Bolivia Literature

By | December 10, 2021

Birth of a national literature

In the periods preceding the independence of Bolivia (1825), literary production was very limited. We remember the Crónica moralizada (1638) of the Augustinian Antonio de la Calancha and the Anales de la Villa Imperial de Potosí, attributed to D. Bartolomé Martínez y Vela, who lived in the 18th century. During the first half of the 19th century. Manuel José Cortés, Ricardo José Bustamante, Néstor Galindo and Benjamín Lenz are the first poets and writers to give a national stamp to literature. In the second half of the century Gabriel René Moreno, bibliographer and writer, Rosendo Gutiérrez, author of works in prose and verse, and Nataniel Aguirre stand out., a lover of the historical novel, which has as its background the war for independence from Spain. Ricardo Jaimes stands out among the representatives of modernist poetry. For Bolivia 1997, please check

Fiction and poetry

At the beginning of the 20th century. the ‘indigenist’ current, initiated by Alcídes Arguedas with Raza de bronce (1919), affirms itself with a socio-political protest orientation. After the First World War, Jaime Mendoza, Abel Alarcón and Armando Chirveches stand out in the fiction; in the poem Gregorio Rejnolds. The experience of the war with Paraguay (1932-35) was for many years an inspiration for a number of writers: A. Céspedes (Sangre de mestizos, 1936), O. Cerruto (Aluvión de fuego, 1935), A. Costa du Rels (Laguna H-3, 1938), GA Otero (Horizontes incendiados, 1933), A. Guzmán (Prisionero de guerra, 1938). Most of the novels of the following years revolve around the themes of war and the consequent social unrest, often characterized by a crude realism: Repete (1938) by J. Lara, also author of indigenous novels (Surumi, 1943; Yanakuna, 1952); Los invencibles (1938) by P. Díaz Machicao; the novels (Coca, 1941, and Altiplano, 1945) and short stories (Los toros salvajes, 1965; Con la muerte a cuestas, 1975; and La revancha, 1987) by R. Botelho Gosálvez; El precio del estaño (1960) and Indios en rebelión(1968) by N. Taboada Terán, followed by Manchay Puitu, el amor que quiso ocultar a Dios (1977), No disparen contra el Papa (1989). Starting from the 1960s, there has been a significant renewal of the genre, which opens up to new themes and formal experimentalisms with the novel Los deshabitados (1957) by M. Quiroga Santa Cruz. These were fruitful years for Bolivian fiction, as the works of Ó also demonstrate. Uzín Fernández El ocaso de Orión (1972) and La oscuridad radiante (1976), inspired by themes relating to priestly life; the novels of A. Cáceres Romero La mansión de los elegidos (1973), Las víctimas(1978), with a tragicomic tone but attentive to social problems; the narrative marked by formal experimentalisms of R. Prada, Oropesa Los fundadores del alba (1969), inspired by the experience of Che in Bolivia, El último filo (1975); the short stories Al borde del silencio (1970) by J. Urzagasti, and by R. Teixidó El sueño del pez (1965), Los habitantes del alba (1969). All authors who do not shy away from the suggestions and techniques of the new Latin American novel.

The panorama of poetry is more varied: the exaltation of the homeland and its rhythms characterizes the verses of P. Castrillo (Hombre y tierra, 1958; Ciudad y selva, 1961; Zampoñas telúricas, 1974) and O. Campero Echazú (Amancayas, 1943; Voces, 1950; Aroma de otro tiempo, 1970); nostalgic marine visions crowd into the verses of Y. Bedregal (Nadir, 1950; Del mar y la ceniza, 1957); love for childhood is at the center of Bedregal’s and Bolivia Schulze Arana’s lyrics; a subtle existential anguish runs through the refined creations of Cerruto (Cifra de las rosas, 1957; Estrella segregada, 1975); an analogous sentiment, tinged with surrealist images, can be found in the dense and complex lyric of J. Sáenz (Muerte por el tacto, 1957; Visitante profundo, 1964; La noche, 1984); social themes punctuate the verses of A. Cardona Torrico. In the same years, alongside these well-known authors, poets such as R. Echazú, P. Shimose (Poemas para un pueblo, 1968; Al pie de la letra, 1976; Bolero de caballería, 1985), whose verses sing with solidarity accents the reality of the American man, Urzagasti, E. Miter and M. Cazasola. Subsequently, the rumors of JC Orihuela, G. González, Ó emerged. García.

Theater and non-fiction

Some of the authors mentioned have also dedicated themselves to the theater, such as Botelho Gosálvez, who stages the dramatic indigenous rebellion of 1781 in La lanza capitana (1967), and Costa du Rels, who in Los Andes no creen en Dios (1973) dealt with the topic of gold diggers. To the avant-garde theater and the experiences of experimental theater that have traveled throughout Latin America in the last decades of the 20th century. the activity of the Teatro de los Andes, directed by C. Brie, is attributable. A prominent place is occupied by G. Francovich, who combines a vast dramatic production with a no less rich non-fiction work, with a philosophical slant, aimed at deepening the history of thought in his country (El pensamiento Boliviano en el siglo XX, 1955; Los mitos profundos de Bolivia, 1980).

Among the authors cited, many have also dedicated themselves to non-fiction: Guzmán is the author, among other things, of La novela en Bolivia (1950) and Biografías de la literatura Boliviana (1982); Lara is also a literary critic and scholar of the Quechua language (La literatura de los quechuas, 1961); Díaz Machicao is the author of refined portraits of writers, Bolivian and non-Bolivian (El ateneo de los muertos, 1958; Cauce de palabras, 1967) and of a famous anthology Prosa y versos de Bolivia (1966-68); Shimose is a literary critic, author among other things of a famous Diccionario de autores iberoamericanos (1982) and of a Historia de la literatura Latinoamericana(1989). Finally, although a lecturer in law, C. Castañón Barrientos is a literary and academic critic of the language, attentive to the diffusion of Bolivian literature in America and Europe ; author of studies on RJFreyre, the Quechua poet Wallparrimachi, the modernist novella and Bolivian poetry.

Bolivia Literature