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Ricardo Güiraldes

Ricardo Güiraldes Ricardo Güiraldes[2†]

Ricardo Güiraldes (February 13, 1886 - October 8, 1927) was an Argentine novelist and poet, best remembered for his novel “Don Segundo Sombra” (1926)[1†][2†]. Born in Buenos Aires, Güiraldes was the second son of a wealthy family of the old landowning aristocracy[1†][2†]. His work, particularly “Don Segundo Sombra”, is a poetic interpretation of the Argentinian gaucho, the free-spirited vagabond cattle herder of the pampas (grasslands), and it has become a classic work of Spanish American literature[1†].

Early Years and Education

Ricardo Güiraldes was born on February 13, 1886, in Buenos Aires, Argentina[2†]. He was the second son of a wealthy family of the old landowning aristocracy[2†]. His mother was Dolores Goñi, a descendant of Ruiz de Arellano, who founded the village of San Antonio de Areco in 1730[2†]. His father, Manuel Güiraldes, was a cultured, educated man, interested in art[2†].

When Güiraldes was one year old, he traveled with his family to Europe, living for four years in Paris near the Rue Saint-Claude[2†]. By the age of six, he spoke not only Spanish but French and German[2†]. Indeed, French was his first language, and French-language literature would leave a strong mark on his literary style and tastes[2†].

Güiraldes’s childhood and youth were divided between the family ranch, La Porteña in San Antonio de Areco, and Buenos Aires[2†]. In San Antonio, he came into contact with the world of the gauchos, which would figure prominently in his novels Raucho and Don Segundo Sombra[2†]. He loved the country life, but suffered from asthma that sometimes limited his own physical activity, though he generally presented an image of physical vigor[2†].

He was educated by several female teachers and, later, by a Mexican engineer, Lorenzo Ceballos[2†], who recognized and encouraged his literary ambitions[2†]. He studied in various institutes and completed his bachillerato at the age of 16[2†]. Güiraldes was not a brilliant student; at the Colegio Lacordaire, the Vertiz Institute and the Instituto Libre de Segunda Enseñanza[2†], he studied both architecture and law, but never practiced either one[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Ricardo Güiraldes’s career as a writer was marked by his deep connection to the land and the gaucho culture of Argentina[2†][1†]. Despite studying both architecture and law, he never practiced either one[2†]. Instead, he made several attempts at business, all of which were unsuccessful[2†].

In 1910, Güiraldes traveled to Europe with his friend Roberto Leviller[2†]. He visited Italy, Greece, Constantinople, Egypt, Japan, China, Russia, India, Ceylon, and Germany before settling in Paris[2†]. It was in Paris that he decided to become a writer[2†]. Despite immersing himself in the social whirl of the French capital, he eventually returned to his drafts of stories about rural Argentina[2†]. These drafts would eventually become his “Cuentos de muerte y de sangre” (“Stories of Death and of Blood”)[2†].

Güiraldes’s first volume of poetry and prose, “El cencerro de cristal” (1915; “The Crystal Bell”), was initially harshly received by critics due to its stylistic idiosyncrasies[2†][1†]. However, it has since been recognized as the forerunner of post-World War I literary innovation in Argentina[2†][1†].

His novel “Don Segundo Sombra” (1926) is considered his masterpiece[2†][1†]. In this work, he combined poetic description of country life with a subtle portrayal of the cattleman Don Segundo, a re-creation of the mythical gaucho, the national symbol and folk hero of Argentina[2†][1†].

Güiraldes’s work is a significant contribution to the criollismo literary movement, which is preoccupied with native scenes and types[2†][1†]. His sophisticated formal approaches combined with his deep and sentimental feeling for his native land and its traditional themes have left a lasting impact on Argentine literature[2†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Ricardo Güiraldes, despite his initial hesitation to pursue a literary career, eventually became a prolific writer, publishing three volumes of poetry, two of short stories, and four novels[3†]. His works, though not numerous, were of high quality and very avant-garde[3†].

  1. “El cencerro de cristal” (1915): This was Güiraldes’s first volume of poetry and prose[3†][1†]. Initially, it was harshly received by critics due to its stylistic idiosyncrasies but has since been recognized as the forerunner of post-World War I literary innovation in Argentina[3†][1†].
  2. “Cuentos de muerte y de sangre” (1915): This collection of short stories was one of Güiraldes’s early works[3†][1†]. The stories, set in rural Argentina, were the drafts that Güiraldes had unpacked one day in Paris, deciding to work on them[3†][2†].
  3. “Xaimaca” (1923): This novel, whose title means “Jamaica” in the Arawak language, was another significant work by Güiraldes[3†][1†]. It reflects his deep and sentimental feeling for his native land and its traditional themes[3†][1†].
  4. “Don Segundo Sombra” (1926): This is Güiraldes’s most famous work, a novel that provides a poetic interpretation of the Argentinian gaucho[3†][2†][1†]. The title character, Don Segundo, is a re-creation of the mythical gaucho, a national symbol and folk hero of Argentina[3†][1†].

Each of these works showcases Güiraldes’s sophisticated formal approaches and his deep connection with his native land and its traditional themes[3†][1†]. His works have left a lasting impact on Argentine literature and continue to be studied and admired today[3†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Ricardo Güiraldes, despite his aristocratic upbringing and cosmopolitan experiences, was deeply connected to the rural landscapes and traditional themes of his native Argentina[2†]. His works, particularly his novel “Don Segundo Sombra”, are a testament to this connection[2†][1†][2†].

Güiraldes’s writing style was unique and innovative. His first volume of poetry and prose, “El cencerro de cristal”, was initially criticized for its stylistic idiosyncrasies[2†][1†]. However, it has since been recognized as a forerunner of post-World War I literary innovation in Argentina[2†][1†]. His sophisticated formal approaches combined with his deep and sentimental feeling for his native land and its traditional themes are evident in his works[2†][1†].

His most famous work, “Don Segundo Sombra”, is a poetic interpretation of the Argentinian gaucho[2†][1†][2†]. Unlike José Hernández’s poem “Martín Fierro”, which romanticizes the figure of the gaucho, Güiraldes’s novel examines the character as a shadow (sombra) cast across Argentine society[2†][4†]. This subtle portrayal of the cattleman Don Segundo, a re-creation of the mythical gaucho, has made the novel a classic work of Spanish American literature[2†][1†][2†].

Güiraldes’s works have left a lasting impact on Argentine literature and continue to be studied and admired today[2†]. His ability to combine poetic description of country life with a critical analysis of the gaucho’s role in society has earned him a significant place in the literary history of Argentina[2†][1†][2†].

Personal Life

Ricardo Güiraldes was born into a wealthy family of the old landowning aristocracy[2†]. His mother was Dolores Goñi, descendant of Ruiz de Arellano, who founded the village of San Antonio de Areco in 1730[2†]. His father, Manuel Güiraldes, later became the intendente (governmentally appointed mayor) of Buenos Aires[2†]. He was a cultured, educated man, interested in art[2†].

When Güiraldes was one year old, he traveled with his family to Europe, living for four years in Paris near the Rue Saint-Claude[2†]. By the age of six, he spoke not only Spanish but French and German[2†]. Indeed, French was his first language, and French-language literature would leave a strong mark on his literary style and tastes[2†].

Güiraldes’s childhood and youth were divided between the family ranch, La Porteña in San Antonio de Areco, and Buenos Aires[2†]. In San Antonio, he came into contact with the world of the gauchos, which would figure prominently in his novels Raucho and Don Segundo Sombra[2†]. There, too, he met Segundo Ramírez, upon whom he based the title character of the latter work[2†]. He loved the country life, but suffered from asthma that sometimes limited his own physical activity, though he generally presented an image of physical vigor[2†].

He was educated by several female teachers and, later, by a Mexican engineer, Lorenzo Ceballos[2†], who recognized and encouraged his literary ambitions[2†]. He studied in various institutes and completed his bachillerato at the age of 16[2†]. Güiraldes was not a brilliant student; at the Colegio Lacordaire, the Vertiz Institute and the Instituto Libre de Segunda Enseñanza[2†], he studied both architecture and law, but never practiced either one[2†].

He did make several attempts at business, all unsuccessful[2†]. He traveled to Europe in 1910 in the company of his friend Roberto Leviller, then traveled with another friend, his future brother-in-law Adán Deihl, with whom he visited Italy, Greece, Constantinople, Egypt, Japan, China, Russia, India, Ceylon, and Germany before settling in Paris[2†]. Despite that decision, Güiraldes threw himself into the French capital’s social whirl, practically abandoning his literary ambitions[2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Ricardo Güiraldes, an Argentine novelist and poet, is best remembered for his novel “Don Segundo Sombra” (1926)[1†][2†]. This work is a poetic interpretation of the Argentinian gaucho, the free-spirited vagabond cattle herder of the pampas (grasslands), and it has become a classic work of Spanish American literature[1†][2†].

Güiraldes was a sophisticated European as well as a gaucho, skillful at tasks practiced by the cowboys of the Pampa[1†][3†]. He was also a refined Argentine gentleman who helped to popularize the tango in Paris’s café society[1†][3†]. The First World War caused him to retreat into spiritualistic, existentialist, and oriental philosophies[1†][3†].

His deep and sentimental feeling for his native land and its traditional themes, as well as his sophisticated formal approaches, are evident in his works[1†]. His masterpiece, “Don Segundo Sombra”, combines poetic description of country life with a subtle portrayal of the cattleman Don Segundo, a re-creation of the mythical gaucho, national symbol and folk hero of Argentina[1†].

Güiraldes’s legacy lies in his ability to capture the essence of the gaucho’s life and the Argentinian landscape in his works. His novels and poems have left a lasting impact on Spanish American literature and continue to be studied and admired for their literary merit and cultural significance[1†][2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Ricardo Güiraldes: Argentine writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Ricardo Güiraldes [website] - link
  3. Encyclopedia.com - Güiraldes, Ricardo (1886–1927) [website] - link
  4. Wikipedia (English) - Don Segundo Sombra [website] - link
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