidades meant a new direction in Jiménez's literary production. In Belleza (1923) Jiménez contemplated the writer's relationship to beauty. 

Jiménez worked from the 1910s for the next twenty years as a critic and editor at various literary journals. Juan Guerrero Ruiz (1893-1955) became his lifelong friend and worked as the secretary of Jiménez's short-lived  but remarkable literary review Indice (1921-1922), in which many young writers made their appearance.

Between 1916 and 1922, Jimenéz and Zanobia worked together in publishing over twenty translations of Tagore. The couple lived well. In 1928 Zanobia opened a handicraft shop, Arte Popular, in Madrid. Jiménez became the mentor Vicente Aleixandre's poetic generation. In the 1920s he also met in Madrid the young García Lorca, who studied law at the university.  However, Jiménez's contacts with the gifted "Generación del 27" deteriorated as he became increasingly dissatisfied with their work and his preoccupation with his own "obra" started to obsess him.

In the early and mid-thirties, Jiménez's unique position as a kind of supreme literary judge came into public debate. From 1923 to 1936 he did not publish any books of new poetry and broke with many of his loyal friends and protégés, among them Rafael Alberti (1902–99). After Pablo Neruda became a center of attention and the first edition of his Residencia en la tierra (1933) gained a huge success, Jiménez expressed his critical views on Neruda's poetry (Perfume and Poison: A Study of the Relationship between José Bergamín and Juan Ramón Jiménez by Nigel Dennis, 1985, p. 77). To keep his solitude, he would say to people who phoned him, "Juan Ramón is not at home today." When Buñuel, Dalí, and Lorca visited him in Madrid, he said that he saw in them the trio of the future. Afterwards they thanked Jiménez by calling him a son of a bitch in a letter and dragging his whole work through the mud, including Platero y yo.

After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Republican government appointed Jiménez honorary cultural attaché to the United States. From 1939, when Franco's forces won control of Spain, he remained abroad. For a period in the late 1930s, Jiménez had a residency in Cuba. In his introduction for La poesía cubana en 1936, he pointed out the influence of Walt Whitman, Edgar Lee Masters, Robert Frost, and Carl Sandburg on Cuban poets. At that time Jiménez regarded Frost and E.A. Robinson as America's most important poets. Moreover, in his Moguer library Jiménez had copies of two of Masters's collections of poetry: The Great Valley from 1916 and Toward the Gulf from 1918. He was also familiar with Spoon River Anthology.

Between  January 1939 and October 1942, Jiménez lived in Coral Gables, Florida, and moved then to the Washington are. Eventually, in 1951, he settled with his wife in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he lectured and gave classes at the university in Río Piedras. However, Jiménez never considered himself a writer in exile, but a servant of poetry. In 1956, three days before his wife died of ovarian cancer, Jiménez won the Nobel Prize. He never recovered and died in San Juan on May 29, 1958.  

Jiménez's poetic output was immense; he considered his whole oeuvre to be one huge unfinished poem, which he tirelessly rewrote. In Tercera antología poética (1957), his poetic summa, he collected 720 poems from all periods. Jiménez's other works include Sonetos espirituales 1914-1915 (1916), Piedra y cielo (1919), Poesía en verso 1917-1923 (1923), Poesía en prosa y verso  (1932), Voces de mi copla (1945), Animal de fondo (1947). La estación total (1946), which appeared in Buenos Aires, was ignored in Spain. Jiménez's last book was Dios deseando y deseante (1949, God Desired and Desiring), a testament and identification with all that is beautiful and creative in nature.

As a Platonist, Jiménez believed in a universal consciousness that existed apart from individual consciousness. Colors and music (music is a part of the natural world) were central to his work. In 'Listening to the Water' he wrote: "And I heard that music of water both more and less clearly at the same time, less because it was now no longer outside me but intimately mine; the water was my blood, my life and I heard the music of my life and my blood in the flowing water. Through the water I communicated with the interior world." (Selected Writings of Juan Ramón Jiménez, translated by H. R. Hays, edited with a preface by Eugenio Florit, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999, p. 139)

For further reading: Versos perdidos de Juan R. Jimenez by Antonio Martín Infante (2022); Studies in the Translations of Juan Ramón and Zenobia Jiménez by Charlotte Ward (2017); 'Juan Ramón Jiménez, Platero and I,' in Late Essays, 2006-2017 by J. M. Coetzee (2017); A Study Guide for Juan Ramon Jimenez's "Platero and I," project editor: Sara Constantakis (2016); 'Jiménez, Juan Ramón (1881-1958)' by Eric Reinholtz, in The Facts on File Companion to World Poetry: 1900 to the Present, edited by R. Victoria Arana (2008);  Juan Ramón Jiménez en su obra by Enrique Díez-Canedo (2007); Self and Image in Juan Ramón Jiménez by John Chapman Wilcox (1986); Perfume and Poison: A Study of the Relationship between José Bergamín and Juan Ramón Jiménez by Nigel Dennis (1985); 'Juan Ramón Jiménez: Of Naked Poetry and The Master Poet (1916-1936)' by Graciela Palau de Nemes, Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature, Volume 7, Issue 2 (1983); Word and Work in the Poetry of Juan Ramón Jiménez by Mervyn Coke-Enguidanos (1982); Vida y obra de Juan Ramón Jiménez by Graciela Palau de Nemes (1974, 2 vols.); Juan Ramón Jiménez by H.T. Young (1967); Circle of Time by Paul R. Olson (1967); La obra en prosa de Juan Ramón Jiménez by Michael P. Predmore (1966); Estudios sobre Juan Ramón Jiménez by Ricardo Gullón (1969); La segunda época de Juan Ramón Jiménez by Antonio Sánchez-Barbudo (1962); The Selected Writings of Juan Ramón Jiménez by H.R. Hays (1957)

Selected works:

  • Almas de violeta, 1900 [Violet Souls]
  • Ninfeas, 1900 [Water Lilies]
  • Rimas, 1902
  • Arias tristes, 1903 [Sad Arias]
  • Jardines lejanos, 1904 [Distant Gardens]
  • Pastorales, 1905
  • Elejías puras, 1908
  • Poemas mágicos y dolientes, 1909 [Poems of Magic and Pain]
  • Elejías intermedias, 1909
  • Olvidanzas, 1909 (ed. Francisco Garfías, 1968)
  • Las hojas verdes, 1909
  • Elejías lamentables, 1910
  • Baladas de primavera, 1910
  • La soledad sonora, 1911 [Audible Solitude]
  • Poemas agrestes, 1911 [Country Poems]
  • Poemas májicos y dolientes, 1911
  • Melancolía, 1912
  • Laberinto, 1913
  • Platero y yo, 1914 (illustrated by Baltasar Lobo)
    - Platero and I (translations by Eloïse Roach, 1957; William and Mary Roberts, 1956; Antonio T. de Nicolás, 1978; Stanley Appelbaum, 2004)
    - Harmo ja minä (suom. Tyyni Tuulio, 1957)
    -  film 1964, dir. Alfredo Castellón, starring Simon Martin,  María Cuadra,  José Calvo
  • Estío, 1915
  • Sonetos espirituales 1914-1915, 1916
    - Spiritual Sonnets (tr. Carl W. Cobb, 1996)
  •  Diario de un poeta recién casado, 1917 (rev. ed., Diario de poeta y mar, 1948, 1955)
    - 'Something So Close,' 'I Took off Petal After Petal,' 'Cemetery,' 'In the Subway,' 'Deep Night,' 'Author's Club,' 'Walt Whitman,' 'An Imitator of Billy Sunday,' 'Wrong Tim,' 'In New York,' 'Lavender Windpanes and White Curtains,' 'Remorse,' 'Night Piece' in Lorca & Jimenez, Selected Poems (tr. Robert Bly, 1973) / Diary of a Newlywed Poet: A Bilingual Edition (translation by Hugh A. Harter, 2004)
  • Poesias escogidas (1899-1917), 1917
  • Eternidades, 1918 [Eternities]
  • Piedra y cielo, 1919 [Stone and Sky]
  • Jinetes hacia el mar/J M Synge, 1920 (translator, with Z. Camprubí de Jiménez)
  • Segunda antolojía poética (1899-1918), 1922
  • Poesía, en verso, 1917-1923, 1923
  • Belleza, 1923
  • Unidad, 1925
  • Obra en marcha: diario poético, 1928
  • Sucesión, 1932
  • Poesía en prosa y verso, 1932
  • Presente, 1934
  • Canción, 1935
  • La estación total con las canciones de la nueva luz, 1936 [Total Season]
  • Política poética, 1936
  • Verso y prosa para niños, 1937
  • Ciego ante ciegos, 1938
  • Españoles de tres mundos, 1942
  • Antología poética, 1944
  • Voces de mi copla, 1945
  • La estación total con Las canciones de la nueva luz, 1946
  • El Zaratán, 1946
  • Diario de poeta y mar, 1948 (new version of Diario de un poeta reciéncasado)
  • Romances de Coral Gables, 1948 [Coral Gables Ballads]
  • Animal de fondo, 1949 [Animal of the Depths]
  • Dios deseando y deseante, 1949
    - God Desired and Desiring (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1987)
  • Fifty Spanish Poems, 1950 (translated by J.B. Trend)
  • Tercera antología poética, 1957
  • El Zaratán, 1957 (illustrated by Gregorio Prieto)
  • Selected Writings, 1957 (translated by H. R. Hays)
  • Libros de Poesía, 1957 (ed. Agustin Caballero)
  • Sonetos espirituales, 1914-1915 (ed. Ricardo Gullón)
  • Primeros libros de poesia, 1959  (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • La corriente infinita: crítica y evocación, 1961 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Por el cristal amarillo 1902-1954, 1961 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • El trabajo gustoso; conferencias, 1961 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Primeros libros de poesía, 1960 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Cuadernos, 1960 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Three Hudred Poems 1903-1953, 1962 (tr. Eloïse Roach)
  • Cartas: primera selección, 1962 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Primeras prosas 1890-1954, 1962 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • El Modernismo / Notas de un curso, 1953, 1962 (eds. Ricardo Gullón and Eugenio Fernández Mendez)
  • Libros inéditos de poesía, 1964 (2 vols., ed. Francisco Garfias)
  • La colina d elos chopos 1913-1928, 1965
  • Estética y ética estética, 1967 (ed. Francisco Garfias)
  • Forty Poems, 1967
  • Antología poética (1989-1953), 1971 (ed. Eugenio Florit)
  • Lorca and Jiménez: Selected Poems, 1973 (chosen and translated by Robert Bly)
  • El andarín de su órbita. Selección de prosa crítica, 1974 (ed. Francisco Garfias)
  • Jiménez and Machado, 1974 (translated by J.B. Trend and J.L. Gili)
  • Critica paralela, 1975 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • La obra desnuda, 1976 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
    - The Naked Book! (trans. Dennis Maloney, 1984)
  • Leyenda, 1978 (ed. A. Sánchez Romeralo)
  • Historias y cuentos, 1979 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • Sevilla en Juan Ramón Jiménez, 1981 (ed. Jorge Urrutia)
  • Prosas criticas, 1981 (ed. Pilar Gómez Bedate)
    - Stories of Life and Death (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1986)
  • Antología poética de Juan Ramón Jiménez (1898-1953), 1981 (ed. Eugenio Florit) 35 Poemas del mar, 1981 (ed. Luis Jiménez Martos)
  • Juan Ramón Jiménez en Cuba, 1981 (ed. Cintio Vitier)
  • "Isla de la simpatía, 1981 (ed. Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, Raquel Sárraga)
  • Política poética, 1982 (ed. Germán Bleiberg)
  • Poesía, 1982 (ed. Emilio de Armas)
  • Poesias últimas escojidas (1918-1958), 1982 (ed. Antonio Sánchez Romeralo)
  • Tiempo y espacio, 1982
    - Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1988)
  • Antología poética, 1983-1985 (3 vols., ed. Germán Bleiberg)
  • La realidad invisible (1917-1920, 1924), 1983
    - Invisible Reality (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1987)
  • Poesía en prosa y verso (1902-1932), 1984 (ed. Zenobia Camprubí)
  • Autobiografía y autocrítica, 1985 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • Guerra de España, 1936-1953, 1985 (ed. Angel Crespo)
  • Antología comentada, 1986 (ed. Antonio Sánchez Barbudo)
  • Cuadernos de Zenobia y Juan Ramón, 1987-1993 (vols. 1-2; 4-8, ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • Light and Shadows: Selected Poems and Prose of Juan Ramon Jimenez, 1987 (translated by Robert Bly et al.)
  • Seleccion de poemas, 1987 (ed. Gilbert Azam)
  • Antología poética, 1987 (ed. Javier Blasco)
  • Poesia, arbol joven y eterno, 1988 (ed. Carmen Bravo-Villasante)
  • Antología poética, 1988 (ed. Carmen Jiménez and Eduardo Márquez)
  • Y para recordar por qué he venido, 1990 (ed. Francisco Javier Blasco)
  • Selección de prosa lírica, 1990 (ed. Francisco Javier Blasco Pascual)
  • Metamórfosis, 1990- (4 vols., ed. Antonio Sánchez Romeralo)
  • The Complete Perfectionist, 1997 (edited and translated by Christopher Maurer)
  • Verso y prosa, 1991 (ed. Esperanza Ortega)
  • Cartas: Antología, 1992 (ed.  Francisco Garfias)
  • La estación total con Las canciones de la nueva lu (1923-1926), 1994
  • Diario de un poeta reciencasado: 1916, 1998 (ed. Michael O. Predmore)
  • Unidad, 1999  (ed. Diego Martínez Torrón)
  • La realidad invisible, 1999  (ed. Diego Martínez Torrón)
  • La muerte, 1999 (ed. Diego Martínez Torrón)
  • El modernismo: Apuntes de curso, 1953, 1999 (ed. Jorge Urrutia)
  • Lírica de una Atlántida: 1936-1954, 1999 (ed. Alfonso Alegre Heitzmann)
  • Bonanza, 2000 (ed. Ana Recio Mir)
  • Antología poética, 2001 (ed. José Lupiáñez)
  • Libros de Madrid: Prosa, 2001 (ed. José Luis López Bretones)
  • Sevilla, 2002 (ed. Rogelio Reyes Cano)
  • Olvidados de Granada, 2002 (ed. Manuel Angel Vázquez Medel)
  • Una colina meridiana: 1942-1950, 2003 (ed. Alfonso Alegre Heitzmann)
  • Primeros poemas, 2003 (ed. Jorge Urrutia)
  • Obra poética, 2005 (2 vols., ed. Javier Blasco and Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Rimas: 1900-1902, 2006 (ed. Javier Blasco)
  • Poemas: borradores inéditos, 2006 (foreword by Francisco J. Flores Arroyelo)
  • Música de otros, 2006 (edited by Soledad Gonzáles Ródenas)
  • Leyenda, 1986-1956, 2006 (2. ed., edited by Antonio Sánchez Romeralo)
  • Epistolario, 2006- (edited by Alfonso Alegre Heitzmann)
  • Ellos: Libro inédito, 2006 (edited by José Antonio Expósito Hernández)
  • Correspondencia Juan Ramón Jiménez / Guillermo de Torre, 1920-1956, 2006 (edited by Carlos García)
  • Animal de fondo (1949), 2006 (edited by Carlos León Liquete)
  • Obras, 2006-2009
  • Eternidades: 1916-1917: Nueva y Original Edición, 2007 (edited by Emilio Ríos)
  • Antología de prosa lírica, 2007 (edited by Ma. Ángeles Sanz Manzano)
  • Aforismos, 2007 (edited byAndrés Trapiello)
  • Vida y Muerte de Mamá Pura, 2008 (edited by Enrique Pérez Benito)
  • Dios deseado y deseante: (animal de fondo): libro completo y solo, 1948-49/53, 2008 (edited by Rocío Bejarano and Joaquín Llansó)
  • Diario de un poeta recién casado, 1916, 2008 (edited by Javier Blasco)
  • Cuentos largos y otras prosas narrativas breves, 2008  (edited by Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Baladas de primavera (1907), 2009 (edited by Javier Blasco)
  • Primeras prosas (1898-1908), 2009 (edited by Antonio Sánchez Trigueros)
  • Prosa lírica, 2009- (edited by Javier Blasco and Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Laberinto: 1910-1911, 2009 (edited byCarlos Martin Aires)
  • Guerra de España: Prosa y verso (1936-1954), 2009 (ed. Angel Crespo)
  • Estío: (a punta de espina) (1913-1915), 2009 (edited by Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Españoles de tres mundos, 2009 (edited by Javier Blasco and Francisco Díaz de Castro)
  • Cuadermos: 1925 (Unidad), 2009 (edited by José Antonio Expósito)
  • Baladas para después (1914-1915), 2010 (edited by Fernando García Lara)
  • Sonetos espirituales, 1914-1915, 2010 (edited by Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Conferencias. II, 2010 (edited by Javir Blasco and F. Silvera)
  • Arias tristes: 1903, 2010 (edited by Carmen Morán Rodríguez)
  • Alerta, 2010 (edited by Javier Blasco)
  • Ala compasiva, 2010 (edited by José Ramón Gonzáles, et al.)
  • Poesías escogidas I (1908-1912), 2011 (ed. Francisco Silvera)
  • Silencio de oro, 1911-1913: libro inédito, 2017 (edición critica, introducción y notas, José Antonio Expósito Hernández)
  • Diario de un poeta reciencasado (1916): nueva edición con un apéndice que incluye más de 60 textos inéditos, 2017 (edición de Michael P. Predmore)
  • Aforismos e ideas líricas, 2018 (edición de José Luis Morante)
  • Lírica de una Atlántida: (1936-1954), 2019 (edición renovada de Alfonso Alegre Heitzmann)
  • Piedra y cielo, 2020 (edición de Jorge Urritia)
  • Poemas impersonales, 2020 (edición de Soledad González Ródenas)
  • Diario íntimo, 2022 (edición de Soledad González Ródenas)
  • Pureza, 2022 (edición de Rocío Fernández Berrocal)

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