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||Vicente Aleixandre (1898-1984)|
Spanish poet, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1977. Vicente Aleixandre has been called an existentialist, a mystic pantheist, and a neoromantic. Although Aleixandre did not consider himself an orthodox surrealist, his poems contained surrealistic images and Freudian subconscious associations. Central motifs are erotic love, solitude, time, and death. From his mid-20s, Alexaindre suffered from kidney tuberculosis.
"The poet, the truly determinative poet, is always a revealer; he is, essentially, a seer, a prophet. But his "prophecy" is of course not a prophecy about the future; for it may have to do with the past: it is a prophecy without time. Illuminator, aimer of light, chastiser of mankind, the poet is the possessor of a Sesame which in a mysterious way is, so to speak, the word of his destiny." (from Nobel Lecture, 1977)
Vicente Aleixandre was born in Seville into a well-to-do family. He was the only son of Cirilo Aleixander Ballester, a civil engineer, and Elvira Merlo Garcia de Pruneda, the daughter of the district military superintendent; she died in 1934. Aleixandre grew up in Málaga, and later depicted its sunny landscape in his poems. After moving in 1909 with his parents and sister to Madrid, Aleixandre attended the Colegio Teresiano, from which he received his high school diploma in 1913. The following year he entered the University of Madrid, where he studied law. Upon graduation in 1920, he became an assistant professor at the School of Mercantile Management in Madrid. He then worked for the Andalusian Railways, and wrote poetry for his own pleasure.
In his late 20s, Aleixandre started to have serious problems with
his health. He became semi-invalid in a few years and retired to his
father's house in the countryside. There he evoted himself entirely to
writing. "Solitude and meditation gave me an awareness, a perspective
which I have never lost: that of solidarity with the rest of mankind."
Withdrawn and in delicate health, Aleixandre wrote secretly until his
first poems were published by friends in 1926 in the magazine Revista
The next year Aleixandre settled in a small villa on
the northern outskirts of Madrid, where he spent the rest of his life.
Before turning to poetry, most of his reading focused on history
and the nineteenth-century realists.
Aleixandre's early works, which appeared in 'little magazines' flourishing throughout Spain, were written under the influence of Darío, Antonio Machado, and Juan Ramón Jiménez. In 1928 he made his debut with Ámbito (Ambit), a crystalline collection of poems of nature and love. The poems are arranged in a series of sequences and explore a world in which real things disintegrate.
Around this time
Alexaindre started to read the works of Sigmund
Freud, whose influence is seen in the collection Pasión de la tierra (1935). Other writers the Generation of 1927 read and discussed included James Joyce and the French surrealists.
destrucción o el amor (1935) was about erotic love and death –
it is considered Aleixandre's poetic masterpiece and one of the most
intense works of all 20th-century Hispanic poetry. In these early
collections the central vision was, in the author's words, "the amorous
unity of the universe". A poem about a heroic Republican soldier, printed in 1936 in Rafael Alberti's El mono azul (The Blue Monkey), was later used as a proof of his disloyalty against Franco's government.
In 1933 Aleixandre won the Premio Nacional de literatura. Like
others of the Generación del 27 (Generation of 1927) in Spain (Federico García Lorca,
Rafael Alberti, Luis
Cernuda, Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillén), Aleixandre went through a
surrealistic period in the 1930s. During the Spanish Civil War
Aleixandre lived in the Republican zone. Tubercular nephritis kept him
bedfast. The family home was destroyed
in bombings. Aleixandre's house was near the University of Madrid, on Calle Velingtonia. Lorca
had visited the house, nicknamed "Casa de los poetas" (House of the
Poets), on several occasions. Also Neruda was a regular caller. Most of
figures of the Generation of 1927 left Spain, but Aleixandre stayed
in Madrid due to the chronic kidney disease from which he had suffered
from since his youth. Of his closest friends, only the poet and
literary critic Dámaso Alonso remained in Spain. Lorca was murdered by
Never submitting to Franco's regime, and known for his political indepencence, Aleixandre's works were not printed for some time. After the ban was lifted, he published several collections of poems. Sombra del Paraíso (1944, Shadow of Paradise), which he had began already in 1939, anticipated many of the themes of his later works. In this collection pleasure and pain are mixed with nostalgia for paradise lost. "Yes, poet, love and grief are your kingdom. / Yours is mortal flesh that quickened by the spirit / blazes in the night or rises up at mighty noon, / immense prophetic tongue that licking at the sky / illumines words that bring death to men." (from 'The Poet') "Sí, poeta: el amor y el dolor son tu reino / Carne mortal la tuya, que, arrebatada por el espíritu, / arde en la noche o se eleva en el mediodía poderoso, / immensa lengua profética que lamiendo los cielos / ilumina palabras que dan muerte a los hombres."
Mundo a solas, written in the 1930s, was published in 1950. Historia del corazón (1954) focused on human solidarity. In En un vasto dominio (1962) Aleixandre connected the theme of death with a cosmic and historical framework. In the experimental Diálogos del conocimiento (1974) two people confront one another, one speaker always talks of hope and struggle, and the other of desolation and renunciation. Where is truth, Aleixandre asks. Can one reach it?
never married and never made public his own sexual
orientation. According to the poet Luis Antonio de Villena and the
journalist, novelist and playwright Vicente Molina Foix, the
issue was a delicate matter with him. ('Aleixandre, Vicente (1898-1984)' by Alberto Mira, in Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day, edited by Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, 2001, pp. 7-8)
He lived a fairly uneventful life but his house on Calle Velingtonia
(now renamed Calle de Vicente Aleixandre) was the mecca for aspiring
young writers. The house is noted for the ceder tree Alexaindre planted
in the garden in 1927.
Over the years, Aleixandre emerged from his inner exile every now and then to speak against totalitarianism, repression, and censorship. In 1949 he was elected to the Royal Academy of the Language, which secured his position as a writer of national stature. Nevertheless, he was nearly imprisoned by the regime when General Jorge Vigón, Minister of Agriculture, accused him of being a communist. Aleixandre received the Critics Prize in 1963, 1969, and 1975. Too weak to attend the Nobel ceremonies, Aleixandre was represented by his friend and younger colleague, the poet and translator Justo Jorge Padron (b. 1943). Aleixandre died of kidney failure in Madrid on December 14, in 1984.
For further reading: 'City of Paradise' by Eric Reinholtz, in Encyclopedia of World Poetry: 1900 to the Present by R. Victoria Arana (2013); Vicente Aleixandre's Stream of Lyric Consciousness by Daniel Murphy (2001); 'Vicente Aleixandre (Merlo) 1898-1984' by Michael P. Iarocci, in Encyclopedia of Literary Translation Into English: Volume I: A-L, edited by Olive Classe (2000); 'Aleixandre ,Vicente,' in Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Vol. 1, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999); 'Introduction' by Hugh A. Harter, in Shadow of Paradise by Vicente Aleixandre (1987); Vicente Aleixandre: A Critical Appraisal by S. Daydi-Tolson (1981); Critical Views on Vicente Aleixandre by V. Cabrera and H. Boyer (1979); Vida y obra de Vicente Aleixandre by L. de Luis (1978); La Poesía de Vicente Aleixandre by C. Bousoño (1977); La parola poetica di Vicente Aleixandre by D. Puccini (1976); Cinco Poetas del Tiempo by J.O. Jiménez (1972); Vicente Aleixandre by K. Schwartz (1970); The Surrealist Mode in Spanish Literature by P. Ilie (1968)