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Alfonso Reyes

Alfonso Reyes Alfonso Reyes[2†]

Alfonso Reyes Ochoa (May 17, 1889 - December 27, 1959) was a distinguished Mexican writer, philosopher, and diplomat[1†][2†]. He was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, and passed away in Mexico City[1†][2†]. Reyes was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature five times and is acclaimed as one of the greatest authors in the Spanish language[1†][2†][3†].

Early Years and Education

Alfonso Reyes Ochoa was born on May 17, 1889, in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico[2†]. He was the ninth of the twelve children of General Bernardo Reyes Ogazón, Governor of the State of Nuevo León and the Secretary of War and Navy of President Porfirio Díaz[2†]. His mother was Aurelia Ochoa-Garibay y Sapién, a member of a prominent family of Jalisco[2†].

Reyes received his early education at various colleges in Monterrey, including El Liceo Francés de México and El Colegio Civil de Monterrey[2†]. His intellectual curiosity and love for literature were evident from a young age. In 1909, while still a student, he helped to found the Ateneo de la Juventud, a group of young intellectuals that included Martín Luis Guzmán, José Vasconcelos, Julio Torri, and Pedro Enríquez Ureña[2†]. This group aimed to promote new cultural and aesthetic ideals and educational reform in Mexico[2†].

Reyes later attended the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria and graduated from the La Escuela Nacional de Jurisprudencia, which later became the law school at UNAM, in 1913[2†]. His first book, “Cuestiones estéticas,” was published in 1911, establishing his reputation in the literary world[2†].

The early years of Reyes’s life were marked by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for literature, which would shape his future career as a writer, philosopher, and diplomat[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Alfonso Reyes’s career was marked by his contributions as a writer, philosopher, diplomat, and educator[1†][2†]. After receiving his law degree in 1913, he began his diplomatic career in Paris[1†]. However, the outbreak of World War I led him to move to Madrid, Spain, where he pursued a literary career as a journalist, investigator, translator, critic, and writer[1†][2†].

During his time in Spain, from 1914 to 1919, he studied and taught at the Centro de Estudios Históricos[1†]. He served in the Mexican diplomatic service in Spain from 1920 to 1927 and as ambassador to Argentina in 1927 and again from 1936 to 1937[1†]. He also served as ambassador to Brazil from 1930 to 1936 and from 1938 to 1939[1†]. Throughout his diplomatic career, he was frequently a cultural representative of Mexico at various international conferences[1†].

Reyes distinguished himself in both scholarly and creative works, excelling in poetry and prose[1†]. His poetic essay “Visión de Anáhuac” (1917), the dialogues and sketches of “El plano oblicuo” (1920), and the essays of “Reloj de sol” (1926) showcase the diversity of his forms and themes[1†]. He specialized in classical Greek literature and Spanish literature of the Golden Age, and he translated English and French works into Spanish[1†]. He also wrote general works such as “La experiencia literaria” (1942), a theory of literature[1†].

Upon his retirement from the diplomatic service in 1939, Reyes returned permanently to Mexico[1†]. His position as the master of Mexican letters was virtually unchallenged, and he continued to be active in public life and in education while maintaining a vast literary output until his death[1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Alfonso Reyes was a prolific writer, with a diverse range of works that spanned across genres. Here are some of his main works:

Reyes’s works have been acclaimed for their originality, depth, and stylistic elegance. His contributions to literature extend beyond his own works, as he also translated English and French works into Spanish[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Alfonso Reyes was not only a prolific writer but also a distinguished critic and artist. His most significant work in literary theory and criticism, “El deslinde”, is concerned with establishing lines of demarcation between literature, history, and science[5†]. It also considers the relationship of literature with mathematics and religion[5†].

In “El deslinde”, Reyes reveals his ideas concerning the essence of literature and of literary criticism[5†]. He does not establish a rigid system for literary criticism but emphasizes the elasticity of treatment that should be accorded to literary norms and concepts[5†]. According to Reyes, each work demands its own method, and there are no recipes for creating beauty[5†].

Reyes’s approach to criticism is apparent in his comprehensive critique, which seeks to illuminate the work in its entirety[5†]. He treats not only the writer’s style but also considers the reasons why the writer was predisposed to write in that way[5†]. This humanist belief that man’s destiny is a search for the truth is evident in Reyes’s critique[5†].

Reyes’s contributions to modern literary criticism are significant, especially considering that his book “El deslinde” was written in 1944, predating many other notable works in the field[5†]. Despite this, his ideas are not spelled out in the same way as they are in these later books, but have to be gleaned from his arguments throughout the work[5†].

Personal Life

Alfonso Reyes was born into a prominent family. He was the ninth of the twelve children of General Bernardo Reyes Ogazón, Governor of the State of Nuevo León and the Secretary of War and Navy of President Porfirio Díaz[2†]. His mother was Aurelia Ochoa-Garibay y Sapién, a member of a prominent family of Jalisco[2†].

Reyes was married to Manuela Mota Gómez[2†]. They had a son named Alfonso Bernardo Reyes Mota[2†]. Despite his extensive diplomatic career and literary pursuits, Reyes managed to maintain a balance between his professional and personal life.

Reyes was known for his intellectual curiosity and his love for literature, which was evident not only in his professional work but also in his personal life. He was a voracious reader and had a deep appreciation for art and culture[2†][1†].

Reyes passed away on December 27, 1959, in Mexico City[2†][1†]. His legacy continues to live on through his extensive body of work and his contributions to Mexican literature and diplomacy[2†][1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Alfonso Reyes is remembered as one of the most distinguished Mexican men of letters of the 20th century[2†]. His contributions to literature, philosophy, and diplomacy have left a lasting impact on Mexican culture and beyond[2†].

Reyes’ work in various literary forms, from poetry and prose to scholarly and critical essays, has been widely recognized for its originality and elegance[2†]. His translations and general works on literature theory have also contributed significantly to the field[2†].

Beyond his literary achievements, Reyes’ diplomatic service, particularly as an ambassador to Argentina and Brazil, has also been noteworthy[2†]. He often represented Mexico at various international conferences, further establishing his influence and legacy[2†].

The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges referred to Reyes as "the greatest prose writer in the Spanish language of any age"[2†]. This high praise from Borges, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, underscores the respect and admiration Reyes commanded among his peers[2†].

Reyes’ legacy continues to live on through his extensive body of work and his contributions to Mexican literature and diplomacy[2†]. His impact on the literary world and his role as a cultural representative of Mexico have ensured that he is remembered and valued today[2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Alfonso Reyes: Mexican writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Alfonso Reyes [website] - link
  3. Pantheon - Alfonso Reyes Biography - Mexican writer, philosopher and diplomat [website] - link
  4. Encyclopedia.com - Alfonso Reyes [website] - link
  5. JSTOR - ALFONSO REYES: CRITIC AND ARTIST [website] - link
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