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Horacio Quiroga

Horacio Quiroga Horacio Quiroga[1†]

Horacio Silvestre Quiroga Forteza (31 December 1878 – 19 February 1937) was a Uruguayan playwright, poet, and short story writer[1†][2†]. Born in Salto, Uruguay, Quiroga spent most of his life in Argentina[1†][3†]. He is recognized for his imaginative portrayal of the struggle of humans and animals to survive in the tropical jungle[1†][4†][1†][2†]. His stories often used the supernatural and the bizarre, and he also excelled in portraying mental illness and hallucinatory states[1†][4†][1†]. His influence can be seen in the Latin American magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez and the postmodern surrealism of Julio Cortázar[1†].

Early Years and Education

Horacio Quiroga was born on December 31, 1878, in Salto, Uruguay, as the sixth child and second son of Prudencio Quiroga and Pastora Forteza, a middle-class family[1†]. His father had been working for 18 years as head of the Argentine Vice-Consulate[1†]. Tragically, when Quiroga was just two and a half months old, his father accidentally fired a gun he was carrying in his hands and died as a result[1†].

Quiroga completed his schooling in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay[1†]. He studied at the National College and also attended the Polytechnic Institute of Montevideo for technical training[1†][5†]. From a very young age, he showed great interest in a variety of subjects and activities including literature, chemistry, photography, mechanics, cycling, and country life[1†]. Around this time, he founded the Salto Cycling Club and achieved the remarkable feat of cycling from his home town to Paysandú, a distance of 120 kilometers[1†].

While studying and working, he collaborated with publications such as La Revista and La Reforma, improving his style and making a name for himself[1†]. During the Carnival of 1898, the young poet met his first love, a girl named Mary Esther Jurkovski, who would inspire two of his most important works: “Las sacrificadas” (1920; The Slaughtered) and “Una estación de amor” (1912; A Season of Love)[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

After his travels in Europe during his youth, Quiroga spent most of his life in Argentina, living in Buenos Aires and taking frequent trips to San Ignacio in the jungle province of Misiones[4†]. These trips provided the material for most of his stories[4†]. He was a journalist for the greater part of his life, briefly a teacher, and a justice of the peace[4†].

Quiroga’s early works, such as the collection of prose and verse “Los arrecifes de coral” (1901; “The Coral Reefs”), show his imitation of then-fashionable literary devices[4†]. However, he soon found his own direction in the short story[4†]. He was influenced at first by 19th-century writers: from the United States, the macabre visions of Edgar Allan Poe, and from England, the jungle settings of the stories by Rudyard Kipling[4†].

Exploring his view of life as an endless struggle for survival, Quiroga depicted the primitive and the savage with exotic imagery in such collections as “Cuentos de la selva” (1918; “Stories of the Jungle”) and “La gallina degollada y otras cuentos” (1925; “The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories”)[4†]. His work generally recognized as his masterpiece, “Anaconda” (1921), portrays on several levels—realistic, philosophical, and symbolic—the battles of the snakes in the tropical jungle, the nonvenomous anaconda, and the venomous viper[4†].

Quiroga’s preoccupation with the short story as a genre led him to publish the influential “Decalogo del perfecto cuentista” (“Decalogue of the Perfect Short-Story Writer”)[4†]. Though perhaps tongue-in-cheek, his “commandments” preached what his own short stories exemplified: a model of perfection for Latin American writers[4†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Horacio Quiroga’s literary career was marked by a variety of works that showcased his ability to explore the human condition and the struggle for survival. His early works, such as the collection of prose and verse “Los arrecifes de coral” (1901; “The Coral Reefs”), show Quiroga’s imitation of then-fashionable literary devices[4†]. However, he soon found his own direction in the short story, influenced by the macabre visions of Edgar Allan Poe and the jungle settings of the stories by Rudyard Kipling[4†].

Quiroga’s most significant works include:

Quiroga’s preoccupation with the short story as a genre led him to publish the influential “Decalogo del perfecto cuentista” (“Decalogue of the Perfect Short-Story Writer”). Though perhaps tongue-in-cheek, his “commandments” preached what his own short stories exemplified: a model of perfection for Latin American writers[4†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Horacio Quiroga’s work is often compared to that of Edgar Allan Poe, due to his focus on the macabre and the supernatural[8†]. However, Quiroga’s stories are uniquely his own, often set in the jungle and exploring the struggle for survival[8†].

Quiroga’s stories are highly regarded for their polished and consummate craftsmanship[8†]. His narratives are known for their precision and beauty, even when translated into other languages[8†][9†]. His stories lend themselves more to reader enjoyment than to literary criticism[8†].

Quiroga’s work reflects a deep understanding of the human condition, as well as a profound appreciation for the natural world[8†]. His stories often explore the conflict between the cultured and refined intellectual and the primitive being governed by instinct and nature’s laws[8†][9†].

Quiroga’s influence on Latin American literature is significant. He is considered one of the most highly regarded and widely read short-story writers in the history of Spanish American literature[8†]. His work has had a lasting impact, influencing later writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar[8†].

Despite the critical interest in Quiroga diminishing during the Borges and post-Borges eras, the Uruguayan writer’s popularity among readers did not[8†]. This speaks to the enduring appeal of Quiroga’s stories, which continue to captivate readers with their exploration of love, madness, death, and the relentless struggle for survival[8†].

Personal Life

Horacio Quiroga’s personal life was marked by a series of tragic events. His father died in a hunting accident when Quiroga was only three months old[10†]. Later in his life, he accidentally shot and killed one of his best friends while cleaning a gun[10†][5†]. These incidents had a profound impact on Quiroga, influencing his interest in death and the monstrous[10†].

Quiroga’s family life was also fraught with tragedy. His stepfather and one of his two wives committed suicide[10†][5†]. Despite these personal hardships, Quiroga continued to produce significant literary works, demonstrating his resilience and dedication to his craft.

Quiroga spent most of his life in Argentina, living in Buenos Aires and frequently traveling to San Ignacio in the jungle province of Misiones[10†][4†]. These trips provided the material for many of his stories[10†][4†]. He worked as a journalist for most of his life and briefly served as a teacher and a justice of the peace[10†][4†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Horacio Quiroga’s legacy is significant in Latin American literature. His imaginative portrayal of the struggle of humans and animals to survive in the tropical jungle earned him recognition as a master of the short story[4†][1†]. His stories, which often depict mental illness and hallucinatory states, have influenced later 20th-century masters such as the American writer William Faulkner[4†].

Quiroga’s work has also had a profound impact on Latin American magical realism, influencing authors like Gabriel García Márquez and the postmodern surrealism of Julio Cortázar[4†][1†]. His preoccupation with the short story as a genre led him to publish the influential "Decalogue of the Perfect Short-Story Writer"[4†]. This work, which perhaps was written tongue-in-cheek, preached what his own short stories exemplified: a model of perfection for Latin American writers[4†].

Despite the tragedies that marked his personal life, Quiroga’s resilience and dedication to his craft were evident in his substantial body of work. His stories continue to be read and studied, and his influence can be seen in the works of many contemporary Latin American writers[4†][1†].

Quiroga’s life and work reflect the overwhelming sense of futility that eventually led to his suicide in a charity hospital[4†]. Yet, his legacy lives on, not only in his own works but also in the works of the many writers he influenced[4†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Horacio Quiroga [website] - link
  2. Pantheon - Horacio Quiroga Biography - Uruguayan short story writer, playwright, and poet. 1878 - 1937 [website] - link
  3. Encyclopedia.com - Horacio Quiroga [website] - link
  4. Britannica - Horacio Quiroga: Uruguayan writer [website] - link
  5. SunSigns - Horacio Quiroga Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  6. ActualidadLiteratura - Biography and works of Horacio Quiroga, the master of stories. [website] - link
  7. Prabook - Horacio Quiroga (February 31, 1878 — February 19, 1937), Uruguayan writer, author [website] [archive] - link
  8. eNotes - Horacio Quiroga Analysis [website] - link
  9. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute - 85.04.02: Horacio Quiroga: the Poe of Latin America [website] - link
  10. Encyclopedia.com - Quiroga, Horacio (1878–1937) [website] - link
  11. Infogalactic - Horacio Quiroga [website] - link
  12. Infoplease - Quiroga, Horacio [website] - link
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