Manuel Gonzalez Prada

(1844-1918 / Peru)

Biography of Manuel Gonzalez Prada

Jose Manuel de los Reyes González de Prada y Ulloa (b. Lima, Jan. 6 1844 - d. Lima, Jul 22,1918) was a Peruvian politician and anarchist, literary critic and director of the National Library of Peru. He is well remembered as a social critic who helped develop Peruvian intellectual thought in the early twentieth century, as well as academic style known as modernismo.

He was born on January 6, 1844 in Lima to a wealthy, conservative, Spanish family. His education began at the English school in Valparaiso, continued in a seminary, and once his father refused to let him travel to Europe, he enrolled at the University of San Marcos in Lima, studying law. He was an original partner in the Lima Literary Club and he participated in the foundation of the Peruvian Literary Circle, a vehicle to propose a Literature based on science and the future. His most famous book, Free Pages, caused a public outcry that brought González Prada dangerously close to excommunication from the Catholic Church. His mother, a devout Catholic, died in 1888 and his criticism became more vitriolic afterwards. He said the Church "preached the sermon on the mount and practiced the morals of Judas." In fact González Prada was part of a group of social reformers that included Ricardo Palma, Juana Manuela Gorriti, Clorinda Matto de Turner and Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera. These important authors were concerned with the enduring influence of Spanish colonialism in Peru. González Prada was perhaps the most radical of them all. The most radical work he published during his life time was Hours of Battle, translated as Hard Times.

Besides being a minor philosopher and a significant political agitator, González Prada is important as the first Latin American author to write in a style known as modernismo (modernista in Spanish, different from Anglo-American modernism) poet in Peru, anticipating some of the literary innovations that Rubén Darío would shortly bring to the entire Hispanic world. He also introduced new devices such as the triolet, rondel and Malayan pantun which revitalized Spanish verse. Besides his poetry, he cultivated the essay, and most recently Isabelle Tauzin Castellanos has published some of his hitherto unknown fiction. His intellectual and stylistic footprint can be found in the writing of Clorinda Matto de Turner, Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera, José Santos Chocano, Aurora Cáceres, César Vallejo, José Carlos Mariátegui and Mario Vargas Llosa.

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Cuarteto Persa

Deja la sombra y paz de tus hogares,
ven al huerto de mirras y azahares.
En medio al arrullar de las palomas,
vivamos el Cantar de los Cantares.

Extiende por mi rostro la red de tus cabellos;
enredame en sus rizos, perumame con ellos.
Que brinden, tras la malla de oro ensortijado,
tu boca las sonrisas, tus ojos los detellos.

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