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Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales
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Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales[1†]

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales (October 19, 1899 – June 9, 1974) was a Guatemalan poet-diplomat, novelist, playwright, and journalist[1†][2†][3†]. Born in Guatemala City, Asturias spent a significant part of his adult life abroad, first living in Paris in the 1920s where he studied ethnology[1†]. He is often viewed as the first Latin American novelist to show how the study of anthropology and linguistics could affect the writing of literature[1†].

Asturias was associated with the Surrealist movement while in Paris, and he is credited with introducing many features of modernist style into Latin American letters[1†]. In this way, he is an important precursor of the Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s[1†]. His work helped bring attention to the importance of indigenous cultures, especially those of his native Guatemala[1†][2†][3†].

One of Asturias’ most famous novels, El Señor Presidente, describes life under a ruthless dictator[1†]. His very public opposition to dictatorial rule led to him spending much of his later life in exile, both in South America and in Europe[1†]. The book that is sometimes described as his masterpiece, Hombres de maíz (Men of Maize), is a defense of Mayan culture and customs[1†].

Asturias combined his extensive knowledge of Mayan beliefs with his political convictions, channeling them into a life of commitment and solidarity[1†]. His work is often identified with the social and moral aspirations of the Guatemalan people[1†]. After decades of exile and marginalization, Asturias finally received broad recognition in the 1960s[1†]. In 1966, he won the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize[1†]. The following year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the second Latin American author to receive this honor[1†][4†].

Asturias spent his final years in Madrid, where he died at the age of 74[1†]. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris[1†].

Early Years and Education

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was born on October 19, 1899, in Guatemala City[5†][1†]. He was the first child of Ernesto Asturias Girón, a lawyer and judge, and María Rosales de Asturias, a schoolteacher[5†][1†]. His family was of Spanish descent, reasonably distinguished, with his father tracing his family line back to colonists who had arrived in Guatemala in the 1660s[5†][1†].

In 1905, when Asturias was six years old, his family moved to the small city of Salamá due to fears of persecution by the dictatorship of Manuel Estrada Cabrera[5†]. In Salamá, Asturias learned about Mayan culture from his mother and nanny[5†]. The family returned to the capital in 1908, where Asturias received his education[5†].

Asturias entered the University of San Carlos in 1917 to study medicine, but he quickly changed his focus to law[5†]. He graduated in 1923, and his thesis, entitled “The Social Problem of the Indian,” won two awards, the Premio Galvez and the Chavez Prize[5†]. This early work already showed Asturias’ commitment to the indigenous population of Guatemala[5†].

After finishing university, Asturias helped found the Popular University of Guatemala to offer educational access to students who couldn’t afford to attend the national university[5†]. His leftist activism led to a brief imprisonment under President José María Orellana, so his father sent him to London in 1923 to avoid further trouble[5†]. Asturias quickly moved on to Paris, studying anthropology and Mayan culture at the Sorbonne with Professor Georges Raynaud until 1928[5†]. Raynaud had translated a sacred Mayan text, “Popol Vuh,” into French, and Asturias translated it from French into Spanish[5†].

Career Development and Achievements

Miguel Ángel Asturias began his career as a writer and activist in Guatemala. After graduating from the University of San Carlos, he helped found the Popular University of Guatemala to offer educational access to students who couldn’t afford to attend the national university[5†]. His leftist activism led to a brief imprisonment under President José María Orellana, so his father sent him to London in 1923 to avoid further trouble[5†]. Asturias quickly moved on to Paris, studying anthropology and Mayan culture at the Sorbonne with Professor Georges Raynaud until 1928[5†]. Raynaud had translated a sacred Mayan text, “Popol Vuh,” into French, and Asturias translated it from French into Spanish[5†].

Asturias’ first major work, “Leyendas de Guatemala” (1930; “Legends of Guatemala”), describes the life and culture of the Maya before the arrival of the Spanish[5†][6†]. It brought him critical acclaim in France as well as at home[5†][6†]. On his return to Guatemala, Asturias founded and edited “El diario del aire”, a radio magazine[5†][6†]. During this period he published several volumes of poetry, beginning with “Sonetos” (1936; “Sonnets”)[5†][6†].

In the 1940s, Asturias’ talent and influence as a novelist began to emerge with his impassioned denunciation of the Guatemalan dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera, “El señor presidente” (1946; “The President”)[5†][6†]. In “Hombres de maíz” (1949; “Men of Maize”), the novel generally considered his masterpiece, Asturias depicts the seemingly irreversible wretchedness of the Indian peasant[5†][6†]. Another aspect of that misery—the exploitation of Indians on the banana plantations—appears in the epic trilogy that comprises the novels “Viento fuerte” (1950; “The Cyclone”), “El papa verde” (1954; “The Green Pope”), and “Los ojos de los enterrados” (1960; “The Eyes of the Interred”)[5†][6†].

Asturias’ writings are collected in the three-volume “Obras completas” (1967)[5†][6†]. His work helped bring attention to the importance of indigenous cultures, especially those of his native Guatemala[6†][1†][7†]. Winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1967, his work is seen as summing up the social and moral aspirations of his people[5†][6†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was a prolific writer, and his works spanned various genres including novels, short stories, and poetry. Here are some of his main works:

Each of these works reflects Asturias’ extensive knowledge of Mayan beliefs and his political convictions. His works are often identified with the social and moral aspirations of the Guatemalan people[1†][5†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales is best known for his novels, which combine material evocative of Guatemala’s Mayan heritage with impassioned protests against social and political injustice[9†]. His works are often identified with the social and moral aspirations of the Guatemalan people[9†].

Asturias’ novels, such as El Señor Presidente and Hombres de Maíz, are a subjective account of the dictatorship in Guatemala and a defense of Mayan culture and customs respectively[9†]. His “Banana Trilogy” of novels deals with the imperialistic excesses of the United Fruit Company[9†]. Because of their use of intense visual images to appeal to the audience’s subconscious, his dramas have been regarded as highly experimental[9†].

Asturias sought to give a universal consciousness to the problems of Latin America in his writings[9†]. He is best known for fusing native legends, folklore, and myths with harsh reality and even surrealism in his novels[9†]. In each legend, Asturias draws the reader in with a fury of beauty and mystery without being able to comprehend the sense of space and time[9†][1†].

Asturias’s distinguished diplomatic career was capped by the 1966 award of the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union[9†]. However, this should not obscure his remarkable achievement in simultaneously pursuing successful careers in literature and diplomacy[9†].

Despite his significant contributions, Asturias’s literary reputation remains high with specialists in Latin American literature but has failed to earn him the wide public recognition enjoyed by Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez[9†]. This relative neglect of his work in the United States might have been contributed by the time when he received the Lenin Peace Prize, a time when American-Soviet relations had been made particularly difficult by the Vietnam War[9†].

Personal Life

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was born on October 19, 1899, in Guatemala City to a lawyer, Ernesto Asturias, and a teacher, María Rosales de Asturias[1†][5†][10†][11†]. Fearing persecution by the dictatorship of Manuel Estrada Cabrera, his family moved to the small city of Salamá in 1905, where Asturias learned about Mayan culture from his mother and nanny[1†][5†].

Asturias was married twice in his life. His first wife was Clemencia Amado, whom he married in 1939 and divorced in 1947[1†][5†]. He then married Blanca de Mora y Araujo in 1950, and they remained together until his death[1†][5†]. He had two children, Rodrigo and Miguel Angel[1†][5†].

Asturias spent his final years in Madrid, where he died at the age of 74[1†]. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris[1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was a significant figure in Latin American literature. His work, which includes novels, poetry, and plays, is known for its socially and politically relevant themes[5†][1†]. He was a champion of Guatemala’s large indigenous population, and his books were often openly critical of both Guatemalan dictatorships and American imperialism in Central America[5†][1†].

Asturias’ work transcends temporality and geography and is afforded more freedom to explore the universal roots of violence and oppression characteristic of all dictatorships[5†][12†]. His involvement with supporting the rights and preserving the cultures of indigenous peoples can be seen in both his politics and his writing[5†][7†]. Throughout his life, Asturias fought for indigenous rights and struggled against authoritarian rule[5†][7†].

After decades of exile and marginalization, Asturias finally received broad recognition in the 1960s[5†][1†]. In 1966, he won the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize[5†][1†]. The following year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the second Latin American author to receive this honor[5†][1†]. His work helped bring attention to the importance of indigenous cultures, especially those of his native Guatemala[5†][1†].

Asturias spent his final years in Madrid, where he died at the age of 74[5†][1†]. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris[5†][1†]. His legacy continues to influence and inspire writers and activists around the world.

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Miguel Ángel Asturias [website] - link
  2. New World Encyclopedia - Miguel Angel Asturias [website] - link
  3. AcademiaLab - Miguel Angel Asturias [website] - link
  4. The Nobel Prize - Miguel Angel Asturias – Biographical [website] - link
  5. ThoughtCo - Biography of Miguel Angel Asturias, Guatemalan Poet and Nobel Laureate [website] - link
  6. Britannica - Miguel Ángel Asturias: Guatemalan author and diplomat [website] - link
  7. Culture Trip - Miguel Ángel Asturias: Preserving Guatemalan Roots [website] - link
  8. The Nobel Prize - Miguel Angel Asturias – Facts [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Miguel Ángel Asturias Analysis [website] - link
  10. All Poetry - Miguel Angel Asturias - Poems by the Famous Poet [website] - link
  11. Find a Grave - Miguel Angel Asturias [website] - link
  12. Literariness.org - Analysis of Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales’s The President – Literary Theory and Criticism [website] - link
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